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Curly Commentary: Is the Hair Typing System Divisive?

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Erika Owens Kandy Curls
Hair typing is often seen as both friend and foe of the natural hair community. The hair typing system details the varieties of wavy, curly and coily hair on a "scale" of 1-4, with 1 being bone straight and 4 being tightly curled and kinky. There are many women who use the hair typing system as a tool to get advice on the best products to use or styling ideas from others whose hair is just like theirs. As with any useful tool, there are some who will, and do, abuse it. I’ve discovered that there are other naturals who view hair typing as the perfect weapon to further fuel the never-ending “good hair” vs. “bad hair” debate.

It was during the early stages of having natural hair that I discovered the hair typing system and realized that I had a guide to show me how to take care of my texture. I used it to find everyday naturals with my hair type and the information to help me figure it all out. When it comes to hair, some textures need more conditioning and moisture while others need much more careful detangling because of the delicate strands. The hair typing system gives us many useful cues we otherwise would have to figure out the hard way.

But as my natural hair research continued, I began to see that not everyone was happy with hair typing. For some, it just didn’t work, while for others they felt it was solely used as a means to judge others. I feel it is used as both. You cannot deny the subtle stabs about hair types in the natural hair forums and to me, it’s no different than people making subtle remarks about skin tone — but that’s another story.

One of the top selling natural hair T-shirts at my online shop Kandy Curls reads, “My hair type? No letters, no numbers, just dope” (pictured above). The wild success and popularity of this T-shirt speaks volumes about the how some women in the natural hair community feel about hair typing system. When it comes to hair typing as a tool, it’s great. But, when used as a trophy to flaunt “good hair” status or to downgrade others, it's not so hot. It becomes an unfortunate problem and a sign that as a community we still have deep-rooted issues when it comes to our curls.

Erika Owens is the owner of Kandy Curls natural hair T-shirts. You can find her on Twitter @kandycurls or visit her online apparel store.

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