Understanding porosity is important.
Porosity affects your elasticity and your texture, so identifying your level will greatly improve your hair and how you care for it.
Porosity is the hair’s ability, or the lack thereof, to absorb and to retain moisture (water) and other products like conditioner. When hair is naked (product free) and wet, I like to think that the hair is 100% moisturized. We are not expected go through our day-to-day activities with soppy wet hair but having our porosity level under control, helps to ensure that the strands of the hair retain moisture and don’t dry out. Dry hair can result from low porosity and/or high porosity.
So the goal is to find that delicate balance so your hair can thrive.
The health of your cuticles is a good indicator of your porosity level. Healthy cuticles lay flat and retain moisture. Unhealthy cuticles do not lay flat and allow moisture to escape, easily causing frizz and excessive dryness. The excessive dryness also causes split ends.
Low porosity (flat tight cuticles) will not allow moisture to enter. The cuticles are not damaged but the hair experiences dryness as if the cuticles were damaged. The hair takes longer to saturate with water and conditioner may have little to no effect on the hair. The cuticles are tightly sealed and it’s more difficult to penetrate them.
If you find that you suffer from dry hair and your porosity is low, using products that are more alkaline helps to lift the cuticles, so that moisture can enter.
Heavy oil and butter laden products will not solve dry hair issues if you have low porosity. These products will only cause build up.
Be sure on your wash days to remove all build up with a clarifying poo. Incorporate frequent deep condition treatments with a heating cap or steamer with every wash. Try skipping the cool water rinses and ACV rinses because your cuticles are already doing a great job at laying flat.
Your cuticles are “normal” if they’re not resistant to opening for moisture, are able to lie flat when they need to, and they are still intact.
Your hair wets well, not too fast and not too slow and moisture is retained well within the hair strands. The strands remain hydrated.
On the other end of the spectrum is high porosity. The cuticles do not lie flat. They are probably no longer attached to the strand of the hair, leaving the cortex unprotected. The damaged or missing cuticle is the cause of the dryness. The cuticle is not intact and is unable to perform its job, which is to seal shut – retaining the moisture. With high porosity, the hair wets fast and dries fast – no moisture is retained.
High porosity strands need to be infused with moisture. Utilize weekly deep treatments and monthly protein treatments to fill the pot holes and gaps in the hair strand. ACV rinses can be used to help close the cuticles.
Different things are the cause of porosity issues: the natural irregularities in natural hair, curling irons, flat irons and pressing combs, color treatments, chlorine, weathering and tightly closed cuticles.
Now it’s time to check out your hair strands.
Testing for porosity can be done three different ways. I suggest that you do them all and document your results in your journal. Finally, you should learn from the results.
Always test for porosity on clean, product-free, hair for the best results
Porosity Test #1 – The Strand Test:
Hold a strand of hair between your index finger and thumb. Using your opposite hand, slide your index finger and thumb up the hair strand. If you feel irregularities that appear to be typical twists, turns and angles of naturally curly hair, this is normal. If you feel snags, your hair may be porous. If you don’t feel anything and it’s smooth sailing from tip to the root, your porosity is low. For more information on understand irregularities with natural hair, check out What Every Natural Should Know about Curly Hair.
Porosity Test #2 – The Float Test
Harvest clean hair from your comb after you shampoo (allow hair to dry). Place the dry hair in a bowl of room temperature water (cold water will closes cuticles) to see if it will float or sink to the bottom. If it sinks, your porosity is high. If it floats, the porosity is low.
Porosity Test #3 – The Wet/Dry Test
During your next wash, take notice of how long it takes for your hair to actually become saturated with water. If it takes forever, your hair may have a low porosity level. However, if your hair saturates almost immediately, then you may be highly porous. After the wash is complete, take note on how long it takes for your hair to dry. If it takes a very short time period, your hair may be porous. If it takes a long time, then your hair porosity may be low.
These tests are helpful to give approximates. To get exact results, strands should be viewed under a microscope.
Learn how to manage the different porosity levels in Natural and Porosity – Part 2.