With low porosity hair, the cuticles lay flat and overlap neatly. The opposite is true for high porosity hair. There are several ways to check the porosity of your hair. One popular method is to take hair from a brush and place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks within a couple of minutes, your hair may be porous. If some float and some do not, then your hair texture could be uneven. The best approach is simply to be observant. Does it air dry evenly? Where is it frizzy? If you have curly hair, is the shape of the curl consistent? When porous hair is dry, it feels puffy and rough. If your hair sheds water easily, you may have low porosity hair. Normal porosity allows moisture to pass through to the cortex of the hair and at the same time, your hair is sufficiently sealed against external moisture and humidity.
Finding the right identity for your hair.
- It's normal to want to identify how you look with a certain hair type. In many ways, it's the first step that women take when looking for the right products for their curls. But it can frustrating when you try a product that is "designed" for your specific hair type and it doesn't work for you but it works wonderfully on your friend who has the same hair type.
Why does this happen - because hair isn't one-dimensional. Your hair is defined by more than just curl size.
- Hair has a "personality" that comes from a combination of many things; some are natural and others are "woman made". On the natural side, you have: curl size, coarseness and texture, elasticity, density and porosity. On the other hand, the "woman made" conditions are all the things that you do to alter the appearance of your hair including coloring, styling, perming, straightening, etc.
Just because you share the same curl size as your friend doesn't mean that you have the same "hair personality". You may both share the same curl size but if your hair reacts differently with humidity, it may be a sign that you have different hair porosity. Maybe your hair is much frizzier and the only difference between the two of you is your hair length. If her hair is a lot shorter than yours, maybe the entire hair shaft isn't being conditioned properly.
Achieving the right balance
Determining your hair needs means looking beyond the established "hair type" that defines the size of your curls. It is essential that you know your hair's porosity so that you can find the best products that work most closely with the natural state of your hair.
Your "naked" hair (i.e. in its most natural state) is probably less porous than in its processed state. This is because the cuticles lie flat when hair isn't damaged. It is normal for hair cuticles to lift somewhat especially with curly hair. But when they begin to lift like old roof tiles, you're going to lose your natural texture. Your hair will be harder to manage; it will split, frizz and break.
What affects hair porosity?
- Shampooing your hair:
- You should always use a sulphate free shampoo. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, commonly referred to simply as sulphates, sulfates or SLS are cheap foaming agents found in many shampoos. They are used in industrial strength cleansers such as car wash soap, engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners because it instantly dissolves grease and oil. Clinical studies have proven that SLS can be very irritating to both the skin and hair because it strips both of their natural protective oils.
- Coloring your hair:
- Let's assume that you want to color your hair. The coloring process can increase porosity. This doesn't mean you can't color your hair but you should definitely deep condition it before you color your hair. Well conditioned hair holds color longer, so give yourself a deep conditioning treatment 3 days prior to coloring your hair and then another 10 to 14 days after.
- To avoid color "leakage" be certain to allow at least 10 days to pass before you deep condition your hair with a heat source. A 10 day waiting period will give the color a sufficient amount of time to bond with the hair's structure.
- Straightening your hair:
- Every time you straighten your hair the cuticles open and the porosity increases. If you chemically or thermally straighten your hair, it is absolutely essential for you to deep condition your hair every week. The healthier it becomes, the less frequently you'll have to do it.
- Styling your hair:
- Porous hair is greedy hair. It doesn't know when to let go and it is easy to over apply styling gels. Heavy oils, waxes or silicones will bloat the hair. It is better to avoid these ingredients and stick with lighter, natural oils like Aloe Vera.
- Sun Exposure:
- You don't need a hot comb or a hair dryer to subject your hair to too much heat. The sun is perfectly willing to step in and do the job. There are organically derived ingredients used in styling products that absorb harmful UV rays that can damage hair and cause your color to fade.
Confusing Water with Moisture
- When hair cuticles are lifted and damaged, they absorb much more water than it can handle. The hair shaft stretches beyond its limit, it weakens and when that water evaporates, all that remains is damaged, over exposed and vulnerable hair.
Water is not the type of moisture that benefits hair.
- Moisturizing is all about replacing or maintaining your hair's healthy and natural balance of oils and proteins.
Proteins help to protect cuticles from lifting and they fill in the small holes and gaps in damaged scales. They bind to the hair shaft to help seal the hair. The more it is sealed, the less porous the hair will be.
- There are no fixed rules that define your hair. The lesson to learn is that the curliness (or straightness) of your hair has little to do with whether or not a specific product or routine will work for you.
- Deep condition regularly, especially if you color or straighten your hair. Use gentle heat with your deep conditioner to get the most out of the treatment. But don't overdo it. Too much heat increases porosity.
- Avoid products that will strip your hair of its natural proteins and oils. There is no point in trying to make your hair become less porous if you are going to wash it with a shampoo that is going to open the cuticles.
- Protect your hair from the sun. There are styling aides with natural UV blockers.
- Be gentle. If you have curly hair, use a wide toothed comb to avoid ripping tangled hair.