I am beyond excited to share this months’ blog post on essentially ‘cracking your hair formula’; figuring what and why your hair does what it does. For me, this has been the jackpot of all hair tips when it comes to understanding my own natural hair. I find that as a natural, this is information has been crucial in developing a hair care regimen that is uniquely tailored to the individual because, let’s face it, when it comes to natural hair, no one size fits all. This post will be consolidating and sharing information that I have found from other bloggers and natural haired sisters.
I came across some information on different bloggers talking about moisture retaining methods like LOC, LCO and LOCO and how hair porosity, hair density and strand size play a vital role in determining your moisture retaining regimen but also the amount of manipulation your hair can withstand and products that work better for your hair. This information got me thinking, is it possible to have a tailored ‘hair formula’ that works to help us determine our own hair care regimen rather than trying to adopt what might work better for someone else?… sure!… why not??
Hypothetically, if this was the case, things like understanding your hair porosity, density and hair width I suppose would play a significant role in creating this so called ‘Hair formula’. Of course, various other things such as your environment i.e. whether you live in an arid or tropical area or whether the water in your area is soft or hard, would equally have an important role in configuring this ‘formula’, but for the sake of not having an excruciatingly long post, I think I’ll save that for another time.
Chime Edwards summarises hair porosity brilliantly in her Essence article, I’ll link it below. She describes hair porosity being our hairs’ ability to absorb and retain moisture. This is determined by our hair shaft and whether or not it has compact, normal or porous cuticles. Hair with high porosity tends to have open/porous cuticles and tends to have the capacity to absorb moisture effectively but does not retain it very well. Whereas hair with low porosity has compact|tightly closed cuticles, which is excellent for retaining moisture once it is absorbed but initially isn’t easily as absorbent. Normal porosity lies in between the two. The porosity test is a quick and easy way to discover what your hair porosity is. Drop a strand of clean dry hair in a glass of water; if it sinks to the bottom it means you have high porosity because water is quickly absorbed forcing it to sink to the bottom. If your hair floats in the middle, it means that your hair has normal porosity, and if it floats on top and it takes a while for your hair to sink, then you have low porosity.
#TIP: Using products with more alkaline ingredients can help low porosity hair absorb water and products better, whereas products that are more acidic or have a high pH have the opposite effect, closing cuticles. Useful to know when doing yoghurt treatments or an ACV rinse. Excessive use of heavy oils and hair creams could leave hair with low porosity weighed down as they sit on top of the hair shaft not easily being absorbed. Using steamers or hot oil treatments is a great way to help lift cuticles getting moisture to penetrate the hair shaft, however, beware of ‘hygral fatigue‘, where hair is over moisturised… pst!! that’ll be another blog post.
#TRICK: For those with highly porous hair, giving your hair a cold water rinse after washing it will help close cuticles to further seal in moisture, also using oils and a hair butters will help to further seal in moisture. Protein treatments and ACV rinses also work well with high porosity hair.
I did this test and my hair was pretty much trying to jump out of the glass of water, jk, meaning my hair has low porosity-LP. Which makes sense because I tend to steer clear of heavy thick products cause all they do is rub off on my hands, the sofa, pillows, anyone within a 5-mile radius. Seriously!! that stuff will sit there until wash day if it hasn’t already rubbed off on other things.
Hair density, on the other hand, can be described as the numbers of hair growing out of your scalp and can be measured in various ways. Counting each individual strand sounds ludicrous so why not settle for less time-consuming methods like those suggested by NaturallyCurly in their article on ‘Three ways to figure out your hair density once and for all‘. NaturallyCurly suggests that you can measure your hair density by measuring your pony-tail. Hair with low density = less than 2 inches (5cm), medium density = 2-3 inches (5-8cm), High density = 4 inches(10cm). I don’t know how full proof this method is, however, I feel that certain things would need to be factored in; for example, my straightened hair vs my hair in its natural state would have varying measurements of density when using the ponytail method. Another way you could measure your hair density is simply by observing whether or not you can see your scalp when your hair is resting in its natural state without any partitions. If your scalp is visible without moving any hair it is likely that you have low hair density, if your scalp is visible with little or no effort you would have medium hair density and if your scalp is difficult to see then you have high hair density.
