LOIS HAIR SYSTEM: What Type of African/Black Hair Do You Have?

African, Natural Black Hair by Category
We come in all shapes, sizes and colors... and our hair comes in all shapes, widths and textures. It is difficult to categorize Black hair because of all the variation that occurs. However, attempts have been made to categorize in an effort to help people better know their hair.

African/Black hair is difficult to categorize for a few reasons:
1) our hair differs in pattern - coils, springs. zig zags, s-curves
2) our hair differs in pattern size - watch spring to chalk size
3) our hair differs in density - sparse, dense
4) our hair differs in strand diameter - fine, medium, wide
5) our hair differs in feel - cottony, wooly, spongy

Nappturality webmistress deecoily

And on one head it is possible to have all 5 category differences represented somewhere, each reacting differently to the same routine.

André Walker, Oprah's stylist, came up with a system in his book, André Talks Hair, which put all hair into categories. Number 1 being straight Asian type hair and 4 being "kinky" or "Nappy" or "tightly coiled" African/Black type hair. He then divided the numbers with a lettering system, 'a' being the straightest within a category, 'B' being the next curly.. etc and so on down.

Another hair typing system, L.O.I.S. was developed by Our as a simpler way to identify different hair structures.

How to determine which daughter (or son) of LOIS you are:
Remove a single strand of the most common type of hair on your head. Aim for 70%, so if you have different textures, use the most common Texture on your head.

The hair should be freshly washed without products applied to it and rinsed in cold water. Or, gently rinse a single hair with a little dish detergent and rinse in cold water.

Lay the hair on an absorbent paper towel to dry.

When the hair is completely dry, look at the pattern without touching it.

    * If the hair has all bends, right angles and folds with little to no curve then you are daughter L.
    * If the strand is rolled up into the shape of one or several zeros like a spiral, then you are
       daughter O.
    * If the hair lies mostly flat with no distinctive curve or bend you are daughter I.
    * If the strand looks like a wavy line with hills and valleys then you are daughter S.

It will be common to have a combination of the LOIS letters, (with more dominant) which can help you determine which daughter of LOIS you are. If you cannot see one letter over the others, then combine the letters. Example: LO or IL or OS.

Other characteristics of LOIS

L = Bend
O = Curl
I = Straight
S = Wave

Thready - low sheen, high shine, low frizz
Wiry - sparkly sheen, low shine, low frizz
Cottony - low sheen, low shine, high frizz
Spongy - high sheen, low shine, high frizz
Silky - low sheen, high shine, low frizz
Shine - hair that reflects light along its surface.
Sheen - hair that sparkles as if filled with light
Article Reprinted with Permission.  About the author: Patricia Gaines is the webmistress of Natural Hair Care site
Strand Size:
One half of a piece of inexpensive sewing thread (such as the kind that is conta

ined in those palm sized personal sewing kits) split in two is about the thickness of a medium strand size of human hair. If you hair is larger than this, then your strand size is thick. If you hair is smaller than the split thread, then your hair strand is thin, or fine.

If you want to compare your hair strand to a split piece of thread, it can be done by moving the thread back and forth between your thumb and forefinger holding the free end taunt.     

Thready texture of hair usually has a low sheen, with high shine if the hair is held taunt (as in a braid), with low frizz. Wets easily but water dries out quickly.

Wiry hair textures have sparkle sheen, with low shine and low frizz. Water beads up or bounces off the hair strands. Hair never seems to get fully wet.

Cottony hair texture will have a low sheen, a high shine if the hair is held taunt and has high frizz. Absorbs water quickly but does not get thoroughly wet very fast.

Spongy hair has a high sheen with low shine with a compacted looking frizz. Absorbs water before it gets thoroughly wet.

Silky hair has low sheen, a very high shine, with a lot or low frizz. Easily wets in water.

Hair Typing Personified

S-curls or Coils
Combed or brushed, it becomes a light, fluffy 4a afro.  Usually a lot of product is needed to maintain definition in this hair type.

Model: Caribmix


O-Shaped Strands
Curly AA hair. Very curly, but not coily, It also has a high shine factor which indicates more rounded hair strands, rather than flat, ribbon-like 4a hair strands.

Model: Potterville

I-Shaped Strands
Wavy to straight AA hair.  Some corkscrew curls, high shine factor.  Curls are wavy and corkscrewed rather than coily.

Model: Wavezncurlz
Her hair is has a large and uniform coil structure.    
Model: Yante Coi
Multiple textures on one head.

As with most African Americans, hair at the nape of the neck tends to be softer with a looser coil.

Model: Jetcitygirl

Combed, damp, product-free natural hair.

Model: Deecoily, Nappturality Webmistress and article Author

4a-OS dense hair tends to feel spongy.
4a-OS fine hair tends to feel cottony.
4a-OS wide strand diameter tends to feel wiry.

OS hair coils into springs and s-curls when wet, with the occasional spiral curl.

These springs can range in diameter from chalk to pen spring size. The smaller diameter the coils, the more shrinkage is expected.

These springs and coils may disappear when hair is dry or combed/picked.

Hair may lose it's sheen when combed and/or dried, needing a shine product to revitalize it.

This hair type can be sheeny or shiny when glossing products are used. It doesn't straighten easily if the strands are coarse. When it grows long it sits more outward than downward.

4a hair type may hold a shake & go style and coil definition with the right products.

It holds wet twists and comb coils tightly and very well for long periods.  Stays moisturized with the right products

This hair type may not hold a Press well because it reacts quickly to moisture.


Comment #1 (Posted by jannie) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
The article was very good? My hair type is fine cottony. I would like to know the best way to care for my hair if i wear it natural. Or what is the best way to strighten my cottony fine hair, without too much damage.
Comment #2 (Posted by Jay) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingempty Unrated
This is a good article. i think i'm an Oli, in that order, jaja. though, I was curious how exactly the l.o.i.s. system and the andre system line up, if at all.
Comment #3 (Posted by an unknown user) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
thanx for this article. I've found similar write-ups about hair type to be limiting but this one went into more detail and thankfully, did not lump all 4 type black hair into one subgroup. i hope that as more time passes, more funding and science will go into researching and understanding the structure of the last hair type so that products will become more hairtype specific . i have found that there are more products out there that meet the needs of the less kinky hair types or is a one-size-fits-all type of thing which, as your article stated, does not exist! thanx!
Comment #4 (Posted by Marry) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
I love this site! it describe my hair type on point. i just need to know how can i get my hair into some certain "Natural" styles and what products i would need to use to maintain moister for my "OS" type of hair.
Comment #5 (Posted by Kiana) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingempty Unrated
A little confusing to understand- especially since I'm not sure which of those clasifications I fit into.. Great, if I actually understood it.
Comment #6 (Posted by Raven J.) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
excellent article! it's thorough, but simple enough for anyone to follow. according to the l.o.i.s. system, i'm a hair type "i", the length is a little below the blades of my shoulders. i've been using a relaxer since the fifth grade, but i recently realized that my hair could be longer if i increased the intervals of my reg. relaxer or wean myself off of it completely. it's frustrating to comb through it every night, trying to wrap my unhealthy hair, and see strands on the floor and in my comb. this article has served as a starting point for me to research more information african-american hair and EFFECTIVE hair care products specifically designed for MY hair. thanks again!
Comment #7 (Posted by Treana) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
I've been natural for over a year. I love it. I have wavy and curly hair. Love, love, love....

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