Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Article Excerpt About Andre Walker's Hair Typing System And Selected Black Natural Hair Care & Hair Styling Terms

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series on an African American hair typing system and video examples of those hair types.

This post provides text only information about the Andre Walker hair typing system with a focus on its descriptions of the most common African American hair types: type 3 and type 4 (with type 3c and type 4c additions).

This post also includes some definitions for Black natural hair care and hair styling terms. By "Black natural hair" I mean type 3 and type 4 hair that is in its natural state (without the addition of heat or chemicals).

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II showcases five hair styling several videos for females with type 3 and type 4 hair.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Andre Walker for devising this hair typing system and thanks to those who added the other two hair type descriptions to that system. Also, thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

The Only Hair Typing System Article You’ll Ever Need by KENNETH
"What’s your hair type? Are you a 3b or 4A hair type? Maybe – that is if you decide to use one well-known hair typing system. Your hair type could also be an “OS” or an “IS” according to a different hair typing system.

We’re asked very often about hair typing systems. More specifically – many naturals are interested in how to determine their hair type. Generally speaking – we don’t discuss hair typing very often because there are many things that each person must do to care for their hair regardless of their individual hair type.

Having said that, we do recognize that there are some differences associated with caring for certain types of hair. Furthermore, many women utilize hair typing systems to describe the way their hair looks.

I think it’s important to be clear about a few things before we begin discussing hair types. There are multiple hair typing systems – including the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, LOIS, and FIA’s Hair Typing System.

We don’t endorse or recommend any particular hair typing system, however, we recognize that the system created by Andre Walker is substantially more popular well-known and communicated than the other hair typing systems.

Note: This doesn’t imply that Andre Walker’s system is necessarily the best or most accurate.

During this guide I will discuss very specific details associated with the most popular hair typing systems – beginning with Andre Walker, then LOIS and finally FIA.

Disclaimer: It’s very easy to incorrectly determine your hair type if you only look at the pictorial representations that have been provided. Please don’t rule out a particular hair type simply because your hair doesn’t look like the pictures below.

Andre Walker Hair Typing System

Andre Walker is famously known for creating a hair typing system or infamously known depending on your perspective. Andre reveals his hair typing system in a book titled Andre Talks Hair!.

Andre makes it very clear in his book that everyone has good hair regardless of ethnicity. He was hoping to immediately debunk the often ridiculous good hair vs. bad hair debate prior to diving into a discussion about hair typing.

Unfortunately, many people believe that Andre’s Hair Typing System is hierarchical and intentionally places kinky hair in the bottom (“worst”) category. Andre has made statements over the years that have offended many Type 4 women – including the following comment:

Andre Walker on Type 4 hair: “I always recommend embracing your natural texture. Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type that I suggest altering with professional relaxing”. Type 4 hair types include the most common hair types found in black hair.

That statement started a tremendous amount of buzz on the internet. He later issued a statement to clarify his initial comments immediately following the Elle article on his personal website. Regardless of his original intentions, his comments definitely offended many women.

Even if you have a negative opinion of Andre Walker, I encourage you to read the book yourself and develop your own opinion of his hair typing system in Andre Talks Hair!. Andre’s system isn’t communicated accurately on many popular blogs that have written articles about the system. Having said that, let’s discuss the hair types defined in Andre Talks Hair!.


Type 3: Curly Hair
Type 3 Curly Hair: Curly hair textures have a definite “S” shaped curl pattern. Since the cuticle doesn’t lay flat, you will notice that curly hair isn’t nearly as shiny as Type 1 (straight hair) or Type 2 (wavy hair) hair types.

Type 3A hair is very shiny and loose.
Type 3B hair has a medium amount curls, ranging from bouncy ringlets (spiral like curls of hair) to tight corkscrews (spiral-shaped corkscrew curls).
Type 3C hair isn’t a part of the Andre Walker Hair Typing System. Please see the “what’s missing” section below for more information.


