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Understanding your hair's porosity is by far one of the most valuable pieces of information you can possess when it comes to the health of your crown. Porosity dictates the pattern in which your hair absorbs and loses moisture. This will be invaluable when it comes time to pick the right products for your mane. Always remember, your hair is unique, your body chemistry, your genes, elements you are exposed to are all unique to you. This is why I always advise all new followers and fans to never compare your hair to someone else's, even your own family! (DNA is unique to each person, yes you share some DNA with family but you will still have unique features and chemistry.) I also always say, when introducing yourself to the Curly Girl Method, the first thing you should do is look up porosity and figure out which porosity your hair is, because in the long run this will save you SO much money and time! I know every fellow product junkie reading this article can agree it gets pricey if you do not take the time to get to know you hair as well as you know your spouse or children. So, without further distraction, let's jump right into the science, tips, and suggestions shall we?
What is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity essential boils down to your hair's ability to absorb and maintain moisture, products, or chemical coloring. To really understand this concept we need to break it down bit by bit.
Our hair is quite fascinating if you really stop to think about it. Our hair, when healthy, is able to take in water and other products (including hair coloring) easily by the little gaps in between the scales in the cuticle. This is where the idea of porous come into play. Much like our skin has pores to absorb lotion and water, our hair has tiny little gaps between each scale on the cuticle (the outermost part of the hair. It is made up of dead cells overlapping, which results in "scales.") Through these gaps, our hair is able to receive the moisture and other products it needs along with being able to retain it.
The most important fact to remember about porosity is that porosity is a form of hair damage.
Porosity = a hole, gap, or opening in the cuticle.
Porosity is caused by many factors such as:
Weathering of hair
Exposure to elements and environment
Exposure to chemical treatment
Excessive shampooing or unnatural products
As we age, we become more susceptible to porosity being an issue for us. This is why proper care (CG Method) is so critical. It will prevent damage from taking over our beautiful crown.
Types of Porosities
There are three different Porosities:
Let's take a closer look at the specific problems each porosity experiences.
High porosity hair has the most damage. The little scales on the cuticle are so damaged they are not able to close and seal in the moisture. The malnourished cuticle layers have already begun to crack and peel away. As a result, all moisture added by water and products are quickly released into the atmosphere through the gaps in the cuticle. The leaves nothing but dry , damaged hair, very prone to split ends and breakage. Since the layers of the scales are unable to close properly, high porosity hair is able to receive moisture quickly but, unfortunately, it's lost just as quick as it is gained. Common causes for high porosity hair include age, overuse of shampoos, combs, and towels, exposure to the sun and environment (i.e cold winter winds), and frequent exposure to chemical treatments. Some characteristics of high porosity hair are:
Absorbs too much water
Hair dries very quickly
Unable to retain moisture for long
Tangles very easily due to it being dry
Low porosity hair battles the completely opposite spectrum of issues than high porosity. Low porosity hair will not absorb moisture easily due to how tightly sealed the scales on the cuticle are. Low porosity is technically considered healthy. The cuticle itself isn't damaged but it does get so dry it mimics damaged hair. Since the scales are sealed so tightly water and product can not easily enter and leave the strand. This results in products sitting right on top of the hair weighing it down, but never actually penetrating into the hair strand to treat the source of the problem. Kind of like a band-aid if you will. Low porosity hair is often very shiny due to the fact that the scales are sealed down so tightly (the sunlight is able to reflect off the scales). Coloring and other treatments are often too difficult to penetrate due to the scales being so tightly closed. Some characteristics of low porosity hair are:
When water is hitting the hair in the shower, water often beads up on top of hair
Moisture isn't easily received
Hair takes a long time to dry
Looks healthy but doesn't have volume or elasticity
Does not absorb products well
Doesn't absorb hair coloring well
Products sit on top of hair
Medium Porosity or also known as Normal porosity is perfectly healthy hair. This is the goal. This means the scales on the cuticle correctly raise up and down allowing the permeability of moisture, products, and chemical processes. The scales allow for the perfect amount of product and water to absorb into the cuticle. Some characteristics of normal or medium porosity hair are:
Lots of volume
The ability to make others around you jealous at how awesome your hair looks
Now that we have examined the types of porosities and their problems how about we discuss some tips to help remedy those problems!
High Porosity Hair Tips:
1. Deep conditioning
Deep conditioning is going to be your saving grace. Over time deep conditioning improves the overall health of your hair. The conditioner fills in the gaps in the scales and seals them to try and help the hair retain whatever moisture it just received. Remember not to deep condition any longer than 30 minutes each session, and no more than twice a week.
2. Deep conditioning with heat
No, I don't mean break out those hair straighteners! I mean a safe form of heat like a hair steamer or a microwavable cap. Once conditioner is applied to hair, use a form of safe heat. This will help lift the scales on the cuticle (which is nearly impossible for low porosity hair to do which is why its so helpful!) so the product can easily penetrate the hair strand and improve the health and elasticity. I started my journey with high porosity hair and this way by far the most helpful tip for fixing my hair.
