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.

How Does Hair Porosity Affect Your Curls?

by Karen Mcintosh via;

When it comes to porosity and its effects on curly hair styling, naturally curly consumers are well ahead of the curve. In the past few years, natural curlies have evolved home-grown styling techniques beyond those that only emphasize curl type to ones that include porosity and its impact on curly hair wearability.

Porosity – Its Highs and Lows

Porosity is all about water and how your hair absorbs it. All hair is porous, and curly hair is more porous than natural, uncolored straight hair.

Highly porous hair has a cuticle layer that is raised and open. The hair quickly absorbs moisture, but loses it just as fast. Very porous hair can absorb more than twice the amount of water and moisture than hair with normal or low porosity can. It loves rich, moisturizing conditioners that contain protein, and even takes to pure protein treatments well.

But the more porous your hair is, the more prone it is to lose tensile strength and to break when soaking wet. If oils, butters and silicone products are applied in the wrong order or amount, your hair can get weighed down from within and build up in the hair shaft make it bloated, limp and lifeless. With porous hair that’s relatively dry and lacks sufficient moisture in the shaft, when dewpoints rise, get ready for a frizz fest.

In hair with low porosity, the cuticle layer is more tightly closed. Hair is slower to absorb water and longer to release it, so low porosity hair holds moisture quite well. But with fewer surface openings for product to be absorbed into, build up on the hair’s surface can happen quickly. Too much conditioning and excessive stylers may coat the hair and rob it of its vitality and bounciness. Some styling products may even sit on your hair or create a white cast. And because there’s little margin for absorption on low porosity hair’s smooth surface, excessive or pure protein treatments may cause the crispy, straw-like feel of protein overload.

Achieving Your Personal Porosity Best

The key to working with your hair’s porosity is how you layer your products on wet, clean hair. Those products closest to your naked hair have the most impact.


All porosities can benefit from condition-washing, alternating with the occasional gentle, effective cleanser to clarify. Use one that does not strip hair or neutralize the fatty acids in the hair shaft. Sulfates are not recommended.

Deep conditioning treatments also benefit all degrees of porosity, especially moisturizing ones with good detangling properties. How much they soften, enrich, moisturize and strengthen is the key. Experiment with the level of protein to see what works for you. Proteins help smooth the cuticle by filling in the gaps. The general rule of thumb is the higher the porosity the higher the protein content. The same rule of thumb applies to rinse out conditioners.

Since very porous hair absorbs ingredients faster, heavy silicones and oils on naked wet, clean hair will sink in and bloat the hair. Curlies with higher porosity may want to try henna, cassia, or clay treatments combined with a moisturizing conditioner. These help to smooth and coat the hair shaft and temporarily lower porosity. Do a final rinse with cool water to seal the cuticle. Leave conditioner in; you can even add more after rinsing.

Lower porosity curlies may find a warm water rinse helps to open cuticles for styling product. Leave enough conditioner in to cover and clump, but rinse enough to dilute product and avoid coating. And since your hair holds moisture more efficiently, you may not even need a rinse out conditioner. Try going straight to a leave-in from your co-wash.

Leave-ins and Stylers

Leave-ins and conditioners containing protein help clump curls and minimize frizz in highly porous hair. Protein smooths, but it can also dry, so seal by smoothing or scrunching in a buttery product, emollient or your favorite carrier oil. If your hair is on the lower porosity spectrum, use proteins that can wash off easily, like amino acids. Fine, low porous hair tolerates proteins better than coarse low porous hair. And for low porous hair that’s well moisturized, a light leave in and a good gel may be enough to maintain low-frizz in most dew points.

Porosity is a continuum. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it.

Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog

Highly Porous Natural Hair: Roll Call!

I saw this on Naturallycurly in the General Discussion and thought it'd be fun (and informative) to do here! Below, the overly porous ladies will check in and share their hair biographies and next week, we'll check in with the low porosity divas. Hopefully the responses of others may help YOU and give you a starting place for a routine.

Here are some links to help you figure out your hair properties:

Porosity and Why it Matters
Not Every Natural is Coarse, Of Course
Live Curly Live Free - Curly Hair Basics How to type hair using the Fia system | What hair elasticity is and how to measure elasticity or hair stretch Welcome to Weather Underground : Weather Underground

**If you are POROUS, share the following in the comments below;

Thickness of Strand:
Fine, medium, or coarse
Curl Pattern:
3c,4b, etc.
Density: thin, medium, thick
Elasticity: low, normal, high
Characteristics: flat top/no root curl, easily weighed down, lots of shrinkage, etc.

