Updated: Mar 23
Black hair Porosity is not an everyday term that you will come across. Though there will be occasional social media posts or vague mentions here and there, it is hardly accepted or discussed as an essential aspect of hair care. We are often so engrossed in determining our hair type, curl type, hair density, etc. we hardly give hair porosity a thought. So, when even after so much due diligence and research, if our products don't seem to be bringing in desired results, we tend to develop a wrong attitude towards the brands we use. Yes, it is essential, rather mandatory, to ensure that the brands we use are natural, chemical-free, and beneficial to the overall health of your hair. But let me tell you this: porosity is critical in enabling you to establish the ideal routine for your natural hair. Above all, moisture is essential for natural hair to thrive, and porosity is crucial to ensure moisture reaches the central part of the hair shaft. So, before your next product purchase or the major overhaul of your hair care regime, here's a quick crash course in porosity.
What is Hair Porosity?
Your hair's porosity refers to its ability to absorb and retain moisture. It is influenced by the cuticle, a flexible outer hair layer that determines how easily moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair. Porosity is typically genetic, although it can also be influenced by environmental elements like exposure, heat treatment, and chemical processing. Choosing the best products to keep your hair moisturized, strong, supple, and shining can be easier if you know your hair's porosity.
Hair porosity is typically classified into three categories:
Low porosity: Cuticles that are close together.
Medium porosity: Cuticles that are less tightly bound.
High porosity: Cuticles that are more widely spaced.
This article will look more closely at what influences your hair's porosity, how to identify the porosity type you have, and the best ways to treat your hair based on that porosity. But, before we get into the depth and details of porosity, understanding our hair's three-layered structure will aid in better comprehending the concept of porosity.
The basic structure of hair
Cuticle: The thick, protective outer layer of your hair known as the cuticle is composed of tiny cuticles that overlap one another, much like the shingles of a roof.
The Cortex: The thickest part of your hair is called the cortex. It contains fibrous proteins and the pigment that gives your hair its color.
The Medulla: The soft, central region of the hair shaft is known as the medulla.
The basic science of it all is that water, oils, and other moisturizing treatments must be able to penetrate the cuticle and reach the cortex for your hair to stay hydrated and healthy. Water and oils can't easily permeate the hair if the cuticles are too close together. Consequently, Your hair may find it more difficult to absorb the necessary moisture. Additionally, your hair will have difficulty retaining moisture and keeping moisturized if the cuticles are split too widely apart.
How to do a Hair Porosity test at home?
Natural Hair Porosity can be easily tested. All you need is a glass of water (use a clear glass) and a strand of hair for a hair porosity check at home. To get the most accurate result, it is advised that you attempt this after washing the product and build-up from your strands. When you have finished combing your hair to remove shedding strands, please take one of those strands and drop it into the glass of water. Low porosity hair will float in water while hair that has medium porosity will float and begin to sink slowly, and the high porosity hair will sink right away.
Now that you know what type of hair porosity you have, let’s get a clear picture of the characteristics of your hair type. You must remember that the type of products you use must be chosen carefully based upon your hair porosity.
The characteristics of low porosity hair:
Hair products typically sit on your hair and are difficult to absorb.
When washing your hair, it's challenging to get the water wholly saturated.
Your hair takes a very long time to air dry.
Characteristics of low porosity include a closely bonded cuticle layer and flat, overlapping scales.
Low porosity hair repels moisture and is resistant to penetration of products.
This type of hair is typically dark in color and considered healthy and lustrous.
Low porosity hair is susceptible to build-up from protein-heavy deep conditioning products, which can make it feel like straw.
To help loosen the cuticle, use mild heat with protein-free deep conditioning treatments.
Daily conditioners should be free of protein and humectants like glycerin or honey.
Here are the products I recommend for low porosity hair
Detox biweekly with our natural hair detox Nice/Thing to remove impurities and toxins from the hair that can cause the cuticle to stay closed. This can be used with heat biweekly.
Stick to washing your hair biweekly to pH balance that hair so that the shaft can accept products easily.
I recommend our sulfate-free pH balancing shampoo Loving You for this purpose.
Deep Condition Biweekly to return moisture to the hair with Touch of Love. Remember to use this with heat.
