The porosity of your natural hair is its ability to absorb and retain moisture. Why does hair porosity matter? Your hair’s porosity plays an important part in how to care for and maintain it, as well as which products will serve the most benefit.
The scales throughout the layers of our hair cuticles can be lifted in response to environmental factors, hair damage, moisture absorption, etc. Damaged hair cuticles are typically more highly porous. They additionally consist of lifted scales and have a difficult time retaining moisture. Hair cuticles that are closed tend to be healthier, although they can have a difficult time absorbing moisture – low porosity hair. An inter-medium between high porosity and low porosity is medium, or normal porosity hair.
The health of your hair cuticles can affect your hair porosity. Hair cuticle health can be impacted by external factors like heat and chemical use. This can in turn cause permanent damage resulting in a lifted and damaged hair cuticle. So, knowing what your hair porosity is will help you to attain healthier strands. Here is how to determine what your hair’s porosity is, and ways to maintain healthy hair according to your porosity:
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How to determine the porosity of your natural hair:
One way to determine what the porosity of your natural hair is with a water test. First, fill a glass of water at room temperature – not too hot or cold. Then, take one of your hair strands (from a comb or shed hair) and place the strand in the glass of water. Make sure that your hair / hair strand is cleansed of any product or build-up beforehand, so it does not interfere with the result. With your hair strand in the glass of water, wait at least three minutes to see where the strand floats or sinks to.
Low porosity hair: Your hair strand remains at the top of the glass of water
Normal porosity hair: Your hair strand remains in the middle of the glass of water
High porosity hair: Your hair strand sinks to the bottom of the glass of water
Low porosity hair:
Characteristics of low porosity hair stem from the shafts of the hair cuticle being more closed. While this can be a sign of good hair health, there can be some complications. Those with low porosity hair may find that their hair has difficulty absorbing moisture. Hair products and oils can seem like they are essentially “sitting” on top of the hair. Because of this, low porosity natural hair typically takes a longer time to dry. On the other hand, once moisture is absorbed throughout low porosity hair, it is retained for a longer duration of time.
Tips when caring for low porosity natural hair:
- Avoid over-saturating the hair with product
- Wash hair with warm water to open the hair cuticle
- Use low heat (hooded hair dryer, etc.) when deep conditioning for better absorption throughout the hair strands
- Be aware of product build-up that can further interfere with moisture absorption by making sure your hair is thoroughly cleansed with a clarifying or moisturizing shampoo.
Medium / normal porosity hair:
If you find that your hair strands don’t have difficulty retaining or absorbing moisture, your hair is at a normal porosity. The hair cuticles of normal porosity hair are at a healthy inter-medium , able to lift and close with ease. Those with normal porosity hair strands are additionally able to sufficiently retain moisture. Even if your hair is at a normal porosity though, it can be changed if the health of the hair cuticle is changed as well. For example, the use of hair dye tends to result in highly porous hair. Someone whose hair is at a normal porosity may have to put in more effort to retain moisture now that the hair cuticle scales have been altered due to chemical use.
Tips when caring for normal porosity hair:
- Maintain routine deep conditioning treatments
- Get regular trims as needed
- Avoid damaging habits if possible – heat / chemical use, harsh shampoos, etc.
- Monthly protein treatments like this one for example, will help to keep the strength of your hair strands in tact
High porosity hair:
High porosity hair is where the scales of the hair cuticle are constantly raised commonly due to permanent damage to the hair cuticle. It can also be a natural trait for some due to genetics or aging hair. Prevalent characteristics of high porosity hair include excessively dry and frizzy hair, frequent tangles, and dull looking hair. The raised hair cuticle of highly porous hair allows moisture to be absorbed quickly. However, moisture can be lost just as fast with high porosity hair. As a result, individuals with high porosity hair may notice that their hair dries rapidly at times if some sort of sealant (leave-in conditioner, cream, oil, etc.) is not applied to trap the moisture.
Tips when caring for high porosity hair:
- Avoid washing hair with hot water that will cause the hair cuticle to raise even further
- Complete routine monthly protein treatments and deep condition weekly to strengthen the strands
- Avoid causing further damage to the hair shaft – phase out the use of heat tools, chemicals, etc.
- Use heavier moisture sealants – creams, butters, and thicker oils like castor oil, to help seal the hair cuticle
Why your hair’s porosity is important:
Moisture is essential in maintaining good hair health. So, the porosity of your hair or its ability to retain moisture plays a big role. If your hair is highly porous, it can be more difficult to retain moisture. This can lead to excessively dry and frizzy hair. Knowing that you have high porosity hair will help you to select better products that will provide more benefit to your hair as far as retaining moisture.
Being knowledgeable of low porosity hair, if you have it, will additionally help you to choose products that are able to penetrate the hair shaft to better absorb moisture. In summary, the porosity of your hair and being knowledgeable of it will lead to healthier strands by learning what works best for your hair.
Hair porosity and moisture go hand-in-hand. Check out 10 of the best products that help to retain moisture in your natural hair:
1Adams, Nicole. “Damaged Hair Cuticles.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 18 July 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/307398-damaged-hair-cuticles/.
2“Importance of the HAIR Cuticle.” Importance of the Hair Cuticle, www.black-hair-report.com/importance-of-the-hair-cuticle.html#sthash.IlrAPPZs.dpbs.