Type 4: Kinky Hair
Type 4 Kinky Hair: Type 4 is “kinky” or more appropriately full of tight coils (tightly curled hair). Typically, Type 4 hair is also extremely wiry and fragile. Often times, it appears to be coarse, however, it is really very fine, with several thin hair strands densely packed together. Note that type 4 hair is one [of] the most common hair types found in black hair (African American hair).

Type 4A hair is full of tight coils. It has an “S” pattern when stretched, much like Type 3 curly hair.
Type 4B hair has a less defined pattern of curls and looks more like a “Z” as the hair bends with very sharp angles.
Type 4C hair isn’t a part of the Andre Walker Hair Typing System. Please see the “what’s missing” section below for more information.
What’s Missing? Now, Let’s Discuss Hair Type 3C and Type 4C

You’ll notice that Type 3C and Type 4C hair types aren’t mentioned in the discussion above, that’s because they were not included in the original Andre Walker system.

Type 3C was created after Andre Walker released his hair typing system by a community member at The prevailing thought was that the original hair typing system left this hair type out. Consequently, Type 3C hair has been defined as tight curls or coils that look like corkscrews.

Type 4C, like Type 3C, isn’t an actual hair type according to Andre Walker’s Hair System. His comments are actually very simple regarding Type 4 (Kinky) hair – if you can see a definite curl pattern, then you have Type 4A hair. If you can’t identify a defined, specific curl pattern, then your hair type is 4B. I would imagine that the Type 4C hair type was created by a member within the natural hair community – just like the Type 3C hair type."...

This article includes descriptions of type 1 and type 2 in Andre Walker's hair typing system. This article also includes information about two other hair typing systems.

Pancocojams Editor's Note: Definitions for some of these terms are found in more than one excerpt.

Update: May 23, 2018- Excerpt #5 added

Excerpt #1:
"Bantu Knots- A hairstyle created by carefully and precisely parting hair in small-to-medium sections, and then twisting the sections in one direction until they wrap into neat knots. The knots are often secured near the scalp with bobby or hair pins.

Bantu Knot Out- A style, with a highly defined curly or wavy texture, created by releasing Bantu Knots after they are dry.

BC (Big Chop) - Cutting off all relaxed or chemically-treated portions of the hair, leaving only natural-textured new growth.

BNC (Braid-n-Curl) - A style created by plaiting or braiding the hair while wet, and then curling the ends with rollers or flexi rods. After the hair is dry, the braids and rollers are removed to reveal a wavy and curly hair texture.

Coils- A hairstyle achieved by taking small sections of wet or very damp hair and smoothing, while rotating the sections, one-by-one, from root to tip. Tiny styling combs have been used for coils, as well as a finger. Typically, a gel is applied prior to coiling for longer-lasting hold and shine.

Coily - A term used to reference the texture characteristic of natural Type 4 hair, whereby the configuration of the strand resembles a small-diameter ink pen spring. The coil is most evident when the hair is wet and/or defined with a curling custard/ gel. It usually remains evident when the hair is allowed to dry undisturbed from a soaking wet stage.

Flat Twists - A technique whereby the hair is two-strand twisted flat to the scalp, in cornrow fashion.

Fluff - The use of fingers or a pick to add volume and shape to natural hair.

'Fro - Afro

Hair Types - 1/2a/2b/2c/ 3a/3b/3c/4a/4b/4cHair typing refers to the amount of texture hair has. Naturally straight hair isType 1, loose-wavy hair is type 2, curly hair is type 3 and coily hair is type 4. In the case of types 3 and 4, the sub-classifications from a - c, are based upon the diameter of the curl or coil. For instance a type 3a curl may have the diameter of a nickel, a 3b, like a dime. Type 4, which is the most common for people of African descent, ranges from the diameter of a pencil eraser (4a), to the diameter of an ink pen spring (4b), and even smaller than that, (type 4c). In some cases, hair may even have a tight z zigzag pattern and no coil at all. This hair type classification system was created by renowned hairstylist and entrepreneur, Andre Walker.