Bounce Back our moisturizing spray, should be used daily before manipulation and as a protectant from the elements.
The characteristics of medium porosity hair
Your hair is manageable and holds styles well for a long time.
Your hair accepts color well.
Your hair frequently appears glossy & healthy.
Air drying your hair doesn't take too long.
Hair with medium porosity requires minimal upkeep.
The looser cuticle barrier allows for the right amount of moisture to enter and limits the amount that can escape.
Over time, heat damage and chemical processes can increase hair porosity.
Occasional deep conditioning treatments with protein-based conditioners can benefit medium porosity hair.
However, proteins should not be used daily as they can cause build-up and make the hair feel brittle.
The characteristics of high porosity
Your hair absorbs water and other hydrating treatments quickly.
Your hair frequently breaks.
Your hair frequently becomes dry and frizzy.
Your hair can air dry in a short period.
High porosity can be a natural feature of hair or a result of damage from chemical processing, rough handling, or environmental factors.
Hair with high porosity tends to be frizzy and tangled due to gaps and pores in the cuticle that allow excessive moisture to enter.
Routine activities such as bathing, swimming, and shampooing can cause additional damage and breakage in very porous hair due to its high moisture absorption capacity.
In regions with high temperatures and humidity, anti-humectants can be used to seal the cracked cuticles and prevent excessive moisture absorption from the surrounding atmosphere.
Leave-in conditioners, moisturizers, and sealers should be used for very porous hair, which can lose moisture quickly.
Layering these products can help the hair retain moisture and reduce the impact of damaged cuticles.
Using a thick hair butter as a follow-up treatment can help cover gaps in damaged cuticles and protect hair from excessive moisture loss.
Here are the products I recommend for high porosity hair:
Detox monthly to remove impurities and toxins from the hair that can cause the cuticle to stay open with Nice/Thing by TLP. Wash your hair biweekly to pH balance that hair shaft again to accept products easier with Loving You. Deep Condition monthly to return moisture to the hair with Good Thing. Use our Moisturizing spray Bounce Back daily before manipulation and as a protectant from the elements.
High porosity hair is also prone to a condition called Hygral Fatigue. When your hair cuticle is damaged due to too much moisture entering and leaving the hair cuticle, it is known as hygral fatigue. The cuticle of your hair expands with moisture when it's wet and contracts as it dries. The hair cuticle will weaken over time and eventually break because it is not intended to change shape regularly. Since high porosity hair has relatively open cuticles, which allow moisture to enter and depart the hair shaft very easily, thus, it is far more likely to develop hygral fatigue. Low porosity hair has tight cuticles, which make it difficult for water to enter (or exit), making it unlikely to experience hygral fatigue.
Many factors, such as over-conditioning (continuous nighttime conditioning or allowing a deep conditioner to linger on the hair too long), frequently soaking your hair without letting it dry completely, or not providing enough protein, can contribute to hygral fatigue. The solution to Hygral fatigue in high porosity hair is to strike a balance between protein and moisture. An excessive amount of protein may make your hair brittle. Although it's vital to utilize it in moderate amounts, protein aids in cuticle restoration and strengthening. Additionally, it's beneficial to shorten the time you soak your hair wet from overnight conditioning treatments, the shower, or other sources.
Pre-pooing is also excellent for minimizing Hygral fatigue and strengthening your hair. After styling, sealing your hair with oil will help to retain moisture, preventing it from contracting as it dries. Last but not least, applying pH balancing products help high porosity hair cuticles to close, reducing the amount of water that may enter and exit the hair cuticle.
I get frequently asked how to change hair porosity. No you can't change your hair's porosity, but you can control how you treat it. Your hair will be generally healthier if you adjust your hair care routine by considering your hair porosity.
About The Author: Paula Bland
The founder of TLP, Paula Bland, is a medically qualified Nurse Practitioner, Hair aesthetician and also a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner known for her highly effective hair consultation. Paula has a non-traditional approach to hair care and advocates a chemical-free, natural, and holistic approach. The Love of People is her brainchild, and its products reflect her approach to hair health and have helped women with naturally curly hair manage their curls in a chemical-free and organic way.