Speaking Stylist: The Basics

That moment when you are sitting in the stylist’s chair, trying to explain what you’d like. You’ve been looking at pictures for weeks and have them all available and ready to show on your IPad. You explain in great detail how you hate when your hair has too many layers, is shorter than your collarbone, or is styled too flat. You look up into the mirror, catching your stylist’s eyes and hoping she’s ready to handle you.

And then she leads into three sentences full of terms you’ve never heard before. She’s using hand gestures and playing with your hair, but you still have no idea what she’s trying to say. She finishes and smiles and you decide to trust her. Walking over to the shampoo bowl, wondering what haircut you’re going to end up with, you try to suppress the uneasiness you feel about what’s about to happen.

Haven’t we all had this appointment? Maybe it’s not even that extreme. Maybe you trust your stylist completely and she never does you wrong. But she still says terms you don’t know that you wish you could decode without having to ask her.

Let's decode. 

Cuticle :: The outermost layer of the hair. When hair is damaged and dry, the cuticle splits open and adds more damage. When the cuticle is healthy and full of moisture, it is sealed shut and hair looks shiny and smooth.

TIP: Heat opens up the cuticle and cold shuts it down, so using cool water when conditioning hair helps seal the cuticle and leave your hair looking flawless. I even use my “cool shot button” on my hairdryer after styling to keep the cuticle down all day.

Density :: The amount of hair on your head. Hair can be fine or coarse and still be thick or thin. People often confuse density with hair texture, but both come together to create your specific hair type. For example, you might hear your stylist say, “You have fine hairs, but you have a lot of them, making your hair really thick.”

TIP: The hair type that tangles the easiest is fine, thick hair. It’s helpful to use a styling cream to detangle after washing.

Texture :: The thinness or thickness of the individual hairs on your head. Typically, hair with a thin texture will be easier to style, but fall flat quickly. And coarse hair is more difficult to work with, but stays in place much easier. Texture also refers to the movement of the hair, meaning how much curl or “activation” it has to it. Think of Sarah Jessica Parker with her voluminous, curly hair. That’s an example of lots of texture. Now, this of Michelle Williams with her fine, straight crop. That’s an example of a thin, deactivated texture.

TIP: When styling your hair, know and work with your texture. If you have curl, spend the time to do a blowout after washing. Your hair will be smooth with a little curl and get progressively curlier over the next few days, allowing for some change in your style, but without all the heat damage of a flat iron.

Keratin :: The main protein component that makes up hair. As you age and begin to use color and heat tools, your hair loses keratin, making it dull and frizzy. Today, many deep conditioners are infused with protein to restructure damaged hair. There are also keratin treatments in salon for more severe cases.

TIP: It is possible to have too much keratin in your hair, making it brittle. Always consult your stylist before deciding to use a deep conditioner or book a treatment so they can ensure what your hair really needs.

Porosity :: Your hair’s ability to retain moisture. Hair that is damaged and dry has a high porosity, usually because of bleaching, harsh colors, or way too much heat tool styling without a protectant. It is usually frizzy and incredibly unhealthy looking.

TIP: A huge cause of high porosity is too much bleaching. You can tell hair has been over processed because oftentimes hair strands will feel mushy, like a noodle and even fall out during brushing. If health of hair is your main concern, make sure to tell your stylist. They can help steer you towards a flattering color that doesn’t involve bleaching and still leaves your hair looking nice.

Elasticity :: When tugging on your hair strand, the length at which it stretches is the elasticity. The more it stretches, the more damaged and prone to breakage the hair is. Just like porosity, when the hair is quite elastic, it has probably been over damaged or heat tools have been used too often. Hair that is too elastic often hangs very limp and lifeless, looking stringy at the ends.

TIP: If your hair has a high elasticity, take really good care of it. Now! Refrain from coloring treatments and try to stick to something more natural until your hair can be processed. Also, I recommend a weekly keratin deep conditioning treatment. And always, always use a heat protector when use styling tools.