December 8, 2015

Hair Porosity: Does it Matter?

by Kanisha of

Hair porosity is a huge topic when it comes to natural hair. You may know that it deals with your hair’s ability to absorb moisture, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The science of hair can get deep real quick, so many naturals choose to focus on the look and feel of their hair rather than the nitty-gritty details of such topics as porosity.

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But a basic understanding of porosity and natural hair is all you really need in order to determine whether or not it really matters, so let’s break it down:

Before we get into porosity, we must understand the actual hair strand. Each strand of hair consists of an outside layer called the cuticle, and it consists of up to 8 layers. These layers help fortify your hair but must be carefully maintained and protected to avoid damage from heat, coloring, and over-manipulation. Damage to the hair cuticle is irreversible and should therefore be avoided at all costs. You’ve probably seen damaged, see-through hair before when you needed a trim. This is a result of cuticle layers that have been worn down and cannot be reformed.

When a liquid substance comes in contact with your hair, the cuticle opens allowing it to pass through. How porous your hair is determines how much of that substance will go into the hair shaft and how quickly it penetrates. (MoKnowsHair).

What is hair porosity?
Porosity is defined as “the hair’s ability or inability to absorb and hold in water or any other penetrating molecules” (Green Beauty Channel). There are three levels of hair porosity: low, medium, and high. Healthy hair has multiple cuticle layers and low to medium porosity. Each level of porosity comes with its own advantages and challenges, so knowing them and their characteristics plus your own hair’s porosity will only aid your healthy hair journey.

Low-porosity hair tends to be the driest of the three types. This is because its tightly packed cuticle makes it difficult for liquids to enter or remain in the hair strand. Many Type 4 naturals have low porosity that lacks elasticity.

If you have low porosity hair, here’s what you can do:
  • Use shampoos and conditioners that are rich in moisture and emollients
  • Always deep condition using heat for 15-30 minutes at least once a week
  • Use water-based leave-in conditioners with humectants like vegetable glycerin, honey, and aloe vera juice
  • Incorporate coconut and olive oils into your regimen- they are great moisturizers that can penetrate the hair shaft
Medium-porosity hair is the best level to have. The hair cuticle isn’t densely packed. The hair is healthy, bouncy, and resilient.

To maintain medium-porosity hair, here’s what you can do:
  • Use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners
  • Use thicker water-based leave-in conditioners
  • Moisturize the hair using vegetable glycerin, aloe vera juice, and water
  • Incorporate coconut, olive, and jojoba oils into your regimen
High-porosity hair:

This could be due to genetics or damaged from the use of heat, color, or over-manipulation. High porosity hair often has broken or missing cuticle layers and/or holes in cuticle layers that have been broken down by excessive damage.

Here’s how to deal:
  • Use a moisturizing shampoo and a moisturizing conditioner that has hydrolyzed protein, which can be absorbed by the hair strand
  • Use a protein deep conditioner biweekly. (It will help close up the gaps in your hair’s cuticles).
  • Use thicker water-based leave-in conditioner & moisturize the hair using vegetable glycerin, aloe vera juice, and water
  • Incorporate coconut, olive, and jojoba oils into your regimen
Does porosity really matter?

Knowing your hair’s porosity can only aid your hair journey, not hinder it, however, not knowing your hair’s porosity isn’t necessarily a problem. As I mentioned before, many naturals pay close attention to the health of their hair, avoiding damaging practices and keeping a consistent routine, and get along fine.

For more information about how to maintain your low, medium, or high porosity hair, check out the last video of this super-informative porosity series from Green Beauty Channel:

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