Sometimes it feels like there are endless descriptions our hair can be slotted into - a bit of an information overload. For some, having all this terminology and categories to place your hair into is comforting and secure (we’re looking at you, Virgos). For others, it quickly becomes overwhelming and disheartening - especially if your hair spreads across multiple types, or doesn’t seem to fit into any. But nerding yourself up with the essential information can’t do any harm, right? It’s a lengthy topic, but we’re taking it back to basics with just two simple foundations to understanding your hair: the type versus the condition.
Your hair type is its texture or curl pattern first and foremost, ranging from type 2A (loose waves) to 3B (corkscrew and tight S-curls) 4C (tight zig-zags and coils). Though this classification system doesn’t have to be used by everybody, it’s really useful for those who want to investigate the pattern and size of each curl and coil - and you’ll probably find that your hair spans across multiple types depending on where on your head it’s found, for example, tighter around the hairline and looser at the back.
But wait - What about porosity?
Although we promised just two main hair categories, we’re going to sneakily introduce a subdivision to the mix. Before we do, think of a single hair strand as being like an upside-down palm tree trunk, with a tight, slightly smoother texture when it’s young, and more open flared bark as it grows older. The more open the outer protective layer, the more vulnerable the interior is - plus moisture can enter and exit freely. This is the porosity, and it’s essential to mention.
You’ve probably heard the word buzzing around alongside tutorials on the ‘water strand test’, promising to reveal how much moisture your hair takes by sinking or floating in a glass of water. The goal is to then apply this to your hair care routine: go heavier on the masks and creams if it sucks up loads of water and sinks, and therefore is crying out for moisture, or seal products in with an oil if it doesn’t absorb much, floating on the top. But our take? Don’t take the test. There are so many different strands of hair with different porosities all over your head, plus porosity can differ from the top - the youngest part of the hair - to the bottom - the oldest and most damaged. “Although porosity can be genetic, it’s very easy to make your hair more porous by relaxing, heat-styling, and bleaching, which roughen up the outer layer,” explains celebrity hair stylist Dionne Smith.
Porosity links hair type and condition together, being both natural and exacerbated by how you treat it. “People often get high-porosity hair and dry hair mixed up, because the symptoms are very similar,” says Dionne. The key difference is that low-porosity hair can also be dry, it just doesn’t present itself in the same way; it may feel strong, but look lacklustre as a result of not being able to absorb products as much. Try an apple cider vinegar rinse to slough off product build-up, then seal the new products in with an oil to help them penetrate.
And finally, hair condition
Be it dry, damaged, healthy or hydrated, it changes depending on how you take care of it and your environment:
Is my hair dry? If it feels rough and lacks shine and movement, then yes. If you’re using sulphate shampoos, then probably, yes. Keep a close eye on the ends, which will probably dry faster after washing than the rest of the hair, and could also be more porous as a result. Check out our dry hair guide for everything you could ever need to know.
Is my hair damaged? Dryness and damage often go hand in hand, but truly damaged hair will feel brittle and break easily, especially at the ends. Colouring, relaxing and heat-styling all break apart the building blocks, or bonds, of your hair. Look for repairing, protein-rich treatments and leave-in products that try and bind broken hair bonds together - nothing works miracles, but every little helps.
Is my hair dull? There’s a certain kind of lacklustre that doesn’t necessarily equate to dryness or damage. Products (especially heavy oils and silicones) can build up around the hair and on the scalp without us even realising, as well as minerals and limescale from hard water. Do an aforementioned ACV rinse or try a clarifying shampoo whenever your scalp and strands feel stiff and kind of starchy (gross, but if you know, you know).
It’s a lot of information to digest, we know. For a more detailed and personalised insight, fill out our fun-packed quiz and get chatting to a hair coach of your choosing.
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