The ABC List

febrero 1, 2010

Achieve

Better

Curls

(get out your pen and paper, it’s time to go back to school!)

I know when I first started researching information on the best products and methods for curly hair I was almost instantly overwhelmed. Especially over at  naturallycurly.com…my my my. I spent two days reading one thread. Needless to say, it was ridiculous. So to save you some time and brain cells, I’ve condensed all the information I’ve found in the simplest words possible. Note, this information is what I found most useful to me and my hair. No two curls are the same..kind of like snow flakes. So don’t take this information as the final word. It’s not. But for me it’s been a good starting point for getting my head together.

First things first…Know your hair type

Understanding basic curl structure and how curls work is essential to finding the right products (more specifically ingredients) that will benefit and improve the curls instead of merely coating them with rich creams, butters and gels (aka wasting your money). If you’ve ever wondered why someone’s HG product (HG=holy grail) didn’t do boo, squat nor mess for your curls, it may have been because their curl structure was completely different than yours OR their hair health was in a better state. Hair type and hair health often go hand in hand. A person with thick, coarse, healthy hair might have a better time absorbing certain products than someone with fine, overly porous hair that’s been damaged.  Some people just assume that because their hair is hard to manage, prone to poof and “kinky”, their hair is also coarse. URR. Wrong. I have overall thick looking hair but the back of my head is actually quite fine and I can tell just how it reacts to certain products and by just spritzing some water on it. So no, you don’t have to have straight or wavy hair to have fine hair as well.

This site is great for telling the difference and helping you define your own texture. Here’s the run down:

Fine hair= small diameter, holds style poorly, dry looking but usually over moisturized, easily over-processed by chemicals, wants protein, hates humecants (=good moisturizers, we’ll talk more about these terms later)

how to measure? grasp a single hair strand–tightly–between your thumb and your index finger, run down from scalp to end. if it feels barely there, soft, or like silk it’s fine.

Medium hair= medium diameter, “normal” textured hair, can support a variety of ingredients as long as it is healthy, takes well to chemical processing

how to measure? see above technique, if you feel something more substantial, almost like cotton thread, and it’s smooth, it’s medium.

Coarse hair= largest diameter, thick, strong, doesn’t hold style well, becomes brittle easily (very fragile), hard to chemically process, wants humecants, hates protein

how to measure? see above technique. if it’s rough, hard to the touch or wiry, it’s coarse

NOTE: if your hair has been damaged, it will feel rough no matter what. you should be ableto guess the health of your hair based on how often you apply chemicals (dyes, bleaches, lighteners, relaxers, perms) or heat to it. try a protein reconstruction treatment to regain hair strength. when it starts feeling less brittle and rough, revisit this texture test to get the right result

I have both fine and coarse textures in my hair. You may find you have a combination too. Since the majority of my hair is coarse, I tend to stay away from products that have too much protein and I’m working on building my moisture intake. If you find your hair is becoming too brittle, increase moisture. If it’s getting too limp, add in a little more protein. This is why paying attention to ingredients is key (my next post will outline which ones you should be looking for)

Another verrrry important aspect of hair typing is a delightful little world called porosity. In all honesty…I hate this word. Because I don’t quite understand it. Still. Seriously, porosity confuses the hell out of me. There are several suggested methods for gaging whether or not your hair has a high, low, or medium porous level. I’ll do a quick run through before telling you my guesstimation for my own hair.

Porosity=how well your hair absorbs moisture (remember: “moisture is what shapes and defines your curls”!)

how to measure? Take this test or this one. Good luck finding the right results!

High porosity=”overly porous”, has an open cuticle that allows moisture to absorb and escape easily, chemically processes quickly and can be damaged without proper care, lacks product retention in the hair shaft, often dry, brittle and fraigle e.g. when dying hair, processes fast but fades quickly

how to fix? Over porous hair is often the result of heat, color and bleach damage!! treat with protein followed by products that resore moisture. but be careful if you have coarse hair…coarse heads already have a lot of protein in them, which means you have to be careful not to over do it with a protein application

Normal porosity= cuticle is compact, moisture can enter or leave the hair shaft but does not readily escape, supports normal chemical hair processing, readily absorbs and retains product formulated for normal hair e.g. when dying hair, takes “normal” time to process and color remains for average life of product

Low porostiy=the cuticule is too compact, moisture cannot enter or leave the air shaft, difficult to process and resistant to chemicals, repels product instead of absorbing it e.g. when dying, does not take color very well but the color last longer. products tend to “sit” on the hair not fully penetrating the hair, hair is weighed down easily

how to fix? This can be a perfectly healthy hair strand. Use more moisture than average, encourage absorption by scrunching produts into the hair, try opening up the shaft with an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse. Balancing products is key! Once moisture gets in, it will have no problem staying!

Given the fact that my hair is constantly thirsty and it’s been colored twice barely in the recommended time span, I think it’s pretty safe to say my hair is pretty high on the porous level. I haven’t done the floating hair experiment, but the other one yielded results like that of a highly porous person. My finger felt like it was catching something. But I was a little confused as to whether or not other factors about my hair would contribute to that. Needless to say this is a work in progress. I’ll probably discover more about porosity as I try different products and as my hair grows stronger.

Lastly, there is great debate on whether or not curly heads should adhere to a universal curl classification system. If you’ve ever been on a web site about natural hair or curly hair you’ve seen phrases thrown around like “I’m 3C” or “what should you use on 4A hair?” At first I was like…whuut? Then I read up on it and was like “okaaay…”. Basically this guy named Andre Walker created a hair classifcation system that he thought would be useful for curlies trying to get the best products for their hair type. I do see the positive of this system but I also see the negative. Like I said before, no two curls are alike. Even within the 3C hair camps there is a lot of diversity. Also, a lot of people have 2 and 3 hair combinations (like me!) and don’t quite fit in any camp. And you know..with camps people tend to get a little territorial and want to say “hey you’re not a 3A or a 3B so C your way out” (hah! I know I’m cheesy…you love it!). To make a rambling message short, I feel comfortable saying I have 3B/C-4A hair and I pay close attention to whose advice I’m following when someone does a product review that generally fits my main hair type. There also exists an extended curl classification system that is more basic and I think allows for more diversity, but because it’s not generally used at naturallycurly.com (where I get the majority of my scoop), I don’t see the point in it.

If you’re interested here‘s Andre’s system and this is the Fia system.

Next…Curl Maintenance

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