Breaking Down Hair Type


If you're a new Natural or the parent or caretaker of someone whose hair is different from yours, you'll quickly notice that the natural hair market is not a one-product-suits-all situation. What works for one person's curls won't necessarily work for another's . 

Before anything, it's important to know that many people have two or more hair types - so this isn't an exact science. But roughly knowing the hair type(s) that you, your charge or child have can seriously help to narrow down what products and regimens to use. And it can help you to navigate the mix of terms that vendors and bloggers on Coco & Curl use to describe their products and experiences. 

So, what determines your hair type?

Texture & Pattern 

We've seen these terms used pretty interchangeably, and in reference to two different typing systems that actually overlap well. 


Hair porosity refers to how fast your strands absorb and lose moisture - and it's categorized as high, normal/balanced and low. 

High porosity hair is quick to absorb moisture, and quick to lose it. Low porosity hair often feels dry because it takes a long time for strands to drink in moisture. And balanced porosity hair falls somewhere in the middle - gaining and losing moisture within decent amounts of time. 

Good to know: When a hair strand drinks in water, its inner layers expand. But the outermost layer (the cuticle) cannot expand - so the cuticle's scales become raised, the hair becomes more porous and prone to breakage. That can weaken higher porosity hair, which is usually hydrophilic (attracts water) and might resultantly absorb too much water too quickly. In contrast, balanced to lower porosity hair is somewhat hydrophobic (repels water). 


Not sure where you fall? Use the water test: place a clean strand of your hair in a clear glass of water and wait 2 minutes to see if it floats on the water's surface (low porosity), lingers in the middle of the water (normal porosity), or sinks to the bottom ( high porosity). 

Strand Size

This aspect of typing is pretty simple. It refers to the diameter of your individual strands of hair, and is generally categorized into thick and thin


Hair density refers to the number of hair strands you have per square inch/cm of your scalp. 

Some categorize density into low and high - but some people describe their density by saying their hair is thick or thin, just like strand size. 

So make sure that when you turn to bloggers, product instructions and other resources, you know which one they're talking about. 


Hope this helps you in your Natural journey! :) 

1 comment


wow I never knew about the water test! thank you!!

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