Rare Hair Types: What You Need To Know + How To Care for Them

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.

You may already know that there are different hair types and understand the importance of determining which one you have in creating the ideal hair care regimen.

But what if you have one of the rare hair types?

The back of three different women with different hair types isolated on white background

We understand that products made especially for these types of hair are scarce.

You may easily see labels like “for fine hair” or “for curly hair” on certain hair care products, but there aren’t a lot of options for the rare types that we’ll talk about today.

But don’t worry. You can still find the right products and establish the proper hair care routine once you’re able to identify your hair’s specific needs. 

And what better way to do that than by understanding the characteristics of your rare hair type?

Continue reading to discover what the rare hair types are and how to care for them properly.

The Different Hair Types: How to Identify Yours

Have you ever found yourself buying a hair product raved about online for giving great results?

We understand. After all, if a product has been getting a lot of good reviews, it must be capable of transforming your hair too, right?

Well, it’s not a 100% yes.

You see, hair products that work well for others may not be as effective on your locks. And that’s because people have different hair types with different needs.

So, to find out which products are good for your tresses, you’d have to determine and understand your hair type first.

Hair types are mainly based on four things:

We’ll show you some charts on these hair types and characteristics.

Hair Density

Hair density simply refers to the volume of strands on your head. This hair classification is the simplest, which is why it used to be the most common way to differentiate between hair types.

Determining your hair density is pretty straightforward. Here are the easiest ways to do so:

Ponytail Test

Put your hair in a ponytail and measure the circumference.

Low Density (thin hair)Less than 2 inches
Medium Density2 to 3 inches
High Density (thick hair)4 inches or more

Scalp Test

Part your hair to the side and observe how your scalp looks.

Low Density (thin hair)The scalp is very visible.
Medium DensityThere’s a thin line that shows the scalp.
High Density (thick hair)The scalp can barely be seen.

Hair Porosity

As explained by the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC), porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. 

People have different hair porosity levels depending on the condition of their hair cuticles. The cuticle is the external layer of the hair strand that’s made of tiny cells that look like scales or roof shingles.

Take note that determining hair porosity is not commonly used in determining hair types, but it’s crucial in establishing the right hair care routine. 

This is because knowing your hair porosity level can help you find the most ideal products for your needs.

Take a look at the table below to see the different levels of hair porosity. 

Level of PorosityHair Cuticle Condition
LowThe cuticle cells lay flat, blocking moisture from penetrating the hair shaft.
MediumThe cells are slightly lifted, so there’s just enough room for moisture to enter but not easily get out.
HighThe cuticle cells have wide gaps in between, so water and products get lost just as easily as they are absorbed.

Now there are different ways to test your hair porosity level, whether through DIY methods or laboratory tests. 

To help you get a better idea of how to do hair porosity tests at home, check out this video from Healthy Afro Hair: 

Once you’ve established how porous your hair is, you’ll be able to choose products that can work for your locks.

For example, if you have low-porosity hair, you might want to use lightweight hair products that can easily be absorbed by your locks.

On the other hand, if you have high-porosity hair, you should use heavier or thicker products.

Hair Diameter

The most common way to categorize hair is through the texture or size of the hair strands.

There are three hair types according to the strand’s diameter, and you don’t need to use a microscope or a laboratory tool to determine your hair size.

Just take a strand of your hair, look at it closely, and rub it between your fingertips.

DiameterCharacteristics
FineThe strand is barely visible or tangible. 
CoarseThe strand looks and feels thick.
MediumThe strand is somewhere in between thin and thick.

Do note that it’s possible to have both fine and coarse strands. So it’s best to observe 4 or more strands from different areas of your head.

Curl Pattern

Another way to categorize hair that has become popular in the hair care industry is the Andre Walker Hair Typing System.

In the ’90s, Andre Walker, Oprah’s famous hairstylist, developed his own hair typing technique. In this system, everything comes down to how curly your hair is naturally.

Andre Walker classified the different types of hair by breaking them down into 4 main categories and 3 subcategories. 

