Written by: Ciarra McLean
Many people go through their entire hair care regimen without knowing their hair’s porosity, which is a big missed opportunity! Knowing your hair’s porosity can drastically affect how you care for it. We’ve created this beginner’s guide to learn your hair’s porosity and also give you some quick tips on how to care for your curls based on the outcome.
What is porosity and why is it important?
Porosity is the way your hair absorbs and holds onto moisture. This means that if you’re unaware, you may be moisturizing your tresses with products that are barely absorbing and therefore not retaining, leading to dry, brittle hair. Similarly, your hair may be begging for a protein treatment instead of a moisture-rich deep conditioning session. There are three levels of porosity: low, normal/medium, and high. Knowing where your hair falls means you can choose the correct products and take your haircare to the next level!
Testing your hair’s porosity is simple and easy, requiring only two things and a few minutes of your time. Take a few clean strands of hair (no need to pluck your precious curls, simply use shed hair from detangling) and place it in a clear cup or bottle of water. Low porosity hair will float. Normal porosity hair will either hover around the middle or float and then sink, slowly. High porosity hair will sink right away.
Hair that is low porosity is likely not absorbing products, with anything you’ve applied sitting on top of the strands. This can result in weighed down, greasy tresses as moisture is not penetrating the cuticle. To rectify this situation, alter your routine to include adding gentle heat or steam when applying creams, gels, and oils. A trip under the dryer while conditioning will allow moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. You can also you can choose products specifically made for low porosity hair.
Normal porosity hair will benefit from regular deep conditioning sessions, with or without heat, as moisture will find its way inside the hair shaft without much-added effort. The hair cuticle is moderately open, meaning that your curls can easily retain added moisture. Be sure to occasionally treat your tresses to a protein treatment to keep up hair health and maintain medium porosity.
The result of either over styling, dying, or simply genetics, high porosity hair can soak up moisture but is unable to retain it. In this instance, you will likely want to focus on protein treatments, which will strengthen the hair and close the cuticle. After a protein treatment, follow up with a sealant such as oil to ensure that your newly strengthened hair retains moisture.
One thing to note is that just like you may have different hair textures all over your head, you may also experience a different porosity in various portions of your hair. This means that like many other situations in the natural hair experience, learning how to best take care of your hair in reference to porosity will require a bit of trial and error, however, you are now equipped with the knowledge to take care of any level of moisture-retaining tresses!