In natural hair terms, porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb moisture. For naturals whose hair is at a normal porosity, this means their strands can absorb and retain moisture at a steady rate as the scales on the hair cuticle lift and lay with ease. For those with low porosity hair, it takes longer for the hair cuticle to absorb moisture as it is more closed. Although, those with low porosity hair tend to retain moisture for longer. The scales of the hair cuticle throughout high porosity hair are more lifted, so they can absorb moisture quickly. However, highly porous hair can lose moisture just as fast.
High porosity hair is a common result of some form of damage (heat damage, hair dyes, etc.), but can also just be a natural trait for some. Regardless, since highly porous hair tends to lose moisture fast it can create the appearance of dry, frizzy, hair. One may also notice frequent tangles with high porosity hair as the lifted hair cuticles intertwine with each other. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to manage high porosity hair and attain healthier strands.
What exactly is high porosity hair & what causes it:
High porosity hair is typically caused by damage to the hair cuticle – heat, hair dye, relaxers, etc. Our hair is made of a protein called keratin that is susceptible to permanent damage from any of these factors. The result of this damage is commonly gaps or cracks on the hair cuticle. The damage throughout the hair cuticle can cause the scales that surround it to be in a lifted state almost constantly. This gives plenty of access for moisture to be absorbed, but since the hair cuticle can’t lay as easily the strands can have a hard time trapping this moisture.
Here are some tips when caring for high porosity natural hair:
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How to manage high porosity hair:
1) Deep condition often
If you check out our other posts surrounding natural hair care, the importance of deep conditioning is more than likely mentioned somewhere. However, with high porosity hair it is especially important. Deep conditioners contain a combination of healing ingredients that help to alleviate problem areas induced by the damaged hair cuticle, a main trait of high porosity hair. The nutrients help to restore and retain moisture, and the thick cream consistency helps to smooth the hair cuticle.
Additionally, there may be some sort of protein(s) found in your deep conditioner that help to gradually repair the gaps / cracks in the hair cuticle caused by damage. Routinely deep conditioning can also aid in keeping frizzy hair at bay. Highly porous hair with a lifted cuticle often gives the appearance of raised hair or flyaways – frizz.
2) Use heavier sealants
Since the hair cuticle is raised with high porosity hair, using a heavier sealant helps to smooth it down and lock in moisture. Butter, creams, and even layering more leave-ins (be wary of product build-up though) can help with limiting frizz and maintaining moisture longer for naturals with highly porous hair. Again, if you find that butters or creams weigh down your hair, try layering lightweight leave-in products or using a heavier oil. To add, heavier oils also work for high porosity hair as far as taming frizz and keeping the strands smooth.
3) Avoid using hot water
Using hot or too warm of water expands the hair cuticle in an effort to absorb. Since the cuticle is already expanded with highly porous hair, this can tangle the hair as the strands lift, creating the appearance of frizzy dull hair. Try using lukewarm water to cleanse.
4) No heat or harsh chemicals
Hair dye, heat tools, or other harsh chemicals are common causes of high porosity natural hair, so it is best to avoid using them or limit the use if you want healthier hair. Heat and/or harsh chemicals can cause further damage the hair strands to where the original curl pattern will not revert. If you do decide to use heat or other hair processing treatments, make sure to deep condition beforehand. You can even try a protein treatment to provide a boost of strength to your strands to limit damage.
5) Try protein treatments
As mentioned earlier, our hair strands are comprised of a protein called keratin. If these protein bonds become damaged, not only is high porosity hair a likely result, but the weakened strands are more susceptible to breakage. You may also notice an altered curl pattern – looser texture than normal, straight pieces, etc. throughout damaged hair. Protein treatments bind to the gaps in the high cuticle, gradually strengthening the weakened bonds. Depending on how strong the protein treatment is that you choose, once a month is a good start for completing one of these treatments. As you incorporate protein treatments into your hair regimen, you will notice less breakage/shedding, improved elasticity, and fuller, thicker hair.
Keeping high porosity natural hair healthy:
With a few ways to manage high porosity natural hair in mind, the way to keep it healthy involves much of the same or similar methods. To start, keeping your hair hydrated through deep conditioning and with the use of heavier sealants is going to aid in keeping the hair cuticle smooth to better retain moisture. Another tip for healthy high porosity hair is to avoid using harsh shampoos. Instead, aim for moisturizing shampoos that won’t leave the hair feeling stripped of its natural oils. A good example is the Shea Moisture JBCO Shampoo.
Ultimately however, if your hair has been damaged by heat, hair dye, or other chemicals, it is going to eventually need to be trimmed off. The protein bonds of the hair strands have been weakened and while they can be slightly repaired they will not return to their full form unless the damage is cut off. A big chop is not necessarily a must. You can always grow your hair out and trim the damage gradually.
How do you keep your high porosity natural hair healthy and moisturized?
1“Exploratorium Magazine: Hair: Page 2.” Exploratorium: the Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception, www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/hair/hair_2.html.