What is "Porosity"?
Porosity seems to be one of the natural hair buzz words you hear all the time but not many people know what it is. But don't fret; today I'm going to give you a deeper insight into porosity!
Porosity in basic terms is your hair's ability to absorb water and products. I say, "and products" because most people forget that if your hair can't even accept water then it most likely won't accept anything else (more about that in a bit). Porosity is determined by the outer layer of your hair called "cuticles". If your hair cuticles lay very flat, then you have low porosity hair. If you have high porosity, then your cuticles are more raised. Most healthy, virgin hair falls between low to medium porosity. Higher porosity hair is usually due to external damage such as bleaching, dyeing, relaxers, texturizers, heat tools, and excessive manipulations through hair tools. It is very rare for someone to have high porosity hair naturally without involving one of the aforementioned external damages.
I know what you're thinking: All of this sounds nice but how do I know FOR SURE what my hair porosity is? Contrary to popular belief, it is in fact almost impossible to know for sure without viewing your hair under a microscope. I use to be a proponent of the water test until I discovered how faulty the test is and in many ways is not a true representation of porosity. But, it's the best we have at the moment so go for it but also compare the characteristics of your hair with others of the same porosity. I have some who mischaracterized their hair based on dryness. Dryness should never be the deciding factor because most type 4 hair (kinky, coily, high shrinkage) is naturally dry.
Anywho, the water test is simple:
- Take a strand of your shed hair and wash it with a clarifying shampoo. (This is important to remove any product that would interfere with the validity of the test).
- Retrieve a glass of room temperature water
- Add hair to water and gently push on it to break the surface tension of the water
- Allow it to sit for 20 minutes
- Record results
If your hair floats to the top, you have low porosity. If it hovers somewhere in between, you have normal porosity, if it sinks towards the bottom, you have high porosity. Pretty simple, huh?
So why is it important to know your hair porosity? It's important to note because your porosity affects how ingredients and products react to your hair. If I was to use myself as an example, I have low porosity hair. For years I was so frustrated with my natural hair because it was DRY. It wasn't until yearsss later when I discovered my porosity that I realized why certain methods and products never worked for me no matter how hard I tried. I would use products that built upon my hair, I used methods and ingredients that didn't penetrate my hair, I used products with proteins constantly, and worst of all I avoided shampoos and clarifying products like a plague! Needless to say, my hair was always a dry, greasy mess until I learned to react to my hair based on my porosity.
I hope this quick introduction to porosity was helpful! Let me know in the comments what your hair porosity is and how you care for your hair based on its porosity!