Whether natural or relaxed, chances are if you’ve been on any type of hair journey (or involved in any of the countless number of hair communities online) you’ve seen the term porosity thrown around. I know when I first started out (many, many years ago), I would read about people “testing” their hair to determine what level of porosity they were at. If you want to know more about porosity, the different levels, and what you can do to ensure a proper moisture balance with your hair, keep reading.
So what exactly is porosity? Porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Did you know that for the most part, porosity is mainly determined by your genes? While this is true, the actions you take can also affect your hair’s porosity. The environment you expose your hair to, as well as how you treat it, can also play a factor in your hair’s ability to absorb (or not absorb) moisture.
It’s really easy to test your hair’s porosity level. Take a few strands of your hair (it’s best to just use shed hair…no need to start plucking strands from your head) and place them in a cup of water. Let them sit for about 5 minutes. If…
The hair sinks => Low Porosity
The hair floats => High Porosity
See, now wasn’t that easy?
So you put some hair in a cup of water and you know if you’re dealing with low or high porosity. Now what? You need to come up with a plan to help you obtain the proper moisture balance in your hair. Your plan will require you to choose certain products, some you may have used and some you may have never considered. You will also have to tweak your regimen and how you go about using/applying products. Let’s look at low porosity hair first.
Most people with low porosity often complain about their hair being really dry. No matter what product they apply to their hair, nothing seems to help it feel less dry and more moisturized. If your hair sunk, and you often feel like your hair is dry, here are some tips you can dry to get your hair back on track.
Low porosity hair consists of cuticles that are tightly bound, so much so that it’s extremely difficult for anything (water or other chemicals) to penetrate the hair shaft. This is why it feels like no matter what you put on it, nothing seems to “get through” to your hair.
Since hair that isn’t very porous needs help attracting and maintaining moisture, it’s a good idea to clarify your hair before embarking on adding in moisture. Clarifying will help ensure there is no product buildup getting in the way of your hair and the moisture it so desperately needs. Baking soda (diluted of course), bentonite clay, and washes that are designed for clarifying are good to add to your product stash.
Try to look for, and use, products with humectant properties (like honey and glycerin). Humectants helps to attract moisture. Lighter products, that are water-based are probably your best bet. Apply a water-based product to your hair while it is still damp (not soaking wet) and follow it up/seal it with a cream (or something heavy) to help lock/hold in the moisture. When looking for a product to seal with, pay attention to the pH of the sealant. Some have found that certain butters don’t work as well as others. I’ve even heard people say that old school Vaseline works better than some of the natural butters.
Since you need to be more focused on moisture, try to avoid using too many products daily with protein. Now, this is not to say your hair will never need protein. Nixing protein from your regimen and focusing solely on moisture will eventually leave you with hair that is mushy, lacking a proper moisture/protein balance. Since your hair is unique to you, it will take some trial and error to figure out just how much moisture and protein need. Low porosity hair will obviously need slightly more moisture than protein.
If you noticed that the strands of hair floated in the water, you have what is considered high porosity hair. This usually means that there are holes, or gaps, in your hair strands. Highly porous hair tends to let in too much moisture. You might be thinking that hair that can absorb a lot of moisture is a good thing. However, highly porous hair is typically very frizzy and tangles easily. If you have hair that is considered high porosity, you need to use products that have anti-humectant properties because you don’t need help attracting moisture. Your goal is to repel excess moisture that naturally occurs in the environment. Anti-humectant products can help close these gaps and smooth the hair cuticles. Heavy butters, which make great sealants, can also help you fill in the gaps of highly porous hair.
In case you’re wondering about the porosity level of my hair (at the time of this writing) well, I have hair that sinks…Low Porosity. I did the water test on hair that was clean and free from product. This year, I plan on focusing on getting back to a routine of clarifying, steaming, and trying different products for my leave-in conditioner and sealing.
So, do you know your hair’s porosity level? What do you do to maintain a proper moisture balance?
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