Knowing your hair type can take the guesswork out of selecting hair products plus help you make more informative decisions in regard to which styling equipment and/or chemical treatments to favour or avoid.
When looking at the hair itself there are a few things to take into account – hair density, texture, porosity and elasticity. The condition of your scalp (this will be covered in an up coming post) normal, oily or dry etc. will also play a role in some of your product selections.
Density refers to how many hair strands per square inch you have on your head – simply put how thin (low density) or thick (high density) your overall head of hair is. Hair density will dictate the way your hair can be cut and also the time required to leave treatments in, colour and/or style it.
- Test Your Density:
- Look at your hair in it’s natural state from all angles, if you can’t see your scalp through your hair you have high density (thick) hair, if you can see your scalp then you could have medium to low density hair…the more visible the scalp the thinner your hair type.
- The time it takes for hair to dry naturally after being washed is another density test option. Low-density (thin) hair dries fast (under an hour) and particularly high-density (thick) hair can take many hours.
Texture refers to the diameter (thickness) of each hair strand and the condition of the cuticle; this determines whether your hair is fine, medium or thick/coarse. The texture of your hair will play a big part in how resilient it is to heat, chemicals and damage (fine being the most vulnerable), and how it responds to certain styling tools and techniques.
- Test Your Texture:
Though not technically a standard ‘texture test’ we’ve found comparing hair to a strand of 3ply cotton helpful. Simply take a single strand of hair and see how many times you need to double it over before it gets close to being the same thickness as the cotton (twist hair as you go to create one single strand) . . .
. . . if your hair strand is close to the thickness of the cotton without having to double it over (or only having to do so once) and feels wiry to the touch then it can safely be said you have coarse hair
. . . if you need to double your hair over, then double it again 4 or more times, your hair is fine, anything in between is likely to be medium.
Porosity is calculated by the hair’s ability to retain moisture and this is dependent on how the cuticles on each hair shaft lies – flat or open. The more porous your hair the more conditioning and TLC required. The porosity of your hair will also determine how well it retains a curl, or can be straightened plus how fast it reacts to chemical treatments and how long those treatments will last.
- Test Your Porosity:
Take a strand of hair that has been freshly washed and place it into a bowl of water and observe the hair for a couple of minutes…
…hair that floats has low porosity. This hair has closed cuticles and does not absorb moisture readily but on the upside it retains the moisture it does have well, so will look healthy but may not have great elasticity.
…hair that takes a long time to sink has normal porosity. This hair has slightly open cuticles and absorbs and retains moisture well. The hair looks healthy and resilient and full of bounce, and has elasticity.
…hair that sinks fast has high porosity. This hair has wide-open cuticles so absorbs a lot of moisture but is unable to retain it. Hair like this is usually damaged, typically looking dull and dry. It is also prone to frizzing if naturally curly.
Elasticity refers to the ‘stretchiness’ of you hair, its ability to stretch and then return to its original length without breaking; hair in good health – having a sufficient amount of protein and moisture – will have good ‘stretch’. The elasticity in your hair will also determine how well your hair retains a curl, whether natural or not.
- Test Your Elasticity:
Take a strand of wet hair and try to stretch it out to half it’s length again then release it…
…if it bounces back to its original length without breaking, you have normal elasticity.
…if it does not return to its original length or breaks, you have low elasticity. This hair can look limp and can become damaged quickly if over ‘processed’.
Invariably, depending on your hair type combo, you may find product choice tricky, as most products tend to be aimed at specific hair needs and not a combo of factors, re: volumising products for fine hair, deep conditioning treatments for porous/damaged hair etc.; the best thing to do in this scenario is to base your product choice on the ‘hair fix’ you covet the most or tailor your showering products to one hair need and your styling/leave in products to another.
P.S. Like skincare, you may need to re-evaluate your product regime from time to time, as hair will invariably change depending on your health and lifestyle choices. Vitamin deficiencies, hormones, pregnancy, menopause, thyroid problems, diet, the environment, colouring hair and the use of hot tools will all impact on the condition of your hair.