Locks/Locs- A hairstyle whereby small sections of hair are twisted and over time, the strands become permanently secured. As locks/locs grow, they can become quite long.

Pineappleing- Pulling hair into one or several pony puffs, (depending on hair length), using covered or ouch less bands. The balance of the hair remains free. The puff(s) are positioned at the top or at several sites across the head. This procedure helps preserve the coil/curl definition of the style overnight, and also provides some stretch to the hair. When using this technique, it's best to sleep on a satin pillowcase. In the morning, the bands are removed and the sections are gently shaken or fluffed.

Pony Puff- A hairstyle whereby the hair is pulled back at the crown, sides and nape, using headbands, hair pins, scarves, etc. The remaining hair extends freely.

Protective Styling- A hairstyle that helps protect the ends of hair from dehydration and damage, by eliminating the need for mechanical manipulation, (combing, brushing, picking, etc.) and shielding against environmental exposure, (i.e. sun, heat, cold, wind). Some examples are buns, braids, twists, ponytails and various head coverings.

Shingling- A form of Wash n' Go styling whereby a styling curl cream or curl gel is liberally applied section-by section to clean, very wet hair. As the styling product is applied to each relatively small section of hair, the section is smoothed between the thumb and forefinger, in a downward motion from root to tip. The smoothing action, in combination with the styling product immediately makes the coil/curl/wave pattern evident. The hair is then either air-dried or dried with the use of a hood dryer. Once dry, the hair can be gently fluffed for style.

Shrinkage - A term used to describe the reduction of the visual length of hair. It is a process that occurs as wet hair dries and re-coils into its natural texture pattern.

Texturizer- A chemical treatment used to partially relax or loosen the natural curl pattern of highly textured hair. Provides greater stretch/elongation/length, and helps the hair to trail in a downward direction, (as opposed to an "up on out" direction, like an afro.) Texturizers are usually a form of relaxers, just milder in formulation or allowed to process using a different technique or timeframe. Texturizers alter the natural coil/curl pattern permanently and hair processed with them must be cut off in order to return one's hair to its natural state.

TNC (Twist-n-Curl) - A styling technique whereby wet or damp hair is two-strand twisted and then rolled on rods or rollers. Once dry, the curlers are removed and the hair untwisted.

Transitioning- This is the process, (also called "the journey" or "going natural") whereby one's natural-textured hair is allowed to grow in, while the previously chemically-treated hair is trimmed off in stages. The goal is to have a full head of all-natural hair, but to do so without abruptly cutting off (via the Big Chop) all of the processed hair. A degree of length is maintained by only gradually removing the relaxed or permed portions. Transitioning also involves managing the coily-textured new-growth as it increasingly co-exists with the remaining hair. The strategy for some is to wear textured styles (i.e., rod sets and braids) as the new hair grows in to minimize the texture differences, or to wear or wigs/weaves for a period of time.

TWA - Teeny Weeny Afro

Twist OutA hairstyle created by first two-strand twisting the hair while wet or damp. After the hair is dry, the twists are carefully released and styled.

Twist Out- A hairstyle created by first two-strand twisting the hair while wet or damp. After the hair is dry, the twists are carefully released and styled.

Two-Strand Twists - A hairstyle technique whereby sections of hair are divided into two smaller sections and then wound around each other. The last half-inch or so of each twist is left loose and twirled around the index finger into a coil. 2-Strand Twists can be worn as a hairstyle in and of itself or the twists can be carefully released when dry (Twist-Out) for a look that's fuller, yet with a well-defined coily/wavy texture.

