For so, so long I thought my understanding of my hair type pretty much began and ended at my curl type. When I went natural and ditched chemical straightener, knowing that I have type 4b/c hair guided my styling choices and more significantly my hair care selections. However, the more I learned about hair the more I understood the importance of hair porosity and now it’s just as much a part of my decision-making process as my curl type.
What is hair porosity?
Put simply, your porosity is how well your hair can absorb and retain water. Each strand of your hair has an outer layer called the cuticle. Hair that is highly porous has cuticles that are more spaced out, meaning that water is easily absorbed but lost just as quickly. Whereas if you have low porosity hair, your cuticles are tightly packed so water doesn’t get in as easily but once it’s in, it’s sticking around for longer.
While all hair is absolutely good hair, if you have low porosity hair, you probably have less issues with things like dryness, frizzing in humidity and retaining hydration. It is a myth however that all curly and coily hair is highly porosity, all hair types can vary in porosity and you can have different porosity across one head of hair.
How to work out your hair porosity
It’s super simple to figure your hair porosity at home, you genuinely just need a glass of tap water. I’d suggest doing this after you’ve freshly washed your hair so there’s less product on it and then grab a stray strand that your hair has naturally released (I’m sure there’s a few in the shower). Put this in your glass of water and watch if it floats or sinks. Floater? You have high porosity hair on your hands. Sinks? You’re looking at low porosity hair.
Key to note though, your hair at the front is likely to be more porous than the back as it’s touched and styled more than the back. Porosity can become higher the more damaged it is, so for example if you balayage your hair, the strands that are bleached will be more porous than those that aren’t.
Ok, I know my porosity… now what?
Perfect, now go forth and make good decisions!
To help, we turned to Monique Rodriguez, Co-Founder of Mielle Organics, to understand what each kind of porosity needs in their hair care routine.
Best low porosity hair routine
Use lightweight oils
“Because the hair cuticle on low porosity hair is often tightly closed, it is essential to use lightweight products that can get past the cuticle and nourish your hair.”
Use heat when deep conditioning
“Heat is a powerful tool for opening the hair’s cuticle, before you deep-condition your hair, you need your hair cuticle to be open to reap the benefits. When you are in the shower, use warm water before applying a deep conditioner. You can also open the hair’s cuticle with a hair cap/shower cap once you’ve applied the conditioner.”
Beware of protein
“Protein is often found in repairing hair products because of its ability to strengthen the hair cuticle. However, low porosity hair is protein-sensitive because the cuticles are already tough and tightly packed together. Adding additional protein to a low porosity hair care routine can cause the hair to become stiff and fragile, so instead of stronger hair, you’re left with hair more prone to breakage.”
Avoid heavy products like butters and heave creams
“To prevent regular build up, make sure you’re using a cleansing yet hydrating shampoo that deep cleans without stripping.”
Best high porosity hair routine
Avoid excessive heat
“We all know the use of excessive heat on our hair can lead to damage. When you’re dealing with high porosity hair that is already dry and damaged, ditching heat, for at least the time being, may be inconvenient but is necessary.”
Make deep conditioner an essential
“Deep conditioning should be a part of your weekly hair regimen no matter your hair type or texture, but especially if you have high porosity hair. A deep conditioning treatment will help restore hydration, repair hair damage, and ensure any new hair growth is properly cared for.”
Be gentle when styling
“High porosity hair tends to be dry, making it more susceptible to breakage. Keep your strands safe and healthy by always treating them kindly and gently. Dry wet hair with a microfibre towel. Comb with a wide tooth comb. Sleep on a silk pillowcase. All these simple tricks will decrease the amount of tension, and thus frizz and breakage, your hair experiences.”
Patience is everything
You can manage your high porosity hair and restore lustre to damaged locks with proper care, but it won’t happen overnight. Be patient and stick to your new routine and before you know it, your strands will be healthy, strong, and easy to style.
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