I’m sure if you have watched a beauty influencer on YouTube or Instagram, you have heard them list off their hair type, “2b, fine, high porosity”…
- Don’t know what that means; I’m here to help.
- Have you wondered what your hair type was but couldn’t figure it out? This post is for you.
- Why in the world does any of it matter? I’ll help you there too.
- Did you decide to embrace your natural hair (bless your soul) along with your natural color and discovered your silvers were wavy or curly or they went straight? I’ve got you covered.
- Are you mid-transition to your natural color? This will help you with how to deal with your new silvers and the dye together.
We are going to go over all of the important categories of hair type to help you pick products and find hair gurus to follow. Even if you have straight hair, you still need to know this info, curl pattern is only one part of the equation. Notice my title is Hair Type not Curl Type; however, there will be some curl specific advice.
Once you have read this post, you will be able to say with full understanding:
- My hair pattern type is: 1-2c
- My texture is: fine to normal
- My density is: thin to medium
- My processing is: none
- My length is: long
- My porosity is: low to normal
- My scalp: tends to be dry to normal and sensitive
(Obviously, these are my answers.)
Things to Remember About Hair Type:
Your hair pattern type really is a visual tool. The texture, density, processing, length, porosity, and condition of your scalp will help you decide on products.
These are launch points so that when you are looking at products for your hair, you know right away what won’t even come close to working for you.
Write them down, start a hair notebook with this list, so you always have a reference, or take a photo of your list and save it to your phone album.
You may think you know these from a test you took a couple of years ago but…
- Remember if you still have dye on your hair, every single one of these points can change as your virgin silvers grow all the way in and the dye is finally all cut off.
- If you have experienced hair loss recently you may have changes to your hair type.
- All these points can change with pregnancy, menopause, surgeries, chemo, medication, stress, hair processing techniques, damage, etc.
- Just like your bra, it is a great idea to do a yearly recheck of your hair type as changes occur in your health, stress, and life.
So let’s get started:
There will be a quiz. (ha)
Hair Pattern Type: 1 | 2a, 2b, 2c | 3a, 3b, 3c | 4a, 4b
Let’s begin at the beginning. See this chart above? It is entirely possible to have one, two, three, or more curl types on one head of hair. This is mostly a visual tool. It mainly tells you what you are working with in regards to the pattern your hair makes as it grows out of your head. That’s really it.
If you have straight or wavy hair, it can tell you that you need lighter products that don’t weigh your hair down (write that down). If you have really curly hair, you may need more hold to help keep the coils coiled.
My first realization, with going silver is the different colors of my hair on my head also have different curl types. This information allowed me to stop focusing on this curl typing and trying to fit myself into one little type. I have straight hair, wavy, and curly hair…all of it.
My second realization, with caring for my Silver Spirals: EMBRACE WHAT YOU HAVE! We way too often are trying to make something happen up there that just isn’t possible without a perm.
Comparison is the thief of joy. ~Theodore Roosevelt
Learn from your favorite YouTubers but don’t compare your hair to theirs. Your hair is just like a fingerprint in that no two heads of hair are created equally.
Hair Density: THIN | MEDIUM | THICK
What is Density?
Simply put, density is the amount of hair you have in one square inch of your scalp.
Okay, go count it! I’ll wait…
You should count around 2200 strands for normal density.
Just kidding, about counting, but yes that’s normal density…
Many people confuse density with texture. They each have their own terms to describe the hair. Learn this distinction. Density is THIN, MEDIUM, or THICK.
Knowing your density, helps you make smart choices with the weight of your products.
SCALP CHECK DENSITY TEST:
With this test, you simply look at your hair un-parted and then part your hair and inspect the part. Unfortunately, this test can be hard to tell if you have white hair because our shiny healthy pink scalps like to beam out from every angle.
- THIN or LOW density is less than this 2200 per square inch, and you can usually see your scalp with your hair in a normal style without parting it.
- MEDIUM density is a little bit of scalp is visible but mostly not visible unless parted.
- THICK or HIGH density, you will not be able to see your scalp easily in your normal hairstyle and it may be difficult to part.
This is the best test for shorter hairstyles. Long hair you will want to try the next test.
PONYTAIL DIAMETER MEASUREMENT:
If you can get your hair into a ponytail, the best way to find your true density is to measure it. All you need is a soft measuring tape or a bit of ribbon or yarn, a ponytail holder, and a friend will be helpful too.
- Gather all your hair that can reach the mid-back of your head into a ponytail.
- Wrap your hair tie around it but not extremely tight to make a normal ponytail.
- Slide the ponytail holder out just a bit away from the scalp.
- Now measure with your measuring tape or tie the ribbon around and knot it.