Type 1 — Straight 

  • 1a — very straight and thin
  • 1b — straight fine to medium strands with a bit of bend
  • 1c — coarse, straight hair

Type 2 — Wavy Hair

  • 2a — fine strands that are wavy at the ends
  • 2b — prominent S-shaped waves
  • 2c — combines wavy and curly hair, more like loose curls

Type 3 — Curly Hair

  • 3a — definite S-curls
  • 3b — smaller, spiral curls
  • 3c — thin, tight ringlets

Type 4 — Coily Hair

  • 4a — tight, cylindrical curls
  • 4b — tight curls that bend in sharp angles like a letter Z
  • 4c — extremely tight curls with no distinguishable curl pattern

It’s super easy to identify your hair type. The best way to do it is to wash your hair, air-dry it, and then look at the natural hair texture of your strands.

Which Hair Types Are Rare?

Now that you know about the different hair types, it might be helpful to also be aware that some of these types are rare.

By rare, we mean that only a small percentage of people all over the world have them.

The two rarest hair types are type 1a hair and coily hair. We’ll learn a lot about those two below.

1A Hair: The Rarest Hair Type

Sleek straight and shiny hair — wouldn’t you like to have that? Well, most people would, especially those with unruly, frizzy locks.  

Whether through hair straighteners or chemical hair relaxers, they work to achieve bone-straight hair. 

But why is this hair type so desirable? We believe one of the reasons is that super-straight hair — also known as type 1a hair — is so rare.  

In fact, it’s the rarest hair type. Only 2% of the world’s population has 1a hair. It’s mostly found in people of Asian descent.

As such, most hair care manufacturers don’t bother creating plenty of products for this hair type.

Hence, people with 1a hair may often face challenges in caring for and styling their locks.

That’s why we’re here to help you understand this hair type better.

Characteristics of Type 1a Hair

It’s not easy to distinguish between the 3 subcategories of type 1 hair, but it’s possible to identify type 1a hair if you know what makes it unique.

Type 1a locks are pin straight. They don’t show any distinguishable curl pattern even when they’re wet. They also lie flat on the scalp.

Because of these characteristics, 1a hair usually appears flat with no volume.

And if you plan to curl your 1a hair to add volume, we wish you luck. This hair doesn’t hold a curl, even if you use a curling iron.

Moreover, this rare hair type is delicate and thin, so it’s more prone to damage, whether from harsh processes like perming or even something as trivial as tying your hair too tight.

But having type 1a hair isn’t all bad.

In fact, this hair type is known for being silky smooth and shiny. That’s because the sebum or natural oil from the scalp can easily travel down the hair shaft, moisturizing each strand.

What’s more, those with 1a hair don’t experience frizz often, because their hair maintains its silky texture whatever the weather is.

Caring for Type 1a Hair

So how do you maintain your hair’s shampoo-model style? Here are the best ways to care for type 1a hair:

Shampoo regularly

Since type 1a hair is straight and fine, it tends to get greasy. While excess oil does lend extra shine, it can build up and weigh down thin strands.

The back of a woman taking a shower while applying shampoo to her hair

To prevent this, shampoo your hair daily or every other day.

Wash your hair gently

Lathering your head can be relaxing, but make sure to do it gently if you have fine hair. 

Focus on massaging your scalp and avoid rubbing the ends of your strands.

Use the right brush

Brushing your limp, straight hair can add volume to it. But make sure to avoid hairbrushes with stiff boar bristles because they can potentially damage your locks. Use a gentle brush instead to prevent breakage. 

We recommend using a brush with rounded plastic prongs like this one from Wet Brush, which is gentler on your hair and scalp.

Moreover, start at the ends when brushing your locks to prevent tugging on your scalp and causing hair fall as a result.

Choose volumizing products

Since you’re dealing with flat hair, you might want to use products that add volume to fine, thin hair.

Whether you’re shopping for a new shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, or hair serum, look for the word  “volumizing” on the product label.

Don’t use heavy products

By heavy, we mean super-moisturizing products with a thick consistency that can weigh down your hair. 

Unless you’re going for a greasy wet look, veer away from hair care products like butter and oils.

However, keep in mind that there are lightweight hair oils that you can also use.

Coily Hair

Type 4 hair is another rare hair type. It’s the rarest among curly hair patterns. It’s not commonly found in nonblack people or people not of African descent.

This hair is also referred to as afro-textured, kinky, or coily hair.

This one’s very recognizable. In a crowd of people, you would easily identify who has type 4 hair.

