February 18th 2019
Why you've probably got your hair type wrong, according to this top stylist
May 6th 2020 / 0 comment
Photography by Tom Newton
Nothing in a bottle will improve your hair until you know your real hair type, says Luke Hersheson. But the problem is most of us don't. Here’s how to recognise yours and give it what it truly needs
It’s all too common for clients to come into Luke Hersheson’s salon and warn him that their hair is "so curly, so coarse, so unruly" when in reality, he says they have just a few kinks and curls. "Most of us are long overdue an objective look at our hair," says the legendary stylist who has worked with the likes of Keira Knightley, Emma Watson and Claudia Schiffer. "We are all massively guilty of misdiagnosing our hair," he adds, with the result that we could be wasting our money on products that don’t work – or worse, are completely wrong for our hair.
Luke’s mission is to make great hair simple, easy and fun no matter who you are, while whistleblowing on jargon, spin and false promises. His new book Great Hair Days and How To Have Them (Ebury Press, £20) is full of practical myth-busting advice from how to get glossy curls (don’t go near a can of mousse) to whether it’s worth splashing out on expensive shampoo and conditioner (yes – buy the best in your budget) and things a good hairdresser (and a good client) should do. In a world where shelves are groaning with product – of which he says there are far too many, we don’t need most of them – this is a simple, informative and expert guide to getting the best out of your hair and the money you spend on it. However much you think you know, this book will tell you something new – essential reading for anyone with hair.
One of the fundamental areas in which we could all do with a refresher is on our hair type (frizzy hair is not a hair type FYI, but curl type is key). “Nothing in a bottle will improve your hair until you really know exactly what you’re dealing with,” says Luke.
Here, in an extract from Great Hair Days, he tells you how.
Can be thick or fine
Quickly becomes greasy and limp
Frizzes at the drop of a hat
Can be reluctant to hold a curl or wave
Often sleek and shiny
Straight hair ranges from baby-fine wisps that are almost impossible to curl to a super-thick mane that might hide the odd wave underneath and frizzes up at the first sign of humidity.
Straight hair can become greasy and limp quickly, so it’s important that it is washed frequently; dry shampoo should become your staple product. The right cut is as much – if not more – important than the products you use. The more you chop into it the more life and guts you give it.
Can be thick or fine
Can include soft wave to definitive kinks
Is easier to manage when layered
Drier than straight hair
Most women mistake their wavy hair for curls and frizz. You’re just as likely to have waves whether your hair is baby fine or thick. A great cut is essential - cleverly positioned layers and tapered ends will encourage movement and make hair easy to style.
Curl shape can be irregular or uniform
Hair is drier than straight and wavy hair
Prone to frizz
For decades, curls have been on the receiving end of straighteners but thankfully women are finally learning to love them. We’re seeing more naturally curly models on the catwalk and in advertising campaigns. Curls can lack uniformity, which I know some women find a challenge when it comes to styling. Curly hair tends to be dry, as the shape of the hair prevents oils traveling from the scalp to the ends. It may not feel as soft as straighter hair. Hydrating masks and products are essential.
Hair is much drier than straight, wavy and curly hair
Texture can feel coarse
Curl shapes range from tight coils to ringlets but also irregular curl patterns
Prone to breakage
Coily hair includes everything from miniature curls and tiny ringlets, to a full head of glorious tight curls that can be a nightmare to detangle. The lack of uniformity is what gives curly hair its character and makes it so cool. Think back on all those naff curly hair commercials in the nineties; what made those looks so terrible was that every single curl looked exactly the same. Oils from the scalp can have a hard time travelling down strands which can result in your coils looking and feeling dry and brittle. Diffusers can bring definition to softer coils but for tight curls, twisting your hair while still damp and allowing it to dry naturally is best.
Mixed texture hair
It’s not uncommon to see hair which is relatively straight on top but with strong kinks underneath, or maybe an erratic and frizzy surface hiding much smoother hair underneath.
Test how porous your hair is
Understanding how porous your hair is – how easily your hair drinks in moisture – will help you choose the right products.
Put a strand of your hair into a cup of water; if it sinks your hair is quick to take on liquids, if it floats then your hair is non-porous.
If your hair is porous, you’re likely to have damage which has lifted the hair’s outer protective layer – it will suck up water-based products but is prone to more damage. Use heat protection and scale back chemical treatments until you have restored strength and health to your hair. If your hair is non-porous, then it’s probably in good nick, however product is unlikely to penetrate well and you may find yourself using more.
Test how elastic your hair is
When wet, healthy hair should stretch up to 50 per cent and retract to its original state, whereas dry, damaged hair will probably only stretch by say 20 per cent before snapping. Test one to four strands.
If your hair isn’t very elastic, it’s time to call in the big guns - rehydrating, rebuilding hair masks and serums.
An edited extract from Buy Great Hair Days by Luke Hersheson (Ebury Press, £20). Photography Tom Newton. Buy online.
Find Hersheson's salon at https://www.hershesons.com/.