Have you ever had the experience of shopping for an item that requires a custom measurement to your body, and discovered you have been wearing the wrong size?
Not knowing your hair’s type and health is SUCH a common problem in men and women. Different textures, densities and porosity play a way bigger role in how products and styling work than we really think. What works for very dense, very coarse but porous and damaged hair will work completely different from what works on fine density, medium textured, non-porous hair.
This's why everyone needs to have a hair analysis periodically.
This is much simpler than you think, and can be done at home. If you have a stylist that you trust, you can also ask them to perform one for you. It involves examining the hair to determine amount of hair, size of each hair strand, and overall health of the strand. Analysis will provide you with a definitive hair type, making product selection and styling strategy simple and straightforward.
I pegged my friend Maria to use for this tutorial, because she has THE BEST, NICEST HAIR EVER. Seriously. Ecuadorian gold. Some of our friends want to make a weave out of her hair, it's that good. I cut it every six to eight weeks and she comes back with two new inches. It is the most envy-inducing head I have ever cut.
Aside from the four-part process of determining your hair type, it is good to note anything else that you do to your hair, especially chemical treatments, color treatments (including henna), protective styles or dreads, so that you can relay this information to a beauty professional if need be. You should never lie to your stylist about your hair history! Disasters can happen if you leave out some details, as many chemicals cannot be used on hair that has been relaxed, bleached, henna'd, and sometimes even box colored.
The things you'll be determining are:
- Density (amount of hairs on head)
- Texture (thickness of individual strands)
- Strength (a combined result of porosity and density of hair overall)
Look at a patch of hair on top of your head. Observe how many hairs are growing out of this patch. Think of this in terms of a carpet: are there so many hairs that you can barely see the scalp? That's an indicator of thick density. The opposite is true for hairs spaced out on the scalp--this is known as thin density. And the middle ground? Medium density.
This directly pertains to the "amount" of hair on your head in a physical sense. This does not include the thickness of the hair, or the length.
Maria saw medium density of hairs per inch, and I concur.
Once you have determined density, texture is next. Look at an individual hair strand. Is this strand thick and wide, or is it thin? Generally, you can use comparison with another person to determine your texture, and you can also use a magnifying glass if you can’t tell.
Thick hair is by nature stronger than thin hair, regardless of curl pattern, for the same reason that a ship’s rope is stronger than a dog’s leash.
Maria’s individual hair is thick, we both determined, compared to my medium texture.
The strength of the hair requires a two steps. First, porosity is determined, then elasticity.
Porosity is the amount of water retained by the hair. Porous hair is generally more damaged, and has a tendency to absorb more liquid, but it will not retain as much moisture. Hair with low porosity is considered healthy and resistant, and can withstand stronger chemicals and services than porous hair.
To determine porosity, after hair is freshly washed (leftover product will change your analysis results) blot out excess moisture with a towel, t-shirt, or whatever you use, but leave the hair fairly wet. Feel your hair with your hands, if it feels very dry already, you have low porosity--your hair expels the excess water quickly, it is "full." If your hair feels damp or generally wet, you have normal porosity, meaning the hair gives and takes moisture evenly. If hair feels sticky, it is very porous and is taking on too much water.
Porosity is also completely independent of density and texture. Maria’s hair held water with average porosity. (I agreed that it was on the low-to-normal side of porosity.)
Elasticity is the final step in the analysis and the part that makes your final determination of your hair’s strength.
After your hair is fully dry (styling products are OK here), take a single hair from the crown of your head, and grab both ends. Stretch the hair strong and steady, but don’t try to break it--try to see how much you can stretch it without breaking it.
It will always snap, but when is important. If it snaps right away, hair lacks elasticity. If it takes longer, the hair has a lot of elasticity.
As you can see, Maria has super-long hair! And I watched as she stretched a 14-inch strand another six inches, like a rubber band! So much elasticity!
If your hair is porous, it is also more likely to pop and break, hence both being important to determine the strength of the hair.
Not all of these results are caused by chemicals or styling. Some people are just born with hair that is porous, or not very elastic, or thin, etc. The reason you need to know is so you can choose what is best for your hair, whether in the store, in the chair, or on the interwebs.
Maria felt that this information helped her determine that she has thick hair and lots of it, and that it has low porosity and high elasticity--AKA the healthiest hair ever. Love you, bitch.
It is also important to note that all of these categories are interchangeable. Some have thick, coarse hair with medium density but the hair may be very porous and weak; others have fine hair with high density, but the hair has low porosity and is pretty elastic.
So many factors go into these results that you can’t help but wonder who out there is using products for "thick" hair just because their hair is curly, etc. (Curl pattern does not determine the size of the hair. Always remember that, and to moisturize with a balancing conditioner that has protein as well as emollients.)
Let me know if you give yourself an analysis and if your results surprise you!