- You take the measurement just above your hair tie close to your scalp; you want it tight enough that it is getting the true measurement of the hair but not so tight, you compress the hair…if that makes sense.
- If you are using a measuring tape, mark the tape by holding where the end met the tape or have a friend read the measurement.
- If you used ribbon or yarn, slip it out of your ponytail, cut as close to the knot as you can and measure from knot to cut point, the length of the ribbon.
- THIN or LOW Density = less than two inches
- MEDIUM Density = between two and three inches
- THICK or HIGH Density = more than four inches
Before I ditched the dye, my measurement was always on the low-density side, now my hair is thin to medium density.
Your density can change for a multitude of reasons.
The density of your hair is usually thinner on the crown area and thicker at the nape. Should you see bald spots or you have been experiencing excessive hair loss, you’ll find help in The Ultimate Guide to Hair Growth and Hair Loss
- If you are using heavy buttery products on thin to low density, it will make your hair look thinner and greasier.
- Hair volumizing mousses will work better for thinner hair density, they create more volume which in turn gives the appearance of more hair.
- Use balanced moisture and light hold products to keep your style.
- Careful with too heavy of oils and butters that will make your hair look thinner and weighed down.
- If you are using no weight on thick or high-density hair, you will find your hair gets bigger and bigger throughout the day and loses definition.
- Strong hold gels because of their weight will be better with a thicker density, they help form and smooth clumps of curls.
Hair Texture: FINE | NORMAL | COARSE
A Hair’s Breadth: that used to be an actual unit of measure, but everyone’s hair is different.
Hair texture is rather simple; It is literally the diameter of an individual strand.
- Take one strand of hair between your fingers and close your eyes.
- Roll the strand.
- If you cannot or you can barely feel the strand, you have fine hair.
- If you can feel the strand and it is smooth and pliable, you have normal hair.
- If you can distinctly feel the strand like a piece of thread and it feels a little bumpy or stiff, you have coarse hair.
You can have multiple textures on one strand where it is coarser at the root and finer at the tips. Or multiple textures on one head, where your white or gray hair is fine and your born-with-it color is normal.
I have fine to normal hair but mostly fine.
Fine to Normal Hair:
- Doesn’t like to hold a style well, but can be gently coaxed.
- Fine hair often needs protein moisture balanced products to provide strength.
- Fine hair is prone to frizz (especially around the crown creating that halo effect)
- Fine hair is often sensitive to certain ingredients in hair care products, like heavy silicones, which will weigh your hair down and cause buildup rapidly.
- Fine hair doesn’t do well with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
- Lighter oils like sunflower, almond, argan, squalane, refined jojoba, and grapeseed do better for fine hair types.
- Cowashing and conditioner washing may make your hair feel heavy and greasy.
- Shampoo with a gentle sulfate-free shampoo instead.
- Coarse hair usually holds a style well.
- Coarse hair when dry can become frizzy, brittle, stiff, and easily break.
- Coarse hair often needs more moisture and sealing/hold.
- Coarse hair can be prone to being dry.
- Heavier butters and oils, well blended into formulas and not used alone, like castor, cocoa, coconut, shea, and olive do better for coarse hair.
- Coarse hair does well with apple cider vinegar rinses because it helps close the cuticle.
- Cowashing and conditioner washing may help you keep your hair soft and more easily managed.
- Clarify occasionally to stop buildup that can end up causing dryness and breakage.
NONE/VIRGIN HAIR | SLIGHTLY PROCESSED/DAMAGED | PROCESSED/DAMAGED | OVER-PROCESSED OR SEVERELY DAMAGED
Taking note of the processing and damage to your hair helps you better understand your porosity. If you have any processing to your hair, it changes everything, no matter how “gentle.”
Check all that apply:
- Straightening (chemical treatments like relaxers, keratin, or Brazilian Blowouts)
- Heat Use (high heat use of hair dryers, straighteners, curling irons)
- Dye* (any dye but permanent is most damaging)
- Bleached (bleached hair is usually the most damaged)
- Rough towel drying or brushing
- Wind or sun damage (outdoor activities like bike riding, horseback riding, that blow your hair around can damage it)
*If you are not sure what kind of dye you are using you can learn more in What Hair Dyes Do to Gray Hair.
If you checked nothing you have None or Virgin Hair
If you picked one or two items. Slightly Processed/Damaged
If you check off more than two your hair is Processed/Damaged
If you have bleached your hair to where it feels dry, crispy and breaks easily you have over-processed hair. Over-Processed or Severely Damaged
If you have virgin hair with zero processing or damage, congratulations. Keep taking great care of it.
If you have damaged hair, start by eliminating the damage makers if you can.
