What Exactly is a Good Grade of Hair?

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I just might pull my hair out if I hear another black sista insist that she can’t rock natural hair styles because she does not have a “good grain of hair.”  What exactly is a “good grain of hair?”

First things first: a lesson on different hair types.

There are four (4) hair types, grades, or “grains” of hair as some like to call it.  And guess what?  All four types can wear natural hairstyles.  Yes, even yours.  Keep reading.

The four types are:

  • Type 1 - Straight Hair: This type of hair is naturally bone straight and not typical of black hair.
  • Type 2 - Wavy Hair: Soft or deep waves with little to no curl.  Coarse and stays close to the scalp in long “s” shaped curves.  Doesn’t usually have a lot of body.
  • Type 3 – Curly Hair: Unique texture.  Fine and soft “q” shaped pattern.  Doesn’t have a lot of sheen.  Has lots of body.  Straightens when wet and curls as it dries.
  • Type 4Coily / Kinky Hair – Very tightly curled and wiry.   Type 4 is usually broken up into 4a and 4b.  4a hair has a looser coil and strands have a spiral shape.  4b hair has a tighter kink. Strands have a zig-zag shape like the letter “z” and is the most fragile and driest of the types.

For a picture of the above four hair types, click here.

If you have Type 4 hair (Coily / Kinky) and believe that you can’t wear natural hair styles, then I propose:

  1. You’ve never tried it,
  2. You’ve tried it but with hair that has been prevously relaxed,

You’ve tried it on 100% natural hair but did not use the techniques and methods that must be followed for natural hairstyles to work with your hair type

Combing Out Natural Hair

For example, Type 4 hair, the kinkiest, can not be combed while dry.  It must be combed while wet after saturating it with conditioner and using a wide tooth comb only.  And even then, you just easily glide the comb through your hair… uh, that aint gonna happen!  You have to take your time and patiently hold a small section of your hair at the bottom and gently comb until you can go up the hair.

It can take some sistas with kinky hair up to an hour to comb out her hair, a tedious process.  So don’t get discouraged or think you just don’t have “good” hair because you can’t wet and readily rake a comb through your hair.  Nobody with Type 4 hair, especially 4B, can do that.  And “combing your hair while wet and saturated with conditioner with a wide tooth comb” is just one of the many “rules” or methods you must use when you have Type 4 hair.

Co-Washing

Type 4 hair also needs lots of moisturizing products added for natural styles to work (e.g., leave-in conditioners, hair butters, etc).  In fact, shampooing natural hair is often frowned upon, because the shampoo strips natural hair of its oils and dries it out.  So many women who rock natural hair co-wash, which is using conditioner instead of shampoo to “wash” their hair.  There are also shampoos out today that eliminate the chemicals that dry your hair out, like Miss Jessie’s Shampoos for example.  I personally co-wash weekly and use Miss Jessie’s shampoo 1-2 times a month.

Videos of Proof

But don’t take my word for it!  Check out the below playlist of videos created by women with Type 4 Kinky hair!

The women in these videos  below have Type 4 hair and give tips on washing and styling.  They even share what products to buy for Kinky hair.  Plus they showcase their natural hairstyles which look great!  Who says that Type 4 is NOT a “good” grain or grade of hair? Hogwash. Every hair type is beautiful in its own special way!

PRESS PLAY TO BEGIN VIDEOS.

TIP:  You can pan through the videos by clicking the RIGHT arrow button if you want to skip any in the playlist.

The Big Chop

Many black women also don’t realize that if they have already relaxed their hair (most of us at some point have relaxed our hair for a number of years), then, in order to begin wearing all-natural hair styles, we must cut off any hair that has been previously relaxed. This is why many black women who decide to go natural do what’s called “the big chop” to get rid of all hair that has been relaxed at some point with chemical treatments or perms.

Transitioning

It’s also possible to slowly “transition” into  all natural hair if the big chop is too drastic of a change for you.  Transitioning is often done by no longer getting relaxers and letting your roots grow out naturally until it gets to a certain length where you don’t mind cutting off your relaxed ends.  There’s actually hairstyles specifically for people who are in the transitioning season.

So Does Good Hair Exist?

I reject the idea or notion that some sort of so-called “good hair” exists, as though one person’s hair is “better” than others.  As one friend said when she was recently told she has good hair and that her hair was better, “Better how? Does good hair behave?  Does it listen? Is bad hair disobedient?  Does it not lay flat when told? How do you know how my hair behaves? I may have had to whip it to get it to act right.”  Who is to say kinky hair isn’t good hair?

