If you are someone who is concerned about hair care and who does all he/she can to grow a full head of beautiful, natural hair, you must have come across a lot of hair care terms, one of them being hair porosity. You must have come across articles defining porosity, articles advising you on what kinds of products/care you should give your hair, and so on and so forth.
So, what exactly is hair porosity? And should the knowledge of this affect your hair care regimen? What I am doing with this article is to teach you all you have ever wanted to know about hair porosity and how it can help you have better, more beautiful natural hair.
So, what is porosity?
In the simplest of terms, hair porosity has to with the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture, and how well moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair cuticle. Let’s keep in mind that the cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair.
When you have cuticles that are close together, you have low porosity hair. Cuticles that are less tightly bound means that you have medium porosity hair while cuticles that are more widely spaced means that you have high porosity hair.
While porosity is inherently inherited, there are other external factors that affect how porous your hair is, and these factors include chemical processing, heat treatments and sun exposure.
At the end of the day, understanding your hair's porosity will help you choose the right products and right hair care routine to keep your hair well-moisturised, shiny, strong and supple.
Let’s go back to the basics
To properly understand porosity, perhaps it is best to begin from the very basics. Let’s take a look at the basic structure of your hair.
Your hair consists of three layers, and the first one of these layers is the cuticle. Your cuticle is the outer layer of your hair, and this is a strong, protective layer made up of smaller cuticles overlapping each other. The formation of cuticles is quite similar to how shingles lie on a roof.
The second layer of the hair is the cortex, and this is stronger than your cuticle. In fact, it is the thickest layer of your hair, containing fibrous proteins and the pigment that gives hair its colour.
Finally, we have the medulla, and this is the central part of the hair shaft. This is the softest layer of your hair.
For anyone’s hair to stay hydrated and healthy, water, oils, and other moisturising products must pass through the cuticle (outermost layer) and get to the cortex (the second layer).
In a situation where the cuticles are too close together, water and oils have a harder time penetrating the hair, making it harder for the hair to gain access to the moisture it needs. And in a situation where the cuticles are too widely spaced, the hair has a difficult time holding on to the moisture it gets and staying hydrated.
How to determine your hair porosity
There are several ways to test your hair porosity, and all of them are fairly easy.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to test hair porosity is by using a glass of water.
To do this test, first shampoo and rinse your hair so that there is no product build-up in the hair. Next, fill a clear glass with water, and once your hair is clean and dry, drop one strand of the hair into the glass of water. Watch the strand to see if the hair floats at the top of the glass or sinks to the bottom.
If the strand floats at the top before it sinks, you likely have low porosity hair. If the strand floats in the middle of the glass, you probably have medium or normal porosity hair. If the strand sinks to the bottom of the glass almost immediately, you likely have high porosity hair.
You can also test your porosity level using the Slip'n'Slide Test. You do this by running a finger down one strand of your hair. If it feels smooth, you probably have low porosity hair. On the other hand, if it feels rough and bumpy, it is probably high porosity hair.
One of the harder porosity tests is the H20 test. To determine your hair porosity level using this test, spray a small section of your hair with water and then wait to see how your hair reacts. If the water remains on top of your hair without getting absorbed, it is probably low porosity hair, and if your hair quickly absorbs the water, it is probably high porosity hair.
The characteristics of low porosity hair
The cuticles are tightly packed and very close to each other. Low porosity hair has a tightly bound cuticle layer and the scales overlap flatly, making it difficult for moisture to get to the hair shaft.
Hair products tend to sit on the hair and don’t get easily absorbed into the hair.
When washing the hair, it’s hard for water to saturate the hair. And once you are done washing the hair, it takes a long time for it to air dry.