October 1, 2015

Kinky Does Not Equal Type 4 and Other Misused Terms



 by Amanda

With thousands of articles being published daily about hair care, terms can begin to overlap, be misused, and become confusing. Not understanding proper terminology can lead to purchasing the wrong products and misunderstanding what your hair needs. You may be buying products for coarse hair wondering why your hair is being weighed down. Maybe you are shocked at how thin your hair is when you straighten it. Ever bought a detangler that ironically had no slip? Well, here’s why.

Read On!>>>

Thick vs. dense

Whenever I see a head full of hair like Chime Edwards or Naptural85 my jaw always drops. How can anyone have that much hair? I watch Naptural85’s wash day tutorials and think only one of her sections is my entire head of hair. So when I meet people whose hair is equally as thin as mine, I am always perplexed when they say that have thick hair. Having thick hair and having dense hair are two different things. Density accounts for the amount of hair follicles you have: high, medium, and low. Thickness refers to the width of the individual strands, which can be fine, normal, and coarse. People with dense hair struggle to create two and three loops with their hair scrunchies when fastening a ponytail and when they straighten their hair, it is nearly impossible to see through. Want to know more about caring for your strands based on the width?

Thin vs. fine

If you are always picking your roots to hide your scalp with twist outs, braid outs, and Bantu-knot outs, then you probably have low or medium-density hair. If your hair always falls limp when you create those stretched styles, then you probably have fine strands. People with thinning hair do not have individual strands that are shrinking in diameter; they are losing hair follicles, which creates a lower density with a more exposed scalp. Not sure if your strands are fine or coarse? Compare the strands on your head to other body hair, as our other body hair tends to be coarse.

It is possible to have all combinations:

High density, fine strands like Chime Edwards
High density, coarse strands like Naptural85
Low density, fine strands Evelynfromtheinternets
Low density, coarse strands
and everything in between

Mistaking high density for thickness is probably the primary cause leading to breakage. It creates the misconception that one’s hair is stronger than it really is, which could lead to over manipulate, over processing, and too high heat when straightening.

Coarse vs. Type 4

All Type 4, coily hair is not coarse. On the contrary, it tends to be fine. Maybe people use coarse to describe how compact (high density) their afro-textured hair is or how it is prone to dryness, but using the term coarse to describe those attributes is incorrect. Think of salt and pepper. Coarse salt and pepper are larger than finely ground. Coarse hair is the strongest of the three, making it less prone to breakage, which is what afro-textured usually has a problem combatting.

Type 4 vs. kinky

Kinky is not synonymous with Type 4, coily, and afro-textured hair. Chemist JC from The Natural Haven defines kinky as hair strands that basically twist around themselves. She uses the visual of wringing a towel, but think of a towel being twisted so much that it curls; that's kinky hair. Afro-textured hair tends to be kinky but not all coily textures are, as it depends on the individual person. The nature of kinky hair makes it prone to breakage, as there are multiple weak points along the hair shaft.

Absorb vs. adsorb

This one can be tricky and primarily applies to deep conditioners. Products can absorb into the hair’s shaft and adsorb on the hair shaft. Absorb means to take in and penetrate while adsorb means to adhere. Not all ingredients penetrate the hair's cuticle and the ones that do penetrate at different levels. The ones that penetrate to the cortex are olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. The ingredients that do not penetrate tend to adsorb or adhere to the hair shaft, making a temporary protective layer. Most conditioners that call for heat usually have ingredients that adsorb to the hair’s cuticle, leaving the strands soft to the touch.

Sulfates vs. surfactants

Sulfates are surfactants but not all surfactants are sulfates. This is what Sister Scientist says about surfactants:

“Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are known to be some of the harshest surfactants due to their potential to be drying to the skin and hair…Surfactants are amazing compounds that we could not live without. We use them in hand soap, laundry detergent, and shampoos, but what you often do not hear about are the other types of surfactants that are in other products like conditioners and styling creams."

The other surfactants she is referring to are like cetrimonium chloride, dicetyldimonium chloride, and behentrimoium methosulfate (BTMS), which give us the slip we crave in conditioners and helps to close the cuticle.

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Is there any other hair jargon you want more clarity on?

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