During my “natural hair journey” there have been a couple of sistas who insist that I have some sort of so-called “good hair.”  One said, “My hair could never do that! My texture is too kinky.”  It’s offensive to hear someone claim that the reason why I can wear natural hair is because I’m “mixed,” when in fact I’m not mixed. I’m just a light-skinned black person.  Blacks come in all shades of the rainbow.  My brother came out dark.  (If you ask my dad why I’m so light-skinned, he’ll tell you that one of our relatives were probably conjugal with a slave master way back in the day. )  (And there’s nothing wrong with being bi-racial of course; I just am not.)

Everyone can wear her hair natural. Everyone.

Yes, everyone’s hair is different, even if two people have the same hair type.  We are all unique individuals.  But please don’t think you can’t do natural styles if you really want to do so.

I hope you help me spread the positive word that every hair type can avoid chemicals and “go all natural” and look nice being all natural.

If you are nervous about taking this plunge, there are a lot of natural hair salons now that specialize in natural hair methods and styles.

More Information on Hair Types

For more information hair types, especially Types 4a, 4b, or 4c, check out these webpages:

Questions:  Did you find this article helpful?  Did you find the information you were seeking?  What has been your experiences regarding this topic?  Have you heard the saying that so-and-so has “good hair.”  What are your thoughts?  Click here to leave your opinion.

  • Jayne Marie

    I think when it comes to a “good grade of hair” it has to do with what we see on TV. To this day I think, “WHAT I WOULDN’T GIVE TO HAVE THAT PANTENE HAIR!” You know the Black chick with the long, thick, shiny Black hair in the commercial. *Sigh* I think the first thing we as Black women have to do is come to terms with what God gave us. I will never have that hair – no matter what product I use, genetically, my hair is not encoded to grow long (But Lord knows I’d be happy w/ the length I had as at age 10). And I no longer have the edges I used to have. The other type of hair TV shows us all the time is “curly.” My hair is not. TV proudly shows me all of these Black women and kids with “natural hair” but NONE of their natural hair looks like mine. TV only shows curly natural hair. And we think it’s cute and pretty and when the rest of us see OUR texture of hair we get discouraged. I think that’s why people don’t think they can wear natural hair because it’s not the length they want or it doesn’t have the curl pattern they envy. I found I too could wear the cute curly looks (when I was younger w/ a slimmer face) IF I put in the work with a twist out. Now, on the rare occasions that I wear my hair out (not braided, weaved, or under a wig, usually weekends) I wash it, condition it A LOT, oil it and Blow dry it out. My hair straightens to an old 80′s poofy, pony-tail, but I don’t really do anything outside of that to straighten it and I usually just wear it as a blown out fro. For me, I opt for the fake do’s because they’re quick, flattering, and budget friendly. I don’t make enough to go to the salon. I DO NOT like doing my hair at all – because I have very thick hair that shrinks up and dries out REALLY badly and it’s ALWAYS time consuming. Plus, there’s a chance I actually have more gray hair than dark hair. (started graying at age 11.) But the real reason is because I don’t have the length that I want to flatter my face. My hair’s not short but it grows slowly and hasn’t really grown back from my last bad cut. lol. Part of that has to do with stress, sleep and eating right, as well as the products I use and other bad hair habits. For me, natural hair research is about learning about hair health so I CAN feel comfortable wearing my own hair out. Getting past breakage and shedding and dryness and learning how to style it, is what would do that for me. I definitely agree with the suggestion of going to a natural hair care salon. I think EVERY Black woman should do that in order just to learn about hair care and to be stop thinking of her own hair as a bad thing. I plan to go visit one soon in Detroit and will be happy to report on it once I do.

    BTW, my friend put me up on a hair dye for my grays that left my hair very soft, healthy, shiny, AND IT DIDN’T CAUSE BREAKAGE. AND I DIDN’T have to STRIP my hair with harsh chemicals first to make it stick to the grays. I’ll get the name of it and share later.

