As curlies, we all know how important it is to choose hair products for the right hair types. But there are two other factors just as important that will help our hair get the best care it can: hair porosity and density. Before we get into how to do the at-home analysis, let’s talk about what hair porosity and density mean, as well as the different characteristics of curly and wavy hair.
How to Determine Hair Density
The density of your hair is simply how thin or thick it is. The number of hair follicles in a specific area of your hair, say a 1-inch area, determines your hair’s density.
The only way to truly determine density is to have someone literally examine a 1-inch square section of your scalp and count the number of hair follicles, or the number of hairs, in that 1-inch section. However, you can also do a simple hair density test with just two of your senses — vision and touch.
Kinky hair is hair that is very tightly curled. When you pull it straight out from the scalp, it immediately springs back as tight as it was before.
- Make sure your hair is completely dry. Wet hair can feel and look thinner than it actually is.
- Be sure that your hair has not been picked out, combed, or styled in any way.
- Look closely at your hair from all angles, and see if you can see your scalp through the hair strands. If you can, your hair has very low density.
Curly and Wavy Hair
Curly hair is looser than kinky hair, but may still have quite a bit of tightness in it. Wavy hair is exactly what it sounds like. It has large or small waves, but little, if any, curliness or kinkiness.
- Make sure your hair is hanging loosely. Do not part it; rather, let it fall into its natural shape.
- Look at your hair from all angles. Can you see any scalp showing anywhere? If it very easily seen, your hair has low density.
- Take your hair and gather it up as if you were going to put it in a ponytail. You may want to go ahead and secure it in a ponytail so that you won’t have to hold it. Brush it as smooth as you possibly can so that hair will not be “bunched up.”
- Examine your hair again from all angles. This time, if you see more scalp than when it was down, you can determine that your hair is of medium density. No scalp showing at all means your hair is of high density.
How to Determine Hair Porosity
The simple definition of hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain any type of moisture.
If your hair is not very porous at all, the cuticle layers, the scales of the hair shaft that overlap one another, are very close together and are tightly closed. They allow little, if any, moisture to get in or out. If your hair is like this, it is considered to have low porosity.
The further apart the cuticle layers are, and the more open they are, the more porous your hair will be. If the space between them is exactly as it should be, and they are open just as much as they should be, you have normal hair porosity. On the other hand, if you could drive a semi truck between the spaces as well as through them, your hair is considered to be overly porous.
For hair porosity, you want to feel your hair while it is wet, and the technique is the same for all hair types.
- Squeeze or blot excess moisture from your hair so that it is not dripping, but leave it as wet as possible.
- If it feels rough or has a “straw-like” texture, your hair is not very porous.
- If your hair simply feels wet, you have normal hair porosity.
- If your hair has high porosity, it will feel sticky, almost as if you had not washed all product out of your hair.
this is the worst way I've seen this explained.
the bowl test is easier.
I have been Natural for nearly 5 years now and it is only now that I am beginning to grasp how to type and choose product for my hair. Thank you for this article.
Ok…now I think I understand. So now I need to find products for low porosity hair that don't just sit on top of the strands.
Ive been reading articles on this site and others wondering how I could determine the density/porosity in my hair. That was very informative! I now know that I Have high density and normal porosity…thank you!
This is the best article I have read in a long time related to porosity. I am a proponent of learning your hair's porosity, elasticity, density and texture. Knowing these are, in my opinion, much more relevant than figuring out your hair type.
For product recommendations, I highly suggest visit the naturallycurly.com CurlTalk forum. They have threads dedicated to low and high porosity.
This is the best explanation of porosity I've seen, and I hope it gets circulated around. The float tests just seem problematic with surface tension and all, and the running a finger up the strand just doesn't seem very accurate with tightly coily hair that'll feel textured no matter what.
I finally know why my hair hates just about every oil and feels best after a shampoo with a little AVJ/water/glycerin leave-in. My whole head is very low porosity. My hair always feels rough-ish after I've washed it. And I always thought *I* was doing something wrong because it didn't feel like seaweed.
This is the easiest explanation of porosity that I have seen. I finally get it now. The rest of my hair is normal porosity, except for these 2 sections in the front at my temples that ALWAYS FEEL LIKE STRAW!!! THANK YOU!
For those of you asking about density and what you should do with that information…i dont think density is important in choosing products….you'll probably just have to use more product if you have really dense hair…because it simply means you have a lot of hair strands! Now if your hair has low density/ is thin then maybe you want to make sure you're not weighing your hair down too much with too much product. 🙂
Ok, now what do we do with this info?
I haven't seen products that refer to hair density. How do we figure out what products are good for our newly discovered hair type??
Well according to this it looks like my hair is medium density and normal porosity.
All this information is great, but as a transitioning newbie – I'm not quite sure what to do with all of it. So if my hair is very dense, yet has a low porosity, for example, what types of products should I be using? I'm finding that as more and more new growth comes in, I consistently feel like I can't keep it moisturized, and that my products may be doing more harm than good. How does knowing this translate into information I can use to combat my situation?
This is a great way to teach us about our hair. I believe people get caught up in types such as 3a or b or 4 a, etc when there's so much more to typing our hair. If you don't use all this information, then you won't use the right products or get the expected results. Thanks for this information.