Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to soak up and retain moisture (imagine trying to soak up a puddle of water with a sponge versus a sheet of plastic). Your hair’s porosity is determined by genetics, but can also be affected by external factors such as heat processing and chemical treatments. Knowing your hair’s porosity will help you choose the right products for your hair to keep it healthy, strong, and radiant. Today we’ll talk about the different types of hair porosity, how to determine your hair’s porosity, and what kind of ingredients and products work best for different hair porosities.
Why Porosity Matters
Each strand of hair on your head has an outer layer called a cuticle. Cuticles are made up of overlapping dead cells that form a protective barrier around the strand’s cortex (the inner core of your hair strand that determines your hair’s color). The cuticle’s composition is like the scales on a fish or the bark on a coniferous tree. Porosity refers to how flat and tight those scales are.
Low Porosity Hair
Low porosity hair is made up of strands on which the cuticles are composed of tightly bound, flat-laying scales. Low porosity hair is often shiny and repels the penetration of chemicals and moisture.
Medium Porosity Hair
Medium porosity hair has a slightly looser cuticle than low porosity hair, allowing the perfect amount of moisture into the hair strand. Medium hair is easily manageable and holds up to heat and color manipulation. However, overuse of color, heat, and chemical treatments can disrupt and damage the cuticles, which ups the porosity.
High Porosity Hair
High porosity hair has the loosest cuticle formation, leaving it vulnerable to too much moisture which can lead to breakage and frizz. I imagine the structure of porous strands of hair as fully matured pinecones. The scales of a baby pinecone are pressed flat but fan out as the pinecone matures. Once the scales are splayed, they are prone to catching and tearing. If it rains, the water collects inside of the pinecone instead of running off the outside and overtime the standing water will rot the pinecone’s core. Similarly, high porosity hair retains a higher water percentage than low porosity hair and too much water can cause weakening and elongation of your strands.
How to Test Your Hair’s Porosity
The most popular method of testing your hair’s porosity is by observing how a strand of hair interacts with water (often known as: the float test). To prep for this test, shampoo your hair and let it air-dry. Once your hair is clean and dry take a couple strands and drop them into a cup of water. Watch them for the next 15 minutes. If they float, your hair has a low porosity. If they quickly sink to the bottom your hair has high porosity. If they sink a bit and then hover in the middle your hair has medium porosity. You can always run this test with a few friends to have other hair to compare yours to. Depending on your determined porosity, you can adjust your hair routine to benefit your hair’s health.
My Results From the Float Test
I was curious as the whether this test really works (you know I love DIYs), so of course I had to try it out. I selected two different strands of my hair from my head because as you’ll see from the photos I took: I have a diverse head of hair. I also used a strand of my mother’s hair because why not? According to the results, my hair is low to medium porosity and my mother’s hair is low porosity. If you’re going to run this test I suggest using a bowl with a wide opening because the hair strands kept clinging to the edge of the glasses with narrow openings.
If You Have Low Porosity Hair
Product will tend to sit on your hair instead of being absorbed. You’ll need to clarify frequently to control build up. Clay is a great way to do this. Our Rhassoul and Avocado Shampoo Bar and White China Silk Shampoo Bar are both made with clay: an excellent natural clarifier. Acidic hair rinses are also extremely helpful for getting rid of build up.
If You have Medium Porosity Hair
You’re really going to want to balance moisture and protein in your hair care routine. Hemp seed oil is perfect because it is an oil that will lock in moisture while also providing protein. I love the Hemp and Honey 2.0 Shampoo Bar for my curly hair.
If You Have High Porosity Hair
Trap in that moisture with oils. Coconut oil is great for locking in moisture and is a key ingredient in many of our shampoo bars. The Coconut Milk and Citrus Shampoo Bar and Key Lime Shampoo Bar are made with coconut milk, a natural beauty treatment used in many hair and skin products to hydrate and repair skin cells as well as to add shine, silkiness, and softness to hair and skin. Using oils when you style is also essential. Argan oil will lock in additional moisture and promote shine!
What’s you hair’s porosity?