THE CURL GUIDE SERIES: HAIR POROSITY
Whether you have curly, kinky, coily or wavy hair many hour have been spent , searching on the web and social platforms trying to figure out your curl type with the belief that once your curl pattern was determined you were better equipped to care for your curls. The Curly typing method grew in popularity after Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist, Andre Walker created a hair classification system based on curl pattern. Love it or hate it, this system is not without its flaws, it doesn’t consider density or how well your hair can absorb or retain water oils and nutrients. Other factors are now being taken into consideration when trying to understand our curls with the focus beginning to move away from curl typing to the spotlight being shone on, Porosity.
WHAT IS POROSITY?
Porosity is a scientific term which refers to how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. This is decided by the flexible outer layer of your hair strands called the cuticle. The porosity of your hair is often genetic and can be manipulated by chemicals or mechanical and heat damage. There are 3 porosity categories; low porosity, medium porosity and high porosity. Each category has its own characteristics based on the condition and position of the cuticles and how well the hair absorbs and retains, moisture and nutrients. Understanding the porosity of enables you to adjust your routine and product choices accordingly so you can keep your hair strong, healthy and moisturised. Let’s look into these categories in more depth.
THE LOW DOWN ON POROSITY
When it comes to hair, porosity is categorised by Low, Medium or High porosity. One person can have more than one type of porosity on different sections of hair, understanding your porosity can give you a greater insight into why your curls behave the way they do.
Low porosity hair has tightly bound cuticles with overlapping scales that lay flat. If you imagine that your hair shaft is like a roof, think of shingles/slates on a roof and how they overlap to keep the rain or moisture out, this how low porosity hair works. When the cuticles of the hair are tight and flat, it’s difficult for water to enter and exit.
CHARACTERISTICS OF LOW POROSITY HAIR
- Low porosity hair tends to be shiny when it has the right amount of moisture and protein.
- It repels moisture, as the tight cuticles do not easily allow water inside the hair shaft.
- Products tend to sit on top of the hair instead of being absorbed, causing build up.
- Low porosity hair is also difficult to chemical process as the cuticles are so tight and not naturally porous.
- Hair may take a long time to dry.
- Those with low porosity hair generally have a great deal of keratin protein in their hair structure. Adding more protein which can be found in leave-ins, deep conditioners etc, can cause protein overload. This will leave your hair dry and brittle.
TIPS FOR LOW POROSITY HAIR
- Avoid day to day use of protein leave-in conditioners and moisturisers to prevent protein overload. Instead look for products with glycerine and humectants which will attract and hold moisture to your curls.
- Avoid heavy products, such as butters and stylers as these can cause moisture build up. They can also weigh your hair down if you have fine hair. Instead opt for lighter moisturisers, ones that are not too heavy like milks light oils such as jojoba, argan, grapeseed and curl refreshers. These lighter products won’t sit on your hair and leave it greasy.
- Use heat when deep conditioning. As the heat will lift your cuticles allowing moisture in and products to work effectively.
- Some low people with low porosity hair should avoid coconut oil. As the molecules for coconut oil are quite big and they take up a great deal of room inside the hair shaft, leaving very little room for water. Due to low porosity hair not being able to absorb water well, this can leave the hair prone to being dry.
MEDIUM POROSITY HAIR
Hair that’s medium porosity requires the least amount of maintenance. Hair cuticle is loose enough to allow moisture in but tight enough to prevent too much from escaping.
CHARACTERISTICS OF MEDIUM POROSITY HAIR
- Holds styles well, can be coloured easily and takes well to chemical processes.
- Hair porosity can be altered if chemical processes are used.
- Can use a variety of products including heavy and light products.
TIPS FOR MEDIUM POROSITY HAIR
- It’s important to maintain a good moisture and protein balance. Keep protein in your routine but it’s unnecessary to include it daily.
HIGH POROSITY HAIR
High porosity hair can either be inherited or a result of damage from environmental factors, heat, mechanical or chemicals. High porosity hair is extremely porous and has a lot of holes and gaps in the cuticle, allowing too much moisture into your hair, leaving hair prone to frizzing and tangling. Cuticles are raised unlike low porosity hair and far more than medium porosity. Swimming, showering and shampooing can cause damaged and breakage due to the sheer amount of water the hair has absorbed and the loss of elasticity. Highly porous hair can also loose moisture easily, so hair can appear dry, limp and lacklustre.
CHARACTERISTICS HIGH POROSITY HAIR
- Due to raised cuticles hair can tangle very easily.
- Curl can be frizzy or straw like in texture due to porous and damaged cuticles.
- Hair can be prone to being dry as moisture can be lost very easily.
- Hair dries really fast.
- Light products such as milks may not work as well as a heavy butter.
TIPS FOR HIGH POROSITY HAIR
- Use anti-humectants in humid and high heat climates. This will help to seal your damaged cuticles and prevent them from absorbing too much moisture from the air.
- High porosity hair naturally doesn’t have a lot of protein so incorporating protein in your routine is important to help strengthen your hair but it’s also important to maintain the balance.
- As hair can lose moisture very easily it’s important to use leave-in conditioners, moisturisers or sealers.
- Layering products is an effective way of locking in moisture. Using the L.O.C. method which a leave-in, oil then cream this should help seal the cuticles and prevent moisture from escaping.
- Rinsing hair with cold water at the end of your wash will help close cuticles.
WHAT’S MY HAIR POROSITY?
There are many ways in which you can identify the porosity of your hair, there are 3 main tests that are used, they are the following:
- THE FLOAT TEST: Take a strand a product free strand of hair, place it in a glass of clean water. Let it sit for 2-4 mins. If your hair floats you have low porosity hair, if it sinks to the bottom you have high porosity hair, if it floats in the middle of the glass you have medium porosity hair.
- THE WATER SPRAY TEST: Spray your hair with clean water. If you can see water beads sitting on top, then you have low porosity hair. The cuticles will not allow the moisture in. If you spray your hair and the water immediately absorbs then you have high porosity hair.
- THE SLIP ‘N SLIDE TEST: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the hair shaft towards the scalp. If you feel bumps along the way, you’re feeling raised cuticles meaning you have high porosity hair. If the cuticle feels smooth you have low porosity hair.
It can take a little trial and error to determine what products, methods and techniques are best for your curls. Determining the porosity of your hair can provide you with the necessary information to wisely choose products, to alter your regimen and product application.