Wash n' Go - A term referring to a relatively quick and easy styling session whereby a defined finished style is achieved without twisting, braiding, knotting, rodding, etc. Hair is first cleansed and conditioned. Coils/curls are then defined with gel or a styling cream and allowed to air dry or dried using a diffuser attachment on a blow dryer set to a low temperature.

May be abbreviated as WnG or W&G
Note that "pineapple" also refers to a hairstyle in which the hair is worn in a ponytail on top of your hair with hair tufts (coils) showing.

Note that "Twist outs" may also be done with twisting three hair strands.

Excerpt #2
Source: A Black Hair Glossary, From A Woman Who's Tired Of People Trying To Pet Her

Growing up, friends would always ask me why my hair was different from theirs. I wish I could've just given them this mini dictionary!

Braid out: Braiding hair, letting it set in for a few hours, overnight or even days to later releasing them to form a wavy or crimped pattern.

Cornrows: Braids, typically done in rows, that lay flat to the scalp. Usually this is the foundation for a weave.

Detangling: Removing all tangles, knots, and kinks from your hair. Word to the wise: Please DO NOT EVER detangle your hair when it is bone dry. Instead you can try applying conditioner from root to tip ensuring the hair is evenly coated to avoid excessive tension that will cause breakage.

Dreadlocks: Hair that has been allowed to matte over time.

Flat twists: Twists done flat to the scalp typically done in rows.

Hair Type Classification System: Or your curl pattern. This system was inspired by Andre Walker (he’s queen bee Oprah’s hair stylist) and is used to identify your hair...

Head tie: A silk or satin scarf that is worn on hair that is relaxed, natural, weaved or in a protective style. Mainly done at night (or days on end if you’re my cousin Naomi), this helps to keep the hair smooth, sleek and tangle-free, preserving the shape and style of the hair as well. Let’s just say you have little to worry about in the morning if you wrap your hair at night and do not have to deal with a messy bed head in the morning. Just unravel and go girl.
Leave-In conditioner: A conditioning product that is to be left on the hair and is not to be rinsed out. It is used to provide hair with added moisture for stronger strands...

Protective styling: Hairstyles that require low manipulation of the hair that are done to protect the hair or give it a break from daily styling and/or wear and tear. This can include weaves, braids, wigs, and twists.

Shrinkage: The difference between what your hair looks like when it is wet and gently stretched out to its maximum length to what it looks like when it is dry. African American textured hair can shrink up to 75%-80% of its actual length and some girls who go natural find this to be bothersome because shrinkage does not showcase the actual progress of the individual’s hair. There are many different ways to combat shrinkage such as braids, flexi-rod sets or roller sets.

Tender-headed: When a person has a sensitive scalp and it hurts when hair is combed or braided. This was me as a kid and it is still me now. I do not like other people doing my hair because that ish hurts. I know what is best for my hair and how much my hair can take, so I prefer to do it myself. If you can’t do it on your own, for the sake of your hair and your edges, enlist and invest in a stylist you can trust. Please and thank you.

Tracks: A parting or a cornrow that establishes the placement pattern of wefts. Side note: You know you have a bad weave when your tracks are showing. Just sayin’.

Transitioning: Growing out the relaxed hair to expose the natural texture.

Touch up: For the girls wearing their hair in a relaxed state, this is the process of applying relaxer to the new growth, usually about ½ to 1 inch every 6-8 weeks.

Twist out: Two-strand twisting natural or relaxed hair using products of your choice: Shea butter, leave-in conditioner, and castor oil to name a few. Usually done before bed, this style is heat free, giving hair defined curls and versatility. A few tips: the longer they twists in, the better, so most girls choose do this right before bed. The smaller they are, the more defined they come out. The way you sleep is also key because you want to preserve the style, not flatten the curls. Use a satin/silk pillowcase or a large satin/silk scarf or bonnet. In the morning, unravel the twists (do not separate them), finger style and go.

