The topic of Hair Porosity, Texture, and Density are subjects that are very important when it comes to properly caring and identifying curly hair types.
Though race and genetics play major factors in your hair’s texture and appearance, curly hair, especially mixed hair can be unpredictable in repeating curl pattern.
In this article we’ll go in a more descriptive view of texture, overview on porosity and density, and learn why the LOIS System is important for hair typing.
Texture is the thickness or diameter of the individual hair strand, which is classified as coarse, medium, or fine and can vary throughout a person’s head. Texture indicates the feel of the hair and the reaction hair has with water.
The texture doesn’t just stop at coarse, medium, or fine, but also has an associated feel and appearance.
- Thready hair has low to moderate natural sheen, but produces high shine when braided. Thready hair produces low frizz, wets easily, and dries quickly.
- Wiry hair has a natural sparkly sheen, low shine and low frizz. Wiry hair tends to bead up water and bounce off hair strands, it takes time before its fully wet.
- Cotteny hair has low natural sheen but produces high shine when braided. Cotteny hair is prone to high frizz and takes a while to feel wet.
- Spongey hair has low sheen high shine and a compact frizz. Spongey hair tends to absorb water before thoroughly looking wet.
- Silky hair has low sheen and very high shine and frizz potential varies. Silky hair easily wets in water.
Light reflection off the hair gives us the appearance shine on the hair. Shine is a strong and glossy reflection of light on the hair, while Sheen is duller and has a softer glimmer that is more scattered throughout the hair. Both Shine and Sheen are a result of healthy hair, and should be taken into consideration while identifying hair type.
Porosity determines the hair’s ability to absorb moisture and the ease of liquid penetration.
Hair with a compact cuticle layer is naturally resistant to moisture penetration indicating low porosity.
Hair with cuticles that are not tightly stacked or widely open simply has normal porosity.
Hair that absorbs moisture easily tends to be of high porosity. Cuticles in porous hair are open or gaped making penetration to the hairs cortex easier. Bumps or raised cuticles on the hair strand indicate uneven texture meaning the hair is more than likely damaged, dry, fragile, and brittle.
To test the porosity of the hair you examine a group of hair strands between your finger and thumb, while you slowly slide upwards on the strands from end to root. You may also test hair porosity using a glass of water and 2 strands of fallen product free hair. Placing the hair strands in the glass of water and letting it rest for 2 minutes. After the rest time one may gauge porosity based on hair position within the glass of water.
Density is the overall thickness and closeness of the hair strands. Hair density is measured by the number of individual hair strands on one square inch of the scalp.
This graphic of a piece of lace frontal for a wig can help you picture density on actual hair. Hair density can be classified as low, medium, and high (also thin, medium, or thick).
Just because a hair texture may be big in hair size doesn’t necessarily mean high density. Some people may have coarse hair but a low density or finer hair with high density. This is important when product shopping, ex: using a thicker product on fine dense hair will weigh down curls.
The L.O.I.S System
Most of us are generally familiar with the Typing system, using numbers and letters combined (ex: 3b, 4a, etc) to attribute a curl pattern. The best way to gain a complete picture of your hair comes from the understanding of the Typing system and the L.O.I.S System. The L.O.I.S system is unique in that it accounts for the bends, coils, and kinks of individual hair strands and focuses on strand density, texture, porosity, and shine.
Before we begin any typing system or hair assessment hair should be freshly washed and conditioned with no leave in product. The L.O.I.S system would be best done prior to styling hair on a wash day. Keep in mind that hair typing for chemically treated hair needs to account for changes in hair after addition of chemical treatment.
The L.O.I.S System in hair typing gives us letters that stand for the type of curl.
- L : If the hair has all bends, right angles, and folds with little to no curvature.
- O : If the hair is rolled up into the shape of several O’s like a spiral.
- I : If the hair lies mostly flat with not distinctive curls or bends.
- S : If the strand looks like a wavy line with hills or valleys.
The L hair type is the most fragile. The sharp angular bending of the hair type means that the bends are all possible breaking points on the strand. The bends for the L type hair may be spaced throughout and not regularly, making the curl appear to have little definition. The closer the L bends the more textured the hair will feel and the tighter the hair will shrink up as it dries. This type of hair requires a lot of moisturizing attention especially when the L pattern is tightly arranged.
The I hair type is void of any kinks and curves. The I tends to lay flatly against the scalp and is usually more breakage resistant. The I hair type tends to reflect more light than any other hair type. I hair can be combined with L hair and when this happens greater care should be taken to combat effects of heavy manipulation and moisture deficiency. This I L combo is usually seen at relaxer newgrowth hair boundary.
O and S Hair
Types O and S are very similar, but different in how their curves are arranged. The O hair resembles a circle or a ring and the curves loop back on themselves. The S hair resembles a corkscrew, as the loops the S hair makes are naturally stretched out. The tighter the curves the more an O or S type will endure shrinkage as they dry. O and S hair is easier to dry than L hair, but moisture retention is hard to maintain.
Hair typing takes some practice and patience. By analyzing the hair with the information above, one can make the best decision when it comes to buying product and application.
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