Hair porosity is a term that might be new to many of you. As we briefly defined in our hair glossary, from the word porous, porosity determines the ability of our hair to absorb and keep the moisture we apply to it.
the definition: Porosity is Moisture Retention
What determines how porous your hair is lies in the structural makeup of your hair strands. The outermost layer of your hair shaft is comprised of cuticles that overlay one another like window blinds. When these “blinds” are raised or wide open you will experience the state of high porosity, where your hair is able to easily absorb moisture, but because the cuticles are so open, they easily lose moisture as well.
Then there are those whose cuticles are shut tightly closed and when moisture is applied, it just sits on top of the hair and does not get absorbed. This state is known as low porosity.
Those whose cuticles are half open have mid-porosity. Their cuticles are open just enough to let moisture in, but not all the way, to avoid rapid loss of moisture and allow for the moisture to be adequately retained.
the test: Dip It!
A popular test for porosity is the water test.
- Fill a glass with water.
- Take a clean, shed strand of hair that has no product applied
- Place the hair strand in the glass of water
- Wait 2 to 3 minutes to read the results
the results: If your hair…
sinks to the bottom – you probably have high porosity
floats mid water – you most likely have mid-porosity
floats near the top of the water – you might have low porosity
the reasons: Multiple
There are multiple reasons behind the porosity of one’s hair. Some may have inherited their hair porosity while others may have acquired it through environmental factors and others may have caused it through chemical and heat treatments.
the breakdown: High | Mid | Low
Healthy levels of moisture | Mid-porosity is the easiest to manage and tends not to have many problems as it relates to moisture. So I will focus on high and low porosity here.
A flooded state | High-porosity can be caused by raised cuticles as we mentioned earlier, but it can also be caused by another reason. Your cuticles might not be raised, but altogether damaged, leaving gaps that allow excess moisture to penetrate into your hair. Agriculture teaches us that crops need moderate watering, and we know flooding them with water is damaging. This is the state of hair that is highly porous.
Both these factors that lead to high porosity can be assisted with the layering of heavier products such as butters and sealers to help close the gaps and prevent excess moisture from being absorbed.
A state of drought | Low-porosity is at the other end of the spectrum where the cuticle layer is so tightly shut that it is difficult for moisture to enter your hair. What results from this is that whenever you apply a product on your hair, it just sits on the surface, and gives you an overly oily appearance. The irony is that although the hair appears to be oily and saturated with moisture, it is actually dry as the moisture is ON the hair not IN the hair. Low porosity hair tends to dry out easily, leaving it brittle and highly prone to breakage.
Unlike high porosity hair, that benefits from the use of heavier products, those with low porosity should avoid heavy products as they will just sit on the hair and weigh it down.
Light oils, and butters with an emollient effect can help those with low porosity hair.
the conclusion: Observe
As always, observe your hair. If necessary test you porosity periodically to monitor changes and product effects.
Have you tested your porosity yet? Let us know what your experience was in the comment section below.
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