Wash and go: This is meant to be a carefree technique. You can either wash your hair with shampoo or co-wash but always use a heavy conditioner when doing so. Once hair is cleaned and conditioned, add a cream or gel and then leave it to air dry or use a diffuser. Before this process you can add oil such as coconut, avocado or olive oil as a pre-poo/pre-wash treatment.

Wrapping hair: This is the necessary act of tying hair up, usually at night, with a silk or satin scarf to maintain style and healthy hair. Doing this helps prevent split ends while sleeping and also extends the lifespan of your hairstyle. To do so, take a brush and wrap your hair either clockwise or counterclockwise. Once done, you can secure with long bobby pins if you want. Then take a silk or satin scarf and tie it around your wrapped hair along the perimeter of your head. This will take a lot of practice to shape your hair to your scalp. But let me tell you honey, once you have it down pat, life will be so much easier."

Excerpt #3:
..."Natural Hair Lingo
It’s easier to understand a topic when you know the lingo. Natural hair is no different:

big chop – cutting off one’s chemically straightened or damaged hair and allowing it to grow back in it’s natural texture.

bantu knot – a hairstyle in which the hair is twisted and rolled up into small buns

TWAs – teeny weeny afros – a short natural hairstyle with a maximum hair length of 2 inches.

faux locs – fake or imitation dreadlocks.

transition – the time after your last chemical straightening but before the big chop.”...
The letters in the term "TWAs" are pronounced separately.

Excerpt #4
"Hair twists, flat twists, or mini-twists, are a hairstyle popular with Afro-textured hair in the United States, and sometimes with other hair textures. The style is achieved by dividing the hairs into several sections, twisting strands of hair, then twisting two twisted strands around one another. They can also be created with one strand of hair at a time, with a comb.[1] They are not to be confused with larger, longer dreadlocks, (or "locs").

Twists can be made when naturally curly hair is still wet and somewhat relaxed from soaking with hot water; when the hair dries, it will shrink, creating a tightly woven texture to the hair twists. Twists can also be done with dry hair for a different texture. Twists can be combined with other hairstyles at the same time, such as afro-puffs and Afro.

In order to maintain twist hairstyles, wearers are advised by hairstylists to cover their hair with a headscarf or durag at night.[2]

Twist out
A variation of hair twists is called a "twist out",[3] where twisted hair is untwisted to create a large, loosely crimped texture, similar in appearance to hair crimping on Caucasian-textured hair that is ordinarily straight. There are two different variations to a "twist out," one method can be done with using two stands of hair and another method uses three stands of hair called a "three stand twist out". Both result in a textured hairstyle when untwisted.[4]

Other twist hairstyles include Senegalese twists, Marley twists, and Havana twists. All of these hairstyles require specific types of hair extensions that are installed to one's head. These styles have been labeled as protective styles because they protect the person's natural hair from daily manipulation. Senegalese twists originated in Senegal, Africa and are commonly performed in African hair salons across the U.S. This style uses synthetic Kanekalon hair, which can last anywhere from one to three months. Marley and Havana twists are more recent hairstyles widely spread through the black hair community in 2013. They look very similar to one another, but have distinct differences. Marley twists use Marley hair extensions that can be found in most hair supply stores from various hair companies and Havana twists use Havana hair extensions sold by few companies that are only available online. Havana twists are generally done with fewer twists than the Marley hairstyle and also weigh less in density because the hair is much fluffier in texture than Marley hair. Both hairstyles like Senegalese can last from one to three months, but should not be kept in for a longer period of time. Due to the technique of these hairstyles a person's natural hair can begin to get matted or form into dreadlocks.
“Afro-textured hair” = type 3 and type 4 hair textures [according to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System]

Note that "Marley Hair" is a specific brand of fake hair that is sold for extensions (weaves).

Excerpt #5
What is the difference between having dreadlocks and twists in your head?
"I want dreadlocks, but are dreadlocks and twists the same hairstyles or are they different?"

