Hair porosity is a term used to refer to how well the hair strands are able to absorb and retain moisture.
The cuticle (outer layer of the hair shaft) is a major determinant of hair porosity level. The cuticle may lay flat (low porosity), slightly raised (high porosity) or highly raised (high porosity). The degree to which the cuticles lay determines how well your hair is able to absorb moisture and how long it stays in before getting dry and brittle.
It’s very important to understand your hair’s porosity level if you want to spend less time experimenting, being a product junkie and getting frustrated with your hair. It will also help you make right product choices, keep your hair moisturized for longer and also give you long and shiny hair.
How can you determine your hair porosity level?
You can determine your hair porosity level by doing the hair porosity test. There are two types of test that can be done; the float test and the slip and slide test, I however strongly recommend the float test.
The float test
Take a few strands of hair and drop them into a clean bowl of water and watch them for about 5 minutes. If your hair floats, you have low porosity hair and if it sinks, you have high porosity hair, if it stays right at the middle, you have normal porosity hair.
The slip and slide test
Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft of the hair (that is towards the scalp). If you feel little bumps along the way, it implies that your cuticle is lifted and that your hair is high porosity. If your fingers slip smoothly without any bumps, then you have low porosity hair.
How to care for low porosity hair
Low porosity hair repels water and water based products when you try to moisturize it, thus your hair products may just sit on your hair without being fully absorbed. To increase absorption of moisture, the use of moderate heat during deep conditioning is highly recommended as it helps to open up the tightly bound cuticle to increase product penetration. You can use a heat cap for this purpose.
I have low porosity hair, sometimes after moisturising, I cover my hair with a plastic cap for a few minutes before sealing with my oil of choice.
The good side to this however is that your hair stays moisturised for longer.
Another key thing you can do if you have low porosity hair is to practice the LOC method where you first apply a liquid which may be water or any water based leave-in conditioner followed by any carrier oil of choice and then a heavy cream such as sheabutter. The products have to be applied in layers in order to be effective.
Always choose light liquid based products and also be light handed when applying products on your hair.
How to care for normal (medium) porosity hair
Normal porosity hair allows just the right amount of moisture to penetrate the hair as the cuticle layers are looser and it’s able to hold styles for longer. If you have medium porosity hair then you’re on the lucky side. Occasional protein treatments with protein deep conditioners will yield great benefits.
How to care for high porosity hair
High porosity hair has gaps in the cuticle which makes the hair to dry out quickly. Unlike low porosity hair, high porosity hair absorbs water quickly but also looses the moisture at the same rate at which it absorbs it, hence it’s prone to frizz in humid weather conditions. This means that if you have high porosity hair, your hair absorbs so much moisture from the air. It advisable to avoid products with humectants in certain weather conditions, layer your products and also seal with heavy butters.
Have you done the hair porosity test? What’s your hair porosity?
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