I’ve been natural for 8 years but I did not realize the importance of hair porosity until a few years ago. I get many questions on how to care for natural hair. I then found out there are many women who are not familiar with porosity. More focus is on identifying our curl pattern through the hair pattern system that was created by hairstylist, Andre Walker. While I appreciate his creation of the system to give us the basics of identifying our hair, we’ve become so focused on finding out our curl pattern. We even debate on what is considered “4C” hair. We won’t truly know how to properly care for our hair until we identify our hair porosity. So in this blog post, I will discuss everything you need to know about high porosity. What is it? How to identify it? Think of this as a crash course called: High Porosity Hair 101.
High Porosity Hair 101
What is Porosity?
Hair porosity measures the ability to absorb and retain moisture. It affects how well oils and moisture from water and products pass in and out of the outermost layer of your hair, know as the cuticle. Each strand of your hair has an outer shell of cuticles that kind of look like shingles on the side of a roof. These are stacked layers that open up when things like heat hit them and close when you smooth a product on top or hit your hair with cold water. There are three types of porosity: high, low, and normal.
Normal porosity is where we aim to achieve. However, you do not often see many women with this level of porosity. It is when your hair is fully able to absorb and retain moisture for a longer period of time. The cuticles are loosely spaced enough allowing moisture to enter but not go away.
Low porosity is when your hair is unable to absorb moisture nor allow moisture out. There are no spaces between the cuticle which makes it harder to allow moisture. For example, when you shampoo your hair, your hair does not get full saturated by water immediately. Moisture is not allowed out which can cause product build-up. (My favorite natural hair influencers @latoya_ebony and @neffyfrofro)
Lastly, high porosity hair is when you are able to absorb moisture but cannot retain it. The cuticles in your hair strand tend to have holes or gaps, which allows moisture to easily enter your hair but also quickly go away. For example, your hair can easily take in the moisture from your hair products but your hair is more likely to experience dryness even quicker. (My favorite natural hair influencers, me of course @naturallyyalana and @naturallymadisen)
Hair Porosity Tests
The Float Test – This is when you take a strand of clean hair and place it in a glass of room temperature water. Then you let it sit for 15 minutes. The location of where the hair strand floats determines your hair porosity. For example, if the hair strand floats in the middle, then you have normal hair porosity. If it sinks, then you have high porosity hair. But if the strand floats to the top, you have low porosity hair. Unfortunately, many naturalistas including myself find this test to be flawed.
The “Slip and Slide” Test – This is how I determined my porosity. You take two fingers and slide them on my hair strand up to my scalp. If your hair feels bumpy, then you have high porosity. The strand feels smooth has a normal level of porosity. If the strand slides easily and feels dense or hard in your fingertips – your hair has a low level of porosity. Be sure to test the front, middle, and back of your hair. It is possible to have a mix of hair porosities. In the link below, I demonstrate the slip and slide test.
The H2O Test – To determine your hair porosity level using water, spritz a small section of curls with water and watch how your hair reacts – does your hair absorb the water quickly (indicating high porosity) or does it remain on top (indicating a low porosity level)?
If these tests are too complicated, you can also go by the traits of each porosity. Here are the following characteristics:
High Porosity Hair
- Dry, brittle hair
- The appearance of dull hair
- Your hairstyles tend to dry quicker
- Easily saturated with water
- Easily tangled hair and more breakage
Low Porosity Hair
- Drying takes longer
- Products sit on hair, causing build-up
- Water beads on hair
Normal Porosity Hair
- Full of luster and shine
- Elasticity and bounce
- Keeps styles longer and better
What are the Causes of High Porosity Hair?
Now that you have discovered that you have high porosity hair, we can find out the causes, which includes the following:
- Excessive use of heat
- UV exposure
- Use of chemicals, bleaches, or dyes
- Rough treatment of hair
Though high porosity is normally associated with damaged hair, you can be born with high porosity hair. In fact, you can have healthy hair but still have high porosity. However, if you engaged in the other causes such applying too much heat and coloring your hair, it is very likely that your hair is damaged. But don’t be discouraged. It is possible to nurture your hair back to health.
Can your porosity change from high to normal? No. But you can and I repeat, you can have healthy high porosity hair. There are examples of women who are able to grow long, healthy high porosity hair. So don’t be discouraged!! You are still able to repair your hair back to life and maintain its health.
The Importance of Knowing Your Porosity
Once you’re able to identify your porosity, now you can find products for your hair. With low porosity hair, you want to stay away from protein rich products. Meanwhile, high porosity hair needs protein. This is when reading ingredients on labels take place. In that way, you won’t waste your coins (like I did!).
Second, you’ll know how to properly care for your hair. Now you can find out how to cleanse, moisturize, and style your hair without damage. This comes with knowing what products work and technique. This comes with trial and error so my number 1 advice to you is to be patient.
Be on the lookout for my next blog post that explains how to effectively care for high porosity and products that I personally recommend. Let me know in the comments your hair porosity and which test you used. Love ya!!!