There are a couple of well known ways you can test your hairs porosity:
1. Find hair strands from different areas of your head – front hairline, nape, crown and temple. Take the hair and place it between your thumb and finger and then slide your fingers down the hair strand from the end towards your scalp. Feel the hair; if it feels smooth then you have normal porosity. If you feel that the strand is rough, the strand feels dry, your fingers feel like they catch on the hair or the strand breaks then you have overly porous hair. If your fingers move easily up the strand and it feels dense and hard then you have low porosity.
2. Another way to check is to take a hair from your comb or one that has been shed naturally (as opposed to one you’ve pulled out) and drop it into a glass of water. If you see that the hair sinks straight away then your hair has high porosity as it’s taken on water rapidly. If it continues to float then you have low porosity since the hair isn’t taken in any water. If it sinks slowly then you have normal porosity.
3. Hold a section of your hair in your hand and use a spray bottle with a mist setting to spray your hair. You can then watch to see how the water reacts with your strands – does it get absorbed immediately (high porosity) or does it sit on top not being absorbed (low porosity).
It’s very important to point out that these tests are not fool proof by any means and are meant to be a rough guide. There are factors that are likely to affect the tests like what products you have on your hair so it is probably best to do these after co-washing but before applying products.
Perhaps a better way to determine your porosity is to simply observe your hair over time and see how it reacts in certain situations. You can also assess the things you do to your hair that may affect the porosity such as colouring, bleaching, chlorine or using heat. Observe how you hair feels, how it reacts to water, does it take a while for it to be saturated? Does your hair dry quickly? Is your hair frizzy?
Characteristics of Low Porosity Hair
- Hair takes a long time to dry
- Products tend to build up rather be absorbed
- Natural oils also sit on your hair rather than be absorbed
- When you wet your hair it takes longer than normal to be fully saturated
- Dye’s, relaxers and other chemical treatments don’t work very well or take longer than normal to work
Characteristics of High Porosity Hair
- Your hair absorbs products very easily and you can generally use quite a lot
- Your hair absorbs water easily but can still look and feel dry
- Your hair is often frizzy
- Your hair dries quickly
Characteristics of Normal Porosity Hair
- Hair absorbs and holds onto moisture sufficiently
- Hair has elasticity and ‘bounce’. It looks healthy and strong.
- Any chemical processes e.g. colouring occur as expected.
Porosity and Hair Care
In terms of what this all means for your hair care routine – once you know your porosity you can start to choose products to work with your hair.
Low Porosity and Your Curls
If you have low porosity hair, the smooth cuticle means that it is hard to get moisture into the shaft but once it’s in there it is well retained. Therefore you need to take steps to raise the cuticle. There are some simple steps you can take to do this which include:
- Using heat in your regime – this helps products to be absorbed as it can bind with the hair better. Try deep conditioning under a hooded drier, steamer or even use a warm towel.
- Distribute products evenly throughout your hair making sure not to put too much on.
- Apply products to damp hair instead of wet.
- Clarify your hair when products build up using a sulphate free shampoo, rinses such as apple cider vinegar or baking soda treatments.
- Use light weight moisturisers and oils. Jojoba oil is closest to our natural sebum and is light weight. Other light oils include grape seed oil, sweet almond oil and rose oil.
High Porosity and Your Curls
If you have high porosity hair you need to find products to help retain as much moisturise as possible. Some things you can do are:
- Use minimal heat – try to air dry your hair if possible
- Incorporate regular deep treatments into your routine. Depending on your texture, protein treatments are great too. (We’ll talk about Texture soon…)
- Use cold water to do your final rinse to help seal the cuticle and prevent frizz.
- Use your fingers to de-tangle instead of a comb as this will prevent hair loss and reduce the amount of hair breakage.
- Try to layer products to help seal in moisture. Play around with this but you can layer a leave in conditioner under oils/butters or a moisturising gel or curl cream. Moisture is the key; always add moisture into your regime.
If you have bad hair damage don’t fret – it will get better with time. As it grows out you can take the above steps to temporarily fix the raised cuticles by using conditioning treatments and so on to plug the raised cuticles and seal in moisture. As your new hair grown in better care routines will mean less damage and healthier curls.
Normal Porosity and Your Curls
Normal porosity hair doesn’t really have any specific Do’s or Don’ts as moisture uptake is managed sufficiently. Lucky devils.
Now that you understand porosity you can start to make the right decisions for your hair routine. See what works for others, check out the forum and get advice. That’s not to say that what works for one person will necessarily work for everyone. It’s important to say that all curly hair is unique. Curly hair is made of different textures, elasticity, density as well as its curl type and porosity. Plus there are other factors that mean your hair needs may be different to someone with the same type of curls – e.g. whether you colour your hair, use relaxers or straighteners and so on. It has its own unique personality and once you understand it better you can start to find out what works for you. Armed with the right routine and products you can achieve gorgeous frizz free curls.
In the next article we’ll look at hair texture as along with porosity it’s an important hair property to understand when making decisions for your curl care regime.