by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals

First things First – Hair Width

Regardless of if your hair is straight, wavy, curly or kinky we all have 3 basic widths: fine, medium and thick which can also be called coarse. Width is not how the hair feels but describes the thickness of each individual strand of hair. The comparison is typically to a piece of thread. If your hair is fine, it’s thinner than the thread, medium hair is usually the same width and thick or coarse strands are thicker than the piece of thread.

Characteristics of Each Hair Width

Fine Hair

Fine hair is the most fragile texture and can be easily damaged. Contrary to popular belief, people with finer hair tend to have more hair than people with thicker hair strands. Fine hair can tend to be oilier than other hair types. For those of you with fine hair you may find difficulty holding a style; your hair is light and can fall flat against your head. Volume is often desired but not often attained. Structurally fine hair has two hair layers – a cortex and a cuticle.

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Fine natural hair:
•Doesn’t hold styles well
•Can become weighed down with heavy products, causing the hair to look stringy
•Can look thin
•Can break easily because it’s fragile

Medium Hair

Medium hair is the most common hair type and often covers the scalp very well. This hair texture is not as fragile as fine hair and can be manipulated into styles easily. Structurally, medium textures usually have two layers – the cortex and cuticle – and may contain the medulla.

Medium natural hair:
• Holds styles fairly well
• Usually looks thick and covers the scalp well
• Is not as prone to breakage as fine hair

Thick or Coarse Hair

This hair texture is strong because structurally it contains all three hair layers – the cortex, cuticle and medulla. The medulla, the innermost layer of the hair shaft is pretty much a series of empty spaces.  It’s an area filled mostly with air and protein. This hair texture usually takes longer to dry than others, and can be resistant to various chemical treatments. It can tolerate heat well and resist breakage better than the fine or medium hair.

Thick natural hair:
• Appears full
• Holds styles well
• Can tolerate higher amounts of heat
• Can be resistant to hair colouring and chemical relaxers

Curl Pattern (or Hair Type)

In general there are 4 basic hair types: straight, wavy, curly, kinky curly. This classification is based on the shape of the hair fiber.

Wavy
Wavy hair has  s-shaped curls down its length or much of the hair can appear straight with slight bends towards the ends of the hair. Wavy hair can frizz fairly easily and requires care to achieve perfect waves.

Curly
Curly hair tends to do so down the entire length of the hair shaft. Strand thickness can range from fine to coarse but is most often fine. The greatest challenges for curly hair types are frizz, lack of curl definition, shrinkage and dryness, to a lesser extent.

Kinky-Curly
This hair type has the tightest curls ranging from fine to coarse with s-shaped and z-shaped curls with everything in between! It is the most fragile of the types. If curl definition is a challenge for curly hair types it’s almost an impossibility for kinky-curly hair. Additionally, shrinkage and dryness are two issues to constantly fight against.

Next: Want to read about hair porosity? Check out Hair Porosity: Does it Matter?

What is your curl pattern and width? What's the hardest thing to understand about them?

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