Testing Your Hair Porosity and How to Care For It
When it comes to understanding our hair, most of us have learned our hair types. Whether it’s 4C, 3C, 2B, or something else, we tailor our hair care routines and products around it. But what if we said that there’s another factor that is as important as hair type? Understanding this attribute may explain why you feel your hair is constantly dry.
What is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity is a measurement of how opened or closed the cuticles on your hair strands are. Porosity can be affected by chemical treatments, genetics, or simply your hair’s age. When you hear the word “porosity”, you may imagine pores like the ones on your face. However, instead of holes, cuticles act more like shingles on roofs, letting in moisture to your hair. When categorizing porosity, there are three main types: low, medium, and high.
- Low Porosity Hair: The hair cuticles lay flat on your hair, making it difficult for moisture to enter. Conversely, once moisture does enter, it stays in for a long time.
- Medium Porosity Hair: The hair cuticles are slightly open. Moisture can enter and exit properly.
- High Porosity Hair: The hair cuticles are wide open, making it tough to retain moisture. Moisture can easily enter, but exits just as easily, leaving your hair dry.
How Can You Test Your Hair Porosity?
Testing your hair porosity at home is simple and will cost you nothing. There are 2 good tests you can try.
The Float Test
- Wash your hair with shampoo and no conditioner (products in your hair will change test results)
- Pluck a strand from your head or use a clean one from a brush.
- Place the strand in a cup of room temperature water.
- Let sit for a few minutes.
After a time has passed, if your hair is floating near the top, you have low porosity hair. If it has sunken to the bottom, then you have high porosity hair. Lastly, if it is somewhere in the middle of the cup, then you have medium porosity hair.
The Slide Test
Take a strand of your hair and slide your fingers across it. If it feels smooth and your fingers move effortlessly, then you likely have low porosity hair. On the other hand, if your hair feels rough and bumpy, then you probably have high porosity hair. Those bumps you feel are the open cuticles on your hair.
Now that you know your porosity, you may be wondering “Great! Now, what does this have to do with my dry hair and hair care products”?
Low Porosity Hair Care
Low porosity hair has cuticles that are tightly wound on the hair. As such, it is important to choose products that help open your cuticles and draw in moisture. Look for products with a high amount of humectants like glycerin and honey. Humectants attract water to your hair and can help moisture seep into your tight cuticles. Along with humectants, you want to use heat to open up your cuticles whenever you condition your hair. A steamer, a shower cap in a hot shower, or a warm towel wrap all work. The hot water will open up your cuticles, maximizing the effectiveness of your conditioners.
You want to avoid hair products with added proteins like keratin. Protein will attach itself to your hair, sealing up your already tight cuticles and making it harder for moisture to penetrate. The same applies to thick creams and oils. If you have low porosity hair, you may notice that products sit on your hair, creating product build-up and dry hair. Instead of heavy creams and oils, opt for lighter products like hair milks.
Medium Porosity Hair Care
If you have medium porosity hair, then congratulations! Your hair is overall good with any product, properly absorbs and maintains moisture, and can easily handle processing. However, there are still a few tips for your hair. Even though you gain and hold moisture, you still want to use a deep conditioner every week or two to maintain your healthy hair. Also, be careful with the proteins. Your hair likes protein, but not too much. Look for rinse-out conditioners and shampoos with proteins and skip the leave-in with it. Last, your hair takes well to processing and treatments, but be careful. Over-processing your hair can lead to permanent damage and even change your hair porosity.
High Porosity Hair Care
With high porosity hair, your hair cuticles are highly spaced out, making it easy for moisture to get in, but also easy for it to leave. You may feel as though your hair is always dry no matter how long you soak it or how much conditioner you use. High porosity hair may be a result of over-processing.
To fix this, know that protein treatments are your best friend. Unlike low porosity hair, you want protein to stick to your hair since it will help seal in moisture and repair potential damage. The same thing applies for heavy butters and oils. Coconut, jojoba, and castor oils are great oils for trapping moisture. Thicker leave-in conditions will also be necessary for keeping your hair moist throughout the day. Just make sure to wash your hair with cold or lukewarm water. This will close your cuticles some, making it more likely moisture remains in your hair.
With a better understanding of hair porosity, you will be able to better customize your hair care routine to fit your specific needs. Still have questions? Ask in the comments and we can let you know which Hair Meds product best fits your hair needs.