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.