Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Understanding Your Hair Texture

Guest post by Amanda Starghill

When embarking on your natural hair journey, it is normal to seek information on maintenance and styling from those who share your hair texture. One of the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definitions for texture is “the visual or tactile surface characteristics and appearance of something.” But sometimes we focus too much on visual and not enough on tactile. It is easier to create a regimen where the focus is on nurturing your strands versus the manner in which they cluster. With curl pattern being the least important factor, the porosity, density, and width of your strands are better determinants to understanding your texture.

Curl Pattern
Some Naturals don’t like solely categorizing curl patterns as a guide for maintenance, because the chart seems to mimic a grading scale. Emphasizing the diameter of curl “clumpage” has the potential to divide Naturals, which directly conflicts with the unity the movement brings. But I challenge you to not regard it as completely irrelevant for two reasons: Product application and appearance. Every curl pattern can benefit from oil, but it is thickness and amount of oil that varies in application. Naturals with corkscrew curls and pen coil curls could enjoy some TLC from coconut oil, but those with looser curls may find that too much may weigh their hair down. When it comes to thicker oils, like olive oil and castor oil, our tighter-curl counterparts may love those two oils as sealants, while the looser textures may solely opt for a hot oil treatment. For some textures, the combination of the length in addition to weight could cause your curl pattern to appear looser.

Porosity relates to how well your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture. Each cuticle contains a minimum of five layers. When it comes to porosity it is important to first address that the tighter the curls and the less defined they are, the more it will appear and feel dry … but that’s OK! You cannot expect a tight, undefined texture to feel like 3B or even straight hair. Curlier or coily textures are naturally drier but there is a difference between dry and damaged.

Highly porous hair is a reflection of damage. When those cuticles are damaged by holes or are completely gone because of manipulation, it makes it difficult for the hair to retain moisture. Aggressive cleansing, drying, and combing can cause damage to cuticles, as well as UV rays and chemical treatments. Low porosity and medium porosity strands are in good shape but may require different products. Hair with low porosity has a problem with receiving and releasing moisture, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Although it may take time for a product to absorb into your hair, your hair is less prone to being dry and maintains moisture much longer. Medium porosity strands are identified as the perfect meeting ground between low and high porosity, but I would encourage you to incorporate protein treatments into your regimen.

Coarse, medium, and fine are three ways people identify the thickness of their individual strands. This is often mistaken for density. The thicker the strands, the heavier the products your hair may require. For those with coarse strands, they may lean toward sealing butters such as shea butter, mango butter, or thick oils. People with finer strands may prefer sealing with jojoba and grape seed oil. Any texture can benefit from the use of oils and butters, but the technique and quantity vary by preference.

Ultimately, understanding how much hair you have (density), how thick the strands are (width), and what condition they are in (porosity) is the best way to determine how to care for your hair. Visual is not everything but it should not be excluded either, especially when it comes to styling.

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