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What Is Hair Density and How Can You Measure It?

Yes, there’s a difference between thick and dense hair. Here’s why.
25 Aug 2022
When it comes to learning more about our natural curly hair, we often prioritize protective styling, length, texture, curl type, and even hair porosity, but don’t think much about hair density. However, determining your hair density is key to finding the best products for your hair and to understanding how to properly care for it.

And before clicking away because you assume thick hair means high hair density, think again. Hair density and hair thickness are related, but they are not synonymous. Keep reading to learn more about hair density, including what is the meaning of hair density, why it matters, how to measure your hair density at home, and curly hair product recommendations for each type of hair density.

So, what is hair density?

It is not thick vs. thin hair. To keep it simple, hair density refers to the amount of individual hairs per square inch on your head (or scalp). Hair thickness has to do with the width of the actual strand, but density is speaking of a collective group of strands. In fact, density refers to how many strands you have on your head as a whole.

It’s important to know how dense your hair is, its porosity, and your curl pattern in order to determine what products will work best with your hair. Hair density impacts the volume and shape of your hair as well. It varies from person to person and can be quite different on natural, textured hair versus straight hair.

So yes, if you have thick hair, you may in fact have highly dense hair, but someone with thin hair can have a ton of individual strands and have high hair density, too. But the bottom line is no hair density is better than another. It’s just important to determine what your own hair density is for your healthiest, best-looking locks yet (more below).

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What are the types of hair density?

There are three main types of hair density: low, medium, and high. Quite simply, low-density hair has fewer strands per square inch, high-density hair has a lot of strands per square inch, and medium-density hair is somewhere in between.

If you’re curious to see a visual, there are many hair density charts and hair thickness charts online that show imagery of what density looks like per hair type.

Why does hair density matter?

The reason that understanding your hair density is so important is because it can make the world of difference in what hair products you choose and which products you avoid. For example, highly dense hair can handle heavier creams, lotions and butters. But low density hair should steer clear of heavy ingredients since they can weigh the hair down and create a greasy look. Instead, reach for lightweight formulas like Monoi Ora Lightweight Shampoo and Conditioner. This cleansing and conditioning combo is made with coconut water for lightweight hydration that won’t add weight to your strands.

On the other hand, high-density hair can handle the weight of thicker formulas. Rich styling products and leave-in conditioners for curly hair like the Goddess Strength Divine Strength Leave In Cream with Castor Oil are ideal for both thick and highly dense strands. You may also find that strong-hold gels are needed to keep your curls and coils intact.

How do I measure my hair density?

It’s all about the width of hair in inches — and not the average width of a hair strand. If you want to determine your hair density at home, there are two easy tests. The first is to secure your hair into a ponytail and measure the circumference. Low density hair will measure under 2 inches, medium density hair is two to three inches and high density hair is four inches or more.

The other way to measure your hair density is to examine the scalp. If you pull your hair to the side and the scalp is very visible, chances are you have low density hair. If the scalp can barely be seen, you have high density. It’s also important to note that different areas of the scalp can vary in density. This is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Can I change my hair density?

While you can’t change the hair you were born with, it is possible to make the hair appear more dense. That’s where volumizing and thickening products come in handy. The Cactus Rose Water Volume Boosting Set includes a shampoo, conditioner and spray that will help to boost volume of flat or limp strands to make the hair appear thicker, fuller and, well, denser. The combination of these products gives a natural-looking lift that makes the hair appear more bountiful, and they’re hydrating, too.

To be clear, there isn’t an ideal density type; it is more so an indication of how your hair will behave in response to certain products. Density in general is purely genetics, but there are a couple of ways to increase how dense your hair is. You can try scalp and hair treatments, scalp massages to encourage follicle growth, and a well-balanced diet filled with green vegetables and vitamins.

How To Care For Your Hair Based On Its Density

Similar to curly hair textures and types, it’s important to note that hair density can differ throughout the scalp. One spot could have a higher hair density than another. If you’ve found this to be true after measuring your density, keep in mind that it’s totally normal. Just base your natural hair care products based on the majority of what you’re seeing—whether low, medium, or high.

How To Care For Low-Density Hair

For low-density hair, you will want to avoid heavy products that weigh your hair down. Heavy hair oils, creams, butters, and thick conditioners should be on your no-go list. Stay away from layering products as well, as this will decrease the appearance of your hair’s density. Instead, opt for lightweight, volumizing products, like Cactus Rose Water Lightweight Conditioner, that will create body and movement in your hair while boosting volume.

Additionally, you can also expand the look of your strands by picking or fluffing them out to enlarge their appearance.

How To Care For Medium-Density Hair

If you have medium-density hair, you can choose whether you’d like to add volume or decrease it. When adding, we recommend mousses, whereas to decrease, we suggest hair butters and hair masks. Try using the Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner, an ultra lightweight conditioner to soften and fortify curls. Repairing hair masks like Monoi Repairing Travel-Size Hair Mask will replenish moisture and maintain natural curl and coil definition.

How to care for high-density hair

Those with high-density hair looking to reduce the volume of their hair should focus on products with heavier holds—think gels, creams, and styling butters. These products are especially good for curly hair as they will help minimize puffiness and frizz. Personally, we love Hair Milk Curl Defining Butter, as the mask does wonders for restoring moisture, fighting frizz, and defining curls.

For those wanting to embrace the volume, we suggest Monoi Ora Flexible Volume Spray, as it creates lasting volume and body to curls. Given that hair breaks the most when wet, invest in a good anti-breakage spray to protect strands from breaking—keeping more strands on your head per square inch.

It’s good to keep in mind that curls are more densely packed in higher density scalps, making detangling sometimes a challenge. Investing in a good conditioner and styling agent, like Coco Creme Curl Shaping Cream Gel With Coconut Oil, can help manage your volume when carefully working through tangles. It’s formulated with coconut oil, coconut milk, mango butter, and Murumuru butter to hydrate curls.

The bottom line on hair density

If you’ve ever wondered “is my hair thick or thin” or “what is considered thick hair” you’re not alone. Understanding hair density can make the difference in the health and appearance of your hair. When you know your density you can pick the appropriate products for your hair type that will allow your natural hair, waves, curls, kinks or coils, to flourish at all times. If you want to measure your hair density at home, try the ponytail or scalp test. And remember, no hair density is better than another. All hair density is beautiful.

To learn even more about hair density, read up on all things hair porosity.

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