If you are a black woman you've probably, at some point, considered wearing your hair natural, if so, then you probably tried to learn as much as you can about properly caring for your hair. One topic that likely surfaced during your search is hair porosity. This guide will provide you with not only the definition of hair porosity, but it will also provide you with all the information that you need to know to keep your hair healthy and beautiful.
What is hair porosity, and why is it important for proper hair care?
One of the most important aspects of sustaining healthy natural hair is proper moisturization; therefore, you will want to determine your hair's porosity level on the porosity scale. Hair porosity describes the degree in which your hair absorbs moisture. There are three levels of porosity: low, medium/normal, and high. Low porosity describes black hair in its natural state that has difficulty both absorbing and maintaining moisture. Hair porosity is based on the manner in which the cuticle, which is the outermost layer of each individual hair strand, lies.
Low porosity hair
In low porosity hair, the hair strands are tightly coiled and overlap each other. This is why moisture can be nearly blocked-in hair with this level of porosity. Hair with a low level of porosity is often dry, brittle, and experiences frequent breakage. Special products and techniques must be practiced to keep hair with low porosity adequately hydrated.
Medium porosity hair
Hair with medium/normal porosity is often the healthiest, as it allows the correct amount of moisture to enter the hair shaft. Natural hair in this category is also able to easily maintain adequate levels of hydration, without allowing the hair shaft to become overly saturated with moisture. Women with this hair type usually do not have to use special products to keep their hair moisturized, as most products targeted for normal hair should suffice.
High porosity hair
High porosity hair might seem to be ideal, but it is actually just as bad as low. Hair with high porosity quickly gulps up moisturizer, but retention is a problem. Hair with this level of porosity is often frizzy, dull, and lifeless. Since the hair strands are bombarded with large amounts of moisture that cannot be retained, hair breakage, due to increased fragility and brittleness often ensues.
Determining porosity type
There are many factors that determine hair porosity, but the two most common factors are genetics and hair techniques. Everyone is born with a specific curl pattern and level of porosity. Even if you are born with normal or medium hair porosity, it can become damaged, causing it to become low or high. Hair porosity can become altered due to too much heat, relaxers, and other chemicals, or even from being combed and brushed.
To properly care for your hair based on its level of porosity, you will first need to identify the category yours falls in. There are certain tests that can be conducted to help you identify yours. The first test entails saturating the hair and skin with water and comparing the amount of time it takes each to air dry. Generally, hair that dries quicker than the skin is in the high porosity category. Hair that dries at about the same time as the skin is in the medium/normal porosity range, and hair that dries much slower than the skin is low porosity.
Not everyone's entire head of hair is all one level of porosity. For example, a person could have type 2C hair in the front, which is in the high porosity area, but have 4A in the back, which is on the low porosity scale. Due to the possibility of having different hair types and porosity levels, you may receive different results which will depend on the specific area that you are testing.
The saturation test # 1
Another porosity test entails spritzing the hair with water, saturating a parted section of clean hair. If your hair quickly absorbs the water and then become frizzy and lifeless, then your hair porosity is high. Low porosity hair can be identified if you notice the water rolling off the section where you saturated it, or it simply sits there. Hair that is in the medium/normal level will absorb the water while becoming bouncy and elastic in the process. Again, you may get different results depending on the part of your head you are testing, especially if you are already aware of the fact that you have more than one hair type.
The saturation test # 2
A third type of porosity identification test entails determining the length of time it takes for your hair to become saturated with water. High porosity hair will become quickly saturated when immersed in water, but water will also be lost quickly, and the hair will appear frizzy and dry. Low porosity hair will take noticeably more time to become saturated upon being immersed in water. Like high porosity hair, hair with a normal porosity level will become quickly saturated; however, it will not lose water quickly, nor will it appear dry and frizzy.
Caring for your hair based on porosity
Once you have identified your hair's level of porosity, you can then begin caring for it in the proper manner. Of course, if your hair is normal/medium porosity, you will not find it particularly challenging to maintain. If you wash and condition your hair regularly, and refrain from damaging it with harsh styling methods, then you can take advantage of a low maintenance hair regimen.
High and low hair porosity levels will require more attention to attain the same results. High porosity hair can be improved and even changed, but only if you are willing to adhere to a consistent hair regimen. High porosity hair is often caused by heat damage from flat irons and hair dryers, rough handling with combs, brushes and other hair tools, and the use of certain chemicals, such as relaxers and dyes.
Repairing high porosity hair
To reverse high porosity hair, the first step would be to refrain straightening or blow-drying hair at high temperatures. If high temperatures are desired for some reason, the use of a heat protectant is recommended. The next step would be to gently comb and brush the hair to prevent further damage. Taking a break from the use of chemicals is also a good idea if your goal is to improve your high porosity hair. You can try using protective styles (Clip-ins, Sew-ins, and Wigs) and allow your hair to rest up. Protective styles will also help you to keep your mind off your hair reparation journey.
Some specific ways to repair your high porosity hair include deep conditioning and protein treatments. Protein treatments can shrink the large pores, which is one of the most common characteristics of high porosity hair. As you shrink the pores of the hair shaft, your hair will become less frizzy and better able to retain moisture. Deep conditioning will flood your hair and follicles with vital nutrients that are necessary for proper repair. You want to be sure not to deep condition too often since over-conditioning is a possibility that could cause a host of other problems. Deep conditioning once every week or two should be more than enough to repair your hair.
Repairing low porosity hair
Managing low porosity hair will require the use of some different techniques in order for it to look its absolute best. One thing that you will want to do is incorporate bentonite clay into your hair care regimen. Bentonite is a very absorbent clay that has numerous uses. Bentonite clay for hair is a wonderful idea, especially for low porosity hair. A clay hair mask can work wonders for enabling the hair to absorb and retain moisture, which can dramatically improve the health of low porosity hair.
Another method for maintaining low porosity hair is the regular use of clarifying shampoo. Hair products have the tendency to build up in low porosity hair since they are more likely to sit on top of the hair instead of being absorbed into the hair shaft. A good clarifying shampoo can remove any buildup, which is necessary for healthy hair. You do not even have to invest in clarifying shampoos since apple cider vinegar has amazing clarifying abilities. A rinse made with apple cider vinegar and water can easily remove product buildup, resulting in shiny, bouncy and healthy-looking hair.
Sticking with the appropriate regimen according to your hair's porosity level can be easier than you ever thought possible. Now that you have learned all about hair porosity and how knowing the porosity of your hair is important to proper hair care, you can begin to utilize these tips to promote hair that is more manageable, beautiful, and healthier than it has ever been before.
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