Hair. We all have it. Well, most of us do (sorry, Michael). Here’s the thing: It’s all super different. The blonde over there with perfectly straight hair? Maybe her alarm went off while you were still in dreamland, so she had an extra hour before work to get it just right. The brunette with the big bouncy curls? There’s a chance she slept in rollers last night—if she slept at all. The woman with the pink textured bob and the perfect bed head? Well, she just woke up like that (but she does do a deep conditioning treatment twice a week and has to touch up her color at least once a month). My point is, even though we all have hair, everyone’s is different (thank goodness!). We don’t have any control over the mop we were given, but we do have the power to style it however we want and to take care of it as best we can. Be good to your hair, and it will be good to you.
BEAUTY SCHOOL: WHAT IS HAIR, ANYWAY?
A little basic anatomy of what’s happening on your bod right now: Hair is growing from your follicles. What’s a follicle? You have millions of these tiny little things all over that basically produce hair. The part of each strand that is above the skin’s surface is the shaft, below the surface is the root, and at the base of that root is the bulb. Attached to the bulb, you’ve got a dermal papilla (that’s where the hair bulb picks up nutrients and good stuff to generate new cells), a sebaceous gland (basically an oil factory), and the arrector pili (a teeny muscle that contracts when you are freezing or freaked out ala goosebumps). New cells come from the papilla. As they die (RIP), they move up and out of the follicle, and as they do they smush together to form keratin, the protein that makes up most of the hair shaft (oh, and your fingernails are mostly keratin too!). Pretty interesting, right?
Each strand of hair is a universe of its own. The protective outside layer is called the cuticle and it’s made up of layers of overlapping scales. Getting the cuticle to lie flat is the secret to smooth, silky hair. Underneath the cuticle is the cortex, which is mostly long chains of amino acids (think protein fibers twisted up like a rope) that gives the hair strand its color and shape. It’s also where the side bonds live. Side bonds can be broken by moisture and heat, so when you sleep in braids, use a flat iron, or get a perm, that’s where the bonds break and reshape and all the action goes down, but it’s a good thing—helps us change things up. The stronger and healthier these bonds, the stronger and healthier your hair is. Oh, and in the very center is the medulla. But don’t worry about it. It’s kinda just there. (No, really. Ask a scientist!)
IDENTIFYING YOUR HAIR TYPE
Even more important than the science behind your hair is really understanding your particular hair type. Why? Because it totally dictates how you should care for and work with your hair. Everyone wants shiny, healthy-looking locks, but how each person gets there is going to be a road of their own. The same moisturizing shampoo that “transformed” your friend’s curls may very well leave your hair looking like an oil slick. The texturizing spray that gave your straight hair beachy waves could turn your friend’s overprocessed hair into straw. From knowing when to wash and condition to knowing which sort of brush will make your hair dreams come true, it all comes down to hair type.
And it’s just as simple as straight, wavy, or curly. Hair texture rules which looks are really going to work for you and which products and tools you’ll need to get there (how long it will take really depends on your hair density, or the number of hairs on your head). Your texture is fine, medium, or coarse. A strand of fine hair feels very thin. Coarse hair is thicker, with a rougher cuticle. Medium falls somewhere in the middle and often varies depending on where it is on the scalp (as when someone’s hair is stick straight on top and hiding a mess of waves underneath).
BE COOL: Cold rinses are not a myth. A blast of chilly water closes the cuticles of your hair, which is, remember, the key to achieving shiny, happy hair!
HANDLE WITH CARE: When your hair is wet, it’s super fragile. The best way to avoid breakage is to detangle it using a wide-tooth comb. Start at the ends and work your way up.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPE?
TO FIGURE OUT YOUR HAIR TYPE ONCE AND FOR ALL, WASH YOUR HAIR AND LET IT AIR-DRY. TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOUR HAIR. ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH, CHOOSING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS WILL BE A BREEZE.
So what are the options here? After millions (yes, millions) of blowouts at Drybar, we have found the most common hair types are:
Straight and Fine
This is the baby-fine hair that comes to mind when you picture natural blondes from Scandinavia. People with this hair type often feel that their bangs get greasy by the end of the day, and they have a very tough time getting much wave or volume to hold.
Straight and Medium
Yep, this is just what it sounds like: straight hair that’s relatively easy to work with and is typically tame, even when it air-dries. This inspires a lot of hair envy in women with trickier hair, but the ladies who have it often complain that their style feels blah.
Straight and Coarse
Most often, this is thick, dense hair—and lots of it. Many of our Asian clients have gorgeous hair that’s long and super strong but way resistant to keeping a curl. (PS: I would kill for this hair type!)
Wavy and Medium
This hair type is a mixed bag: Some strands have tons of bend, others seem to have very little. It’s not unusual for someone to have totally straight hair on top and a wavy part underneath. It plays well with hot tools.
Wavy and Coarse
Maybe she was born with it, maybe it’s the result of a lot of styling or color processing. The cuticle is often pretty rough when it comes to this hair type, so it tends to need a little more TLC and some good products to calm down. It’s also very prone to frizz.
Curly and Medium
Think Taylor Swift: She can do a full head of curls one day and smooth, glamorous hair the next. This hair has a lot of natural body and bounce.
Curly and Coarse
Here’s where things can get tricky: The cuticles are going every which way and can often become interlocked, so be gentle! These strands are delicate and can easily be damaged by too much heat or by overprocessing—two good things to keep in mind, especially if you have Indian or Persian hair types.
What makes extremely curly hair so challenging is the fine texture, extreme curl, and potential density—and that’s also what makes it prone to breakage. African-American hair often falls into this category. Using high heat and ultra firm tension are a must, along with smaller sections and the right brush size/type. Hydrating cream and oil based products will also help to calm natural texture and make the blowout much easier and faster.