You may have heard the phrase ‘hair porosity’ thrown around in the curly community, but the term can often leave you feeling confused, unsure how to factor the news into your hair journey.
Porosity determines how easily moisture moves in and out of your hair. Or, in other words, its ability to absorb and retain moisture. That may not sound like a big deal, but it affects how your hair responds to every product you use.
Rather than wasting your precious time and money on products that don’t work with your hair, you can use a simple test to discover your hair’s porosity.
With a little help from natural hair expert, Dionne Smith, and Cantu, we’re here to reintroduce you to your curls, so you can start to LOVE your hair and get the most out of your routine.
What is hair porosity?
Porosity is determined by how the cuticles lie on your hair follicle. The flatter the cuticle, the more difficult it is for moisture to move in and out of the hair. On the other hand, raised cuticles create teeny tiny holes that allow water to move in and out of the follicle with ease.
Although highly porous hair takes moisture in easily, it also escapes quickly, without a barrier to trap the hydration. Low porosity hair may be harder to hydrate, but once it’s in, the moisture’s there to stay. In between the two, medium or normal porosity hair has a slightly raised cuticle, meaning the strand can absorb and hold moisture fairly easily.
High Porosity: moisture is easily absorbed but quickly lost.
Medium/Normal Porosity: moisture is fairly easy to absorb and retained quite well.
Low Porosity: moisture is difficult to absorb, but easy to retain.
How porous is my hair?
There are two ways to work out your porosity: the slip test or the water test. Although the slip test requires zero effort, the water test gives clearer results, so take your pick.
The Slip Test
Slide your finger and thumb up and down a single strand of dry hair. If your fingers move easily and quickly, it’s low porosity. If you feel bumps or resistance when moving towards the scalp, it’s high porosity. If it’s somewhere in the middle, it’s normal porosity.
The Water Test
- Shampoo and rinse your hair to remove any product
- Fill a glass with water
- Remove a single strand of hair and place it in the glass (don’t push or prod, just place it gently on top of the surface)
- Wait for three minutes
If your hair sits on the water’s surface, it’s low porosity. If it’s floating somewhere in the middle of the glass, it’s normal porosity. Sunk to the bottom of the glass? – You guessed it, high porosity.
Flat-lying cuticles make it a bit of a mission to move moisture in or out of your follicle. But it’s not all bad news, low porosity hair is great at retaining moisture, meaning your locks will feel luscious for days after deep conditioning. What’s more, your hair is naturally shinier, silkier and healthier-looking than the other categories.
If your hair is low porosity, you probably have a pretty good hair routine, filled with heat evasion, silk bonnets and finger combing – for which I commend you.
A few signs of low porosity hair are:
- Products tend to sit on top of the hair strand, leaving a white residue
- Takes forever to straighten
- Takes hours to dry
- Stays moisturised for days after washing
How to help low porosity hair:
One of the best ways to open your cuticle is with heat. I know that goes against the heat-free lifestyle us naturals try to lead, but it can really benefit your locks. Hot water or a heated cap can help to open the cuticle, letting moisture move into the hair. With the bonnet, it’s best to apply heat after you’ve put the product on, so the goodness can be absorbed – just make sure you use a high-quality heat protectant, like the Cantu Thermal Shield Heat Protect 5.1.
Low porosity hair also benefits from formulas that are packed with emollients (moisturisers), such as Shea Butter, Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, and Mineral Oil. Your hair will also love products rich in humectants, such as Glycerin or Honey, which naturally attract and hold moisture into your hair. Choose lighter, liquid-based products that are more easily absorbed, so they won’t just sit on top of the follicle.