Porosity in the hair refers to the amount of moisture a strand of hair can absorb and retain. A strand is thought to either have low porosity, medium porosity or high porosity.
Again. Why is this even important to know? Porosity is probably one of the most important characteristics to recognize about your natural hair. Porosity has to do whether your cuticle layer of your hair strand is lifted or lying flat. This will determine what kind of product to use in your hair to achieve the best results and what kind of regimens you should be using to keep your hair moisturized and looking its best.
If a strand has low porosity that means the cuticle layer is flat down and it is hard for moisture to enter into the strand.
If a hair strand has high porosity then that means the cuticle layer is lifted like shingles on a roof. This means that moisture is able to enter into the hair strand easily but it also isn’t held into the hair easily either.
Low Porosity Hair
Low porosity hair usually needs to use heat when deep conditioning to assist that cuticle layer in lifting to allow moisture to enter in. A steam treatment does AMAZING for low porosity hair because it lifts the cuticle allowing for added moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. Once moisture is in you want to rinse in cool water to close it back down to retain or trap that moisture in. Also, low porosity hair can appear more shinier because the light reflection off the cuticle is better because you have a cuticle that is lying flat.
Low porosity hair will also dry faster during styling. Use warm water when able in order to lift the cuticle to force moisture in.
Medium/normal porosity hair is normal and easy to obtain and retain moisture. You can still use a steamer for deep conditioning if you want but you may only need 10-15 minutes under it in order to achieve the moisture you need. Medium porosity hair is ideal for styling and usually dries in a good amount of time and can absorb and hold moisture easily. Usually performs the best with defined twist outs, lasting rod sets and beautiful and shiny silk presses.
High porosity hair is where the cuticle layer is raised constantly and moisture can easily enter but it can easily exit as well. It can absorb moisture but it is hard to retain moisture. With high porosity hair it is not necessary to use heat when deep conditioning because the cuticle is already raised and you do not want it to swell too much because that could be even more damaging. Styling with highly porous hair may be difficult as well because the cuticle is so blown out it may not hold a style very well or even look very shiny at all. Good things to do with highly porous hair would be to rinse as often as possible with cool/cold water to seal the cuticle, use apple cider vinegar rinses to seal the cuticle as much as possible and do not be afraid to trim your hair when needed! Do not use to much heat on the hair as it will damage it worse, and be very kind during any detangling or styling since highly porous hair is easier to break.
With highly porous hair you want to focus on protein treatments because protein will enter into the hair shaft and help fill the holes in the cuticle to allow for a smoother, stronger hair strand. Whenever protein is being used you always want to follow up with a moisturizer to balance them out because too much protein can harden the hair and cause it to break! If you are wanting to get color and your hair is very porous, you may need to fill the strand first with a porosity (protein) spray then color so you can get even distribution of color from root to end.
*Sess Lee Tip:
The hair strand is comprised of three layers ( in theory..sometimes only two layers are present) the cuticle being the outermost layer, the cortex is under that, then the medula is the innermost layer. The medula usually is not present in fine hair. To have hair appear its healthiest you want to focus on the cuticle layer (the outermost layer of the hair strand). That is what allows moisture in, helps hair look shiny and tells you whether or not its time for a trim!
Porosity Testing- To test your hair porosity get a cup of water and strands of your hair out of a brush. Put the hair into the glass of water and see what it does.
If your hair floats and continues to float after 15 seconds of being in the water then your hair most likely has low porosity.
If your hair instantly sinks to the bottom and stays at the bottom then your hair most likely has high porosity.
If your hair floats for about 10 seconds or so then sinks to the bottom but returns to the top then your hair has normal porosity.
Why Does Porosity Even Matter?
Porosity matters a lot when dealing with natural hair because natural hair needs moisture in order to achieve the best curl possible. When your hair is hydrated and healthy your natural curls will pop!! They will take on their shape very well and look healthy and shiny.
When your hair lacks moisture your curls can not live the life they were meant to live! They will be dry and brittle and lifeless, leaving you discouraged about your natural hair and your hair type all together.
You may think you have no texture at all when in fact you have beautiful, springy, well defined curls that are waiting to emerge from a good drink of water!! Do not deprive your curls of moisture, trust me they need it to survive 🙂