    • http://www.junesjournal.com June

      Jayne Marie, is the “hair dye” you speak of called HENNA? Here’s an article about HENNA on Curly Nikki’s website: http://www.curlynikki.com/2011/05/using-henna-to-cover-gray-hair.html

      You say that you blow dry your hair out after washing, conditioning and oiling. That’s cool if that’s what you want, but most natural hair gurus say blow drying your hair is bad. Although KimmayTube has a method of doing it where your hair doesn’t get as dry. I’ll try to find the direct link if you’re interested.

  • http://shuggaandspicce.wordpress.com/ Tish

    Hey June:

    I’m really glad you addressed this because this has over time and education become kind of a pet peeve of mine. And growing up in the south, I’m ashamed to admit I bought into that “good hair bad hair” fallacy. It was not until earlier this decade that I was convicted that I was terribly mistaken.

    To give folk the benefit of the doubt, I believe what people are trying to say when they say, “they got good hair” is “your hair is beautiful to me.” Unfortunately, there are some mental conditioning that has played a role in helping black people think a certain look is beautiful. But lets I digress.

    Here is the beautiful part and maybe even the mystery. Type 4 sisters would and can hear the same compliment without their hair being relaxed. But like you said, we are not caring for the hair properly so we give up.

    Really, WE FORGOT, how to care for our hair. For fact is –a great many, type 4 and now relaxed sisters can go back thru mountains of old photos albums to childhood photos and see a head full of THEIR thick UNPROCESSED hair. Hair they look back on with secret envy. Staring in wonder at those old photos sadly monologuing “what happened to my hair?” A large part of that answer is—we processed it to death. We became trendy (some trends are good i.e. the back to our natural hair trend is a good one to follow) and begged mama for the Gherry Curl or the relaxer, or the asymmetrical cut. LOL! Or mama got tired of fighting with your tender headed self and decided to make HER life easier and relaxed or “texturized” or kiddy permed your hair NOT thinking of the long term implications.

    It amazes me when I hear black women talk with terror about the prospect of “going natural” as if they NEVER experienced their hair natural EVAh. We have—as little girls and pre-teens. We just need to reconnect to that time and bring that to our current place.

    Even though we didn’t have knowledge about how certain mineral oil based styling pomades were not the best for our hair—those things did keep our hair moist. The other things that kept our hair in tact as a youth is the was not messed with every day like we have to do when we are relaxed. We wore braids for 1-2 weeks at a time, sometimes even longer. These are fundamentals we can build upon to get us to a healthy head of hair TODAY.

    Like June said of her story, I, too, from my youth have been hailed as having “good hair.” Both of my parents are black; and both their parents were black. Although, on my mother’s side there are rumors of Caucasian seed in the mix as well as possible Native American. I’ve been asked if I have “Indian” in my family so much I decided to look into the matter and did a quasi-generational inquiry courtesy of google. LOL!

    I’ve been mistaken for Ethiopian; other races than just pure black. And one time when I was natural hair evangelizing to a group of my sisters, saying “we 100% black girls” I was corrected by one saying, “you are not 100% black” as if to say, hey your hair tells us that you have something other in you. “You have that good hair” and my hair won’t do like yours.”

    I believe the root issue under this “good hair and bad hair” is self-acceptance. Some would say self hate. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that. I don’t think sisters who wear relaxers hate themselves. For most, at this point in history, I don’t think it’s that deep. The first two drawbacks I hear are 1) I can’t do that, don’t have good hair, I will be ugly and 2)I will not be attractive to my hubby or boyfriend. I’ve seen sheer terror in the eyes of women admiring other natural but SO DARN SCARED they will lose favor with someone. This is why I say this is about insecurity which hinders self acceptance.

    Self acceptance as in an ability to look at oneself and be satisfied with what we see. My goal in life is to like how I look naked. I’m a tenured single J having no man in my life to serve as some motivation in my aesthetic pursuits. I work out for health reasons surely, but to keep it 100% I also work out because—I wanna like how I look naked. I wanna like how I look when I go to bed in my cute nightie set, just for myself. I’m so insecure in other ways (that I’m working on) but I make this point about self-acceptance because 1) I hope it inspires because I am proud that I have maintained this level of self-acceptance in my life 2) because I am still insecure in other areas, those who are insecure in this area can see that its okay and being insecure is NOT fatal. It’s okay to be insecure about being able to first admit it then overcome it. I heard that courage is NOT the absence of fear it is the resolve to defeat it—overcome it. That’s all.

