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The Ultimate Guide to Identifying Your Hair Type

One of the most important things you can do for your hair is to determine your hair type!

Once you know your hair type, you can find hairstyles best suited for you and haircuts that are going to work on your hair texture. You can also choose the right hair care products. Using the wrong products on your hair can cause many problems, ranging from split ends and frizziness to dandruff and even traction alopecia.

So, how do you determine your hair type?

There are four factors that can help you determine what type of hair you actually have: (1)

  • density,
  • diameter,
  • porosity, and
  • hair shape.

By taking into account all four of these factors, you can get a good idea of what type of hair you have and how to best care for it.

So, if you’re not sure what your hair type is, it’s time to find out.

How To Determine Your Hair Type

1. Density

Hair density is the number of individual strands of hair per square inch on your scalp. In other words, it’s how closely those strands grow together on your head.

Density and thickness are often confused, but they’re actually two different things. Thickness refers to the diameter of each individual strand while density is about the number of strands. You can have thin hair that is dense or thick hair that isn’t very dense.

There are three different types of density: low, medium, and high. You can determine your hair density by looking in the mirror and asking yourself how much scalp you can see.

Low-density hair:

If your hair strands are sparsely placed and you can see a lot of your scalp, then you have low-density hair.

Medium-density hair:

If you can see some of your scalp but not a lot, then you have medium-density hair.

High-density hair:

If your strands are closely packed together and it’s hard to see any of your scalp, then you have high-density hair.

Another easy way to determine density is to measure your hair density is by looking at your ponytail. If it’s less than 2 inches in diameter, you have low-density hair. If it’s between 2 and 4 inches, you have medium-density hair. And if it’s four or more inches, you have high-density hair.

2. Diameter

The diameter of your hair is determined by the width of your strands and is categorized as

  • fine,
  • medium, or
  • coarse.

The diameter of your hair is not to be confused with density, which refers to the amount of hair you have. Rather, diameter is all about the thickness of each strand. This ultimately depends on the number of layers you have per strand of hair. (2)

So how can you find out the diameter of your own hair?

The easiest way is to take a single strand of hair and place it between your thumb and index finger.

Fine Hair:

If you can barely feel the strand or it feels like an invisible thread, then you have fine hair. That’s because fine hair has a very thin cortex, with very little or no medulla.

Medium hair:

If you can feel it, but it is not too thick or coarse, then it is of medium diameter. Medium hair is thicker than fine hair but not as thick as coarse hair. It often has a softer texture than coarse hair.

Coarse hair:

If you can easily feel your hair strand and it appears quite thick, then you likely have coarse hair. This type of hair has a thicker cortex and is often characterized by a well-defined medulla. This gives the strand a much firmer texture.

You can also determine the diameter of your hair by comparings its circumference to that of a sewing needle.

If your hair is the same size or even thicker, then you have coarse hair.

If it’s thinner, then you have fine hair.

And if it’s more or less the same size as the needle, then you have medium hair.

Keep in mind that you can have a mix of different hair diameters on your head. For example, you could have fine hair at the front of your head and coarse hair at the back. This is actually quite common.

3. Porosity

Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.

The higher the porosity of your hair, the more moisture and product it can absorb. This is because each strand has more microscopic holes or gaps in the outermost layer of your hair (cuticle).

Knowing the porosity level of your hair can help you determine how best to treat it.

One of the factors that can affect the way hair holds a style is porosity. Low-porosity hair often has difficulty holding a curl, while high-porosity hair can absorb too much moisture and product, making it oily.

Your hair may be naturally porous or extra porosity may be created by thermal, mechanical, or chemical damage.

There are three levels of porosity:

  • low,
  • medium, and
  • high.

If you’re not sure what category your hair falls into, you can make a guess by doing the float test.

Take a strand of clean, dry hair and drop it into a glass of water.

High Porosity:

If it sinks immediately, you have high porosity hair as it is very porous and absorbs water quickly.

High-porosity hair is more absorbent than other types of hair, but it often has difficulty retaining moisture. This is because there are gaps between the cuticles, which allows moisture to easily enter the hair shaft but then escape just as quickly. As a result, high-porosity hair often feels dry and brittle.

One way to combat this is to avoid heat styling and chemical treatments, which can lead to dry, frizzy, or tangly hair. Instead, opt for heavier ingredients like oils or butters, which can help to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture. Look for nourishing hair masks and deep conditioning treatments to help hydrate and strengthen your strands.

