Afro American & Black Hair Types: How to Look After Them

EDUCATION

10 minutes, 30 seconds read

Essential Takeaways

Understanding your hair type and hair texture can help you take better care of it. From straight and soft Type 1 hair to drier Type 4 Afro-American curly hair, it’s crucial to know the do’s and don'ts that will keep your weave game strong.

Moisture, breakage, and hair loss are real concerns for Afro-American hair. Many hair care products on the shelves can do more harm than good, so it’s important to understand what natural options are out there (and possibly already in your pantry).

With its humectant, emollient, and antibacterial properties, manuka honey is fantastic for locking in moisture, keeping hair strong, promoting growth, and soothing the scalp. This guide will give you all the tips and hacks to use manuka honey on your hair.

Taking care of your hair looks different for everybody.

Understanding what your hair needs is important so that it stays healthy, strong, and looking great. (It will also potentially save you a lot of time and money at the salon.)

This is particularly true for Afro-American hair, which can need a little extra TLC compared to other hair types.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the various hair types, the pros and cons of each and how best to take care of them.

We’ll focus on black and afro-textured hair types and share tips to get more out of your hair.

In this guide to taking care of different types of hair:

Overview: Identify Your Hair Type

Although everyone’s hair is unique, hair type can be characterised by its curl pattern.

It’s the shape of our follicles that determines how hair grows - circular follicles produce straight hair, and oval follicles produce curlier hair¹.

And follicles are determined by our genetics. So we can change our hairstyle with heat and chemicals but at the end of the day, our hair will always bounce back to what it does naturally.

It’s in our DNA².

It was Oprah Winfrey’s stylist, Andre Walker, who originally created the hair typing system we’re discussing in this blog². Today, it’s used widely by stylists to help their clients get the best results from their hair care routine.

However, keep in mind that while this is helpful, it’s simply a guide. Most people have a combination of hair types, and this can change over the course of their lives.

You might need to experiment a little to find what works best for you.

Here’s a quick overview of the categories which we’ll discuss in more detail below:

Type 1

Straight

Fine and fragile to coarse and thin

Type 2

Wavy

Fine and thin to coarse and frizzy

Type 3

Curly

Loose curls to corkscrew curls

Type 4

Kinky

Tight coils to z-angled coils

Source.

As the hair gets curlier and more tightly coiled, it can be more prone to frizziness and dryness.

Type 4 hair is at the most extreme end of the spectrum and is commonly referred to as Afro-American or black hair. Its shape can make it more fragile and prone to shrinkage and breakage more than the other types, so it needs a little more care³.

Let’s take a look in more detail.

What Makes African American Hair Types Unique

Afro hair types are typically thinner, coarser, tighter, more dense and as a result, more delicate⁴ than others.

Research has found that hair loss is a real problem for African-American women⁵.

In fact, one study reported that alopecia is one of the most common diagnoses made by dermatologists with African-American patients⁶.

“The most common hair and scalp complaints among African Americans include hair breakage, scalp itching, excessive dandruff and flaking, and hair loss at the crown and temples.

Hair care products popular among African American women, including emollients, colloquially referred to as “hair grease,” gels, spritzes, and relaxers have been implicated in hair fragility and loss.”

Not only did this study find that traditional products might be doing more harm than good, but that the women involved often avoided exercise for fear of the impact it might have on their hair.

This was compromising their health, wellbeing and self-esteem.

Type 4 hair is often described as Afro-American hair. It is the coarsest and often driest hair type. As a result, taking care of Afro-American hair is all about maintaining moisture, removing build-up, and conditioning the scalp.

Fortunately, one all-natural product offers these benefits and so many more…

Care for African American Hair with Honey

Did you know that studies have found honey to be fantastic for hair care?

Thanks to its emollient properties which allow it to lock in moisture, honey has been used as a rinse and conditioner for centuries⁷.

“Honey is a great natural hair product that can be used by itself or incorporated into other natural hair treatments.

It can promote cell growth, help to retain moisture, and restore nutrients to the hair and scalp. It may even help alleviate inflammatory skin conditions when used with other therapies.”

The benefits of using honey for hair address all the key concerns that people with Afro-American hair commonly experience: dryness, breakage, and hair loss.

In fact, we’ve already got a dedicated guide to creating the perfect hair mask for African-American hair right here.

