Faith Amour Hair Care

How to analyze your hair

Posted on: January 3, 2011


How to Analyze Your Hair
Many people have little clue about the terms used to describe hair, and truth be told, it can be confusing. Most people think of hair in terms of being thick or fine, and curly or straight. There are several considerations when analyzing hair: texture, density, wave pattern, elasticity,and porosity. Each of these elements combines to give us endless variety in hair types. Your stylist is trained to look at your hair, recognize these elements, and gauge your overall hair type.

One thing to remember is that analyzing the hair is a matter of comparison, and the best way to learn to recognize the difference in these elements is to view a sampling of hair from different sources and make the comparisons yourself. The next time you’re with a group of friends, take a close look at their hair. Make a note of the ways their hair differs from yours. Compare their hair to yours using these categories:

Texture – circumference of the hair strand itself
Density – amount of hair strands on the head
Porosity – the measure of the hair’s ability to absorb moisture
Elasticity – the measure of how much the hair will stretch (and return to a normal state)
Wave Pattern – straight, curly, very curly, and coiled

By using these elements you can compare and judge for yourself if you have fine, thick, straight hair with good elasticity and low porosity, or maybe coarse, thin, curly hair with high porosity and low elasticity, or something in between.

Knowing the terms professionals use, and being able to analyze your own hair will help you make good choices when it comes to the styles and hair services you engage.

Hair texture is the measure of the circumference of the hair strand itself. Professionals classify the texture of hair as being “coarse”, “fine”, or “medium”. Coarse hair has the largest circumference, and fine hair has the smallest. Medium texture indicates a middle-range of the size of the hair shaft, it’s considered normal and poses no special considerations regarding processing and chemical services. Coarse hair is stronger, for obvious reasons – it has more substance. However, coarse hair can also be harder to process, and can be resistant to haircoloring services, perming, and straightening. Fine hair, conversely, is often very easy to process, and can be over-processed easily and is susceptible to damage from chemical services.

Hair texture varies from individual to individual, and can be different in separate areas of the same head. You may have coarse hair on the top of the head and fine hair at the nape of the neck. Race and ethnicity are irrelevant in determining hair texture, as coarse, medium and fine hair can be found among all racial and ethnic groups.

Hair density is the amount of hair strands on the head. Generally, it is measured by counting the number of hair strands found in one square inch (2.5cm) of scalp. When a stylist tells you that you have thick hair, it is high density he/she is describing. Generally, the classifications of hair density are thin, medium, and thick, and are unrelated to the texture of the hair. The average head has approximately 2,200 strands of hair per square inch, and a total of approximately 100,000 hairs.

The main consideration of hair density is in styling. Thick hair is well suited to layered styles, while thin hair is often better suited to more blunt styles. People with thin hair often prefer styles with added curl to give an illusion of more hair.

While there is not a true ethnic or racial determiner of hair density, it has been found that blondes tend to have the greatest hair density, while redheads have the lowest.

Porosity is the measure of the hair’s ability to absorb moisture. This is determined by the condition of the hair’s cuticle layer (the overlapping scales of the hair shaft), and is rated as low, normal, and high. In normal, healthy hair, the cuticle is compact and inhibits the penetration of the hair shaft by moisture – both moisture going in, and moisture coming out. When the cuticle is overly compact and prevents the penetration of the hair by moisture it has low porosity. Hair with low porosity is harder to process, and is resistant to haircolor and perms. Low porosity hair must usually be softened prior to other chemical services. Hair with high porosity is hair whose cuticle layer is open and the hair too-readily absorbs moisture. Overly-porous hair also releases moisture easily and becomes dry and is easily damaged. Acid-balanced conditioning treatments are used to contract the cuticle layer and lock-in moisture on overly-porous hair.

Extreme caution must be used when performing chemical services on overly porous hair to prevent damage. Haircolor will take much more quickly and strongly in overly porous hair (and semi-permanent and demi-permanent haircolors will fade much more quickly). Perms and straighteners will process much faster in high-porosity hair as well.

To determine the porosity of your hair, simply feel it – both when wet and when dry. If the hair feels straw-like and rough when dry, or if it feels gummy or slightly rubbery when wet, then you probably have a problem with overly porous hair.
The hair’s elasticity is the measure of how much the hair will stretch (and return to a normal state). Healthy hair, when wet, will stretch up to 50% of its original length and return to its normal shape without breaking, while dry hair will only stretch about 20%.

Elasticity is rated as being low, normal, or high. Hair’s elasticity comes from the side bonds in the hair shaft. Hair with normal and high elasticity is easily styled with wet-roller sets, thermal styling tools, etc., while hair with low elasticity may prove hard to curl, or lose its curl quickly.

To test the elasticity of your hair, you need to select strands of hair from four different areas on the head. Be sure the hair is wet. Hold the strand securely and stretch the hair. If the hair stretches and returns to its original length when released, then it has good elasticity. If the hair breaks or doesn’t return to its former shape, you have low elasticity.

Hair with low elasticity is highly susceptible to breakage, will be hard to curl, and will not perm well.
The hair’s wave pattern is different from the other elements of hair analysis because its classifications have no reference to the health of the hair. Any of the wave pattern types can be found in healthy hair. The classifications for wave pattern are straight, curly, very curly, and coiled. Hair with absolutely no wave in its length is straight hair. Straight hair can be coarse, normal or fine. Curly hair has wave to it. A curly hair strand will form a distinct ‘C’ shape when short and an ‘S’ when longer. Very curly hair will make an ‘S’ when short and a repetitive wave when allowed to grow out. Very curly hair tends to be ‘bushy’ when worn long. Coiled hair strands do just that – they coil in spirals as they grow out from the scalp. The coils can be very tiny and give a kinked look to the hair, or they may be finger-sized ringlets.

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