Normal / Medium Porosity:

If it sinks after a few seconds, you have normal or medium porosity hair.

The cuticles are slightly raised, which allows your hair to absorb some moisture and product, but not too much.

This type of hair is less likely to experience frizz and can hold a curl or style longer than high-porosity hair.

If you have normal or medium porosity hair, you can use a variety of different products and styles without worrying about damaging your hair. However, it’s still important to use products that hydrate and protect your hair from heat damage as your hair’s porosity can change over time.

Low Porosity:

If it floats on top of the water or takes a long time to sink, you have low porosity hair. Low porosity hair is characterized by tightly sealed cuticles.

This can lead to several issues, such as products remaining on the hair surface, build-ups that block hair follicles, and decreased efficacy of hair care treatments. In order to maintain healthy low porosity hair, it is important to remove build-ups regularly with a deep cleaning shampoo.

In addition, low porosity hair requires regular moisturization. Light oils are often more absorbent and can penetrate deep into the hair shaft to provide the nourishment that low porosity hair needs.

4. Hair shape

The shape of your hair is determined by the shape and the angle of the follicle under your skin. When we talk about the shape of our hair, we are referring to bends or creases in the hair.

There are 4 main hair shapes:

  • straight
  • wavy
  • curly
  • kinky

1: Straight Hair

A round follicle will produce straight hair that doesn’t have any noticeable bends or creases.

Straight hair tends to look greasy more quickly than curly or wavy hair, because the hair’s natural oils travel from root to tip more easily. Avoid shampooing too often, which can actually trigger the scalp to produce excess sebum and lead to greasy hair.

It’s also important to keep straight hair moisturized. Otherwise, it will become brittle and prone to breaking. However, be careful not to use products that are too heavy or oily, as this can lead to build-up. Instead, look for lightweight products that will nourish the hair without weighing it down.

To add body and texture to straight hair, you can try blow-drying with a round brush or using a curling iron to create loose waves. Keep in mind, however, that straight hair doesn’t hold curls as well as other types of hair.

2: Wavy Hair

Wavy hair is characterized by its semi-oval follicle shape. As the hair grows, it forms a wave in the shape of an “S.” This type of hair sits somewhere between straight and curly hair on the spectrum.

Wavy hair has a straight root, which means sebum (the oil produced by our scalp) travels more easily down the strand. This can make wavy hair feel greasy or heavy. However, because of its slight texture and shape, wavy hair is not as prone to oil build-up as straight hair.

One downside to wavy hair is that it tends to be frizzy. That’s why it’s important to keep your strands hydrated with a good conditioner and/or serum. You should also avoid heat styling whenever possible, as this can further dry out your hair and lead to frizz.

If you want to style your wavy hair, you can try using a diffuser at the lowest heat setting to enhance your natural waves. You can also air-dry your hair with a leave-in conditioner to help control frizz or use sea salt spray to add texture and definition.

3. Curly hair

A flattened or oval-shaped follicle will produce curly hair.

The more oval the shape of the follicle, the curlier the hair will be.

However, it’s totally normal to have a mix of curl patterns on your head, which can vary from loose and big to tightly coiled.

This complex structure is what makes curly hair so unique – but also difficult to manage. Curly hair is naturally drier than other hair types, which means that frizz is the number one hair issue for people with curly hair. This is because the natural oils produced by the scalp have a hard time reaching the ends of the hair shaft. As a result, curly hair tends to be thirsty – always in need of moisture.

Dryness makes hair susceptible to damage, so it’s extra important to be gentle with curly locks. Keeping curly hair well-conditioned is the key to healthy, happy hair. Use a deep conditioning treatment twice a month and look for products that contain silicone. A silicone serum will soften the curl pattern and enhance shine.

3. Kinky hair

And a very flat follicle will produce kinky hair that has very tight ringlets. It is common among African Americans.

The natural oils produced by the scalp have a difficult time traveling down the kinky strands, which causes the hair to be dry.

As this hair type is already dry and prone to damage, it is important to be gentle when towel-drying and avoid using hot tools. Instead, focus on keeping the hair hydrated with extra deep conditioning treatments and products that lock in moisture.

So, if you’re wondering why your hair is straight, wavy, or curly, it all comes down to the genetics. (3) Thanks, mom and dad!

Wrap up

So, there you have it! A quick guide to the 4 factors that can help you determine the type of your hair. And once you know your hair type, you can better target your haircare routine to achieve the results you want.

Do you know what type of hair you have? What are your best tips for taking care of it? Let us know in the comments below!

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