Sunday, 5 January 2020

What In The World is Porosity?

You will hear terms like porosity and density a lot in the Curly community. What does porosity actually mean though?

Simply put porosity is your hairs ability to take on and retain moisture.

Imagine a pine cone. If the edges of it are raised then lots of moisture can penetrate it but if the edges are tightly bound then moisture will find it a lot harder to get through.

Each hair strand has cuticles. When these are lying flat then your hair is low porosity however if they are raised then you have high porosity. You can have different porosities all over you head and even individual strands can have mixed. For example a hair strand could be low porosity nearer the roots but higher porosity towards the ends. There are several "home made" tests that you can do to try and figure out your porosity but I personally believe that the only way you will know for sure is if you were to put strands of your hair underneath a microscope. My Main Bio is a group of female scientists that actually offer this service. You send them some hair and they send you a complete analyst of you hair and it's health.

Knowing your porosity can be helpful when choosing what products would be better suited for your hair. I have low porosity so heavy creams and products containing Shea butter weigh my hair down. I also cannot use a lot of product so the 123 Gel method doesn't work for me.

So without putting your hair under a microscope, how can you get an idea of your porosity. There are several characteristics for each type.

Low porosity -
  • Your hair take a long time to get fully wet.
  • Product can sometimes feel like it is sitting on your hair rather than being absorbed into it.
  • Hair is prone to build up and needs clarifying regularly?

High porosity -
  • Hair gets wet easily and dries very quickly.
  • Moisture and products are absorbed very quickly. You can normally use a lot more product that someone with lower porosity. 
  • Hair tangles very easily as the cuticles catch on each other. 
  • Bleached hair tends to be higher porosity than natural coloured hair. 

Some people like to use the glass test to help determine their own porosity. Although this test can be flawed and I wouldn't rely on it 100%. The glass test is taking a glass of water and several strands of clean dry hair and placing them into the glass. The theory goes that if the hair floats on top then it is low porosity. If it sinks to the bottom it is high porosity. 

There is also the strand test. Take a strand of hair and rub your fingers up and down it. Does it feel bumpy? It may be high porosity. If it feels smooth then it may be low porosity. 

Which porosity is the best? Truthfully there are pros and cons to both. Sometimes I wish I had higher porosity hair so I could use more product! Higher porosity hair may be able to take on more moisture but it also looses it a lot quicker as the cuticles are more raised. So it really is swings and roundabouts! 

Tips for each porosity. 

Low porosity - 
  • Use heat when deep conditioning. The heat helps to raise the cuticles and allows the conditioner to penetrate the hair. You can use a heat cap which are widely available. 
  • Use lighter products. I tend to use a mousse and a gel. Avoid heavy creams and butters. 
  • Clarify regularly. I always clarify on the first wash day of the month. I can always tell when it's coming up to that time as my hair starts to become more frizzy and weighed down. It also looses some shine. Remember to always follow up clarifying with a deep conditioner. 

High Porosity - 
  • Finish your wash with cold water. This will help the cuticle to close. 
  • Use heavier products. Higher porosity hair can better handle these products and they don't weigh the hair down as easily.
  • Regular protein treatments can help to strengthen the hair. 

So there is a little bit of an introduction to porosity. Can you follow the Curly Girl Method without knowing your porosity? Sure! I know quite a few curly girls that have no idea what there's is and they have beautiful curls! It might just take a bit of trial and error figuring out which products and methods are better suited for you.


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