That’s because this hair type has very unique characteristics.

Characteristics of Type 4 Hair 

Coily hair has tightly coiled strands that form a zigzag pattern. The texture of this hair type can range from soft to wiry, and the strands are densely packed.

While lack of volume is a problem for those with 1a hair, the opposite is true for those with type 4 hair, as coily hair shows off massive volume.

This is due to the direction of the growth of coily hair. Instead of expanding downwards, the strands grow upward and outward. 

This is definitely a hair type that makes a statement.

However, maintaining beautifully defined and properly hydrated coily locks is anything but effortless.

Type 4 hair is more fragile than type 1a hair. And it’s not because the strands are thin but because coily hair is extremely prone to dryness.

You see, the rough and twisty texture of coily hair and the natural direction of its growth make it impossible for the sebum to coat each strand fully.

What’s more, type 4 hair usually has two porosity levels:

  • High porosity for types 4a and 4b
  • Low porosity for type 4c

With these porosity levels, kinky locks can either lose moisture easily or have a hard time absorbing it.

Caring for Type 4 Hair

When it comes to a type 4 hair care routine, keep one word in mind: moisturize. 

Below are a few guidelines to help you hydrate your tresses. 

Choose the right products

Starting from something as basic as shampoo, opt for products that are specially formulated for type 4 hair.

But because not every product is suitable for coily hair, what you can do is check the ingredients.

For this hair type, it’s best to use styling products that contain light and hydrating natural oils like jojoba and grapeseed.

In addition, look for glycerin or honey, which are humectants that draw moisture from the air.

On the other hand, avoid silicones, waxes, and mineral oils that coat the strands and block moisture from entering the hair shaft.

Deep condition your hair

Use deep conditioner once a week. This product can penetrate the hair strands more deeply than regular conditioners, hence the name.

A woman undergoing deep conditioning to her hair in a salon

Doing this will help moisturize your hair from the inside out.

Our favorite deep conditioner? SheaMoisture’s Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Masque. It infuses hair with a powerful dose of moisture and nutrients.

Do the LOC or LCO method

Another way to keep your coily hair hydrated is by applying moisturizing products to your damp hair after washing.

Try the LOC (leave-in, oil, cream) method if your hair has high porosity and the LCO (leave-in, cream, oil) if your hair has low porosity.

This will not only hydrate your strands but also lock in moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common hair type in the world?

The most common hair type is type 1b. It’s still about as straight as type 1a but with more body and volume starting from the mid-shaft. It has a mix of fine and thick strands.

This one is easier to style than type 1a because it holds curls. However, it still tends to get oily, so you better have oil-control hair products ready.

How rare is naturally curly hair?

Less than 20% of the world’s population is born with naturally curly hair, so in terms of pure numbers, it’s fairly rare. 

What are the most common hair types per ethnicity?

The statistics for hair types per ethnicity are as follows:

Caucasian

  • 46.6% — wavy hair
  • 40.7% — straight hair
  • 12.7% – curly hair

Asian (East and West)

  • 46.7% — straight hair
  • 41.3% — wavy hair
  • 12% — curly hair

African

  • 94.9% — curly or coily hair
  • 5.1% — wavy hair

Can Asians and Caucasians have coily hair?

It is possible for Asians to have naturally curly hair and even coily strands. Although it’s quite unusual, there are also Asians with 4c hair.

Likewise, Caucasians can also be born with coily hair.

Since Caucasian hair types fall between Asian hair and African hair, it may be possible for some Caucasians to have type 4 hair.

Care for Your Hair the Right Way

No matter how simple our hair looks, it’s actually one of the body’s most complex structures.

There may be numerous hair typing systems around, but to be honest, it’s still difficult to identify exactly where your hair falls among these types.

This is why it’s difficult to look for hair care products and methods that would target your hair’s specific needs. And it’s tougher when you’ve got one of the rare hair types.

But despite the challenges, you can care for your locks effectively when you have enough knowledge about them.

After reading this post, we hope you finally understand the characteristics and needs of hair type 1a and type 4 strands. 

Make sure to use all the information we’ve laid out above to design your hair care regimen and keep your hair beautifully healthy!

What other hair care information can you learn today?

Check out these posts:

Authors

  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *