The sleek, glass-like appearance of 1A hair makes it highly enviable. But as with any hair type, pin-straight strands come with unique peaks and pitfalls: Shine may not be an issue, but achieving a voluminous bombshell blowout may seem as far-fetched as winning the lottery. Knowing how to care for and style this hair type is the best way to steer your locks towards success.
We’re setting the record straight on all things type 1A hair with the help of Hannah Nishimoto, Shu Uemura Art of Hair educator. Whether you want to coax some volume out of your slick strands or just need some wash day advice, scroll on for all the intel.
What is type 1A hair?
Before we dive in, it’s important to understand how hair is classified. Hair type refers to your pattern (1 = straight, 2 = wavy, 3 = curly, and 4 = coily), while subtype (A, B, C) determines your hair’s density on a scale from low to high. These two characteristics combined are typically written as a letter and number, like 1A (straight and fine).
To identify your hair type, examine the shape of your strands after letting them naturally air dry. If your hair is completely free of bends or waves—even when wet—chances are good you have 1A hair. This hair type is the finest and straightest of them all, lying completely flat and uniform from roots to ends.
What 1A hair lacks in volume, it makes up for in shine. The cuticles (the scaly-looking outer layers that protect hair’s inner structure) of 1A hair are tight and smooth, allowing light to reflect off hair for a lustrous appearance. Another major plus: 1A hair is resistant to frizz and maintains its soft and silky look, rain or shine.
Is 1A the rarest hair type?
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how many people have a specific hair type, as more than one pattern can exist throughout a single head of hair. Hair also changes in texture and density throughout a person's lifetime. But since curly hair is a dominant trait, most hair has some bend to it. Therefore, completely straight 1A hair is considerably rarer than other hair types.
How do I know if I have 1A or 1B hair?
Even the most seasoned pros may need help distinguishing between straight hair types. Here, Nishimoto outlines a few key distinctions between 1A vs. 1B hair to point you in the right direction:
- Type 1B hair has a fine to medium density with slightly more volume than 1A hair.
- There is a subtle yet noticeable wave in 1B hair.
- Styles will hold longer on 1B hair than on 1A hair.
When in doubt, head to your stylist for answers. They can examine your strands and give you a clearer picture of your hair’s unique type and needs.
How often should you wash type 1A hair?
Type 1A hair often appears oilier than wavy or curly hair. This is because the lack of a bend on pin-straight hair makes it easier for sebum to glide down the shaft, which can contribute to a greasy, weighed-down appearance.As such, Nishimoto recommends washing 1A hair daily or every other day to help keep excess oiliness at bay.
Is 1A hair hard to style?
Like all hair types, 1A hair has its pros and cons. On the pros side: it’s pretty low maintenence. As Nishimoto explains, “Type 1A hair generally doesn’t have much texture…[so] hair typically air-dries great, and you don’t need to soften or smooth it.”. You may consider styling 1A tresses to be a breeze if you love the look of sleek hair and enjoy a low-maintenance style.
On the other hand, getting 1A hair to hold curls or ornate updos may take a bit more effort. Equipping your haircare arsenal with the right professional products for your hair type (which we’ll touch on later) is one of the best ways to achieve your styling goals. When you need more guidance, consult a licensed hairstylist (use our salon locator) to help you create a customized routine based on your desired look. You can also ask your technician if their salon offers digital perm services for a more long-term volumizing solution. Check out our article A Digital Perm Gives You the Soft Waves of Your Dreams to learn more about this styling service.
How to Care for and Style Your 1A Hair Type
Now that you know what 1A texture is, how to identify it, and the difference between 1A vs. 1B hair, we’ll take a deeper look at how to care for your locks.
Try a pre-shampoo treatment.
If you find that leave-in formulas are too heavy on your fine, straight hair, switch to a pre-shampoo treatment (or pre-poo). These rinse-out products offer the same benefits as leave-ins but are designed to be washed away so there’s no weighty residue. Pre-poos can help protect, repair, strengthen, and moisturize your hair before the cleansing process even begins. To learn more about incorporating a pre-poo into your routine, check out our article What Are Pre-Shampoo Treatments?
Choose volumizing shampoos and conditioners.
When you lather up (whether that be daily or less often), we suggest doing so with a volumizing system. We love Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Muroto Volume Shampoo and Muroto Volume Conditioner to infuse hair with weightless yet long-lasting volume.
Pro Tip: Work the conditioner in from the mid-lengths to the ends of your hair, avoiding the top of your roots. You want to apply conditioner at least one-inch down from your scalp. Keeping creamier conditioners away from the root area can help prevent fine hair from being weighed down.
Brush hair properly.
You may not give brushing your hair much thought—after all, straight strands are less prone to tangling than other hair types, so brushing is pretty straightforward. However, it’s worth noting that the finer texture of 1A hair makes it more fragile and susceptible to damage. Factoring a few tweaks into your hair brushing routine can ensure your delicate hair looks and feels as healthy as possible.
First, consider timing. Your hair is weaker and more vulnerable to breakage when wet, so it’s best to avoid brushing until your strands are fully dry. The type of brush you use is also important. We recommend picking up a paddle brush with rounded, plastic bristles. The spaced-out prongs cause less hair-pulling tension while detangling and won’t tear at your hair’s cuticle.
Heat style with texturizers—the right way.
Texturizing products and a good blow-drying technique can help even the flattest hair gain some oomph. Nishimoto says the art of haigo, a Japanese layering technique, can help you fake the look of volume. This practice involves layering or cocktailing two complementary products together to boost their effectiveness.
Her recommendations: Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Tsuki Shape Blow Dry Spray and Awa Volume Mousse. The former “adds plumpness and grit to hair’s texture for an airy, bouncy blowout and hold,” while the latter gives you extra lift at the root. Both also offer heat protection to shield hair from damage. Here’s how to use them together:
- Start by massaging a golf ball-sized amount of mousse to the roots of towel-dried hair. Then, spritz hair all over with the blow-dry spray.
- Once your products are in, blow dry your hair upside down and use your fingers to tousle it as it dries. “Using a round brush for styling type 1A hair can make the hair limp, appearing more fine and deflated,” Nishimoto emphasizes. Using your fingers, by contrast, creates a fluffier effect to help give your mane more body.
- When hair is dry, finish with a texturizing or sea salt spray to enhance your definition and prolong your hair’s volume.
Armed with these tips, you’ll be on your way to enjoying fabulously full 1A hair. It’s worth noting that it’s completely normal to notice a shift in your hair’s pattern over time. Consult our Hair Type Guide if your strands start to look and behave differently than they used to.
Next up: 26 Hairstyles for Straight Hair
Header photo credit: Shu Uemura Art of Hair
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