Hey again, NaturAllistas! We’re back with another popular customer question - just as we promised. As many of you know, there’s a lot more to natural hair than just knowing your curl type and pattern. Knowing your hair type is an incredibly helpful guide for predicting how your hair might react to certain products and practices along your hair journey, but there are even more hair characteristics that many naturals may not know about.
Recently, we have been receiving a lot of questions about hair porosity. Have you ever noticed how two naturals with Type 4 hair can still have curls that behave in completely different ways? The way your hair reacts has to do with its porosity! But what does that mean? Hair porosity, simply put, is a measure of your hair’s ability to hold moisture. There are three different types of hair porosities and each determines how your hair absorbs moisture.
- Low Porosity
- Medium Porosity
- High Porosity
Finding out which level of porosity your hair is can be quite simple and there are many easy porosity tests you can do at home to figure it out in just a few minutes! But first, let’s dive into the science behind why these different grades of hair porosity exist.
The Science Behind Hair Porosity
To better understand how porosity works, you must first understand how each strand of hair is structured. Individual hairs consist of layers, just like your skin, and they are:
- The Cuticle - The outermost part of the hair shaft which consists of overlapping layers of dead cells. This protects your hair strand and determines how much moisture is let in.
- The Cortex - The thickest layer of the hair. It lies between the hair cuticle and medulla. The more moisture that reaches the hair cortex, the healthier and more hydrated your hair will be.
- The Medulla - The soft, fragile, and innermost layer of the hair shaft.
Since the hair cuticle is the gatekeeper to the rest of the hair shaft, the way it is shaped influences how much moisture is able to get into the cortex. The tighter cells are wrapped around the hair strand, the harder it is for any oils, water, or moisturizing product to get through. As you can see in the picture below, low porosity hair has this characteristic, while high porosity hair has cuticles that are widely spaced apart with lots of room to let moisture in. However, high porosity hair can also have cuticles that are spaced too far apart, resulting in hair that has a harder time holding onto moisture.
How Do I Find My Hair Porosity?
Now that you know the science behind why your hair might behave the way it does, it’s time to see what type of porosity your hair has! There are a number of easy ways to find this out at home, but we recommend these specific hair porosity tests:
- The Slip ‘n Slide Test - Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the length of it, toward your scalp. If you feel small bumps along the way, you have high porosity hair. If the shaft is smooth, your cuticle is bound tightly and you have low porosity hair.
- The Spray Bottle Test - Take a small section of your hair and mist it with a spray bottle. If the water beads up on the surface of your hair, it means that your cuticles are very close together and not allowing the water to be absorbed. This means that your hair has a low porosity. However, if it absorbs quickly, your hair has cuticles that are spread further apart, meaning it has a high porosity. If you notice the water sitting on your hair for a few minutes before it’s absorbed, you have medium porosity hair.
- The Float Test - Take a few strands of hair from your brush or comb (Note: use clean hair! Hair products can alter your results), and drop them into a glass of water. Let them sit for a few minutes. If your hair floats on top of the water after the time is up, you have low porosity hair. If it sinks, your hair has a high porosity level. (It may float somewhere in the middle of the bowl if you have medium porosity hair). The reason why high porosity hair sinks is because the open cuticles allow for water to enter the hair shaft and weigh it down, making your hair sink to the bottom!
What Products Work Best For My Hair Porosity?
So you found out your hair porosity, now what? It is important to understand the characteristics of your specific hair porosity level and what the best products are to use!
As we now know, low porosity hair is moisture resistant because the cuticles are much closer together. 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 curls 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 and cleansing shampoos that are made without extra chemicals or sulfates that can clog your hair up. NaturAll’s Hydrating Avocado Conditioner and Cleansing Avocado Shampoo (those with low-po rave about our shampoo) are perfect options!
- Moisture-rich products such as jojoba oil, Shea butter, coconut oil, or mineral oil. NaturAll’s Nourishing Leave-In Conditioner is another great product to use because it provides a lot of moisture that will easily penetrate your hair shaft and keep your hair hydrated.
- Lightweight and liquid-based products will help avoid product build up. Many oils can weigh your hair down, but NaturAll’s Pure Avocado Oil is incredibly lightweight and won’t sit on your hair or weigh it down.
- NaturAll’s Fresh Avocado Deep Conditioner Dull Solution is also a great option. It is rich with moisturizing ingredients made to penetrate your low porosity hair, but is also made with less concentrated oils and protein, which will help you avoid product buildup.
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 hair adapts 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 to maintain such styles and treatments over time. How to care for medium porosity hair:
- Avoid protein in your daily hair regimen, but deep condition periodically with a product that does include protein. NaturAll’s Ice Cream™ Treatment Deep Conditioners come in three different varieties that you can choose from to give your hair all of the moisture and nutrients it needs!
- If you are used to styling your hair daily but looking to stay away from protein, NaturAll’s Flaxseed Styling Bundle has the best Curl Custards, Gels, and Edge Controls to give your hair all the bounce and shine you’ve been looking for!
High Porosity Hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle layer, which allow moisture to pass through quickly. This can lead to frizz and tangling in humid weather, and extreme dryness in dry weather. What to use:
- Leave-in conditioners and moisturizers like NaturAll’s Nourishing Avocado Leave-In Conditioner once applied will continue to provide your hair with moisture throughout the day.
- Leave-in conditioners can moisturize the hair, but applying a sealant such as NaturAll’s Pure Avocado Oil on top can help your hair retain more moisture over time and prevent dryness. Sometimes, your high porosity hair may need something a little heavier to keep the moisture in! Our Strengthening Jamaican Black Castor Oil Serums might just do the trick.
- NaturAll’s Ice Cream™ Treatment Deep Conditioner’s Repairing or Original Dry Solution varieties are also great for high porosity hair! They can help provide your hair with deeply penetrating moisture and nourishment which is very beneficial to high porosity hair, because it tends to dry out easily.
Each hair porosity type comes with its own strengths and struggles, but we want to remind you that there are no “good” or “bad” hair types. The natural hair journey is all about understanding your hair and appreciating how unique it is. At NaturAll, we want to continue to help you understand your hair and find the perfect, natural products that continue to keep your hair healthy, hydrated, and strong.
We hope that we were able to answer some of your most pressing questions about hair porosity and what the best products for you are. Feel free to submit any questions you want answered next week in the comments below! Until then, don’t forget to be deliciously you!