HAIR BASICS- POROSITY

Hey you. This is another post in the Hair Basics series- a bunch of posts about the fundamentals of hair. What it really is and how it functions. You could continue the Understanding Hair 101 class here 🙂

Porosity, adj

The property of being porous.

Porous, noun.

Easily penetrated.

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WHAT IS HAIR POROSITY?

Hair Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to be penetrated. absorb and (not) retain moisture.

WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?

Good hair is healthy hair. Healthy hair is basically well moisturised hair.

When you moisturise, if your hair isn’t accepting it, your money and time are spent in vain. If your hair accepts all the moisture and lets go of it almost immediately, that’s like pouring water in a basket- still a waste of your time.

WHAT DETERMINES YOUR HAIR POROSITY?

Remember the structure of hair?  The Cortex is the power house; it determines what your hair looks like. Any hair product that promises strength, or moisture or conditioning, everything really, is supposed to get to your cortex for it to work. But sometimes, it’s not so easy to get to the cortex and sometimes it’s too easy. Why is that?

Ask the cuticle. Your hair cuticle is the gateway to your cortex and it does what it does. You have to learn how friendly or unfriendly your cuticle is and befriend it, work with it to get the desired results. Your cuticle determines your hair porosity. Stay with me now.

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF HAIR POROSITY?

There are three levels of Hair Porosity.

  1. Low Porosity. Lo-Po hair has really tight, compact cuticle and so it’s really really difficult for moisture to get through. On the bright side, if you can succeed to get moisture in, it retains the moisture really well.
  2. High Porosity. Hi-Po hair is like a sponge. It absorbs moisture, products pretty well, maybe too much- but it does a bad job at retaining moisture.
  3. Normal Porosity. If you’ve got Nor-Po hair, you’re lucky. It can absorb moisture but doesn’t overdo it and it retains it as well.

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

Well, this isn’t a secret you should keep. Most hair products are designed for Nor-Po hair. However, I have good reason to believe that there are more Hi-Po and Lo-Po people in the world than Nor-Po people. Sucky, I know. Knowing your porosity can change everything. It can help you make adjustments- it can help you filter the information and products you’re assaulted with whenever you care to look.

HOW CAN YOU KNOW YOUR POROSITY?

It’s really simple.

  1. Put some water in a bowl.
  2. Take a strand of your hair- a clean, freshly washed, product-free strand and leave it on the surface of the water.
  3. Observe how long it takes for the strand to sink to the bottom of the bowl, if it goes down at all.

If your hair quickly sinks to the bottom, you’ve got High Porosity hair.

If your hair doesn’t get to the bottom in like an hour, or it’s still floating on top, you have Low Porosity hair.

If your hair gradually makes its way down- not too fast, not too slow, congrats, you’re a lucky one! Normal Porosity.

MY POROSITY

As I strongly suspected, my hair is super-duper Low Porosity. I placed my hair in a bowl of water, I checked an hour later- still floating on top. I went away, hopeful- and came back another hour later- still on top! O_O

OKAY, I KNOW MY POROSITY.  NOW WHAT?

When you know better, you do better- this is what the Hair Basics posts are all about.

Remember what I said about sweeping generalisations on the basis of Hair Typing? One myth or general rule I’ve read so many times is that highly textured hair a.k.a. Kinky hair is highly porous. My hair is SO kinky, yet I’m the opposite of highly porous. My cuticles cannot possibly be any less porous!

Another general rule I was observing since my big chop is- wash natural hair with cold water only. I’ve been doing a little Lo-Po research lately and it has been recommended by a few Lo-Po naturalistas, that light heat is good for Low Porosity hair. Washing with lukewarm water instead is advised. I’ve done this a few times since I read that and so far I haven’t noticed any difference but time will tell.

Having introduced the three levels of Hair Porosity, I’ll go on now to discuss them in a little more detail.

NORMAL POROSITY

Hey, lucky one.

Pros:

  1. Your hair absorbs moisture really well.
  2. Your hair retains moisture really well.
  3. Most products were made for you.

Any cons? No. All you have to do is moisturise and seal with a light hand, as you feel your hair requires.

