Illustration by Ruby Zuckerman.

Hello,

I would love to learn more about the different types of curls, so that I can better identify mine.

With love from Brazil,
Antonio O.

Hello hello, Antonio!

Figuring out your curl pattern can be pretty helpful in caring for your hair. What works for one hair type may not work for another. Oprah’s hair stylist, Andre Walker, created the hair typing system that is most commonly used today. His hair type system goes from 1-4 with 1 being straight, 2 being wavy, 3 being curly, and 4 being tight curls. Along with a number, your hair type will include a letter–A, B, or C–which is based on the diameter of your curl. Keep in mind that people can be a mix of hair types! For me, this means that I’m type 4C—coarse hair that breaks easily.

Figuring out my hair type has helped me learn how to better cater my routine to myself. It also made me hyper-aware of things that I thought my 4C hair couldn’t do (i.e. the myth that wash and go’s aren’t possible for type 4 hair). The way Walker’s system is set up prioritizes looser curl patterns and he has been known to say some awful things about type 4 hair. Basically, learning your hair type is a good starting off point, but don’t focus too much on what’s “supposed” to work. Instead, experiment a little to find the best routine for you!

Good luck, Antonio!

Dear Halo Maintenance,

I’m a girl with long, thick, 4C hair. It reaches past my shoulders when it’s dry. I love it but I can’t take care of it during school without twists or box braids, which I’m completely sick of. I can’t even moisturize it properly like that. Since I attend a boarding school with no nearby black hair salons, I have to do something with it before I go back.

I have the technical skills one needs for taking care of my hair (washing, detangling, braiding/twisting, etc.) but it takes too long with the amount of hair I have. To me, the logical solution is to cut it. A short tapered cut would solve the problem and look good on me.

However, my mom doesn’t want me to, and as a high schooler, her word is law. She thinks it’s too drastic. My hairdresser has suggested box braids, a haircut, or a texturizer. Of these options, my mom prefers the texturizer which comes as a surprise to me since I’ve had natural hair my entire life. I hate the idea of changing my curl pattern, not to mention that it doesn’t solve my problem.

I feel like she doesn’t understand my perspective because she doesn’t do my hair anymore and her curl pattern is 3C. She never had to spend 8 hours in a hair salon just for a wash, blowout, and cornrows. I can’t stand wash days or hair salon visits anymore because of the time and pain involved, not to mention the countless comments from other hairdressers and customers about my hair. What should I do?

Thank you,
Lola, 14, USA

I’m sorry to hear this, Lola! Hair type discrimination is real and has big time effects on our daily life. It seems like you know you want to get a tapered cut, but I wanted to take a moment to bust the myth that 4C hair is more of a time commitment than other hair types. There’s an idea within the the natural community that your hair won’t look “done” unless you’ve achieved a perfect twist out. Yes: if you are twisting and Bantu knotting your hair every 3 days, that is indeed a time commitment. But consider other ways of caring for your hair. Perhaps moisturizing and keeping it in a puff might be a way for you to cut down on time without cutting down on cuteness?

On the topic of not having autonomy over your hair, I completely understand. It took forever to get my mom to see my natural hair as something more than a phase. Generationally, it can sometimes be hard to get older folks to understand that natural hair (especially type 4 hair) is hireable, desirable, and loveable. This comes from internalized racism and wanting to “protect” you from hardships they may have faced themselves. A tool that I used to get my family more comfortable with my hair was familiarization. I would send my mom pictures of celebrities and successful people with hair that looked like mine. The more she saw people being celebrated for their hair, the more she encouraged me to experiment with mine. Using this tactic, I actually got my mom to go natural too!

Sending strength, Lola!

Halo Maintenance is an advice column for all things black hair related. Have your own questions for Ogechi? To submit, email [email protected] with “Halo Maintenance” in the subject line.