Although there are a lot of information nowadays about hair care and hair porosity, however it does get overwhelming to decipher of all these information especially when there are so many humming the same tunes.
So with this difficulty in mind, I thought why not write a post to further break this down and help others whom are still confused about hair porosity and what the fuss with it is all about. Hopefully I accomplish that with this post.
First let’s start with baby steps
When something is described as being porous it means permeable, penetrable, or basically open. For e.g a sponge can be porous as it has small holes water or air can easily pass through. Also a wall can be porous as sound is easily transmitted through.
Your hair could be very (open) porous (high porosity hair) or not very(open) porous (low porosity hair) or porous (open) enough (medium/normal porosity hair)
Moisture (water/liquid) can either easily penetrate (high porosity) or not easily penetrate (low porosity) the hair cuticle (the hair cuticle is the outer layer of the hair shaft). Either is good nor bad. They just require different hair care needs and this is what we need to focus on —hair care.
Now Let’s focus on the two most popular hair porosity —low and high, with its characteristics.
High porosity hair characteristics
Since we have understood that something which is highly porous is basically really open like a man suffering from mid-life crisis open to try new things kinda open (you get the picture).
High porosity hair has a tendency to receive and divulge or release easily. As soon as it takes in moisture, it releases it, so it is difficult to retain (keep) moisture and tends to become dry quickly. You tend to work harder to keep it in. High porosity hair can absorb moisture really fast, which also makes it great receptor of humidity (water vapour in the air) but not a “trap queen”.
Another sign to identify with high porosity is when you run your fingers through a hair strand, if the strand feels rough or dry or it breaks, it tends to indicate high porosity hair. It can also appear dry, frizzy, dull and requires a lot of product application.
High porosity hair care
Due to its lack of moisture retention, makes it a good receptor of proteins. So regular use of protein deep conditioner or hair masks are beneficial. It can also tolerate high content of protein based products as this helps maintain the hair’s elasticity (that bounce-back) and helps fill in those porous gaps, hence retaining the moisture.
Aside from proteins, most high porosity curly and coily textured hair naturals like to include thick butters, oils and other sealants in their hair care regimen (as high porosity hair can take in loads of products). What this does is to help seal in added moisture but most importantly prevent it from escaping through the window like a one night stand. However in true essence all this does is to create barriers. For e.g, you can add in your water, leave in conditioner or other moisturisers and then use a hair butter as sealant to create a first barrier (e.g Shea butter or Mango butter) and then layer on a thick oil (e.g Argan oil, extra virgin Castor oil, Avocado oil etc) to act as a second sealant or barrier and vice versa.
Also to further seal the hair cuticle after styling, you can also blast cool shots of air with a blow drier on the cold setting for at least 2-5 minutes. Also rinsing with cold water after washing or deep conditioning your hair helps to close the hair cuticles.
Remember your main priority with this type of porosity is to prevent the moisture from escaping, so basically you build walls around it. However bare in mind that such walls or barrier stands solid. Meaning any additional moisture won’t easily get in or escape, but be mindful of this, as regardless of whatever porosity you have, all hair can be prone to build up or excessive product residue if proper after care is not implemented. So as you layer on those barriers, remember to strip it down carefully with appropriate cleansers of choice in order to prevent further build up, which can lead to increase shedding and breakage. As the hair is being suffocated with enormous amounts of heavy duty products, this in turn also makes it weak. Don’t just focus on trapping in the moisture, makes sure that any product you apply on is actually moisturising before you layer on a sealant or barriers.
With all this being said, dry hair isn’t only linked with high porosity hair nor is the difficulty to retain moisture. Low porosity hair gets in on it too. So let’s take a look at low porosity hair and its characteristics.
Low porosity hair characteristics
First characteristic of low porosity hair you’ll notice as you feel a strand of hair with your fingers is that the strand tends to feel dense and hard to the touch and you can easily move slide your fingers down the strand.
Low porosity hair might seem like the trickiest of them all. However its inability to receive moisture easily doesn’t necessarily make it a naughty Nancy.
It is important to understand that with the ideal condition, low porosity hair can take in moisture easily. Due to its tightly packed cuticle making it difficult to receive moisture, it is essential to understand ways to assist with allowing in more moisture into the hair with this type of porosity.
Low porosity’s inability to take in moisture easily, is compensated by its ability to hold in moisture for very long. It can take in moisture, but very slowly and releases very slowly too. You might notice this by how long it takes for your hair to be thoroughly dry after styling or thoroughly wet when washing. Some naturals with extremes of low porosity find that it could take their hair days to be completely dry after their wash and styling routine.
However, it doesn’t end there. Have you ever tried to wet your hair and then you see water beads just resting at the surface of your strands? Well that’s another great indicator of a low porosity hair. Low porosity hair has no issues retaining moisture, because once it’s in there —it’s in there. You just need to get it in first.
Its ability to retain moisture doesn’t just end there, once you have applied all your styling products, it closes for business. Any other business offers after it has shut will just sit outside waiting for the doors to re-open. In essence, any further product application after the cuticles shuts, the products will just accumulate on the surface and will not penetrate until the ideal conditions are presented to open it back up. For e.g products will just sit on the surface, oil will sit on the surface and even water in form of water beads. However with ideal conditions they all could penetrate into the hair strands.
These conditions could come from shower steam, humidity, warm water and other indirect heat.
Low porosity hair care
We have established that it is less “open to make commitments” but if you can up the steam and get it hot and bothered —you’ll find a keeper. In essence —use heat. Now not just any kind of heat but the ideal kind. For example steamers or hot head caps when deep conditioning to help open up the cuticles so that moisture and products can get in. Or warm water, when washing the hair, especially to effectively remove product build-up (which most times is inevitable with low porosity hair) and for further moisture to be allowed in.
Also water based products are essential, the texture of the product can instantly tell you if it is water based. You might be able to notice a less opaque colour to it, almost as if you can see small packed water molecules or tiny bubbles when you examine the consistency on your finger tips. Yes, products like that are not only beneficial because they can easily penetrate your hair cuticles, but your hair can easily seal it in without being weighed down.
It is essential to note that it isn’t as important to seal low porosity hair as it is for high porosity. For e.g once you are able to quickly get the moisture and all your styling products to absorb into the hair strands, as the hair is left to dry, all those products will slowly penetrate into your hair strands as it closes its cuticles. So sealing with thick oils or butter isn’t really necessary for low porosity hair, but if you prefer you can opt for light oils instead. However, don’t forget to clarify your hair properly to avoid product buildup as this can weaken the hair strands and cause it to appear limp and weighed down. It’s important to note that Low porosit hair is very susceptible to product build-up.
With protein treatments or deep conditioners, it is important to understand that protein isn’t an enemy for low porosity hair as all hair strands is made up of a building block of Keratin which is a protein that binds the structure of our hair and nails together. However with the use of such products with proteins, less is more for low porosity hair. Maybe 2-3 protein ingredients if your low porosity hair is in dire need of protein treatments. Other than that, at least 1 listing of a hydrolyzed protein is enough on a frequent use depending on how futher down on the scale your low porosity hair is.
Well there you have it, a very thorough breakdown of hair porosity. Hopefully you get a better understanding of your hair porosity.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, have a lovely day!