Hair density matters when it comes to choosing products and styles that suit you. Light products work better for low hair density because it doesn’t weigh the hair down. Blunt cuts rather than layered haircuts; separated curls like Bantu-knot-outs and bunched up hair in puffs helps create the illusion of a fuller head of hair. Spritzing some water on separated curls will also help the hair appear to be fuller.
Using the ponytail method on straightened hair, I would have to estimate that I have low hair density. My hair in contrast to fuller thicker natural hair is relatively a light weight. In my experience of styling and products, lighter oils do give me a better result, allowing movement in my hair and when styling my hair in twists, I opt to work with bigger sections on wet hair to create the illusion of thicker hair. I have noticed that my sections have gotten bigger in the past 2 years as I have adjusted to being a new mum. This has highlighted the impact hormones can have on hair density, whether due to stress, menopause or during and after pregnancy, hair density can change throughout these stages.
Hair circumference is the width of your hair strands. This can be tested by holding a strand of hair up between your fingers; if the strand of hair is hard to see and snaps easily, it is likely that your hair is fine, I like to think that baby hair is a good example of fine hair. Coarse hair, on the other hand, is hair that is easily visible and a bit harder to break, whereas medium hair lies somewhere in the middle of fine hair and coarse hair. When it comes to hair width, I generally fall in the medium category, however, my hair varies all across my head with finer hair closer to my edges and coarse hair towards the back of my hair. Having medium hair width makes sense and explains my ‘lazy-natural’ ways. I am aware that low manipulation has helped me with preventing breakage as well as going heat-free. Whereas straightening hair might work for others on a regular basis, it’s something I tend to shy away from but now I understand that this coincides with my fine hair.
L.O.C- Liquid or Leave in. Oil. Cream: This method tends to work for most naturals when it comes to retaining moisture. I tend to use water or a water-based leave-in and light creams due to my low hair density. Using creams and oils excessively tends to leave my hair feeling weighed down.
L.O.C.O- Liquid or Leave in. Oil. Cream. Oil: This method can works for those with medium to high-density hair. Like the LOCS method it helps to seal in moisture and weigh hair down for styling but might leave hair with low density looking limp.
L.C.O- Liquid or Leave in. Cream. Oil: This method similar to the LOC method helps to seal in moisture further by sealing in the cream with the oil and could work for low porosity to high porosity hair.
L.O.C.S- Liquid or Leave in, Oil, Cream, Sealant: This method works great for those with high porosity to help seal in moisture with the use of a heavier sealant like shea butter to help seal in moisture and weigh down hair with high density.
In conclusion, I suppose my hair could be described to have Low porosity, low density and Medium width – LP+LD+MW. My hair formula, therefore, would consist of methods and products that help to lift the hair cuticle to incorporate moisture into my hair with the use of products with more alkaline ingredients and steamers. Using light oils and creams helps allow movement to my low density, fine hair. Low manipulation and heat free regimens also help with my length retention due to my fine hair. This information has helped me come up with my own tailored hair formula/ regimen that helps when it comes to styling and maintaining the health of my hair.
LP+LD+MW = utilising steamers, LOC method, low manipulation hairstyles
I hope this post has been helpful. What would your hair formula be? Being mindful that what works for one person might not work for the next. I’d love to hear what regimens have worked for different naturals out there.
With Luv xx
- Beginner’s guide to hair porosity & width – Naturally Chelsea , NaturallyCurly
- Found in transitioning, Chime Edwards on hair porosity – Chime Edwards, Essence
- Curly Hair and pH what you need to know – Tasha Swearingen, NaturallyCury