One of the most frequent questions that I get asked over email and DM is "What's my hair type?" Hair typing is one of the most complicated and misunderstood concepts in the natural and curly hair communities. I'm going to attempt to break it down for you in these next two blog posts. This first post will focus on the different aspects of curly hair typing. The second post will help you choose products that work for your specific hair type. Ready to get started? Let's go!
There are 4 components that make up your hair type:
- Hair Structure
The most commonly known facet of hair typing is its Texture. This basically refers to the natural shape or pattern of your strands. This system was created by Andre Walker and is widely recognized throughout the industry. If you’re unsure about which category you fall into, leave your hair free of products and let it air dry the next time you wash your hair. If it dries straight without a bend or curl, then your hair is straight (type 1). If it dries with a slight curve or “S” shape, then it is considered wavy (type 2). If it dries with a defined curl or loop pattern, it’s likely curly (type 3) while tight curls, spirals, or zig-zag patterns are considered coily or kinky (type 4). (Credit: functionofbeauty.com)
In a nutshell, Porosity is your hair's ability to retain moisture. High porosity hair has raised cuticles and absorbs moisture easily where low porosity hair has closed cuticles and need more coaxing in order for moisture to be absorbed. Since I've already written a pretty extensive post about this, I'll just link it here. Just come on back when you're done reading!
The 3rd component of hair typing is density. Simply put, hair density is the number of individual strands per square inch on your scalp or how thick or thin a collective group of hairs is. You can have high, medium or low density hair. To determine your hair's density, tie your hair back and measure the circumference of your ponytail. If it’s less than two inches, you have low density hair, if it’s two to three inches, you have medium density hair and if it’s four or more inches thick in circumference, you have high density hair. If your hair isn't long enough to pull back into a pony, just take a closer look at your scalp. If you can easily see it without touching or moving your hair around, you likely have low density hair. If your scalp is somewhat visible from the top of your head, then you have medium density hair. And if your scalp is barely visible then you have high density hair. (Credit: purewow.com)
The final component of your hair type is its structure. This refers to the actual thickness of the individual hair strands on your head. Generally, your hair can fall into three categories: fine, medium, and coarse. An easy way to tell which category your hair falls into is to take a single strand and lay it down on a plain, flat surface. Next, cut a piece of sewing thread about six inches long (choose a similar color to your hair if you can) and place it next to your strand of hair. If your hair appears thinner than the sewing thread, your hair is fine, while if it seems thicker, it’s likely coarse. Anything in between them would be medium. (Credit: functionofbeauty.com)
The geek in me wanted to put together a matrix to show you all the permutations possible when you consider hair texture, porosity, density and structure but doing it was giving me a headache! The point is, there a quite a few combinations - even if you have the same hair texture, porosity AND density as someone else, if your strands are fine and theirs are coarse...BAM! Different products might work for each of you!
We'll explore this more in the next blog post. In the meantime, take a few minutes and determine your COMPLETE hair type to prepare!