So, how does manuka honey for Afro-American hair work?

  • It moisturises. Honey is a natural humectant, meaning that it can draw in moisture and lock it in - fantastic for thirsty hair⁸.

  • It promotes growth. Honey has been found to boost cell renewal, particularly epithelial cells which cover the scalp. This helps promote healthy hair growth⁹.

  • It provides nutrients. Honey contains beneficial nutrients that your hair loves - think protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids¹⁰. These help it to stay strong and not break so easily.

  • It soothes sore scalps. Honey has anti-inflammatory properties which help it to soothe cracked or inflamed skin around hair follicles⁸.

  • It cleans and protects. Honey is antibacterial. Use it to clear the scalp of product build-up and protect it against any invading nasties.

So what makes manuka honey special, particularly?

You might find antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties in other types of honey. But you won’t find them in the same potency as you will in pure, raw, monofloral manuka honey like ours.

Manuka honey can have around 100 times more methylglyoxal (MGO)¹¹ than other honey types - the compound most associated with these benefits.

(Though there are plenty of other ways this honey is unique, too).

You can tell how much MGO is in a jar of manuka honey by checking its UMF™ grade - the higher the grade, the more potent its antibacterial properties.

It’s also the most regulated honey on the market, so by looking for the UMF™ certification, you can be sure that what you’re buying is the real deal.

1 ingredient. 2000 natural compounds.

Now that’s hair care with a punch.

How to Care for Your Hair by Type

Now, let’s explore the traits of each type of hair, their advantages and disadvantages, and how manuka honey can boost health and shine.

Type 1

Type 1 hair is typically straight, soft, and difficult to curl.

It can be further categorised as follows:

  • Type 1a: Completely straight and fine in texture.

  • Type 1b: Slightly more volume and a medium-thick texture.

  • Type 1c: A thicker texture still, more coarse, and a slight bend or wave.

Upsides of this hair type Downsides of this hair type Tips for Type 1 hair care

It doesn’t damage as easily as other types. It’s not as frizzy as other types.

It can shed easily.

Thanks to its finer texture, it can be oily.

Since it’s so soft, it may not hold shape as well as other types.

It can be difficult to keep hair moisturised without it appearing too oily.

Avoid shampooing too often as this will trigger more oil production.

Use a lightweight, volumising conditioner.

Focus more on gently washing the scalp than the length of the hair.

How to use manuka honey for Type 1 hair

Use manuka honey as an enriching leave-in hair mask treatment once or twice monthly.

Simply apply the honey straight to your roots and gently comb hair back into a bun (not too tight).

Rinse the honey from your hair the next morning and your nourished scalp will thank you for it!

Type 2

Type 2 hair is wavier and can be fine or coarse.

It can be further broken down as follows:

  • Type 2a: Fine wavy hair with an “S”-shaped pattern running throughout. Commonly referred to as beachy, loose waves.

  • Type 2b: The “S” shape starts further down, and it can be frizzier and harder to style.

  • Type 2c: Thick and often very frizzy, waves start from the roots. The curls are more spiral in shape.

Upsides of this hair type Downsides of this hair type Tips for Type 2 hair care

It isn’t as high maintenance as other hair types.

A weekly hydration treatment should be plenty to maintain healthy hair.

It can be tricky to style, particularly for types b and c.

It can be difficult to define curls without weighing them down. Using the right tools and products will help.

Lightweight products are the best¹².

Use curl-enhancing treatments to help define those waves and spirals.

Avoid towel-drying hair and use a wide-tooth comb when wet to reduce frizz.

Moisturisation is key, so ensure you use deep hydration masks regularly.

How to use manuka honey for Type 2 hair

Create your own weekly hydrating manuka honey hair mask.

To really help define those waves and curls and lock in moisture, combine manuka honey with aloe vera gel¹³ and apply it to your hair as a leave-in conditioner.

You can also add water to create a natural hairspray.

Type 3

Type 3 hair can be loose waves or tight corkscrew coils. These ringlets need extra care to remain defined, voluminous, and frizz-free.

Type 3 can be further categorised as follows:

  • Type 3a: Loose, bouncy curls that spiral from the root to the tip¹⁴. They can be naturally quite defined without too much work from you.

