What Is Hair Porosity?

Hey you. This is another post in the Hair Basics series- a bunch of posts about the fundamentals of hair. What it really is and how it functions. You could continue the Understanding Hair 101 class here 🙂

Porosity, adj

The property of being porous.

Porous, noun.

Easily penetrated.

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WHAT IS HAIR POROSITY?

Hair Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to be penetrated. absorb and (not) retain moisture.

WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?

Good hair is healthy hair. Healthy hair is basically well moisturised hair.

When you moisturise, if your hair isn’t accepting it, your money and time are spent in vain. If your hair accepts all the moisture and lets go of it almost immediately, that’s like pouring water in a basket- still a waste of your time.

WHAT DETERMINES YOUR HAIR POROSITY?

Remember the structure of hair?  The Cortex is the power house; it determines what your hair looks like. Any hair product that promises strength, or moisture or conditioning, everything really, is supposed to get to your cortex for it to work. But sometimes, it’s not so easy to get to the cortex and sometimes it’s too easy. Why is that?

Ask the cuticle. Your hair cuticle is the gateway to your cortex and it does what it does. You have to learn how friendly or unfriendly your cuticle is and befriend it, work with it to get the desired results. Your cuticle determines your hair porosity. Stay with me now.

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF HAIR POROSITY?

There are three levels of Hair Porosity.

  1. Low Porosity. Lo-Po hair has really tight, compact cuticle and so it’s really really difficult for moisture to get through. On the bright side, if you can succeed to get moisture in, it retains the moisture really well.
  2. High Porosity. Hi-Po hair is like a sponge. It absorbs moisture, products pretty well, maybe too much- but it does a bad job at retaining moisture.
  3. Normal Porosity. If you’ve got Nor-Po hair, you’re lucky. It can absorb moisture but doesn’t overdo it and it retains it as well.

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

Well, this isn’t a secret you should keep. Most hair products are designed for Nor-Po hair. However, I have good reason to believe that there are more Hi-Po and Lo-Po people in the world than Nor-Po people. Sucky, I know. Knowing your porosity can change everything. It can help you make adjustments- it can help you filter the information and products you’re assaulted with whenever you care to look.

HOW CAN YOU KNOW YOUR POROSITY?

It’s really simple.

  1. Put some water in a bowl.
  2. Take a strand of your hair- a clean, freshly washed, product-free strand and leave it on the surface of the water.
  3. Observe how long it takes for the strand to sink to the bottom of the bowl, if it goes down at all.

If your hair quickly sinks to the bottom, you’ve got High Porosity hair.

If your hair doesn’t get to the bottom in like an hour, or it’s still floating on top, you have Low Porosity hair.

If your hair gradually makes its way down- not too fast, not too slow, congrats, you’re a lucky one! Normal Porosity.

MY POROSITY

As I strongly suspected, my hair is super-duper Low Porosity. I placed my hair in a bowl of water, I checked an hour later- still floating on top. I went away, hopeful- and came back another hour later- still on top! O_O

OKAY, I KNOW MY POROSITY.  NOW WHAT?

When you know better, you do better- this is what the Hair Basics posts are all about.

Remember what I said about sweeping generalisations on the basis of Hair Typing? One myth or general rule I’ve read so many times is that highly textured hair a.k.a. Kinky hair is highly porous. My hair is SO kinky, yet I’m the opposite of highly porous. My cuticles cannot possibly be any less porous!

Another general rule I was observing since my big chop is- wash natural hair with cold water only. I’ve been doing a little Lo-Po research lately and it has been recommended by a few Lo-Po naturalistas, that light heat is good for Low Porosity hair. Washing with lukewarm water instead is advised. I’ve done this a few times since I read that and so far I haven’t noticed any difference but time will tell.

Having introduced the three levels of Hair Porosity, I’ll go on now to discuss them in a little more detail.

NORMAL POROSITY

Hey, lucky one.

Pros:

  1. Your hair absorbs moisture really well.
  2. Your hair retains moisture really well.
  3. Most products were made for you.

Any cons? No. All you have to do is moisturise and seal with a light hand, as you feel your hair requires.

If you don’t moisturise enough, your hair will be dry. If you do too much, you could have build-up too. It’s just that your hair naturally knows the moisture balance, so go with it. Don’t do too much, or too little. Just listen to your hair.

LOW POROSITY HAIR

Your cuticles are not just united against moisture, they are united against everything, really- and this works both ways, good and not so good.

