Hair Characteristics

When I first started my natural journey, I would comb through Instagram and YouTube in a desperate attempt to find curls that looked like mine and then use exactly what they were using to get their results. I had mixed success with this, because I had little awareness about hair characteristics and how these can interact with certain products. I don’t believe the hair typing system is a strictly valid way of choosing the correct products – I have had great success with products that have been recommended by both tighter and looser curl patterns. In my opinion, hair porosity, density and thickness are more important to consider when selecting products.

Finding out your hair characteristics can be a really helpful way of choosing the products that will work for you.

Here is a brief introduction to some of the characteristics and what they mean:

Hair Porosity

What is hair porosity?

This refers to the way that the cuticles lie on each hair strand.

  • High porosity hair cuticles are raised, making it easy for moisture and product to absorb, but moisture also escapes easily out of the raised cuticles.
  • Normal porosity hair cuticles are slightly raised, making it easy for moisture to absorb and be retained, making the hair easy to manage and maintain.
  • Low porosity hair cuticles are flat and tight, which makes it difficult for water and products to absorb into the hair but once moisture has been absorbed, the flat cuticles make it easy to maintain this moisture.

Some of the characteristics of each type of porosity are:

Absorbs moisture easily, but also loses moisture quickly tooAbsorbs and retains moisture at a normal rateFinds it difficult to absorb moisture, but when it does it retains it well.
Hair gets wet quicklyTakes a normal amount of time to get wetHair takes a long time to get wet
Absorbs product well, but loses effect quickly between wash-daysAbsorbs products well and retains for a normal period of timeGets a lot of product build up over time
Appears dry, frizzy and lacking moistureRequires least maintenanceAppears moisturised and shiny but can get some split ends

Some people recommend using the water float test to determine your hair porosity. This is where you take a clean, clarified strand of shed hair and place it in a glass of room temperature water for about ten minutes. If the strand floats, you have low porosity hair, if it stays in the middle of the glass, you have have normal porosity hair and if it sinks, you have high porosity hair. If you choose to try this test, it is important that the strand of hair is clean and free from products, as a layer of oil can interfere with the test.

I have found the strand test to be really unreliable, so take the outcome with a pinch of salt! Instead, a more reliable result can be found by considering the characteristics above and observing how long your hair absorbs water after you have clarified.

Hair Density

What is hair density?

This refers to the amount of hair on your scalp.

  • High Density a lot of hair on the scalp
  • Medium Density a normal amount of hair on the scalp
  • Low Density less hair on the scalp

Hair density is important when trying to find the correct products, as certain products work better with certain densities. For example, low density hair is normally better suited to lighter products and less of them, whereas high density hair normally requires more product and can take thicker products.

You can find out your hair density by eye. Leaving your hair product-free and dry then observing the amount of scalp you can see when you part your hair will give a rough indication of your hairs density. Less observable scalp = Higher density.

Hair Thickness

What is hair thickness?

This refers to the thickness of individual hair strands

  • Thick refers to larger diameter strands
  • Normal refers to normal diameter strands
  • Fine refers to smaller diameter strands

Hair thickness is another important factor to consider when deciding on products. For example, fine hair is normally better suited to lighter products and lighter oils, whereas thick hair normally responds well to thicker butters, creams and oils.

There are many more characteristics that can be considered when deciding on suitable hair products, but I believe these are some of the most important and a good place to start. Remember that it is possible to have a combination of different features, for example, I have fine hair thickness on the base of my neck and thick hair strands on my edges. It is also possible to have more than one porosity, I am majority high porosity, but have low porosity characteristics on my edges and neckline. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, just take the average! Here is a summary of my hair characteristics, I would love to know yours in the comments. Ind x

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