If you’re a regular salon client, chances are you’ll have heard your stylist and their colleagues talk about things like porosity, elasticity and density. What does all that actually mean? It all comes down to your overall hair health.
Conventional styling products and tools can help you “fake it” rather than “make it”, creating the illusion of healthy shiny hair, when in actual fact they’re just covering up the issues and creating more problems. When you come into the Gentle Approach salon, all that gets stripped away, and we look at the real nitty-gritty of what’s going on behind the smoke and mirrors.
Testing for Hair Health
To determine the true condition of your hair, a stylist will always look at how strong your hair is (elasticity) and how hydrated or dry it is (porosity). They might also consider the amount (density) of hair on your head. These factors are the building blocks that everything else leans on. Hair that’s in good condition will style well, colour well, and wear well, regardless of your hair type (coarse or fine, curly or straight etc).
Here are some simple hair health tests you can do at home to figure out your hair’s condition. Get your lab coats on!
Hair density refers to the number of strands on your head. It’s a measure of overall thickness, not the width of a single strand. Your hair’s density can be measured by counting the number of hairs found in one square-inch of your scalp. But who has time for that? The “ponytail test” is much simpler!
Testing for density:
- Smooth out your hair as much as possible, using a comb or your fingers.
- Tie your hair in a ponytail.
- Measure the circumference of the ponytail.
- Low-density hair will be less than two inches.
- Medium density hair will be two to three inches.
- Thick hair will be four or more inches.
Knowing your hair density can be helpful when you’re choosing the right products for your needs. Lighter products will be better for low-density hair, to avoid weighing it down. Higher densities might require thicker or “heavier” products.
Thicker hair tends to be more flexible when styling, and the volume creates a more youthful appearance. Thinning hair can be harder to style and may look limp and lifeless without proper care.
Thinning, or loss of density, can be caused by a number of factors: illness, stress, diet, surgery, pregnancy, or overuse of harsh chemical-laden products. Switching to a gentler hair care regime can go a long way to improving the volume of your hair, or reducing hair fall. Dietary supplements can boost your hair health too, by feeding it with extra nutrients from within.
Elasticity is the measure of how much your hair is able to stretch and return to a normal state. Healthy hair acts a bit like an elastic band, which can be stretched without breaking. The better the elasticity, the stronger the hair.
Testing for elasticity:
- Pull a strand of hair out of your head. (Ouch!)
- Pull on the strand at each end, like you would on a piece of fishing gut.
- Observe the bounce or “give” of the strand. How much tension can you apply before it breaks?
- Can you apply quite a bit of pressure before it snaps? Or does it break almost immediately?
If the strand has a lot of give before breaking, the elasticity of your hair is good. If it breaks as soon as you pull on it, the elasticity of your hair is compromised. This typically happens if you’ve exposed your hair to a lot of colour or heat-styling treatments over the years.
Porosity is a measure of how much moisture your hair is able to absorb and hold (i.e. how porous the hair is). Hair that takes a long time to dry has a high porosity, while hair that dries very quickly after washing has a low porosity.
Testing for porosity:
- Pull a strand of hair out of your head. (Yes, another one! Gotta suffer for the sake of science my loves!)
- Drop the strand into a glass of clean water.
- If it sinks to the bottom of the glass, you have high-porosity hair.
- If it sinks to the middle of the water, you have mid-porosity hair.
- If it floats on top of the water, you have low-porosity hair.
High-porosity hair has an open cuticle, meaning it can easily absorb moisture. That’s good news if you want to get maximum benefit from masks and oil treatments. Be careful though, because high porosity might also be a sign that your hair is broken or torn. Use a nourishing natural conditioner regularly, to help close the cuticle and improve your hair health.
Low-porosity hair has a compact keratin imprint that can’t be penetrated by water. This lack of absorption could leave your hair quite dry, so it helps to use products that contain (gentle!) alkaline ingredients. Alkaline products can promote better absorption in hair with lower porosity.
Treat Your Hair Right
It’s important to get to know your hair and be aware of its condition, so you can make the most suitable choices in how you take care of it. Whether your hair is dense or thin, elastic or brittle, absorbent or porous… the best advice we can give is to treat it with love and steer clear of harsh chemical products. And if you’re struggling with thinning, brittle and overly dry hair, it might be time to consider checking into Hair Rehab to restore overall hair health.