Porosity

POROSITY – refers to the ability of your hair to absorb moisture and hold on it. LOW porosity hair has a hard time getting moisture in, but once it’s in, it holds on to it. MEDIUM porosity hair allows moisture in and out at a normal rate.HIGH Porosity hair allows moisture in quickly, but also loses it quickly.

Caring for high porosity hair can be a challenge, but in this post I’ll share some tips that have helped me.

The Basics
Porosity refers to the hairs ability to absorb (and retain) moisture and even chemical treatments. By nature, our hair (curly, kinky, coily) is less porous than naturally straight (Asian, Caucasian) hair unless it has been chemically processed.There are three levels of porosity:

  • Low Porosity – the cuticles are tightly closed and close together and it is difficult to get moisture/chemicals in. However, once moisture is in, it’s IN.  Low porosity hair tends to  have a hard time “getting wet” in the shower. However, once it’s wet, it takes a long time to dry.
  • Normal Porosity – the cuticles are evenly spaced and allow moisture to pass in easily but prevents too much from entering.
  • High Porosity – the cuticles are lifted and open. It allows lots of moisture in, but also loses it quickly. High porosity hair gets wets quickly but also dries quickly.

What Causes/Triggers High Porosity Hair
  • Overuse of Heat tools
  • Texturizers, relaxers, other chemical treatments (color, dyes etc)
  • Over exposure to sun/ UV rays, strong winds
  • Continuous exposure to hard water. The mineral and metal deposits in hard water cause it to have a higher pH than regular water, thereby causing the cuticles to swell and lift.
  • Continuous use of strong sulphate shampoo
  • Basically anything that cause cracks, spaces in the protein structure of the hair will trigger highly porous hair.

Testing your hair’s Porosity

    • The Water Test
  • You’ll need a glass container at least 6 inches tall and a few inches wide. Fill the container almost to the top with tap water and let it sit undisturbed until it reaches room temperature. While you’re waiting, pluck a clean hair from your head. Then, very gently lay the hair on top of the water. Look at the glass container from the side and watch the hair to see how it sinks. If your hair is in virgin condition it will float for a long time. If it’s very porous it will start to sink right away. The higher the porosity, the faster it will sink. This test gives you a very rough approximation of how damaged your hair is. Source
    • The Finger Test
  • Gently hold a few strands of hair with one hand. With the other, run your fingers up the length of your hair, from tip to root. If your hair feels rough with lots of little ridges or bumps (excluding the bumps that are naturally created by the bends in the shaft where the hair curls) then your cuticles are not lying flatly and your hair is porous. Source

Techniques/Products that helped me:

  • Products that were pH balanced. The ideal pH of the hair is 4.5 -5.5 and products within that range helped my cuticles to lay down and retain the moisture I’d put in. Aloe Vera juice/gel (Coconut Water is great option also) is a great ingredient that helped me regulate the pH of products that were not within the ideal range.
  •  Protein treatments/Henna Glosses/Cassia Obovata treatments – these did a great job of filling in the spaces/patching up the spaces in my cuticles that caused it to be raised. My entire Ayurvedic hair regimen was very helpful in getting my hair back into shape. NOTE: Henna & Cassia are not protein, however they do mimic the action of a protein treatment.
  •  Apple Cider Vinegar rinses – ACV does an awesome job of smoothing and closing the cuticles to prevent moisture from escaping. I used about 1 Tblsp for 8oz of distilled water as a final rinse after deep conditioning.
  •  Avoiding heat – Adding heat to hair that is highly porous can makes matters worse since the cuticles are already compromised. Now that I have a handle on my hair and my porosity is now closer to normal, I did do my first blowout. ☺
  •  Dry/Oil detangling – After pre-pooing with Coconut Oil (most of the time), I’d detangle my hair before washing. This helped a lot in reducing breakage since my strands would become so swollen when wet that they snapped when I’d try to detangle.
  •  Frequent Deep conditioning treatments – This helped to maintain the moisture level in my hair as well as maintain the protein-moisture balance in my hair.
  • Patience and TLC – there is no quick fix. I had to love on my hair and nurse it back to health. I’m happy to report that now it is doing much better.

In my opinion, knowing and understanding your hair’s porosity is very important. As you can see, porosity will affect how you deal with your hair, what types of products/tools/techniques you use and the overall health of your hair.

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