Hair Porosity 101: Typing Your Hair & Tips for Low and High Porosity Hair

Hello curlies! Today I wanted to write a post about hair porosity; porosity is something that is a little more complicated than curl pattern but very helpful for understanding how to care for your hair. Porosity has to do with how the cuticle of the hair lies and how this affects moisture and nutrients entering the hair strand. Hair can be anywhere on a spectrum from low, medium, to high porosity.

Here are three ways to test your hair's porosity, and some tendencies of low and high porosity hair. Remember that your hair doesn't need to neatly fall into one category, and different parts of your hair may have different porosities. This isn't an exact science unless you send your hair off the be analyzed (which you can do at Live Curly, Live Free) but it's usually pretty accurate.

  • Water test: Take a piece of your hair and place it into a glass of water. If the hair sinks before one minute, this indicates high porosity hair. If the hair floats for a minute or longer, this indicates low porosity normally. Try testing the ends of your hair separately from the newer lengths of your hair. You may find like me that the ends are more porous and damaged, so they sink. 
  • Strand test: Run your fingers down the hair from the root to the end of a single piece of hair. (Tip: The root of the hair has a small bulb, aka the follicle where the hair grows out of the scalp.) Low porosity or normal porosity hair feels smooth to the touch. If you feel bumpiness this is a sign of high porosity.
  • Squeak test: This test is from the forums on CurlTalk. Run your fingers up the hair from the end to the root. If you hear squeaking this is and indicator of low porosity. Normal or high porosity hair should not squeak.
  • Properties of low, medium, and high porosity hair:
    • Low: dries slowly (4-6 hours), resistant to heat, resistant to chemicals & dyes, products sit on top of hair instead of absorbing
    • Medium: dries in an average amount of time (2-3 hours), healthy, absorbs and retains moisture well
    • High: dries very fast (1-2 hours), can be caused by heat or chemical damage, absorbs moisture well but loses it immediately when rinsed, easily heat styled, easily over processed, loves protein and protein treatments
For low porosity hair the cuticle lies flat and products and water have a hard time entering the hair. For normal porosity hair the cuticle lies slightly open, allowing the hair to retain and absorb moisture. For high porosity hair, the cuticle shingles lie very open so that moisture enters and leaves very easily; the hair does not retain moisture well. 

So now that you know how porous your hair is, here are some curly hair care tips.  For low porosity hair, try using a blowdryer and diffuser or plopping to speed up the drying process. You can also use a cotton or microfiber cloth to scrunch out some water before or after applying your styling products. Try using steam (i.e. Huetiful hair steamer) or heat (i.e. Hair therapy heat wrap) when deep conditioning your hair so the moisture can penetrate. Use warm to hot water in the shower before you apply conditioner so the conditioner can sink in. Heat and steam help open the hair cuticle so moisture can enter low porosity hair. My hair is low porosity and I love: As I Am Naturally leave in, Kinky curly leave in, Sally's Beauty Generic Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm, and Curl Junkie Curl Rehab Deep Treatment.

For medium or normal porosity hair, you need only to maintain the health of your hair and prevent it from becoming damaged. This hair is easy to care for and absorbs moisture readily. 

For high porosity hair, protein treatments are essential. These help fill in the holes of the cuticle so the hair lies more flat. High porosity hair can occur naturally, but it can also occur after damage, so protein is essential as well for rebuilding damaged hair. The Liquid-Oil-Cream (LOC) method for sealing in moisture can help prevent moisturizing goodness from evaporating from the hair. For my looser texture I only like this for braid outs and roller sets, but I do apply a water based leave in, jojoba oil, and then Karens Body Beautiful Super Duper Cream. You can also try a L-O-G (G: gel) method for wash and go days. Another thing you can do are acidic rinses to help seal the cuticle with apple cider vinegar or citrus juices which also add shine to the hair. (Or you can just run cold water over your hair.)

I hope you found this helpful! Comment below whether your hair is low, normal, or high porosity!

For perhaps a better explanation, watch the video about this.

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