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February 13, 2012

How Can I Test my Hair Porosity?


via The Beauty Brains

Amma asks…Is there a way to test porosity of your hair?

The Left Brain responds:

Amma, thanks for taking time to comment on our blog. Before I tell you how to test porosity, let me explain why it’s an important concept in hair care.

Why should you care about porous hair?

Porosity is an indicator of how damaged your hair is. The “pores” are really tiny cracks in the protein structure that weaken hair’s natural defenses. Porous hair has increased moisture loss, lower natural lipid content, and is more prone to breakage and split ends. Porosity is dramatically increased by chemical processing. A 2008 study by Nalco Chemical company showed that even just one minute exposure to hair bleach caused significant number of pores to open in the hair. To accurately measure porosity requires sophisticated testing equipment (the study cited above used nitrogen sorption using a Quantachrome Autosorb-lC instrument.) Most people don’t have one of those laying around the house, but there is a quick and dirty test you can do yourself.

Hair porosity test

You’ll need a glass container at least 6 inches tall and a few inches wide. Fill the container almost to the top with tap water and let it sit undisturbed until it reaches room temperature. While you’re waiting, pluck a clean hair from your head. Then, very gently lay the hair on top of the water. Look at the glass container from the side and watch the hair to see how it sinks. If your hair is in virgin condition it will float for a long time. If it’s very porous it will start to sink right away. The higher the porosity, the faster it will sink. This test gives you a very rough approximation of how damaged your hair is.

What to do about porous hair

Once hair becomes porous, there’s not much you can to to physically reverse the damage. However, using a good conditioner can provide temporary relief. (In fact, you can do the water drop test on strands of hair with and without conditioner to see the difference.) I like to recommend dimethicone-containing conditioners because they provide effective water proofing to hair.

16 Chime in!:

Nebulaaaaa said...

So if my hair is porous will it stop growing because of breakage or something? What should I do other than temporary fixes, shave my head?

Roodlyne @supermomplace said...

Im so confused by the porous hair theory, it sound like porous hair is self inflicted with chemical damage.
but my 2yo who once had lustrous baby curls now has hair similar to SOS pad, and she has virgin hair no chemical or heat... no matter how much condition and moisture i apply, i still cant figure her hair out.
her hair do can not last a day because it turn to dry trigs in the matter or hours. if you ladies can suggest anything Im all ears.
my hair and my 4 year old i got under control but hers I just dont know so HELP!

Anonymous said...

This is probably the clearest explanation of porosity I've read yet. I never understood what it meant when my hair NEVER sunk...I mean, I'd walk away from the glass, come back 30 minutes later, and the strand would still be floating. Glad to know this is not an issue I need to be concerned with. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I've been so confused about this whole porosity issue, what it meant and how to test it.

Anonymous said...

virgin afro hair can be naturally porous. caucasian hair only becomes porous when its damaged.

Anonymous said...

@roodlyne, its sounds like your 2 yr old hair texture child like many black babies do, not all but most hair texture change and you just have to change your styling techniques to her hair challenges, u mentioned.

Shavontae said...

Wow!My hair must be pretty dense considering the fact that I've had my strand of hair in the glass for five minutes and even SHOOK IT UP and everything but it still wouldn't budge!

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:25 AM that this is the clearest explanation ever. I, too, got the same results when testing my own strands - it floated forever. Glad to know I'm doing SOMETHING right.

Anonymous said...

Dear Beauty Brains:

Please explain what happens if the hair is coated with oil, butters, or any other lipid.

Wouldn't lipids affect the porosity test?

When you state "While you’re waiting, pluck a clean hair from your head", you're stating the hair MUST be free from topical lipids to accurately gauge the porosity?

Thank you for answering my question.

CurlyYo said...

@Roodlyne
There are of course a number of things that could be making your childs hair very dry so in order to combat this I would suggest: 1.Protecting her hair from direct sunlight as much as possible.
2.Making sure her diet is a healthy and water drinking one
3. Making sure you apply a tested moisturizer to her hair texture.
4. Apply a thick creamy leave in moisturizer to her hair and do braid styles which should also help.

Hope one of the suggestion helps!

Mzee said...

i just tried mine on my natural blow dried strands, they didnt sink and curled up within 10 minutes!!

Anonymous said...

i did this on accident last night. I was cleaning my shower comb and put the hair in the toilet but didn't flush (waste of water.) well, when i came back to pee, i lifted the lid, and there was my hair, cruising on the top, floating away. i thought back to this article and was happy!

Anonymous said...

Am not exactly sure where I lie, because I did it recently but my hair was coated with oils and it sank immediately! However another day, I washed my hair and did the test again and they hair just floated on top, I shook the container and it didnt budge. So am not really sure :(

GimmeaBreak said...

In the test, they did say try it with a clean strand of hair. So, if your hair sank immediately it was more than likely due to the weight of the oils. So, perhaps you don't need to use as much oils as you think. Or perhaps a lighter oil such as grape seed may be better suited for your hair.

Marta Laura Zayas said...

I'm not too sure about this test. I've always been told by my stylists that my hair was porous. However, in the articles I've read here it seems that it is not. When I towel dry it feels like straw. It floats forever in the glass. So then I thought porous hair looked damaged also. My hair feels real damaged with lots of crunc-, it has lots of frizz and fly aways. What's the deal? I wish I knew how to control the dryness/flyaways/frizz.

Anonymous said...

Is coconut oil good for porous hair?

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