Now this is more of a universal tip for all hair types. Steam helps raise the scales on the cuticle to allow products and moisture to deeply penetrate. This helps to solve the root of the problem (like what I did there with that little pun?) Steam helps soften the hair, moisturize it, and even helps hair grow more rapidly!
4. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a natural sealant for hair! Using it in deep conditioning treatments helps hair repair damage more quickly, properly moisturize the hair, and give it a great shine. Aloe contains amino acids, which are protein building blocks so it doe help reinforce the curl structure a bit. You can even use aloe vera gel to help keep curls in tact by properly SEALING the scales.
5. Use oils to SOTC and seal in moisture
Everyone who follows me knows I have an obsession with oils. They make such a big difference for natural hair. Make sure when you are ready to scrunch out the gel cast, that you use a few drops of an oil. As you scrunch it into hair, the oil will work as a natural sealant to help you retain as much moisture throughout the day as possible. I also like to add a few drops of oil into my deep conditioner to help seal in that moisture as well.
6. Incorporate ACV Rinses
ACV rinses will serve to balance the natural PH balance in the scalp aiding in hair growth. It also serves as a natural conditioner for hair. This will help condition hair and seal down the scales of the cuticle to retain moisture and promote a beautiful natural shine.
7. Heavier products like butters and custards
Depending on your hair type heavier products might be better to help seal in moisture. Butters will moisturize the hair and seal in that new-found moisture for longer than typical leave-in would. Fine haired queens please use pea sized amounts to ensure you will not weigh down your hair.
Low Porosity Hair Tips:
1. Incorporate Steam into your Regime
Incorporating steam into your regime from the beginning will be the best tip I could ever give you. Start by using steam to raise the cuticles and allow that moisture into your hair. This will help with detangling and any treatment you do such as pre-poo, deep conditioning, etc. Steam will hydrate and quench the hair, while softening it, making styling much easier. Remember moisture in vapor form will allow for long lasting moisture. Steaming will also help with hair growth as it will fight through build-up and give the hair follicle the attention it needs to grow long luscious hair. Steam also allows moisture to give you better curl definition. If the hair is properly moisturized you know your curls will be on fleek.
2. Use Humectants
Use products full of humectants to help draw moisture from the environment into your hair. Remember to alternate products throughout the seasons as humectants can be troublesome in the winter if there is no moisture in the air. This will only allow the hair to frizz in an attempt to reach into the atmosphere looking for moisture.
3. Clarify Hair
Since low porosity hair often has trouble letting the scales rise to let moisture in, co-washing might not be your best friend. Make sure to clarify at least once a month to give your hair a break from those products that weighed it down. Bentonite clay and acv are by far the best clarifiers. They even help define curls!
4. Utilize Protein
Protein will help full in the gaps in high porosity hair, while strengthening low porosity hair preventing hair loss from the excessive dryness low porosity hair often encounters. Larger proteins will create a film around the hair which will trap moisture into the hair. Smaller proteins will also settle into hair trapping moisture. For those of you who are protein sensitive remember you still need some sort of protein once every 4-6 weeks.
5. Sleep on satin
This is more a tip for all hair types. Regular cotton sucks the moisture out of hair and can break your hair strands from friction when sleeping at night. Make sure to value that new-found moisture and protect it at all costs!
Also another universal tip (you have to love the versatility of natural options) Pre-poo especially with steam, will help moisture penetrate into the strand to protect the scalps natural oils from being washed away from the shampoo. Pre-poo will help regulate moisture retention levels and soften the hair for easier styling.
Now that we have all the tips there's still one more thing you need to know about porosity...How to determine your own! Unfortunately, at this moment there is no scientific, concrete factual way of proving your porosity the best two ways to determine your porosity as of right now is:
1. Do the Float Test
The float test consists of taking 1-2 strands of freshly shampooed hair (with no product in it) and putting them in a glass of water for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to stick your finger into the water to pop the air bubble and get more accurate results. The idea behind this test is if hair is porous it will absorb much more water and than if it were not porous. With that rationality it means high porosity hair will sink to the bottom because the weight of all the water pulls it to the bottom of the glass. Low porosity hair will float to the top because it will not allow water into the strand causing it to be heavy and sink down. With no water weight it will just float to the top. Last but not least, normal porosity will float somewhere in the middle.
2. Look up the characteristics of each porosity and compare
Now before I wrote this article, you had to look through multiple sites to find the characteristics of all hair porosities. I just made your search easier by putting everything in one article. Researching and comparing the characteristics of the porosities is how I determined my porosity. In the beginning of my journey, I noticed water never beaded up on my hair, if anything it would take in massive amounts of moisture at a time, but less than two hours after I would wash my hair, it would be insanely dry, all the moisture was gone. This is how I figured out I was high porosity.
Can I change my Porosity?
This is a very common question and the answer is yes! You absolutely can change the porosity of your hair over time. By following the cg method, and these tips I gave you, you can absolutely improve your hair porosity as the health of your hair improves. I started off as high porosity but now with proper care, almost two years in my hair more mimics normal porosity!
Well there's everything you need to know about porosity! I hope this article helps! Please help share the article with your fellow queens, remember we are all here to help each other in our healthy hair journeys. As always, feel free to comment questions below for me to answer.