HEY! What’s your hair type??????
How many times have you been asked this, or wondered it for yourself? Let’s be honest, we’ve all obsessed at least a little bit about our hair type or curl pattern. Maybe it’s somewhere in-between 3c and 4a, or maybe you have 4a, 4b, AND 4c in different parts of your hair! As one of the most visible characteristics of natural hair, it can seem all-important, and many people think knowing their hair type will ultimately determine how to care for their hair.
But contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about hair type. In fact, your hair has other characteristics that are even more important to know in your natural hair journey.
The truth is, people with the same exact curl pattern may have hair that behaves extremely differently. This is often due to another important but less visible characteristic of hair, called porosity. We’ll get into porosity in this blogpost, but keep in mind that it isn’t the end-all either when it comes to natural hair! Take the time to learn about density and hair thickness as well in order to fully understand your hair and how it responds to different products and treatments.
So… what is porosity?
Porosity is a measurement of your hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. You can also think of it as indicating how easily moisture can penetrate your hair. Porosity is determined by the structure of your cuticle- the outer layer of your hair. Low porosity hair has a tightly bound cuticle layer, making it difficult for moisture to penetrate (but also difficult for moisture to escape, once it’s in your hair.) On the other hand, high porosity hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle, allowing moisture to easily pass in and out. Porosity is determined by genetics, but can be altered by external factors like heat and chemical processing.
How does porosity determine the products I should use?
Porosity has important implications for the products you use on your hair. Here are the basics:
Low Porosity Hair is moisture resistant- this means that it may be hard to get moisture into your hair, but once you do, you don’t need to worry as much about your hair drying out. Your hair can also be prone to product buildup, especially from protein-rich products. What to use:
- Protein-free daily conditioners with humectants (products that attract moisture) like honey or glycerin
- Moisture-rich products such as jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil, or mineral oil.
- Lighter or liquid-based products
- The Dull solution of NaturAll Club’s avocado deep conditioner
Medium Porosity Hair has a looser cuticle layer, allowing for a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of your hair. Medium porosity stands up well to styling, coloring, and chemicals- which means you should be careful! Frequent treatment can slowly increase the porosity of your hair, making it more difficult over time to maintain such styles and treatments. How to care for medium porosity hair:
- Avoid protein in your daily regimen
- Deep condition periodically with a product that does include protein
- Use any solution of NaturAll Club’s avocado deep conditioner
High Porosity Hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle layer, which allow moisture to pass quickly in and out. This can lead to frizz and tangling in humid weather, and extreme dryness in dry weather. You’ll need to be careful with activities like swimming or bathing that involve a lot of moisture getting into your hair, since this can cause breakage. What to use:
- Anti-humectants, especially when it’s humid, will seal your cuticles and prevent them from absorbing too much moisture. (Ex: raw shea butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil)
- Leave-in conditioners, moisturizers, and sealers will help your hair retain moisture and prevent dryness.
- The Damaged solution of NaturAll Club’s avocado deep conditioner
Great… now, how do I determine my hair porosity?
Porosity is very simple to determine: there are three tests you can do right now!
- The Float Test: Take some strands of hair from your brush or comb (note: use clean hair! Hair products can alter your results), and drop them in a bowl of water. Let them sit for a few minutes. If your hair floats after the time is up, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity. (It may float somewhere in the middle of the bowl if you have medium porosity.)
- The Slip ‘n Slide Test: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up it, toward your scalp. If you feel small bumps along the way, you have high porosity. If the shaft is smooth, your cuticle is bound tight and you have low porosity hair.
- The Spray Bottle Test: Take a small section of your hair and mist it with a spray bottle. Watch closely: if the water beads up on your hair, it is low porosity. If it absorbs quickly, your hair is high porosity. If you notice the water sitting on your hair for a couple minutes before absorbing in, you have medium porosity hair.
Take a couple minutes now and determine your hair porosity- it is essential in knowing how to care for your natural hair. Remember, there are no "good" or "bad" hair types- it's all about knowing how to care for the hair that you have. Two people with the same curl patterns may have different porosity, and therefore need to use very different products. However, there is one product you should use regardless of hair porosity...you guessed it! A deep conditioning treatment is important for all hair types, since it provides nutrients that all hair needs to grow and remain strong. Check out our all-natural avocado deep conditioners here.