LET’S TALK HAIR POROSITY
So you know your hair type and hair thickness, but what about porosity? This often overlooked feature can tell us a lot about how to care for our precious tresses. Let’s start with the basics.
What exactly is hair porosity?
Put simply, porosity refers to your hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. It’s said that porosity is largely a matter of genetics, but external elements such as chemical processing, heat styling, and product build-up can affect where your hair lands on the porosity spectrum.
What are the different types of porosity?
Low porosity means your hair cuticles have a tighter structure, making it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft (but once the moisture makes it, it’s locked in for longer). This type of hair easily accumulates product build-up, making it more susceptible to dehydration.
Medium porosity falls right in the middle, with a loose cuticle structure that allows moisture to enter more easily, although it’s not locked in as long as low porosity hair.
High porosity means your hair cuticles have an open structure making it easier for moisture to enter, but it leaves just as quickly. This hair type is often prone to breakage and/or frizz, and it may tangle more easily than others.
Ok, so how do I check my own porosity?
The easiest way to check your porosity is by doing the water test. Take a strand of your hair and pop it into a clear glass of water. Wait for about 2-3 minutes and see what happens.
If your hair floats on top, this indicates low porosity.
If your hair sinks to the middle of the cup, you have medium porosity.
If your hair sinks all the way to the bottom, this indicates high porosity.
Got it. So how do I care for my porosity type?
High Porosity Hair Care Tips
As mentioned above, high porosity hair means your strands are able to absorb a lot more water due to more “open” cuticles, but your hair does not retain moisture as well as low porosity hair. To prevent breakage, frizz, and excessive tangles, here’s some tips:
Minimize heat and harsh treatments: This is a no-brainer for any hair type, but harsh treatments and heat are especially damaging to high porosity hair types. This hair type can easily become dull, broken, weak and damaged from lack of long-lasting moisture, so it’s best to skip on abrasive treatments and high heat that actually strip the outer layer of the cuticle.
Air dry or use low heat: Continuing from the last point, opt for air drying your hair instead of using heat if possible. Luckily, high porosity will dry pretty quickly compared to other hair types, so it’s best to take advantage of this and build in some extra time into your routine for natural drying.
Don’t overwash or overstyle : Protecting your cuticles is key with high porosity hair. Since your hair’s cuticle is somewhat fragile, too much washing or overstyling can weaken the cuticle and make it even more porous and more prone to drying. The key to keeping this hair type looking lush and luminous is moisture. Coat your hair with hydrating, protein-rich products that reinforce that outer cuticle.
Use a pre-shampoo treatment: The best thing about high porosity hair is its ability to easily absorb nutrients and and hydrating oils, so use this to your advantage and put a treatment mask on before shampooing to lather your hair with all the moisture it can get. No matter how hydrating a shampoo is, it’ll still strip your hair of its natural moisture, so prepping it with a protein-rich mask beforehand can combat some of the drying effects.
Low Porosity Hair Care Tips
Contrary to high porosity hair, low porosity hair is more difficult to penetrate, however the moisture will lock in and last longer once it enter the hair shaft. The goal of taking care of low porosity hair is to increase your hair’s ability to receive moisture.
Use lightweight oils: Using lightweight oils is key to be able to penetrate the tight cuticles of low porosity hair. Almond oil and argan oil are great options to use on low porosity hair because of their ability to seep through tight cuticles.
Use heat when deep conditioning: Heat (in moderation) is your friend if you have low porosity hair. Warm water and heated hair caps can actually open up your tight cuticles, enabling moisture and nutrients to enter your hair shaft.
Beware of protein: This is a big one. Compared to protein-loving high porosity hair, low porosity hair is protein-sensitive. Since the cuticles are already tough and tightly packed together, adding more protein to a low porosity hair care routine can actually cause breakage and damage. Opt for protein-free formulas that will nourish and hydrate your hair without overpowering the cutickles.
Prevent build-up: Since low porosity hair has difficulty absorbing product, it’s prone to build up on the outside of the cuticles. You know that cakey and dull feeling your hair gets after days without washing? That’s likely caused by product build-up that hasn’t entered the cuticles. If you have low porosity hair, a clarifying product is key to keep your strands fresh and free of build-up. One of our favorite natural remedies for build up is using an apple cider vinegar rinse. Dilute one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and apply to hair after shampooing and before conditioning to wash out debris and excess product.
Avoid silicones: You could apply this advice to all hair types, but it’s especially true for low porosity hair. Silicones form a hydrophobic coating on hair strands, making it even more difficult for moisture and nutrients to enter your hair cuticles.
Medium Porosity Hair Care Tips
Now for the medium porosity hair types, experimentation is your best bet. As you fall somewhere in between these two extremes, testing and trying out techniques for your hair is super important to find your perfect routine. Your hair might love a denser oil than low porosity hair types, but it might not love protein as much as high porosity hair types. Overall, we recommend minimizing excessive heat and styling across the board and testing a pre-shampoo treatment to see if it leaves your hair feeling more nourished and silky.
Do you have any specific tips and tricks for your porosity? We’d love to hear them. Shoot us a DM at @helixhairlabs to let us know!