What is hair width, how do you measure it, and why does it matter?
So you've determined your curl pattern, but we all know that your Type 4A coils may be nothing like the Type 4A coils of the next woman. Beyond curl pattern, there are four more unique properties that can help you understand the complexity of curls: porosity, density, width and length. Knowing these characteristics of your curls will help you find the right products and techniques to suit them.
One of the curl attributes that is often misunderstood and even left completely out of the curl conversation is hair width.
Hair width is the measure of the thickness or circumference of the individual hair strands and can also be referred to as texture which should not be confused with the way the hair feels.
Fine strands have a small circumference and width and when held up to light appear thin and barely there. These strands tend to be weak and easily damaged.
Medium strands have a circumference between that of fine and coarse strands.
Coarse strands have the largest circumference and width and the most strength. When held up to the light the strands are very visible and when pulled on do not snap easily. Also it is important not to confuse the word coarse with the way hair feels.
Hair width is so important when discussing your hair because it plays a major role in determining the strength of it, its susceptibility to damage and therefore your ability to retain length. The thickness of your strands is what helps to determine its strength and usually the thicker the strand the stronger it is. Thus, curlies with coarse hair may find that their hair is very strong and is not easily damaged, whereas fine haired curlies may find that their strands break and split easily.
If you are a fine haired curly you may need to be more careful when you handle your hair to ensure that you retain length. As a fine haired curly looking for longer hair you should be limiting the use of hair tools like brushes and combs, and using very little heat. Also curlies should note that most of us do fall into the fine haired category.
Curl width is also important to note when getting chemical services done. You may notice that some women are able to get away with doing things like colouring their hair back to back and still have hair whilst other women experiment with chemicals once and have catastrophic results. The reason being that fine hair processes much faster than coarse hair, and many hairdressers over-process fine hair inadvertently.
Also as mentioned before coarse hair tends to be stronger than fine hair and can tolerate a lot more damage, so the ladies rocking fire engine red and Barbie blonde probably have coarse hair.
MORE: Summer Hair Color Trends
If you don’t know what your curl width is it is very easy to find out.
The Thread Method
- To begin gather shed hair strands from your comb or brush to examine and use tape to stick the strands to a piece of white paper on either end ensuring that they are pulled taut.
- Take a strand of thread and pull it apart to separate it into two strands and also stick one of those strands to the paper on either end.
- Once done compare your hair strands to the strand of thread. If your hair is thinner than the strand of thread then your hair is fine. If it is around the same thickness then your hair is of medium width and if it is thicker than the strand then your hair is referred to as coarse.
However, it is important to note that with most things curly hair related your hair width is relative and not a set measurement.