CG/ModCG/not CG: If modified, state how you modified the method.
Hard water or soft water:
Average climate/dew points:

Protein section:
Do you PT? If so how often?
How long?
10 minutes, 1 hour, etc.
PT with heat or steam?
Favorite PTs:
Favorite products that contain protein? Conditioners, leave-ins, styling products, etc.
Proteins your hair likes?
Wheat protein, collagen, keratin protein, etc.
Proteins your hair dislikes?

Moisture section:
Do you DT? If so, how often?
How long?
15 minutes, 1 hour, etc.
DT with heat or steam?
Favorite DTs:
Favorite products to moisturize your hair:
Conditioners, leave in conditioners, styling products, etc.
Ingredient likes: behentrimonium methosulfate, glycerin, jojoba oil, etc.
Ingredient dislikes: shea butter, oils, cetrimonium chloride, etc.
Do you seal? If so, what do you use to seal?

Do you avoid humectants? If so, which humectants do you avoid? Do you avoid them at all dew points or only certain dew points?

Low dew point combos:
Normal dew point combos:
High dew point combos:

HG/Go-to Products: up to 5 products that are constantly in your rotation

Name the methods, techniques, and tricks that work for your porous hair?
Spritz and condish, prewash treatments, sealing, etc.

SO FINE: Natural Hair Part 3

SO FINE: Porosity and Why it Matters
by Cassidy of Natural Selection Blog

"Great, I've got fine hair too!! So. Whatproductsdoyouusewhatshouldiuse howshouldistylewhereshouldibuyhowmuchshouldiusecanyou pleasetellmeeverythingineedtoknowaboutfinehairnowwwwww???"

This has been an extremely popular question I've been getting in comments and emails since jumping into the So Fine Series to which I can only respond with one thing:

HOLD YOUR HORSES, YOU FINE THANGS YOU! We've gotta talk about porosity first.

To all of you whose eyes just glazed over because you get confused about all of this science-y hair stuff, keep reading (and stop pulling at your coils!! Remember: fine hair is fragile!!!). I promise I'm going to make this easy.

What is porosity? Porosity in hair-speak is a way of saying " a strand's ability to soak up and let go of moisture."

While I would love to keep that pantyhose analogy alive, I can't and we're going to talk about porosity in terms of SPONGES.

This is a normal sponge. It absorbs and lets go of water at a normal rate.

This is a sponge in a plastic bag. If you submerge the bag beneath water, the water will eventually get inside the bag, but it will take longer and more effort to fully soak the sponge. It is also more difficult to get the water out.

This is a sponge that I took a pair of scissors to. The larger holes in this one mean that water seeps into and squishes out more easily than the above sponges with normal and low porosity.

Now take these same concepts and apply them to your hair.
  • Normal sponge = hair with normal porosity. Moisture goes in and out of hair with relative ease at a neither breakneck nor snails pace.
  • Sponge in plastic bag = hair with low porosity. It takes a lot more work to moisturize this kind of hair because its harder for moisture to get in. But once you get that moisture in, its harder for it to get out.
  • Holey Sponge = hair with high porosity. This kind of hair absorbs - and loses - moisture much more easily. Normal porosity falls somewhere in the middle of these two.
Think of it this way: High porosity = easy in/easy out. Low porosity = difficult to get in/difficult to get out.

How do you figure out what level of porosity you have?

I've heard of three methods for figuring out your porosity.

1. The Slip'n'Slide Test: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft (toward the scalp). If you feel little bumps along the way, this means that your cuticle is lifted and that you have high porosity. If it slips smoothly down, then you're on the lower end of the scale. The

2. The Sink-or-Float Test: Take a strand of hair and place it in a glass of water. If it sinks quickly, its high porosity. If it takes some time to sink, then its normal porosity. If it just stays floating near the top, then its low porosity.

3. Take Out/Order In:
As in take out 20 strands of your hair and order a hair analysis test from Live Curly Live Free. They'll do a complete analysis of your hair and tell you your porosity (and lots of other fun things) about your hair!

There is no "better" or "worse" porosity because each type has its own unique challenges to work with. The reason knowing porosity is important is because you need to know which type of moisturizer will work best for your hair. Fine hair with high porosity has different moisture needs than fine hair with low porosity. If you end up using the wrong moisturizers for your porosity level, your hair will wind up looking (and feeling) like this type of sponge. And you don't want that.

