Traveling into unknown territory is both exciting and scary, but factually just simply unknown. Both you and your hair are experiencing something new together. When venturing into the unknown it is always a good idea to be clearer of at least one thing, you. When you know you, you know how to stay centerED and calm, how you will react properly and how to overcome any situation. The same is true for your hair. Getting to know your hair allows you to make clearer decisions to maintain a healthy, peaceful regime.
DETERMINING YOUR CURLS
Determining your curl type between waves, coils, curls and kinks within the curl id system (2A-4C) is the least important factor for understanding your hair when you travel. This system is great when regularly using products and determining which products will work best for your hair. While this information can be helpful it is limited when you travel since your hair can react differently to your regular products while in different environments.
What is important to know about your hair is to understand the three characteristics on which your curl type is based: Density, Porosity and Texture. Because of the different variables that define a curl type, not all curls labeled within a curl type will respond the same way to any particular environment or particular regimen. Your curls may fit into a curl category but not react the same way for a particular remedy when you travel. I have learned this throughout the conversations I’ve had with travelers.
Instead of conforming to a particular regimen for your curl type, it is significantly more beneficial to understand the thickness of a strand of hair (Texture), your hair’s ability to absorb moisture (Porosity), and how much hair is within a square inch at the crown (Density), in order to know how much additional moisture your hair needs, which oils will have the greatest effect and what routine will work best for your hair depending on where you are in the world. Understanding these main characteristics of your own hair will help you to determine how to care for your hair regardless of where you are, what products you use or how resourceful you may need to be in order to keep your hair healthy. Here are some basics to help you identify your hair so that you can determine what you can do when you hair reacts to a particular environment.
Hair texture describes the thickness and width of individual strands of hair. The diameter of the strand is determined by the layers within the strand: The cortex, cuticle and medulla. The medulla is the open area at the center of the hair strand. The cortex covers the medulla with the protein keratin which creates the structure of the hair and absorbs color and chemical treatments. The cuticle is the outermost overlapping cell layers that strengthen and protect the hair shaft against various elements. These layers differ in thickness for every curl.
Depending on the density of layers within the strand will help you to define your hair texture as fine, medium or coarse.
Fine strands compare to threads of silk. Fine strands feel and look almost nonexistent individually. Fine strands tend to be the most delicate and snap easily.
Medium strands compare to threads of cotton. Medium strands are strong and elastic being neither too thick or too thin.
Coarse strands compare to threads of thin wire. Coarse strands feel undoubtably thick and are very visible. Strands are very strong and do not snap easily.
How to identify
Take one strand of hair and roll between your thumb and pointer fingers. If the strand can barely be felt, then you have fine hair; felt slightly, then it's a medium texture If you feel a thick strand between your fingers your texture is coarse.
Stretch and tape a strand of hair to a sheet of white paper. Separate a line of thread into two strands and place on sheet. Compare hair to threat. If your hair is thinner than the thread, you have fine hair; thicker than the tread, you have coarse hair; and a similar thickness to the thread, you have medium texture hair.
By far the most import aspect in caring for your hair, hair porosity refers to how well your hair both absorbs and retains moisture. It is determined by the flexibility of the cuticle. Porosity is classified as either low, medium, or high. If not due to genetics, the porosity level of your hair can change as a result of damage caused by harsh detangling, harsh chemicals and processing or the environment.
Low porosity hair has a tightly-bound, compact cuticle layer. Heat opens up the cuticle layer allowing moisture to be absorbed. One of the major characteristics of low porosity hair is that it takes a while for your hair to get fully wet, but it also takes a long time for it to dry. Oils, sealants and conditioners also tend to sit on and build up on top of your hair instead of penetrating it. This will add weight to the hair and cause breakage.
Medium porosity requires little maintenance as the hair cuticle isn’t densely packed. The cuticle layer is loose which allows for a steady, moderate flow of moisture in and out of the hair.
High porosity hair cuticles are raised and open easily. The hair absorbs moisture very easily and dries quickly. The open cuticle can lead to frizz and tangling in humid weather and extreme dryness in dry weather. Too much moisture will cause frizz and breakage.
How to identify
With clean hair, place a few strands of loose hair from your comb or brush into a glass of room temperature water. Over a few minutes (2-5 minutes) the hair will react to the water. If the hair sinks to the bottom rather quickly, you may have high porosity hair; floats at the middle of bowl of water, it has medium porosity; or floats on top, you may have low porosity.
Spritz a small section of your curls with cool water and observe how your hair reacts. If the water beads up on your hair, it is low porosity. If it absorbs quickly, your hair is high porosity. If you notice the water sitting on your hair for a couple minutes before absorbing in, you have medium porosity hair.
Hair density measures the number of strands are within a square inch on the scalp. Density impacts the volume and shape of your hair overall.
Thick density is increased hair follicles adjacent to one another showing very little of the scalp.
Thick density creates an average volume. There is an even amount hair follicles to the amount of visible scalp.
Thin density hair creates low volume. There are less hair follicles adjacent to one another revealing more of the scalp.
How to identify
After washing and drying your hair, observe your scalp in the mirror. If you can see your scalp you have low density; partially see your scalp, you have medium density; and if you can’t see your scalp at all you have high density scalp coverage.
Stretch dry hair into a tight ponytail. Using a tape measure, measure the circumference of your ponytail. If the circumference is less than 2 inches, you have low density hair; 2-3 inches you have medium density hair; and 4 or more inches you have high density hair.
These main properties are the key to understanding your curly crown so that you can confidently travel the world with less hair struggles.