A lot of people will take one look at a head of big, curly hair and think, “Wow, your hair is so thick,” or “Whoa, thass a lot of hair!” But curls are tricky that way. Big hair doesn’t always mean a lot of hair, and a lot of hair doesn’t actually mean thick hair.
Lost yet? That’s okay, cuz we’re here with the 411 to help you learn the difference between hair density and hair thickness...
What is Hair Density?
Simply put, hair density refers to the number of curly strands you have on your head. The more strands you have, the higher your density is; the fewer the number of strands, the lower your density.
Not sure if you have low-, medium- or high-density curls? No worries, there are a few simple and effective ways curly girls can figure it out.
This one’s not for the faint of heart. If you have a ton of time on your hands, this test might be for you. Of course, you won’t need to count every single strand of hair on your head. (Doesn’t matter how much free time you have, ain't nobody got time for that! ) All you need to do is take a one square-inch section of your curls and count all of the strands in that section.
The average person has about 2,200 strands per square inch.
Still, most curly girls don’t want to spend an entire Saturday afternoon counting their curls, and we don’t blame you. That’s why we’ve got some other options that will save you some time.
Give your hair a good wash, let it dry and let it loose. No part, and no products. Completely free.
Now it’s time to inspect yourself in the mirror and pay special attention to your roots. If you can easily see your scalp without parting or sectioning, then you probably have low-density hair. If there are only a few places where you can partially see your scalp, you’re probably in the middle of the spectrum, and if you can’t see it at all, then you have high-density hair.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no “perfect” curl density. Each type comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. So take a minute to categorize your curls, and then check out our tips for mastering any density.
The upside to low-density hair is that you have fewer strands to tame. The downside? If you use the wrong products, you could end up with a head full of limp, lifeless hair. Yikes! To avoid weighing down your curls, look for lightweight stylers in the form of lotions, not creams or heavy gels.
For more volume, try experimenting with styling techniques like root-clipping or fluffing out your curls.
With medium-density hair, you may find it easier to go up and down the spectrum of volume, depending on your preference. The trouble that most medium-density curlies experience is when their hair grows longer and the weight pulls down and stretches out their curls. This often results in the crown/roots appearing flat while the ends look curlier and more voluminous, a look some call Christmas-tree or triangle hair.
The cut and shape of your hair will play a major role in how your curls behave. The right haircut can take the weight off your curls creating bounce, volume and separation.
While other curlies have to experiment with different cuts and styling techniques to get volume, those with high density often complain about the struggle of trying to tame their mane. And who can blame them? That's a whole lot of hair to handle. For these girls, wash day can feel like a serious workout. 💪🏽
Working in sections will help make your hair more manageable. This doesn’t just apply to styling, but to your wash routine as well. After shampooing and applying conditioner, divide your hair into sections as you detangle. Once you’ve finished detangling a section, loosely braid it to keep it apart from the rest. Once your whole head is detangled and sectioned, rinse out the conditioner while your hair is braided.
This way your curls not only stay tangle-free, but your hair is also already sectioned and ready to go for styling. Styling section by section will help to ensure that your product is applied evenly, which helps with clumping and defining your curls.
What is Hair Thickness?
Hair thickness actually refers to the width of one single strand of hair. You can have either thick, medium, or fine curls – or a mixture of all three types!
The easiest way to assess your thickness is to take a single strand of hair between your fingers and pay close attention. Do you feel anything? If not, then you have fine hair. If you can feel your strand, then you have medium hair. Now, if the strand feels strong and wide, you have thick hair.
The Strand Test
Start with clean, dry curls, a piece of thread and a white background, like a piece of paper or countertop. Place a single strand of your hair next to the thread and compare their widths. If your hair is thinner than the thread, then you have fine hair. If they are the same size, you likely have medium hair. If it’s wider in diameter than the piece of thread, you’ve got thick strands.
Again, there’s no perfect level for hair thickness – it’s about learning which category you fit into so you can craft the perfect regimen for you.
Fine strands are delicate and vulnerable to damage. The key is to listen to your curls and be gentle when styling. With fine hair, less is always more when it comes to products. Not only should you opt for a lightweight product, but you should also be wary of being too heavy-handed with the amount you use to avoid weighing down your curls and making your hair appear flat.
Since this hair type is so prone to damage, avoid overusing heat or color as much as possible. You should also take care when detangling and styling: If you’re too rough, you risk snapping and ripping, which can really hinder your ability to retain length.
Medium thickness, as the name implies, is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between thick and fine hair.
While it’s certainly stronger than fine hair, over time, things like over-manipulation, styling, coloring and sometimes even climate can take a toll on the overall health and structure of your strands. Getting into a routine of deep conditioning will help to maintain the strength of your hair and protect it from day-to-day damage.
Thick strands can come in any color and any curl pattern. It’s possible for someone with bone-straight hair to have a super thick texture and someone with tight coils to have very fine texture.
There's a misconception that thick hair is difficult to manage, but thick curls rock! Why? Because they are strong and resilient. We aren’t saying that they’re indestructible, but they are way more resistant to damage than other hair types, which is great if you like to experiment with different colors and styles.
What does it all mean?
Learning more about your curls can help you build the perfect regimen to give you healthy curls that shine with all their might. Sometimes it can feel like there are so many curly combinations, it’s enough to make your head spin.
However, it’s important to remember to not get too caught up in the details. At the end of the day, whether your curls are thick, thin, fine or some crazy combination is not nearly as important as learning to love every single strand.