This is the first part in a series that aims to help you understand your hair more deeply and completely in order to aid you when shopping for and seeking out products, tools and process to take care of your hair. This part will address some of the basic terms used to describe your hair and each successive will discuss various hair types and will suggest some of the needs of those hair types.
The first time you walk into any of African hair salons in London you may be overwhelmed by the huge variety of products and tools available to you. Even if you came armed with a list of very specific things to get you may still find yourself struggling to understand which of the 10 conditioners and oils on display would work best on your hair.
Figuring out what works on you can be exhausting especially if you don’t really understand your type of hair and its particular needs. Many people just jump from product to product hoping that something will suit their hair, but if you would like a more straightforward (and less expensive!) way to find the products that suit you the first thing you need to know and understand your hair in depth.
Hair can be identified and classified based on its porosity, curl pattern, length, width or texture, density, and elasticity. In this part, I’ll define these terms briefly and then in the successive parts I’ll use these terms to help explain the differences between different types of hair.
Porosity refers to the ease at which your hair is able to absorb and retain moisture. It is often genetic. If you have hair that is not straight, it is very important to understand the porosity of your hair because that will determine how your hair reacts to the products that you use on it. The porosity of the hair is determined by how tightly the bound the outer cuticle layer of the hair is. The looser the cuticle layer, the higher the porosity of the hair and the easier it is for the hair to absorb and lose moisture. Hair with high porosity tends to dry out quickly while hair with low porosity is prone to build up due to its resistance to moisture.
The curl pattern of the hair refers to the amount of curl or wave in your hair. It refers to the look of a strand of your hair and the pattern that it forms. If your hair is not straight, it is probably either wavy, curly or coily/kinky with either a c, s or z pattern. The curl of your depends on whether the two halves of a hair strand grow evenly or not. When one strand grows quicker than the other a curl forms.
This can be hard to determine depending on the curl pattern of your hair and the level of shrinkage that you experience. However, this knowledge when combined with an understanding of your curl pattern can help you determine the types of tools and styles to use on your hair in order to take care of it at its current stage of development.
The width of the hair, which is also sometimes referred to as the texture, is a word used to describe the thickness of individual strands of hair. Hair is often defined as either fine, medium or coarse. A deep understanding of the width of the hair can help you with length and health maintenance. Coarse hair has strands that are very wide in circumference and are therefore harder to damage while fine hair has strands that are thinner in circumference are weaker and more susceptible to damage. Fine hair benefits from minimal styling and manipulation in order to reduce breakage and retain length.
The density of the hair refers to how tightly packed individual strands of your hair are in any section of your hair. It ranges from low to high. If your hair has a lot of strands closely packed together, making it hard to see your scalp in between the strands shows hair that is high density and very full. The more you can see scalp in between individual strands the lower the density and the lower the volume of the hair.
These are some basic terms used to understand natural hair. In the subsequent parts of the series, we will discuss how these various aspects are related to the type of hair you have and how it affects the way you take care of your hair.