    Another thing we can do to overcome insecurity is be humble enough to find inspiration in other sisters and compliment them. That is a by product of this self-acceptance–an ability to look at another woman who you see living at a place you desire (natural hair, professional, spiritual, marital, etc.) as an inspiration instead of an object of a kind of subconscious competitive comparison. We (men and women) but especially women compare ourselves too much. We are all guilty and we usually do this when we are at our lowest–i.e. something occurred in our lives that stirs up insecurity—or out right jealously.

    Instead of seeing a beautiful sister’s hair and being inspired to say, “hey, wow look what she achieved. Let me commit learn how to get the best out of my hair.” we speak from a place of self-pity, jealousy, or self-dissatisfaction. We say, “I can’t do that with my hair” If we are really full of self-negativity we began to turn that negativity outward and “hate on” those who have found pride and beauty in our natural hair. I hope June’s thoughts on this will spark discussion so facts can prevail and inspiration to “try” something new with your hair moves you.

    We who are natural are advocates, evangelists, and what not because it works. We are going OMG, this is NOT as hard as I thought. OMG, I’ve been bamboozled. OMG, I look good. OMG, my hair is really growing.

    I also encourage you to check out kimmaytube on youtube. She is a 4a-b texture sister and her hair is past her arm pits now! Her hair story is a must for those with “kinky –coiled” hair who think they can’t grow their hair in it’s natural state. Funny to me, how the opposite is true. I found the more I relaxed my hair—the more the texture changed. The more it thinned out. I know sisters who began relaxing their hair as a teen with thick hair and the relaxer did it well for a time. Now they are adults and their hair –still beautiful—is no where near the length or thickness it use to be.

    I will post a link of a sister on you tube discussing doing her master’s thesis on the history of natural hair and at what point did we as a collective decided our natural hair WAS NO LONGER beautiful.

  • http://shuggaandspicce.wordpress.com/ Tish

    Here is KimmayTube
    http://www.youtube.com/user/kimmaytube#p/u/10/bjxiNzYUDTI

    Her online shop Luv Naturals
    http://www.youtube.com/user/kimmaytube#p/u/10/bjxiNzYUDTI

    can’t find that video on the research the young lady is doing for her PHD. sorry :(

    • http://www.junesjournal.com June

      I love Kimmay Tube… one of my favorites!

  • http://shuggaandspicce.wordpress.com/ Tish

    oops I meant to edit my first post….to say “one of my goals in life” not my goal in life is to like myself naked. LOL! Just fyi, I’m vain yes, but not that vain.

  • keekee

    hey! i am having the time of my life trying to figure out exactly what my daughter’s hair type is. we are completely african american on both sides but i find it strange that my daughter has no kinky curls at all! and her hair as thin as it comes. but going by what i have learned, she has fine, cottony hair which only falls under type 4b hair. but it is almost a 3a pattern. almost curly but not quite… so is it possible for a black girl to have type 3a hair? or do we only fall in the type 3c and the latter? Thanks

  • Aida Gonzalez

    Hey June, I think my category of hair was left out. Where does natural, damaged hair that won’t curl at the ends fall? I do blow dry and flat iron my hair once a week and I have color in it too. My hair is both sad and angry on the ends and I even bought Ms. Jessie’s and the miracle curl conversion did not take place – lol…

  • http://www.junesjournal.com June

    Hey Aida, if your hair is as damaged as you say, most of the natural hair websites give two suggestions: either (1) do what’s called the “big chop” or BC, where you literally cut off all your hair and start over. Wait until you have about 1-2 inches of new growth, then cut the rest off and this time don’t damage it (after getting educated on all the latest natural hair techniques to avoid doing so), or, (2) keep growing your hair out and getting it trimmed every month until you have a whole new head of new hair. This process is called “Transitioning.” It’s less dramatic than the big chop and may take 1-2 years to accomplish (depending on how fast your hair grows out). Both methods help you to start with healthy hair and you get another chance to keep it that way!

    With respect to your results on Ms Jessie’s, I don’t think there’s a one product cure all for any one person. Each product may have various results depending on each person’s hair type. You have to experiment around and find out what’s best for you. I’m creating a product directory in an upcoming blog post! Hopefully it will give you some ideas of new products to try out.

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  • Gabriel

    It is pathetic to see how caught up Blacks are on hair texture. If only they were this caught up on Education. P.S if one has ‘mixed’ hair texture obviously genetics does not lie thus somewhere in that pool is European or Indian bloodline. Consequently denying that you are not mixed is denying who you are.