Hair 101 - know your hair type
Ever wondered why your haircut doesn’t quite come out looking like that inspiration photo you showed your hairdresser (assuming they are top notch!) or your friend’s hair even though you’ve both used the same exact hair products? That’s because there are 4 characteristics that give your hair the look and feel it has naturally. Here is your crash course to understanding why.
Hair texture is the thickness of one single hair strand and categorized into fine, medium, thick/coarse hair. It’s good to note here that hair thickness really sits on a spectrum rather than 3 separate categories so best not to get too caught up in labeling but it’s useful to know when picking products & haircuts. Let’s say you have fine wispy hair and you request a straight blunt cut - it’s not going to end well!
FUN FACT: Your follicle opening on your scalp is what determines the thickness of your hair strands and that is coded via your genetics. It’s possible that you can have a mixture of different thickness hairs on the same head depending on where we look on your scalp. Hair around your face or the nape of your neck can usually be fine and look like baby hair. But you will have a dominant hair thickness overall.
It’s good to know your hair thickness (and not mistake it for hair density - further below) as it will be one of the most telling features for what hair products to pick ( ie how much oil, protein or hydration your hair can handle). This characteristic also tells your hairdresser how quickly your hair will lighten and accept a new hair colour. But also how strong or fragile your hair will be during this process, so that they can take extra protective steps, like add adding a bond builder such as Olaplex.
You may be wondering what on earth we are talking about. But it is a thing! More than a thing. This is the ability of hair to absorb liquids and moisture and measured loosely as high porosity, medium porosity and low porosity hair. We all have a certain porosity we are born with, but external factors heavily impact the porosity of our hair (blow drying, heat styling, chemical processing to perm/straighten or colour). Knowing your hair porosity will help you adjust your haircare routine to & product application so you get the best results. Some general features of low porosity hair: it is slow to get wet, slow to dry, quite resistant to hair colour and usually needs hydration and moisturisation instead of protein. If you have high porosity hair(either due to over processing or naturally) it means your hair absorbs & loses hydration quickly, it can be quite dry and brittle and also can be quite fragile during a colour service.
Pure and simple - this is the number of strands on your head/scalp, if we were to count them! By way of genetics, some of us will have a lot more strands than others.
Often times density is confused with the texture a.k.a thickness of your hair. For example, if you have curly hair you will often hear ‘Your hair is so thick’ or ‘Wow you have so much hair’ but in reality you may actually have very fine hair but because it is curly it sits out and looks big. So ‘big hair’ doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of hair.
Or let’s say you have very fine/limp straight hair but lots of it. If you refer to your hair as thick when picking hair products then you end up with oil/butter heavy products designed for thick/coarse hair which will be way too heavy for your fine hair. This can give disastrous results!
Our hair pattern is the most visible part of our hair. We left this till last on purpose as there is a lot of hype and way too much attention on just this aspect of our hair.
It’s good as a starting point to know hair pattern as it gives us a uniform language to describe your hair when chatting about haircuts/styles and haircare with our stylist/hairdresser or other ladies in general. It may also help you understand general hair concerns of that particular hair pattern…. BUT we really mean this when we say, it is not the ‘Be all end all’ for knowing how to care for your hair.
There are a few Hair Typing systems used today: Andre Walker’s Hair Typing system was created in the 1990’s.. It features 4 hair types with sub-categories; 1 being straight hair, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly and 4 being coily/kinky. (1a, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b)
Through the years this system was built upon by the Naturallycurly.com’s (founders Michelle Breyer and Gretchen Heber) community to include Type 3c & 4c for women who felt their hair wasn’t accurately reflected in that chart. This system just like the Andre Walker system groups hair according to the visual size/diameter of the coils/curls/waves. Photos from the Naturallycurly website.
The LOIS system on the other hand refers to the hair shape instead of the diameter of the curls. L is for hair that bends/kinks, O for coily/spiral (this includes any diameter of coil/curl), I for straight hair, and S for wavy hair. This is a simplified and accurate way to consider hair pattern, without getting too bogged down in all the different sizes of the spirals/curls/coils. This system also has other parameters like sheen/shine, texture & frizz factor which we won’t get into right now as that needs a whole separate post by itself!
The take home from all of this, sure it can be real nice to find someone else who looks like they have the same hair as you but you can have wavy hair that is fine and that girl across the room might have wavy hair that is thick/coarse. You definitely won’t be swapping hair care tips to each other!
Knowing these 4 hair characteristics about your hair will be the key to picking the right products, knowing how much to apply and when and generally looking after it in a way that compliments it rather than antagonizes it. It will also help you pick more flattering & realistic haircuts that are actually possible for your hair type - and you’re hairdresser will love you for it!! As these are the same characteristics your hairdresser is looking at and assessing the moment you walk in for a colour service or cut.
We’ll be posting more detailed entries expanding on each of the 4 sections to give you lots more information. In the meantime if you have any specific hair related questions you can email us via our contact page.