Hair porosity might be the most important aspect of your hair to know about.
Knowing your hair porosity will help you figure out which products to use and how to use them. Things like how much, how frequently, and in what order.
Before we get into all of that, what is hair porosity?
Put simply, it is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture.
You might remember from science class that porosity comes up with referring to materials. Porosity is defined as the ratio of the volume of pores to the volume of bulk and is usually expressed as a percentage. The more porous a material, the more air space or voids it has. That means that water can pass into and through these materials.
A sponge is a good example of a highly porous material. A less porous material is one that has few voids. That means that water can’t pass into or through it. Glass and marble are good examples of low porous materials.
When applied to hair, porosity reflects the ratio of voids to solids. Highly porous hair easily allows water in and out, low porous hair is less able to allow water in and out. The same applies to natural oils. Highly porous hair easily absorbs oils where it is hard for low porous hair to absorb them. There is always a flip side. Highly porous hair loses moisture and natural oils faster. This can make porous hair more prone to damage.
To check your hair porosity, drop hair from your brush or comb into a glass of water.
Keep in mind that knowing your hair porosity will help you figure out how much moisture your hair needs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to keep your hair healthy and strong. Your porosity will also help you choose products that will help you nail the look you are going for.
Understanding hair porosity starts with understanding the structure of hair. Looking at a strand of hair under a microscope, you’ll see an outside layer, called the cuticle. It’s made up of small tiles that open and close. When the cuticles are closed, they protect the hair shaft from losing moisture. When the cuticles are open, water and oils can penetrate the shaft for greater strength and flexibility.
In low porosity hair, the cuticle lays very flat. When you run water over this hair, you’ll see the water roll right off. It might take some time for water to be absorbed in this type of hair. By protecting the hair shaft, low porous hair naturally keeps hair in a healthy, strong, and highly elastic condition. When low porous hair does get dry or brittle, you’ll want to restore hydration. Low-porosity hair can seem “stubborn”. This type experiences buildup, and has trouble retaining moisture and absorbing natural oils.
In high porosity hair the cuticle layer sits open. This means it can absorb water, product, and oil easily, but can also lose moisture and oil. Highly porous hair tends to look frazzled and feels dry and coarse.
While hair porosity is largely genetic – thanks mom and dad! - your lifestyle can change your hair porosity significantly. Things that can increase your hair’s natural porosity:
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), extremely porous hair comes from damage due to UV exposure, hair bleaching, chemical relaxers, or intense heat over long periods of time.
Good news! Knowing your hair type helps you select products that are best for you (and how to use them)
Tips for low porosity hair:
Tips for high porosity hair:
Learning about your hair porosity is part of learning about yourself. The more you understand, the better you’ll be able to choose products and apply them in ways that will work the best for you. Remember, your hair porosity can change, so stay tuned to how your hair reacts to products.
Happy hair day!
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