Discovering My Hair Identity: What’s My Hair Type?
About a month ago I introduced a new partnership that I began with the largest black owned online beauty and haircare store called 4th Ave Market. If you missed the first article, you can find it here. With the intention that I will finally figure out my hair’s needs, I am diving straight into the next part of this journey.
What’s My Hair Type?
For a long time, I had heard the term “hair type” and it being some kind of ID that helped you to understand your hair on a deeper level. I began my research with a term that I had frequently heard alongside it which was, “curl pattern.” I anticipated that this would be all that I would need to know and voila I’ve completely figured out my hair type. Or so I thought. As I began to dig deeper, it quickly became clear that there’s more to your hair than a singular component. In fact, each of us has a unique set of characteristics that tells us how our hair behaves and reacts with different elements. I began to realize that there is a holistic approach when it comes to understanding your hair type. Upon my learning of curl pattern, three other distinct terms were soon to follow. They are, porosity, density and width. In order for one to figure out their hair type, they must learn where they fall amidst these four categories. So, to help me form the question, “What’s My Hair Type” into an equation and this is what I came up with:
Curl Pattern + Porosity + Density +Width = Your Hair Type
This is our guiding equation that will help us to understand and document the results that we receive. There is a lot to break down so let’s get started with the first term, Curl Pattern.
- Curl Pattern: The shape of your hair as it naturally grows from your scalp.
This refers to the pattern of the strands of hair on your head. There are four main categories that begin to define the different curl patterns. Each category is assigned a number as shown below:
Type 1: Straight Hair
Type 2: Wavy Hair
Type 3: Curly Hair
Type 4: Coily Hair
Type 1 hair is essentially straight hair. When you begin to look at Types 2-4, you’ll start to see sub-curl types. Looking at the entire spectrum of curl types, you can see the progression of a Type 1 strand of hair as it starts to get more and more curly through all the way to Type 4C. As you can see below:
Starting from Type 2 hair, each category is then assigned a letter (A, B, or C) which indicates the specific curl pattern. We can start by breaking down Type 2 Wavy hair. As shown below, each type is represented through a celebrity that reflects that hair type. Then, the illustrations can further demonstrate how an individual strand of that type looks.
Type 2: Wavy
Type 3: Curly
Type 4: Coily
The Circumference Test
This test is a very simple way to figure out your curl pattern. We’re going to measure the circumference of an individual curl and assess which sub curl type category it belongs to. Between the sub curl types of categories 3A-4C, there is an assigned object that you can use to measure your curl. The key is to not wrap the curl around the object but to insert the object into the curl and to match your curl’s circumference. Below are the objects assigned to the curl patterns.
4B Curls & 4C Curls (More dense)
- Porosity: How well your hair absorbs and retains moisture.
This is probably one of the most important parts to this equation. Moisture is a key element in nourishing and maintaining your hair. Keeping your hair moisturized is very important to avoid hair breakage and dryness. While moisture is vital to the growth of one’s hair, the way in which your hair can receive and retain moisture differs greatly from head to head. Finding your porosity level will tell you if you have low, medium, or high porosity. What determines porosity are the cuticles on the strands of hair. The cuticles might be extremely close together which means moisture will not easily be let in or the cuticles are wide apart allowing for moisture to easily penetrate the strand. Finding your porosity level will tell you how exactly moisture penetrates your hair. They are illustrated by the graphics below.
The Spray Test
What You’ll Need:
- Spray bottle (room temp. water)
The idea behind this test is to see how well your hair can absorb moisture. We’ll essentially be spraying water onto a small portion of hair and analyzing the droplets on the hair.
- Take a portion of your hair.
- Spray about 2-3 pumps of water onto the section.
- Wait 3-5 minutes to assess results.
- LOW POROSITY: If droplets on hair do not disappear and are not absorbed this could indicate low porosity.
- MEDIUM POROSITY: If droplets on hair slowly disappear and are somewhat absorbed this could indicate medium porosity.
- HIGH POROSITY: If droplets on hair quickly disappear and are absorbed this could indicate high porosity.
The Strand Test
For this test, you’re simply going to take an individual strand of hair and feel out the strand up and down for any bumps or ridges.
- If the strand of hair is completely smooth that could indicate LOW POROSITY.
- If the strand of hair is bumpy then that could indicate HIGH POROSITY.
- Density: The number of strands on your hair, measuring how dense your hair is.
Understanding density will help greatly in knowing the types of hairstyles that suit your hair and the types of products that are ideal for your density level. Not to mention it’s probably the easiest part to test for.
This test is as simple as looking into the mirror and assessing how well you can see your scalp.
- Look at your hair in the mirror, without touching it or manipulating it in any way.
- Assess how well you can see your scalp naturally. (You can also use another mirror to assess the back of your hair if it differs from the front.)
LOW DENSITY: If scalp can easily be seen through hair.
HIGH DENSITY: If scalp cannot clearly be seen through hair.
- Width: The circumference of an individual strand of hair that determines if it’s fine or coarse.
Width is all about understanding an individual strand of hair from a microscopic level. This is a fundamental part in knowing your hair type holistically.
- What you’ll need, a light or flashlight from your smartphone.
This test is a quick way to see if you have fine or coarse hair. Start by taking a single strand of hair which you will hold up to the light and determine how well you can see it.
- FINE HAIR: If you cannot see the strand of hair through the light, you may have fine hair.
- COARSE HAIR: If you can see the strand of hair clearly through the light, you may have coarse hair.
The Strand Test Pt. 2
For this test, once again, you’re going to take an individual strand of hair and essentially rub the strand of hair in between your fingers.
- Take a single strand of hair and place it between your index and thumb
- Begin to rub the strand of hair between the two fingers.
- FINE HAIR: The strand of hair cannot be felt.
- COARSE HAIR: The strand of hair can be clearly felt.
If you’ve completed all of the tests then congratulations because you’ve just figured out your hair type! Now, I want you to take all of your results from each part and plug them into our guiding equation that we established at the very beginning. I’ve inserted my results below in the same manner that you should too.
4A + Med/High Porosity + High Density +Coarse Width = Aida’s Hair Type
This is a major accomplishment and probably one of the most important steps that I’ve made on this journey thus far. With this information, I am able to understand my hair more intimately and pay attention to the small details. These characteristics will help me in understanding which products I’ll need and the hair care routine that will continue to replenish and support my natural curls. We’ve made huge progress today but the journey isn’t over yet.
Make sure to stay tuned for the next video as we breakdown all the key ingredients that are compatible with your hair type.