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How can you tell the difference between fine hair (small individual strands) and thin hair (small number of strands)? Is your hair naturally coarse or just damaged? Is it strong enough to take a big color change? Is it frizzy or just curly? We all have certain ideas about what our particular hair challenges are and what’s caused them. But often our perspective is usually distorted. False information can lead to all sorts of errors and frustrations, from buying the wrong products to asking for the wrong haircuts. So how do you know what your hair type really is? Click through to the notes for a series of conclusive, DIY tests. –– Laura Martin 

Test 1: Density

Pull your hair back into a ponytail and wrap a standard-sized elastic hair band around the ponytail as many times as possible.

Results: If you can only wrap the elastic around once your hair is very thick. If you can wrap it around 2-3 times you have medium density. If you can wrap it around 4 times or more your hair is thin.

Disclaimer: If you’r hair is heavily layered or texturized the result of this test may not be accurate. 

Test 2: Texture

To determine if your strands are coarse or fine, pull out a single strand of hair and lay it next to a piece of sewing thread.

Results: If your hair is about the same size as the thread it is medium texture. If it is wider than the thread it is coarse. If it is narrower than the thread it is fine.

Tip: Using a thread with a similar hue to your hair color will help you determine the size accurately. A magnifying mirror is also helpful. 

Test 3: Porosity

This test shows how easily your hair absorbs liquid, a property which reveals its resistance to damage. Take a freshly washed, towel-dried strand from your head and place it in a bowl of water, keeping it away from the edges.

Results: If the strand sinks right away it is porous and highly susceptible to damage. If the hair floats for 10 seconds and then sinks it has a average porosity. If it doesn’t sink, it is resistant and may require stronger products for perming or coloring.

Tip: If your hair is very porous, you should ask your colorist to perform a strand test before coloring services to prevent breakage.

Special thanks to Laura Martin for this post. Laura is a professional hair stylist, former senior educator at ARROJO cosmetology school, and a creative non-fiction MFA student at Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA. Follow her inspirations on twitter @LarMarStyle

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