Think you know your hair type but can’t seem to find products that will work for it? Chances are, you may not be as in tune with your hair type as you thought. Much like understanding your skin type is crucial for implementing an effective skincare regimen, determining your actual hair type can play a massive role in the efficacy of your daily hair care routine. And yet, figuring out your correct hair type may be easier said than done. In addition to the obvious categories like straight, wavy, curly, and coily, there are also several other factors to consider in pinpointing your unique hair type, including your hair’s porosity and scalp moisture. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—we’re here to help! Below is everything you need to know about determining your exact hair type and what that means for your daily hair care routine.
First thing first, let’s talk about the texture of your hair. Hair texture generally refers to the natural shape or pattern of your strands. If you’re unsure about which category you fall into, leave your hair free of products and let it air dry the next time you wash your hair. If it dries straight without a bend or curl, then your hair is straight (or type 1, as it is commonly referred to). If it dries with a slight curve or “S” shape, then it is considered wavy (type 2). If it dries with a defined curl or loop pattern, it’s likely curly (type 3), while tight curls, spirals, or zig-zag patterns are considered coily (type 4).
When we talk about hair structure, we’re referring specifically to the thickness of the strands, which can affect how well your hair will hold styles and react with certain products. Generally, your hair can fall into three categories: fine, medium, and coarse (or thick). An easy way to tell which category your hair falls into is to take a single strand from your hairbrush and lay it down on a plain, flat surface. Next, cut a piece of sewing thread about six inches long (choose a similar color to your hair if you can) and place it next to your strand of hair. If your hair appears thinner than the sewing thread, your hair is fine, while if it seems thicker, it’s likely coarse. Anything in between them would be medium.
You can also tell your hair’s structure by how well it holds a style. Fine hair is often delicate and typically can’t hold curls very well. Medium hair is relatively easy to style and will hold its shape for a longer period of time. Thick hair meanwhile, can hold curls very well but can often be difficult to style as it’s typically less supple.
Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb moisture and product. While not as commonly discussed as hair type and structure, knowing how porous your hair is can help you determine what kind of products you should be putting on your hair. An easy way to assess your hair’s porosity is to place a single strand of hair into a bowl of water. If your strand sinks to the bottom, it has high porosity, which means it is absorbing all the moisture. If the strand remains below the surface but floats above the bottom of the bowl, your hair is well-balanced and of “normal” porosity. Finally, if the strand of hair floats above the surface of the water, your hair has low porosity, which means it does not absorb moisture easily.
So, what does that all mean for your hair? Hair with high porosity typically absorbs moisture too quickly because of gaps or tears around the cuticle. Those damaged areas cause it to release moisture at a high rate, making it dry and brittle. For these hair types then, it’s best to avoid heat styling and harsh chemical treatments that can continue to dry out the hair. Instead look for nourishing hair masks, oils, and leave-in treatments that will provide extra moisture and help seal the cuticle to prevent future damage from occurring.
Low porosity hair types, on the other hand, are those where the cuticle lays flat blocking water or moisture from being absorbed into the strands. For these hair types, the biggest concern is typically product buildup, which is why it’s recommended you apply products while your hair is still damp to help ensure they’re more easily absorbed and distributed.
By now we all know that if your scalp isn’t in good shape, your strands won’t be either, which is why taking care of it isn’t just a good idea—it’s a must. Determining the condition of your scalp though can be easier said than done as you may experience both an oily scalp and dry, split ends. To determine how oily or not your scalp is, we recommend inspecting your hair and scalp on the second day after a wash. If your roots appear flat and greasy, you’re most likely dealing with an oily scalp. In that case, we suggest adding our oil control hair goal to your shampoo formula to help balance out your scalp’s sebum production and prevent the risk of buildup.
If you experience flaking, however, chances are your scalp is dry and in need of a more gentle, hydrating shampoo like our customizable formulas. Not only are they free of sulfates and parabens, but they can also be formulated specifically for a dry scalp to ensure that your hair is properly cleaned without ever being stripped of its natural oils.
But what if your scalp is both oily and flaky? A mix of symptoms is typically brought on by product and oil buildup due to infrequent or improper washing. In that case, we recommend adding both the oil control and soothe scalp hair goals to your formula as it will help limit excessive oil, remove buildup, and help calm scalp irritation.
After going through these hair tests, you’ll likely find your hair may be a mix of different types; curly, but highly porous, or fine but extremely dry. Either way, having a thorough understanding of your hair type will make for better and easier hair care decisions to help ensure your strands always look and feel their best.