The Curl Whisperer on Porosity

There are a lot of myths out there about hair porosity and how it relates to curly hair care and maintenance. Let's see if we can't set some of the record straight.

Porosity is, simply put, the hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. Porosity is a critically important factor in determining one's curly hair care. Since moisture is what defines and shapes our curls, the inability to keep moisture within the hair shaft will defeat the most valiant efforts to maximize curl potential.

If you don't know your hair's porosity, you won't be able to make the best product and maintenance routine choices to maximize the amount of moisture your curls retain. The existing "curl classification systems" never, ever mention porosity in their classification process. Since lack of moisture is one of the biggest causes of frizz, I personally find that odd in the extreme. Just one more reason I don't find those systems very helpful or informative.

Your degree of porosity is directly related to the condition of your cuticle layer. Healthy hair with a compact cuticle layer is naturally resistant to penetration. Porous hair has a raised cuticle layer that easily absorbs water, but is quick to lose moisture as well. The texture of your hair is not an indication of its porosity. Different degrees of porosity can be found in all hair textures. For example, although coarse hair normally has a low porosity and is resistant to chemical services, coarse hair can also have high porosity as the result of damage or previous chemical services.

There are three different levels of porosity:

Hair with low porosity is considered "resistant" hair. Low porosity is when the cuticle of the hair shaft is too compact and does not permit moisture to enter or leave the hair shaft. Hair with low porosity is much more difficult to process, is resistant to chemical services, and has a tendency to repel product rather than absorb it. Chemical services performed on hair with low porosity require a more alkaline solution than those on hair with high porosity, to raise the cuticle and permit uniform saturation and penetration.

Hair with average porosity is considered "normal" hair. With normal porosity, the cuticle is compact and inhibits moisture from leaving or entering the hair shaft; however, it allows for normal processing when a chemical service is performed -- according to the texture -- and will readily absorb and retain product properly formulated for this hair type.

Hair with high porosity is considered "overly porous" and is the result of previous overprocessing. Other factors that can also affect porosity include heat damage, chlorine/hard water/mineral saturation, sun damage, or use of harsh ingredients. Overly porous hair is damaged in some way, and is dry, fragile and brittle. It has an open cuticle that both absorbs and releases moisture easily; it processes very quickly and can be easily damaged even further if extreme care is not taken when a chemical service is performed. Although overly porous hair absorbs product quickly, it is often dry as the open cuticle does not allow for product retention within the hair shaft. Chemical services performed on overly porous hair require less alkaline solutions with a lower pH, which will help to prevent further overprocessing.

Porous hair accepts haircolor faster and permits darker color than less porous hair; however, although overly porous hair takes color quickly, color also fades quickly. While hair with low porosity is difficult for chemicals to penetrate and takes a longer processing time, the color will last much longer.

You can check porosity on dry hair by taking a strand of several hairs from four different areas of the head (front hairline, temple, crown and nape). Slide the thumb and index finger of your other hand down each hair strand from end to scalp. If it is smooth, you have normal porosity. If your fingers move very fast up the hair strand and it feels exceptionally slick, dense and hard, you have low porosity. If your fingers "catch" going up the strand, feel like they are ruffling up the hair strand, or if the hair strand breaks, your hair is overly porous.

Unfortunately, porosity issues stemming from irreparable hair damage CANNOT be permanently corrected. Only time can truly mend damaged hair. You can, however, create a temporary fix until the damaged part grows out by "reconstructing" the hair shaft with protein treatments. Protein fills in any holes within the cortex (inner layer of the hair) and also helps to fill in the gaps exposed by a raised cuticle.

Individuals with coarse hair, however, must be cautious: putting additional protein on coarse hair can dry it out even more. For those with a coarse texture, acidic treatments such as apple cider vinegar rinses are likely a better alternative as your hair already manufactures an overabundance of protein naturally.

(Which brings to a small derail. I know people are tired of me harping on the excessive use of shampoo bars. If, however, you have porous hair, you are not doing yourself any favors by using them. These bars are fairly alkaline and raise the cuticle, the exact opposite of what people with overly porous hair are trying to achieve. Your goal is to establish a routine and determine the most effective product use for your hair without swimming upstream in the process.)

So, what does this mean for the average girl with curls? It means you need to determine your hair texture and your hair porosity, and then think about what types of products are best suited to your particular hair type. Other factors will come into play, but these two hair properties are the most important properties to know.

** Please submit your questions for the Curl Whisperer to [email protected] Please use "Curl Whisperer" as the subject line.

For more Tiffany, The Curl Whisperer, click HERE.

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