Pros:

  1. Retains moisture really well.
  2. Lo-Po hair is highly resistant to damage from chemicals or heat- any form of over processing really- and this is a big pro.
  3. Lo-Po hair doesn’t need a lot of protein treatments- except your hair is breaking or showing any signs of damage, put down the mayo. Don’t follow that person that does a protein DC every two weeks. Too much protein and your hair is going to look dull because it’s just ugly dead protein lying there atop your hair shaft.

Cons:

  1. Serious difficulty in absorbing moisture.
  2. Lo-Po hair may be prone to build-up because the product isn’t getting in, it’s probably just sitting on your hair, weighing it down- except you’re doing the right things.

Since I discovered my hair is Lo-Po, I’ve been doing a bit of reading on this and basically- since the cuticles are so tight, the key to working with Lo-Po hair is stimulating it to raise its cuticles. When the cuticles are raised, they open up to receive the goodness you have to offer. I will be trying the things mentioned in this article I found on Curly Nikki and will report on any difference I experience.

It is advised that the basic regimen for Lo-Po hair involves

  1. Water-based leave-in moisturiser
  2. Humectants
  3. Seal in with a light oil.

The idea behind a light oil is this. Humectants draw moisture from the atmosphere into your hair. A heavy oil can render this useless as it is too much of a barrier. Some people say Coconut Oil may be too heavy for Lo-Po hair since the cuticle does such a great job at retaining moisture.

Note to self: The basic Lo-Po regimen is the simple moisturise & seal regimen that I’ve been doing. Coconut oil has been alright so far but I should probably try a lighter oil- like Jojoba or Grapeseed- just to test the theory. My moisturiser contains glycerin, a humectant- but as I’m using less of the lotion, I should probably mix more humectants into my routines.

HIGH-POROSITY HAIR

The good news is, unlike some of us, you have no problem absorbing moisture. The bad news is, your hair lets go of this moisture really quickly. Also, High-Porosity hair is very prone to chemical and heat damage, so you have to be really cautious and avoid this.

Some are born with Hi-Po hair. Some have Hi-Po hair thrust upon them (or bring it upon themselves)

Some people are born with Hi-Po hair and some people’s hair becomes Hi-Po along the way because of over processing. There are some treatments designed for High Porosity and the idea behind them is to make the cuticles tighter, and more compact.

Also, some say that a cuticle once permanently altered is altered forever. So if your cuticle is wide open because of chemical or heat damage, it might not be a bad idea to cut your hair and start growing it out again.

A Hi-Po hair regimen involves a lot of sealing! And at this point, I’m pretty sure you know why. The cuticle in Hi-Po hair is elevated in some way, making it easy for matter to go into and come out of the hair shaft. As it has no problems absorbing, the idea is to make exit more difficult. More sealing is required than with Lo-Po or Nor-Po hair.

A Hi-Po regimen according to the good people at naturallycurly.com

many high porosity naturals, after washing their hair, apply a leave-in conditioner, then a thick water based moisturizer followed by a heavy butter. By layering your products, you are providing your hair with the moisture it needs from the leave-in and moisturizer, and ensuring that the moisture remains near the hair shaft by using a heavy butter or oil to act as a protective layer to prevent the moisture from being lost to the atmosphere. High porosity naturals may also find it necessary to moisturize often and some high porosity naturals moisturize once or twice daily.

So now. What’s your hair porosity? Please do the test and google accordingly, for more information on your porosity. You might need to make some adjustments- raise or shut your cuticles- as your hair requires.

How long have you been aware of your porosity, and has this knowledge made you follow a particular routine for your hair? 

Low Porosity is new to me, so this is one more discovery in my hair journey. This is now the journey towards happy, healthy, kinky 4C low-porosity hair. : )

xx

0 Replies to “What Is Hair Porosity?”

    1. Yeah I noticed that that too,i put in 3 strands one went down immediately, another stayed at the middle and the other remained ontop,although I guess it’s because am transitioning

