Hair Porosity and Why It's Important

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hair porosity

I'm sure you have heard the term tossed around especially in the natural hair community, but what exactly is hair porosity?  Simply stated, hair porosity is the ability of hair to absorb and retain moisture.  It’s important to know which category, high, low or normal, your hair falls into in order to keep a proper moisture balance.  And if that’s not complicated enough, it is very possible for one head of hair to fall into multiple categories!  But don’t fret—we've got you covered!  Here’s how to test your hair’s porosity and how to achieve moisture balance for your category.

The porosity test is quite simple.  Take a strand or two of you hair and drop it in a cup of water and observe the results after about 5 minutes.  If the strands quickly sink to the bottom, you have high porosity hair.  If it floats somewhere in the middle, then you have normal porosity.  Finally, if the strands float at the top taking forever to sink, you have low porosity hair. 

So now that you have determined your hair’s porosity, what exactly does that mean for your hair regimen?

High porosity 

Remember how your hair strands sank to the bottom almost immediately?  That’s because the cuticle layer of the hair is wide open, allowing the water to quickly flow through the holes in the strand.  You may notice that as soon as your hair absorbs moisture, it leaves just as quickly.  Again, because the cuticle is highly raised, moisture can kind of come and go as it pleases.  This can be due to overuse of heat, chemical processes, or environmental factors.  While gaps in the hair strands are permanent, you can adjust your regimen to retain more moisture.  You’ll want to use products that have a low pH—apple cider vinegar and water rinses should works wonders.  These types of products work to seal in the cuticle.  Try adding a protein treatment that can temporarily seal those gaps and add strength to the strands.  Use thicker creams and oils and butters on top.  The oil/butter will help to seal the cuticle and provide a layer of protection from the elements.  Avoid products with humectants, like glycerin.  These ingredients draw moisture from the air into the strands, and there is a risk of getting too much moisture, making hair soggy or sticky and FRIZZY.  This is especially important for those living in humid climates.  Minimize the use of heat and ALWAYS use a heat protectant if you do use direct heat!

Normal porosity

When performing the porosity test, your strands hung out somewhere in the middle of the glass of water.  This indicates that the strands are healthy with the cuticle layer in good condition.  This hair holds styles well and takes color well.  Moisture is easily absorbed and retained.  Use products with natural ingredients.  Light moisturizers or a leave-in conditioner and oils should work just fine along with a monthly deep conditioning treatment.  Avoid overuse of heat and chemical processes to keep the cuticle intact. 

Low porosity

Your stubborn strands refused to sink, having a party floating on top of the water.  Your cuticles are slammed shut and difficult to open, so the water just simply could not get in and make it sink.  It may seem like every product you use just seems to sit on top of your hair.  The good news is because there are virtually no gaps in the cuticle, once moisture is inside, the strands retain it well.  You will want to deep condition using heat at every shampoo. You can use a hooded dryer or steamer.  The heat will raise the cuticle and allow the moisturizers in.  Apply your moisturizers to damp hair—again, we need to raise the cuticle and utilize every drop of moisture available.  Avoid using heavy oils and butters because they can weigh the hair down.  You also should not use products that are acidic (low pH)—again they are designed to close the cuticle.  Moisturizing lotions or milks with humectants, like honey or glycerin, should help with moisture retention as these ingredients draw moisture from the air into your strands.  You may also notice protein sensitivity, so avoid products with heavy protein content.

So there you have it.  It's really not intimidating at all.  Once you know how your hair behaves and use the right products, you will notice a huge difference in the feel and overall health of your hair.  Happy growing!



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