Hair Porosity has been the talk of the town ever since it hit the natural hair community in 2009. It has revealed even more about how each natural is unique. Before porosity knowledge, all we had was 4b/3a/4c to go from; now, we know that a 4c natural that has high porosity hair is entirely different from a 4c natural with low porosity hair. So why do you need to know about porosity? Well for starters, hair porosity refers to how well your hair can hold moisture.
To determine this, we look at how POROUS the hair is. Porous hair strands don’t retain moisture well while not-so-porous strands hold moisture very well. This is usually determined genetically. However, anything from heat to chemical damage can change your porosity over time (sometimes permanently). If you want your curls to be poppin’, then you want to know your porosity.
To determine your hair’s porosity level, you need to perform a porosity test. Of all the tests that you can accomplish, I have two favorites that will quickly help you find your hair porosity.
- Spray Method
Like I said before, hair porosity is how well your hair can absorb moisture, so with this test, you will want to spray your hair with water. If you find that your strands have droplets on top of them and they are still wet after a while, then you most likely have low porosity hair. Hair that feels dry quickly after applying the spray is most likely high porosity hair. If you have no droplets and your hair feels moisturized, you most likely have an average porosity level.
- Eyeball Method
This method will help you figure out if you are on the higher end of the porosity scale or the lower end. Low and high porosity both have specific characteristics that are easy to point out visually. If your hair lacks shine and is very kinky, even after moisturizing, then you’re most likely a high porosity natural. Low porosity naturals will see hair that looks moisturized (but lacks elasticity) with no frizz and lots of shine.
As a rule, low porosity hair has its cuticles shut tight, making it hard for moisture to enter; when it does begin, though, it’s hard for the moisture to escape (<— silver lining I guess).
Using hot water or heating up products before letting them touch your hair is very beneficial for someone who is a low porosity natural. Heat raises the cuticles to allow moisture to enter the strands. Keep in mind this is medium heat; don’t make it scolding hot! The high temperature could lead to scalp burns.
Steam opens low porosity cuticles through heat as well. There are several ways to create steam for your hair. The steam from the shower is a great way to open your cuticles before applying products. Along with that, you could use the baggy method (placing a bag over your head) to create steam from your body heat. This is most beneficial for deep conditioning. To speed up its effects, use a hooded dryer with the baggy method. Handheld and at-home steamers work the best but may be a bit pricey.
Humectants draw moisture from the air and direct that moisture to your strand. It’s like an indirect way of applying moisture to your hair. Glycerine is the most commonly used humectant in the natural hair community. Others include honey, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, and some glycols.
Low porosity hair already has its cuticles sealed shut, so placing heavy products on top of your strands may create a waxy like film (a.k.a. buildup). Buildup prevents the absorption of moisture, so we opt for lighter products to avoid this situation altogether!
People with medium porosity are said to have normal porosity hair. This means your strands are slightly raised, allowing the free flow of moisture in but preventing too much moisture from releasing. These strands look, feel and are moisturizing. Not only that, they remain moisturized for more extended periods and keep styles better than low and high porosity naturals. (<— this is where you want to be !)
High porosity hair is very porous; the cuticles are raised and most likely damaged from heat, chemical processing, or color manipulation. With the hair being so porous, moisture easily gets in but keeping the moisture in is the issue.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I swear by this! A mixture of ACV and water on high porosity natural will bring your hair back to its natural pH. This will make your hair get its luster back!
- Aloe Vera: I never experience shine like when I use aloe vera. It penetrates and smoothes your hair shaft by closing the cuticles shut. Along with shine, your hair will be super moisturized.
- Cold Water: Although there is not much evidence to support that cold water closes the cuticle, my personal experiences have led me to believe it helps high porosity. Try a cold water rinse right after your wash day routine; or use refrigerated products to help with sealing your strands.
- Protein Treatments: Strengtheners and reconstructors are your friends when you have high porosity hair. Since our cuticles are full of gaps and tears, it leaves the hair more fragile than most other types. Protein treatments fill in those gaps and lengthen the lifespan of your strands.
- Sealants: While low porosity naturals can get away with not sealing, we high porosity girls can not. Avoiding sealing will leave the cuticles open and allow room for moisture to escape. With that being said, we don’t need just any kind of sealant. Our sealants have to be heavy-duty to make sure our cuticle is smooth and shut. I like to use my DIY Aloe Butter Cream with my favorite oils, shea butter, and aloe vera juice. It leaves me moisturized for days.
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