"Best Answer: The difference between 'Locks' and 'Twists' are:
TWISTS are the stage that hair goes through to become locks. Twists are simply bunches of hair that have been twisted together , and look like locks. The primary difference is that twists can unravel- they aren't permanent. Most people get twists, and keep them in for a few weeks, then have them taken out for a new hair style.Twists are typically shorter in length; they are normally no more than 1 to 2.5 inches long.

LOCKS on the other hand are the advanced stage of twisted hair. When twists 'mature', they began to tangle-- the hair is actually knotted at this point. When a twist reaches this stage (after about 6 months), it starts to become permanent. The hair is so knotted that it is 'locked' in. Typically, the only way to remove locks are to cut them down to the point where they haven't fully knotted yet- that means probably cutting the hair down to within an inch of the scalp.

Twists- Shorter/Temporary
Locks- Longer/Permanent

PS. Locks can be short. But typically, if you see really short locks, they're likely just twists
I have been growing locks for 2.5 years. I had to go through it all [="
Jabbar. 2011
As a point of clarification, a lot of people wear their hair in "twists" or "twist outs" who aren't trying to grow dreads (dreadlocks; locs). Also, a lot of people wear twists hairstyles for much less than the couple of weeks that is mentioned in this response.

RELATED LINK: Good Hair & Bad Hair (Black Attitudes About Our Hair)
Edited by Azizi Powell on 2/2013; updated- 10/2016

This concludes Part I of this two part series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. The Wikipedia article on this subject uses the term "afro-textured hair". I didn't showcase that article because I don't think that the term "afro-textured" is commonly used in the United States, if elsewhere. Besides, I don't think that the meaning of "afro-textured" is that clear. That said, here's one quote from that article:

    "In many post-Columbian, Western societies, adjectives such as "wooly", "kinky", "nappy", or "spiralled" have frequently been used to describe natural afro-textured hair. More recently, however, it has become common in some circles to apply numerical grading systems to human hair types."
    The terms "wooly", "kinky" and "nappy" have largely had mostly negative connotations. Some people in the natural hair movement (in the United States and elsewhere) are trying to reclaim the terms "kinky"and "nappy" so that they would be considered as neutral hair descriptors (neither positive or negative).

    However, I think it would be best if people (particularly non-Black people) used the term "tightly curly hair" to refer to the most common African American hair types or used the numerical hair type references to refer to those hair types and other hair types.

  2. Here's more information about "twist outs" that I got online but didn't note the source - my apologies.

    "Twist out [are] similar to a Braid out.

    Twist out=a natural hairstyle (for 4 type hair) in which you twist your hair

    Wash hair, comb it out (detangle it while the hair is damp), devide hair into small sections, twist 2 strands (or three strands) after putting “eco gel” and a small portion of olive oil on each section.

    Wear hair in this style for a day or more and then untwist (take out the twists) and then wear “as is”.

    As a result of this procedure, your 4 type hair natural curls are more defined [crinkly look)"
    This quote is reformatted for this blog.

  3. Weave (Hair weave) and "extensions" are two more terms that are commonly used to refer to Black and non Black women's hairstyles (although these terms aren't usually used for most natural hair styles).

    Here are two definitions for these terms:
    "Artificial hair integrations, more commonly known as hair extensions or hair weaves, add length and/or fullness to human hair. Hair extensions are usually clipped, glued, or sewed on to other hair by incorporating additional human or synthetic hair. Natural human hair can be permed, dyed, and flat ironed whereas synthetic hair cannot. The methods include tape in extensions, clip in or clip on extensions, fusion method, weaving method, and wigs."...


    a form of hair extensions. often used by black women, and celebrites. it's woven, or glued, into the hair from the track. if done rite, it comes out cute. it may even look real, if its done real good."...
    by yay area baby October 19, 2005
    I think that additional hair that is clipped on to extend the length of one's hair is called an "extension" and not a "weave".

    Please correct this definition if this is wrong.