Do You Know Your Hair Type?

When it comes to hair type, the obvious categories of thick, thin, curly, or oily barely scratch the surface of what makes up hair types. Just like you, your hair is unique, and truly understanding the type of hair you have means putting time and money into products and treatments that will actually work for your hair and help you make the best hair care decisions. 

Here are some great ideas for you to assist you in determining your hair type.

Hair Strand Diameter

The best place to start in determining your hair type is to begin by measuring the diameter of a single strand of hair. Take one strand of hair between your fingertips. Don’t feel anything? This is a sign of fine hair. If you do feel the lone strand, your hair is of medium width, and if it feels thick or textured, your hair is likely coarse.

Another strand test includes taking one single strand and laying it on a flat surface. If it’s barely visible, it is fine. If it looks textured and thick, your hair is coarse. Anything in between is medium. 

Setting a single strand of hair next to a piece of thread can also help you gauge the diameter or width of your hair; if it’s about the same width, your hair is medium. If it is thicker than the thread, your hair is thick. Similarly, if it is thinner, your hair is fine.

Hair Density

People often confuse diameter and hair density to be one and the same, but this is far from the truth. A person may have a thin hair strand width but have a thick amount of hair. Essentially, hair density refers to how much hair you actually have – the number of strands themselves and not how thick each one is. Thin diameter does not always equal thin density, nor does medium diameter equal medium density. More often than not, people will have differing densities and diameters. 

The method to determine your hair density is simple. Take a handful of hair from the front of your head and gently pull it to the side. Is a lot of your scalp visible between the bunches of strands? If so, this means you have thin density. However, if you can barely see your scalp at all, your hair’s density is thick. Anything in between is medium density.

Hair Elasticity

Have you ever tried stretching out a hair strand before? This is a simple way to determine the elasticity and strength of your hair. If the hair strand snaps immediately after trying to pull it between your fingers, your elasticity is low, whereas if you’re able to stretch the strand, your hair’s elasticity is high. 

Hair elasticity is a healthy hair indicator and helps determine how well your hair can hold any styling. High elasticity hair is better able to retain shape such as curls, waves, or other hairstyles easily, whereas low elasticity hair may need more product to hold styles, or may not be able to hold shape for very long. With low elasticity hair, it’s important to look for strengthening products and treatments like hair masks to prevent breakage and reinforce your strands.

Hair Porosity

Porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb moisture and product and can also help you determine the type of chemical treatments your hair can withstand.

To test for porosity, fill a bowl with water and place a single strand of hair in the bowl. If your strand sinks to the bottom it has high porosity and is absorbing all the moisture. If your strand remains under the surface but floats above the bottom of the bowl, your hair is well-balanced and is of “normal” porosity. If the strand of hair floats above the surface of the water your hair has low porosity and does not absorb moisture easily.

Hair with high porosity means there may be tears or damage around the cuticle. This can be caused by chemical hair treatments or heat styling, among other factors. It also means the hair can easily and quickly soak up product, meaning you usually need to apply more to feel or see its effects. Even with highly porous hair, it may absorb product quickly, but doesn’t necessarily mean it is hydrated or properly nourished. With highly porous hair, it’s best to avoid heat styling and treatments high in chemicals that can continue to dry out the hair. Instead look to hair masks, oils and products that will provide moisture and help repair the damaged cuticles.

For hair with low porosity, the cuticle lays flat on the outside blocking water or moisture from being absorbed into the strands. If your hair takes longer to dry or products seem to build up into the hair instead of blending in, these are signs of low porosity hair. To get the most out of products, try applying them while the hair is damp and ensure products are evenly distributed to prevent build-up. People with low porosity hair may find they may need more than one chemical treatment when colouring, straightening, or curling their hair, but repeating several chemical treatments can be heavily damaging. Make sure to use products for colour-treated hair, for example, and moisturising treatments to help lock the style in, but also maintain the health of your hair.

Oily Or Dry Scalp

The health of the scalp is the foundation for overall hair health. It’s important to note, someone can also have an oilier scalp, but have dry or split ends, in which case the distribution of the products you use and how you apply it is important. For instance, in this situation, conditioner should be applied in the mid-shaft towards the bottom of the hair to hydrate where it is needed and keep excess moisture or oil away from the scalp.

To determine how oily or dry your scalp is, inspect your hair and scalp on the second day after a wash. If it appears slick or greasy, you have an oily scalp. If you see flakes forming, you have a dry scalp, and if it looks the same as the day before your scalp is well-balanced. 

For a dry scalp, look for products and treatments that will hydrate and cleanse. For an oily scalp, don’t fall into the common misconception that you have to wash more often, as this could cause more oil build-up since the scalp will produce more oil to compensate for the natural oil loss during washing and drying.  Try to minimise the number of products you use in your hair and be sure to rinse it out when you do. Look for shampoos and conditioners that are sulphate-free and silicone-free and avoid heavy oils. 

Hair Texture

Most of us can determine on our own whether our hair is straight, wavy or curly. Sometimes texture can change as we age or experience hormonal changes such as during pregnancy or using certain medication such as birth control pills. 

There are products specifically made to hold curls or smooth out straight hair, so it’s easy to mix and match products you need for your texture along with accommodating the needs of your hair’s density and porosity.

And A Final Word

After you conduct these hair tests, you’ll likely find your hair may be a mix; low density, but highly porous, or thick diameter but low elasticity. Either way having a holistic understanding of your hair type makes shopping for products and how you use them a lot easier. Just because most products, like shampoo and conditioners come as sets, don’t be afraid to mix and match for what you need. Just as you read the nutrition label on your food, take a minute to review the ingredients list on your hair products too. 

Knowing the porosity of your hair combined with its density and elasticity level, will also help you determine the type of chemical treatments your hair can withstand. For example, if you have low porosity and thin hair, it’s best to avoid extreme treatments such as bleaching as it can fry and break your hair. 

Going through all the tests may feel overwhelming all at once, but a holistic view of your hair type will make for better and easier hair care decisions to ensure your hair always look and feel their best.

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