If you don’t moisturise enough, your hair will be dry. If you do too much, you could have build-up too. It’s just that your hair naturally knows the moisture balance, so go with it. Don’t do too much, or too little. Just listen to your hair.

LOW POROSITY HAIR

Your cuticles are not just united against moisture, they are united against everything, really- and this works both ways, good and not so good.

Pros:

  1. Retains moisture really well.
  2. Lo-Po hair is highly resistant to damage from chemicals or heat- any form of over processing really- and this is a big pro.
  3. Lo-Po hair doesn’t need a lot of protein treatments- except your hair is breaking or showing any signs of damage, put down the mayo. Don’t follow that person that does a protein DC every two weeks. Too much protein and your hair is going to look dull because it’s just ugly dead protein lying there atop your hair shaft.

Cons:

  1. Serious difficulty in absorbing moisture.
  2. Lo-Po hair may be prone to build-up because the product isn’t getting in, it’s probably just sitting on your hair, weighing it down- except you’re doing the right things.

Since I discovered my hair is Lo-Po, I’ve been doing a bit of reading on this and basically- since the cuticles are so tight, the key to working with Lo-Po hair is stimulating it to raise its cuticles. When the cuticles are raised, they open up to receive the goodness you have to offer. I will be trying the things mentioned in this article I found on Curly Nikki and will report on any difference I experience.

It is advised that the basic regimen for Lo-Po hair involves

  1. Water-based leave-in moisturiser
  2. Humectants
  3. Seal in with a light oil.

The idea behind a light oil is this. Humectants draw moisture from the atmosphere into your hair. A heavy oil can render this useless as it is too much of a barrier. Some people say Coconut Oil may be too heavy for Lo-Po hair since the cuticle does such a great job at retaining moisture.

Note to self: The basic Lo-Po regimen is the simple moisturise & seal regimen that I’ve been doing. Coconut oil has been alright so far but I should probably try a lighter oil- like Jojoba or Grapeseed- just to test the theory. My moisturiser contains glycerin, a humectant- but as I’m using less of the lotion, I should probably mix more humectants into my routines.

HIGH-POROSITY HAIR

The good news is, unlike some of us, you have no problem absorbing moisture. The bad news is, your hair lets go of this moisture really quickly. Also, High-Porosity hair is very prone to chemical and heat damage, so you have to be really cautious and avoid this.

Some are born with Hi-Po hair. Some have Hi-Po hair thrust upon them (or bring it upon themselves)

Some people are born with Hi-Po hair and some people’s hair becomes Hi-Po along the way because of over processing. There are some treatments designed for High Porosity and the idea behind them is to make the cuticles tighter, and more compact.

Also, some say that a cuticle once permanently altered is altered forever. So if your cuticle is wide open because of chemical or heat damage, it might not be a bad idea to cut your hair and start growing it out again.

A Hi-Po hair regimen involves a lot of sealing! And at this point, I’m pretty sure you know why. The cuticle in Hi-Po hair is elevated in some way, making it easy for matter to go into and come out of the hair shaft. As it has no problems absorbing, the idea is to make exit more difficult. More sealing is required than with Lo-Po or Nor-Po hair.

A Hi-Po regimen according to the good people at naturallycurly.com

many high porosity naturals, after washing their hair, apply a leave-in conditioner, then a thick water based moisturizer followed by a heavy butter. By layering your products, you are providing your hair with the moisture it needs from the leave-in and moisturizer, and ensuring that the moisture remains near the hair shaft by using a heavy butter or oil to act as a protective layer to prevent the moisture from being lost to the atmosphere. High porosity naturals may also find it necessary to moisturize often and some high porosity naturals moisturize once or twice daily.

So now. What’s your hair porosity? Please do the test and google accordingly, for more information on your porosity. You might need to make some adjustments- raise or shut your cuticles- as your hair requires.

How long have you been aware of your porosity, and has this knowledge made you follow a particular routine for your hair? 

Low Porosity is new to me, so this is one more discovery in my hair journey. This is now the journey towards happy, healthy, kinky 4C low-porosity hair. : )

xx