  1. I have low porosity hair and I had all the indications. Over the course of my life no matter which product or method I used my hair suffered lots of split ends. Yet my hair underneath the split ends maintained some healthy hairs and has always been able to grow past my rear, as it is now, except that I just trimmed like an inch. My hair took light years to dry, and no matter what it how much I put on it, it dried frizzy and I got split ends. This year my hair is suffering breakage, so I made the decision to do the hair porosity test. I thought it would be high because I moisturized my hair constantly and it would look nice when it was freshly moisturized but two hours later it would be a frizzy mess. But now that I warm up my moisturizers and use the products that are recommended for low po hair, I really don’t even have to do it more than once a day. If I wear my hair out though, I have to detangle more often. I wear buns all the time at he but I find it challenging to commit to wearing buns out of the house. I am now switched over to all silk and satin hair accessories and just struggling trying to figure out how much to deep condition my hair because my hair is still a bit damaged. I am doing search and destroy and micro trimming. I have a lot of healthy hair now but I am confused about how much I should shampoo/condition it. I really do not like to skip shampooing. I tend to do it twice a week. I just feel like putting a bunch of moisture into my hair without cleansing may be counterproductive when it comes to really getting my hair to absorb the moisture.

    1. thank you for your comment, Charlotte! 🙂
      I’m not a pro and I don’t know everything about your hair- but here are my thoughts-

      1. Lately, you’ve been experiencing breakage. This I believe could either be because A. Your hair is brittle/inelastic (it needs more moisture) or B. Your hair structure is a little weak right now (it needs more protein)

      2. You could try deep conditioning once a week for starters, and see how that goes. I did 2 posts about Deep conditioning, but there are so many different DCs you could try.

      http://www.thekinkandi.com/2013/06/12/adopt-good-habits-deep-conditioning/

      http://www.thekinkandi.com/2013/02/06/last-weekend-operation-get-my-hair-back/

      3. Moisturising your hair with product without cleansing can be counterproductive- clean hair is important, but then what we think is clean, may be beyond the definition of clean for your hair.

      Shampooing is a little psychological I think, because we watch the shampoo lather like soap, washing powder, like basically every cleaning agent we’ve ever known. The lathering makes me feel like I’m actually cleansing.

      While this is true, your hair doesn’t need to be cleansed this way all the time. The surfactants in conditioner are sufficient to handle your mid-week washes, most of your washes. But to avoid build up, we must clarify from time to time.

      When you shampoo, do you pre-poo? You may want to try shampooing once a week instead of two times and see if your hair responds to that. Then for your mid-week wash(es), you could just co-wash.

      I just worry that all that shampooing may be drying your hair out. Just saw one of your videos, good cover 🙂 with hair that long, it’s remarkable that you have the patience to wash so often!

      You can deep cleanse/clarify your hair without shampoo. Baking soda and African native black soap are good alternatives.

      http://www.thekinkandi.com/2013/03/20/wash-day-no-poo/

      I hope this helps
      🙂

      1. Thank you so much and I apologize that I just now found your response by accident. The good thing is that being I did not see this response I made this realization on my own. I also worried that the shampooing played a role though it was not the only factor because I am still overcoming this slowly. I have switched to co-washing and will probably just do my clay treatment to clarify once a month. I might use a light shampoo every two weeks I will just watch how it goes. One thing I have learned is that since my last post I do not know what I was talking about…my low po hair will not accept conditioner or water based products. My hair does like coconut oil a lot and other than that I will have to explore stuff like henna, amla and herbals like catnip. I just can’t stay sane with conditioners and leave-in because I have to moisturize too much. I was worried what in the world this would be like on vacation. If I just pack up some coconut oil I can easily slick it on while I ride. When I look at what works I judge by the health of my ends, and my ends are fine as long as the oil traps water or conditioner on my hair but my experience is that it does not do it for longer than just a few hours and when I apply conditioner on damp hair it does not take at all, wet, damp or dry, even if I warm it. I am not sure what I was talking about in my previous post because I have always had to moisturize at least twice a day with conditioner. I suspect it just isn’t absorbing. Thanks. I think what I will do for now is spritz water then add coconut oil but at inconvenient times I will just do the coconut oil. I always used coconut oil before I read any rule books and it never failed me. I began to fail when I started trying to do all these curly methods that involve extensive use of hair products. My hair just does not like products.

        1. yep. Research can be helpful but personal experience when you have it, throws all theories out the window!
          It’s great that you’ve identified what you like and what you don’t like!
          Through trial and error, we’ll succeed:)

  2. Thanks for the information. I just found out I have low porosity hair, well at least the glass test says I do but not necessarily suffering from all the symptoms. Anyway, trying to find as much information as possible about how I should treat my hair and this post came in handy. 🙂

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