Understanding density, thickness and porosity. When I was natural, I learned more hair terms and acronyms than I will ever have use for. Among them, were a few that stuck with me when I crossed over and headed back to the creamy crack hills. Please don’t let the natural hair Nazis come for me. I’m not in the mood.
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Any who, some of the more commonly used and most misunderstood terms are what I’m going to tackle today. A couple of these terms are used interchangeably, when in fact, they have to distinct and separate meanings. This is cause for confusion which can lead to us DIY’ers doing some things to our hair that are damaging.
To clear things up, I’m going to explain density, thickness and porosity.
These are 3 terms you want to familiarize yourself with if you want to truly conquer your short hair at home. Product choices, tools and hairstyles can all be impacted by your understanding of these terms. So, let’s do this.
To explain density, let’s take a quick dip into the land of geometry. Ok, so, a square – if someone took a square plug out of your head and took on the tedious task of counting each and every hair in that square, they would come up with a number that represents how dense your hair is.
The thing is, density is only truly measurable by comparison. Sure there are ‘norms’ but those norms vary widely depending on a lot of other factors that we don’t have the time to get into right now.
If another person had a square plug taken from their scalp and had the hairs in the square counted, comparing their number to yours would lead you to who has the most dense hair between the two of you.
So know that when you hear the word density, in terms of your hair, it refers to the number of hairs that cover your scalp. There are folks with so many hairs jam packed on their heads they can hardly get their hair into a ponytail. And there are those who have a sparse number of hairs spread across their scalp. Now, on to the next.
Thickness and thinness are part of the reason density is often used inaccurately. Hair that isn’t considered dense, can be described as thin. Likewise, hair that isn’t thick is also described as thin. See what I mean?
The accurate description of thickness, as it relates to hair, is the width of the individual hair strands on your head. Pluck a strand of hair from your head and put it under a microscope. Don’t have a microscope? Ok, then just listed.
If you took a strand of your hair and measured the width of the strand, how wide or narrow that strand is, would determine whether your hair was thick or thin. You would compare the width of your own strand against the ‘norm’ and that would allow you to determine what category you fall into. Thick, thin or average thickness.
To compare density and thickness: A person could have 1000 strands of very wide hair in a square plug of their hair. Another person could have 2000 strands of very narrow hairs in a square plug of their hair. The two plugs of hair may appear to be the same, but in actuality, the hairs have different characteristics.
This is why what works for one person’s hair, may not work for the next person.
Porosity is described as how porous a strand of hair is. Think of a sponge. There are sponges with holes so small and spread out that you can’t even tell there are any holes. Then there are sponges with gaping holes that make you wonder how any water is absorbed with it at all.
Same goes for the hair. Low porosity hair has a few small holes. This means that it’s difficult for things to get in, but also difficult for them to get out.
Moisturizing low porosity hair is aided by heat because the heat lifts the outer layers and allows the product to get past that outer layer that has only a few holes. At the same time, once the moisture is in, it stays in. Thus, low porosity hair requires fewer moisturizing sessions. It can also take more heat because the lack of holes means the heat won’t penetrate the outer layer easily, so it won’t make it to the inner layer where it can cause damage.
Highly porous hair has lots of holes. Lots of moisture can get in, but it doesn’t stay in and will evaporate very quickly. This means frequent and consistent moisturizing sessions. Porous hair is also susceptible to damage since the holes allow harmful things like heat, to penetrate to the fragile layers of the hair.
So that’s it. Density, thickness and porosity broken down. I hope this helps. For more information like this and for access to exclusive content like videos, discounts and FREEBIES, subscribe by leaving your email address below.
Until next time…I’ll holla.