by Karen Mcintosh via NaturallyCurly.com;
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
I have to agree with some of the other ladies, this is one of….if not THE…most informative articles I have read on porosity, which I did not realize was the culprit of my super frizzy hair. My fine high po hair frizzes up almost immediately if it is rainy or even fairly humid outside. It's so frustrating. However, I will now pay more attention to the products I try and their composition rather than just blind trial and error.
I am in the same boat as Angelique. I really need advice in this area because protein is not a friend of my fine strands.
It's strange, but my hair is both. So frustrating. My hair soaks up, but loses moisture extremely quickly like high porous hair, but HATE protein like low porous hair. Any advise for someone who's hair displays both traits?
Thanks for the post Karen! I have followed your hair journey and i must say, your hair looks so healthy and beautiful. I've noticed that at one point your hair type seemed to have tighter curls but now you have bigger beautiful curls. What changed your hair type or loosed your curls? Either way, it looks great. SincerelyNiah
Wow, this is the best explanation of porosity Ive encountered thus far. My fine, low po hair doesn't care for deep conditioning or too many products. However, I used to henna my hair but have recently stopped. Is henna a wise treatment for low po hair, since the hair is already tightly compact to begin with?
This was the most informative article ever posted in my opinion. I haven't done the water test but time and time again I come to the conclusion my hair is low porosity. No matter what product I apply or eliminate my wash and goes always have a white cast with product even when using minimal product. It takes hours to dry and if I use no products which make for a heavy wash and go even water droplets sit on top. I think I'm forced to diffuse my hair if doing wash and go's unless I want to sit in the house for hours waiting for it to dry. anyone else have this problem?
Thanks for this post! I have high porosity, its insane! I can do a protein treatment after every wash and my hair just soaks it up. I've found that a leave in with silicones helps seal in the moisture of a deep conditioner.
This post was very informative! I have fine, low porosity hair that loves protein! And the last part is completely true, in this heat all I need is a leave-in and gel.