When I decided to really take care of my hair, I did the exact same thing you're certainly doing right now: reading blogs, websites and going on YouTube to check tutorials. But the thing is, I felt quickly overwhelmed by the amount of informations coming left and right.
At first, I thought finding the right product(s) would be the key to success. I love trying different stuff (I'm one step away from being an official product junkie y'all!), and I was amazed - and delighted - to see so many brands for natural hair blossoming when I big chopped in 2012. However, I soon realized that finding the right product(s) was not enough. Knowing how and when to use it on my hair to get the most from it was even more important. But one turning point for me was when I dug a little deeper and began looking for more informations about hair texture, density and porosity.
You see, not all natural hair is created equal. I had this belief that since my hair was kinky I would have a big ass afro and my twists would be as juicy and bouncy as the next vlogger. But my first styling attempts showed me how dead wrong I was. To my dismay, I have fine hair and not enough of them, meaning a low hair density (i.e. not a lot of volume). This left me pretty frustrated and disappointed for a minute, but it prompted me to learn more about hair characteristics to know how to deal with my set of strands.
So, let's get into it...
HAIR TYPE VS. HAIR TEXTURE
Those two often get mixed up. We like to call our hair "textured" and if you ask a naturalista what her hair texture is, she'll probably give you a combination of numbers and letters - like 4c, 3a or 2b. But to be clear: the hair type is actually based on the shape of the hair, while the texture describes the thickness of each strand of hair.
You have 4 basic hair types: straight, wavy, curly and kinky/coily. There are different hair typing systems, but the most popular was inspired by Andre Walker. Everybody and their mama have already written and talked extensively about it, and the team of Naturally Curly have done an amazing job putting it into charts. So get over there if you want to know more.
Now, no matter the type of hair you have, there are 3 basic hair textures: fine, medium/average and thick/coarse. You can determine your hair texture by comparing it to a piece of thread. If it's thinner than the thread, you have fine hair. If it's the same width, your hair is considered average, and coarse strands are usually thicker than a piece of thread.
Always remember to be extra gentle if your hair is fine. It's the most fragile texture and it can easily be damaged by rough styling, frequent manipulation and heat.
Hair density refers to the numbers of strands you have on your head. It is either low, medium or high. Basically, if you can see your scalp when your hair is loose and dry, you have low to medium density. If you can't see your scalp at all, you certainly have high hair density. Knowing your hair density can help you make better choices when it comes to your products as well as your styling options. If you have low density, you may want to try light and volumizing products that won't weigh your hair down. If you have high density, try heavier products to help hold the curls together.
TO SUM IT UP
In my opinion, knowing more about your hair characteristics is the key to understanding what works and what doesn't, handling your hair properly and accepting it for what it is. For example, since I've assessed that I'm a fine hair - low density kinda girl, I know that: a) I need to be very careful with my edges, b) I can't rock twists or mini-twists (because Scalpytown), c) light oils and butters work better for me, d) frizz and volumizing styles are my best friends.
So, what is your hair type, texture and density? And how do you handle your hair according to these characteristics?