Make simple changes:
- Air-dry if you can,
- Use UV and Heat protection,
- Put your hair up in a protective style when outside,
- Ask your stylist to use the least damaging products they can,
- Use a microfiber towel, don’t rub your hair dry with a towel,
- Be gentle with brushes and combs or just use your fingers.
- Deep condition REGULARLY!! (Just don’t overdo it.)
I have several posts that cover these topics:
Length: SHORT | SHOULDER LENGTH – MID BACK | LONG
The shorter your hair is the less issues you face regarding damage. The longer your hair is the more likely you have some differences in your hair from root to tip. Think about it if your hair grows six inches a year and your hair is 24 inches long those tips are dead hair that has been around for four years.
Think about the last four years of your life:
- Did you have any major stressors?
- Did you experience any excessive hair loss?
- Were you outside more one summer than you were others?
- Did you move and change water or climates?
- Did you stop or start any medications?
- Did you have any new health issues arise or heal?
All of that information of those years is in your hair strand. Your hair may be dead when it grows out of your head but it changes, oxidizes, and ages the longer it gets. The porosity changes about mid-shaft for most long-haired people.
Make note of how long your hair is and think about how old the hair is at the tips. This helps you treat your hair above your ears differently than the hair below your ears.
Your tips may need more conditioner, more leave-in, and more hold.
If your ends dry really quickly compared to the rest of your hair those tips are edging into the higher porosity, which could mean split ends, and breakage. It probably means time for a trim.
Porosity: Grade 1-5 or LOW | NORMAL | HIGH
The big question with the most myths and worst “misdiagnosis” …POROSITY!
The simple truth: if your hair is damaged it is in the higher porosity grades. No damage, low porosity grades.
Moisture retention is a symptom of your porosity.
Because I was so curious about all the misinformation out there, I did a ton of research and dug deep, you can learn more in The Ultimate Guide to Hair Porosity. I highly encourage you to take the time and read that post because it busts myths and helps you do the right test for your porosity. You’ll want a cuppa joe and maybe a notebook.
I have low porosity at my roots and somewhere around mid-shaft, it shifts to normal porosity.
I have a sneaky suspicion that most everyone with unprocessed short hair is in the lower to normal range. Yep, that means I don’t really think high-porosity hair is a normal state of the hair. I might be wrong, but porosity by the original hair definition means, how much damage does it have?
If you have silver hair with no processing damage, you probably have lower porosity hair, but remember the longer it is the porosity goes up slightly just from life and the oxidization (aging) process of the hair as it gets further from the roots.
If you are in the middle of growing out your dyed hair to your natural gray hair, you have two or possibly three grades of porosity, depending on the length and amount of chemical processing you have had. Investigate your hair products and make sure you aren’t still using color protective products; they can make your hair feel greasy and weighed down or cause buildup.
If you have done the overnight process with bleach, you have high porosity hair. There is no way to avoid this.
The highest porosity is 5 and that is usually bleach fried hair where the cuticle has literally melted and the pH of the hair is forever altered until it grows off or is cut off.
High porosity hair needs the most care and attention. It needs deep conditioning, gentle products, no drying alcohols, skip the sulfates, and you might find bond builders helpful on occasion until your hair is all natural and unprocessed again.
DRY | NORMAL | OILY | SENSITIVE | DANDRUFF | OTHER SKIN/SCALP CONDITIONS
Conditions and definitions:
Dry: you tend to feel a little itchy on occasion, you like conditioner or oils on your scalp.
Normal: you tend not to have any issues with your scalp and probably don’t think about it much.
Oily: you may notice an oily or greasy feel to your scalp within hours of washing your hair, and may like clarifying so you can cleanse your scalp.
Sensitive: you may break out easily from hair products, you may feel itchy, and your scalp may often be red.
Dandruff: this condition is most often one you see on your shirt, white flakes. It is dead skin cells that build up and flake off.
Other Skin/Scalp Conditions: any medical conditions that you may need special shampoos, or ointments for.
Dry: scalp massage with argan, jojoba, squalane or even a fragrance-free conditioner will help soothe your dry itchy skin.
Normal: make sure to stay balanced with balanced clean products.
Oily: you may find a good clean shampoo helps alleviate the oiliness. Look out for products that are oil heavy. Try a scalp massaging brush to help stimulate your follicle.
Sensitive: watch out for allergy causing ingredients and fragrances. Try using fragrance-free products.
Dandruff: make sure you are using dandruff shampoo to treat your condition, and try clean products in between to prevent dandruff from starting.
Other Skin/Scalp Conditions: see your dermatologist and use your medicated products to help.
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As always it is about so much more than the hair.
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