Hair Porosity: What Is It and How Is Black Hair Affected?
By Jacqueline Samaroo
Understanding your hair is important in caring for it and getting it to look its best. Hair porosity is one characteristic of hair that is good to know. It can guide you in your choice of natural hair products and hair care routines.
What is hair porosity?
Hair porosity refers to how well the outer layer of your hair (the cuticle) lets oils and moisture into and out of your hair.
Types of hair porosity
There are three types of hair porosity: low, medium, and high.
Low porosity hair
Low porosity hair has cuticles that lay flat and are hard to open. Oils and moisture tend to sit on the strand and it takes very long for the hair to absorb them. It is very good at retaining them once they get in.
Tips for taking care of low porosity hair
Avoid using too much product on your hair. Also, use heat to help open the cuticles when doing deep conditioning treatments. To avoid heat damage from too-high temperatures, use a warm towel or a shower cap instead of a hair dryer.
Medium porosity hair
The cuticles of this type of hair are more open than they are in low porosity hair. Medium porosity hair easily lets oils and moisture in and will also keep them in for a while before they are lost again.
Tips for taking care of medium porosity hair
Keep doing regular deep conditioning treatments with this type of hair.
High porosity hair
The cuticles of high porosity hair are wide open and may have gaps and holes in them. They easily let oils and moisture into the strand, but they just as easily let it back out again.
Tips for taking care of high porosity hair
Try to avoid using heat. Air dry your hair whenever possible. Do regular deep conditioning and rinse hair with cold water to help the cuticles close up. Use a leave-in conditioner and moisturize your hair often.
How to do a hair porosity test
Try this test on hair shed from different sections of your head.
Step 1: For a more accurate result, shampoo and rinse your hair to remove product build up.
Step 2: Air dry your hair. Heat or manipulation (from towel drying) might affect the natural state of the cuticles.
Step 3: Comb or brush through gently. Take a shed hair and place it in a glass of water.
Step 4: Check it after 2 to 5 minutes.
Results of your hair porosity test
Low porosity – Hair floats on top of the water.
Medium porosity – Hair floats somewhere in the middle of the glass.
High porosity – Hair sinks to the bottom of the glass.
Hair porosity and hair type – is there a connection?
Black hair can be wavy, curly, or kinky/coily. There is a tendency for tighter curl patterns to be drier but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have high porosity. It is more related to the way tighter curls of Black hair keep scalp oils from spreading along the strands.
Hair porosity is not tied to hair type. For example, it is possible for two persons with type 4a curly hair to naturally have different hair porosities. What’s more, the hair on different sections of your head could have different porosities, too.
Hair porosity may be genetic, with members of the same family likely to have the same hair porosity. It may also be that damage from chemical treatments or over-manipulation has caused the cuticles to become more porous than they would naturally be.
Have you tested your hair porosity? Are the results what you expected? Let us know!