  • Type 3b: These curls are thicker, like the width of your index finger. They are typically tighter, dryer, and often look long when wet and shrink as they dry.

  • Type 3c: Think pencil or chopstick thickness for this type of hair¹⁴, which requires more regular deep moisturisation to really ensure that the hydration penetrates deeply.

Upsides of this hair type Downsides of this hair type Tips for Type 3 hair care

Naturally voluminous.

Often a lot of movement and definition.

There can be a lot of shrinkage when hair goes from wet to dry.

The density can cause product build-up, so it’s important to rinse thoroughly when washing your hair.

Detangling can be more arduous for this hair type.

Avoid towel-drying hair which can cause breakage. Instead, opt for a cotton T-shirt¹⁴.

Opt for sulphate-free products. Although sulphates clean the hair, they can strip the good natural oils that lock in moisture.

Deep condition regularly after washing and use leave-in masks for extra hydration.

You can also spritz your hair with water daily to help maintain moisture.

How to use manuka honey for Type 3 hair

Manuka honey is the perfect natural hydrator for your dryer hair.

Create your own deeply nourishing leave-in treatment by mixing manuka honey with avocado and olive oil. Leave it in your hair for 30-60 minutes and gently rinse.

You can also mix manuka honey with plant oils like jojoba, argan, or sweet almond and water to create your own daily spritz. Keep it on hand for immediate moisture and shine.

Type 4

Type 4 hair is often the driest and coarsest hair type. Locking in moisture is key to keeping this hair type healthy and strong.

It can be further categorised as follows:

  • Type 4a: S-shaped coils similar in thickness to a crochet needle³.

  • Type 4b: These coils are less defined and tighter, making them more fragile.

  • Type 4c: No defined pattern, these tight coils can be incredibly fragile.

Upsides of this hair type Downsides of this hair type Tips for Type 4 hair care

This hair type can be versatile when it comes to hairstyles as it often holds shape for longer.

The ability to stretch the hair when it’s drying gives you many more styling options than other hair types.

Consistent dryness that seems to resist moisturisers.

A lot of shrinkage occurs as hair goes from wet to dry.

Can tangle and break easily.

Use natural moisturisers regularly to keep your hydration topped up¹⁵.

Avoid washing it too often, as you’ll strip out the natural oils and exacerbate dryness.

Deep condition your hair frequently to really boost moisture and reduce tangles.

Detangle your hair gently and slowly, using fingers first and then a wide-toothed comb.

How to use manuka honey for Type 4 hair

Manuka honey is the perfect everyday moisturiser and deep conditioner for Afro-American hair.

In our dedicated guide to creating your own manuka honey hair mask for African American hair, we share an easy recipe that you can customise to meet your own unique needs.

You can also apply manuka honey straight to your scalp and let it nourish, clean, and protect from the follicles. Leave on for an hour or overnight for a deeply hydrating, all-natural treatment.

Keep Your Locks Luscious with Pure, Raw, Certified Manuka Honey

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to hair care products, but the answer to our matted manes is in the pantry.

And it doesn’t contain sulphates, parabens, or any other potentially harmful chemicals for our hair.

That’s right, it’s manuka honey!

Our UMF™-graded manuka honey has been certified for its authenticity and freshness so that you know what you’re getting in the jar is all-natural, all-powerful, and all-nourishing for your hair.

So what are you waiting for?

Get yours here.

Unsure which grade is right for you?

Take the quiz.



Sources:

¹ Hair follicle, Healthline.

² Types of hair, Healthline.

³ Two basic hair typing systems, Hair Flair.

How do you know if you have type 3 or 4 hair? Hair Flair.

African-American women, hair care and health barriers, National Library of Medicine.

Common dermatologic disorders in skin of color, National Library of Medicine.

Honey hair mask, Healthline.

Honey in dermatology and skincare, National Library of Medicine.

Evidence for clinical use of honey in wound healing, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁰ Honey for hair, Healthline.

¹¹ What does MGO mean on manuka honey? New Zealand Honey Co.

¹² Guide to type 2 hair, Hair Flair.

¹³ 6 ways to use aloe vera gel, Naturally Curly.

¹⁴ Guide to type 3 hair, Hair Flair.

¹⁵ Guide to type 4c hair, Hair Flair.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.

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