Greetings, Chicas/Chicos..I pray all is well with everyone. Here is a topic that, along with so many other topics of natural hair, that has been a challenge for some to deal with..and that is POROSITY.
It's a topic that can keep us happy when we understand and O'So frustrating when we don't. Understanding the porosity of our hair, helps us to better understand products to use, how to use those products and how to care for our hair overall. So, let's dive into the topic a little and see if we can shed some light on the subject.
WHAT IS POROSITY
- Porosity refers to the condition of the cuticle layer of the hair. The 3 types of porosity levels are: LOW, HIGH and NORMAL.
HOW TO TEST YOUR HAIR
- Place a freshly washed, product free strand of hair in a cup of water (cool water is fine) and wait for the show. Leave the strand in the water for about 8-10 minutes to see if the strand stays on top or floats to the bottom.
- If the hair quickly sinks to the bottom of the cup, you have HIGH POROSITY hair.
- If the hair floats somewhere towards the top or in the middle, you have NORMAL POROSITY.
- If the hair floats at the top for a long period of time, you have LOW POROSITY hair.
POROSITY..THE INSIDE SCOOP
- This type of porosity means the cuticle has been exposed to severe amounts of damage, either through environmental exposures, overuse of heat, harsh combing/brushing or chemical processes (relaxers, texturizers, colorants). The strand of hair floats quickly to the bottom of the cup of water due to the weight of the water becoming too heavy to float. Another sign of highly porous hair is that it loses moisture almost as quickly as moisture is applied. A hair, under a microscope, that is highly porous, resembles the gaps of swiss cheese, displaying large holes in the hair follicle.
CARE THAT HELPS:
- For naturals who do have highly porous hair, thicker butters and products with oils are great because they can serve as a protective layer and help seal the cuticle. Henna and Protein Treatments are great because they temporarily fill the gaps/holes in highly porous hair. Apple Cider Vinegar rinses are also helpful as they help to close the cuticle and protect the hair from any contaminants. Protein and deep conditioning treatments are extremely useful for temporarily patching the gaps of highly porous hair. Keeping in mind that these are 'temporary' fixes, it's best to focus on keeping the new growth healthy, minimizing or abstaining from the use of heat and chemical processes simply because once the hair is damaged due to the treatments, it cannot be permanently repaired. With hair that is highly porous, dry detangling may work best with the application of a butter or oil to help with slip. Finger detangling is also a great option because our fingers can feel for knots and tangles easier than a detangling tool. Though a detangling tool is great, a great practice is to finger detangle first, then proceed to use tool of choice, such as a wide tooth comb or brush. With regular trims and being mindful of the information above such as the protein treatments and deep conditions, this will definitely make highly porous hair more manageable.
- This is the happy medium. It means that the hair allows for easy moisture inside the cuticle and it holds moisture for long periods of time making hair less susceptible to breakage. It's a very desirable and low maintenance type of porosity. Be aware, regular chemical processes and excessive heat use can change the hair's porosity over time. Healthy ingredients, regular deep conditions, moisturizing and little to no heat will help keep normal porosity hair at it's best.
- This type of porosity is not as bad as it may seem. This type means that the cuticles are tight and pretty resistant to opening up for moisture. With hair that is of low porosity, many times it may feel as though product is sitting on top of the hair instead of thoroughly penetrating through the hair. The benefit of having low porosity hair is that once moisture is able to penetrate the cuticle, it holds on to it very well...the key is just getting the moisture inside.
CARE THAT HELPS:
- With low porosity hair, it's best to incorporate ingredients that are of a more alkalinic nature. Adding a little bentonite clay (pH of 8.3) to you conditioner is a great trick. Also, for those with low porosity hair, the use of heat while deep conditioning is extremely helpful. Tools such as heat caps or a steamer are a great way to help lift the cuticle to aid in infusing moisture into the hair. With low porosity hair, make sure, when applying product, that the hair is wet or damp, then seal in the moisture with a butter or oil.
My hair is a great mix of normal and low porosity. Feel free to check out my regimen here to see how I have managed to achieve and maintain healthy moisturized hair. Education, trial and error has truly helped me to understand and care for my hair and with that, I hope to help others throughout their journey by sharing my experiences. As always, I hope this helps, feel free to share your hair's porosity and how you care for your hair.