What is hair density?

If you have been told "Your hair is so thick!", your complimenter may actually have been alluding to hair density, not thickness. "Thick" hair technically refers to the width of a single strand of hair, whereas hair density refers to the number of strands on your head, and how closely those strands are packed together on your head. 

So if you want to know, quantifiably, the density of your hair, we've outlined three ways of determining that.

1. Count them

One way is by actually counting the number of hairs on your head. The best way to do this is to count the number of hairs in one square inch of your scalp (or a half square inch), and then extrapolate from there.

On average, each person has approximately 2,200 strands of hair per square inch on their scalp, so counting can be a tedious task. But it is one option.

2. Can you see your scalp?

Alternatively, you can judge your hair density by taking a look at it in its natural state. Start with dry hair, not wet, and do not part it—let it hang loose. Take a look in the mirror, can you see your scalp without moving any hair? If you can, you most likely have low hair density. If you can see your scalp with a little effort then you most likely have medium density. If it’s difficult or impossible to see your scalp, you have high hair density.

3. Measure your ponytail

Another way to measure approximate density is to put your hair in a ponytail and measure the circumference of the ponytail or puff. Low density hair will be less than two inches, Medium density will measure between two to three inches, and high density will be at least four inches. The width of your individual strands will also factor into the size of your ponytail.

Why does density matter?

Knowing your hair density will help you make smarter choices, not only in the styles you wear, but also with the products you use when putting together a healthy hair regimen. Using light products in low density hair is helpful so as not to weigh hair down and make it look greasy or lifeless. Medium density hair does well with light leave-ins and spray-in leave-in conditioners. Thicker gels and creams are usually ideal for high density curly hair. 

Knowing your hair density also helps to identify what type of hairstyles and haircuts are best suited for you. If you already know your hair density, it’s easier to pick out styles that will suit you well. Understanding your density is critical to preventing disappointment when you bring photos into your hair stylist and the resulting cut doesn’t match your expectations - we’ve all been there! Getting to know your hair density will help you identify curl crushes who have similar density and hair width, and find haircuts that are going to work on your unique hair texture. For example, thicker hair tends to style easier with longer layers and thinner hair with blunt cuts. 

Talk to your stylist about your density and how that is going to affect your haircut and hair styling next time you head into the salon!

This article was originally posted in 2016 and has been updated for clarity.