The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Hair Porosity 

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So you got this amazing deep conditioner, that you’ve heard so much about; only great things can be said about it. You’re so excited, as soon as you get home, first thing, you apply it on your hair with smiles all over, wear a plastic cap over it, leave it for as long as the label says, and finally you wash it off expecting this amazing results … but, nothing! It’s either your hair is harder than it was in the first place or it’s so limp and feels so weak.
I know that feeling, I hate that feeling!

You say, “this product isn’t for me”, “it just sits on my hair”, “didn’t sip in like I wanted”, “feels so weak” …blah blah!

Hold on a little, don’t throw it out just yet. Sure not all products are for you, but then, don’t miss out on the ones that really are good because you just don’t know the right methods for them to work for you.

At this point, I’ll introduce the main factor (according to me) when developing a personal hair regimen for yourself.

Its hair porosity. I think that should have sounded a little more like a surprise…OK…*trumpets go off* its Hairrr Porosittyyyy! Yayyy

Lol

Personally, I faced a lot of breakage cause I didn’t understand my hair porosity. Sure the post on hair types was a good start on dealing with your hair. Since same hair types look the same, its easy to think your hair should work like someone else with the same curl pattern, but if the porosity isn’t the same, you’ve got it all wrong.

Hair Porosity is basically how well your hair takes in moisture, moisture being the most important thing in life! With your hair porosity, your hair will either not accept moisture, leaving it dry or accept too much, leaving it weighed down and weak.

Now your hair porosity depends on your body’s level of distributing protein. The way I understand it, proteins are generally large molecules that ‘coat’ hair strands for protection, inhibiting external things, which also include moisture. Hair porosity could also change with the kind of chemicals you put on your hair, mainly dyes and relaxers.

There are basically 3 types of porosity levels, namely:

1. Low-Porosity Hair: I’m particularly interested in this hair type, why? Cause it’s mine. ‘Lo-po’ is hair with a good level of protein, and so hair shafts are properly sealed. This type is generally healthy, moisture doesn’t easily escape from it, and so very short hair grows faster, and easier, since it makes good use of the body’s natural nutrients. However, as the hair grows longer, it gets extremely difficult to moisturize, because the natural nutrients cannot reach the ends, and deep conditioners and moisturizers find it very difficult to penetrate strands. I dealt with this for so long till I realized; conditioners didn’t seem to work, they all just seem to ‘sit’ on my hair, the hair got dirty and itchy quickly cause there was a lot of build-up, and the worst part was how hard it was to style and comb, and it kept breaking!

Low porosity hair looks very good, its thick and strong, because of the protein level, but it’s really hard and dry to feel.

2. High-Porosity Hair: This is usually unhealthy hair, some people have it naturally, but others have it due to over-use of chemicals. The increase in porosity is the reason relaxed and dyed hair, are usually weak and thin, and seem to never grow. As difficult as it may seem, it’s actually easier to maintain, since it takes in moisture wholeheartedly. It’s love for moisture could also be bad, cause too much moisture in hair makes it limp, so its kind of a battle trying to maintain the balance. I believe hair like this is mostly thin and light, as seen in relaxed hair, and also quite soft.

3. Normal Porosity Hair: This falls somewhere in between. Hair like this, is just average, it follows all the general rules of hair care, and grows at an average rate. This is the easiest to maintain, cause it doesn’t need any special attention.

The Porosity Test

The question is now, how do you know your porosity level?

Besides, what you would have observed over time based on your experience with conditioners and moisturizers, here’s a simple test you can try at home, with a glass cup and water to really show your hair’s porosity level

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The strand test involves taking some separate strands (not a clump) of your hair and putting them into a glass of water. Don’t push, just drop them and wait a few seconds to see  how well they sink. This is a test to the level of your hair’s porosity.

Hair care of each porosity level

Now that you get the basic idea of hair porosity, let’s see how you can specially care for your hair type, how to balance protein and moisture. To better understand the importance of this balance, check out my previous post right here.

1. Low porosity

  •  HEAT, HEAT AND MORE HEAT! The first and the most important, that has been like heaven for my hair since I started, is this simple rule. Normally when you’re deep conditioning, you cover your hair with a plastic cap or bag for sometime, to allow your body heat do its job, but with lo-po, you need some extra heat to open up your hair shafts and get the most out of your conditioner. Be it heating up your conditioner before applying, a blow drier or hooded to manually add heat over the plastic cap, a steamer, a steam cap (my favorite), or any way you can devise to get some heat to that conditioner, just do it!
  • Moisturizing : Go as light as possible when moisturizing, you want to avoid products that are too heavy, they  would mostly have difficulties penetrating and so would just sit on your hair and lead to build-up easily. My method generally involves using water in a spray bottle (lightly mixed with conditioner, honey or aloe vera), and  sealing with my whipped butter; some lo-po girls avoid whipped butter cause they say its heavy (what would I do without my whipped butter, my hair adores it), though they would still use some other expensive and heavy cream or leave-in which I avoid, so it really depends on you, and what you choose, but just keep in mind to be light about it.
  • Green-house effect: As light as your moisturizer is, it would still have problems penetrating, and so someone came up with the greenhouse effect. It’s sort of like steaming; after applying your moisturizers; you cover your hair with a plastic cap, and leave it overnight for an equivalent length of time to allow your body heat open up cuticles and let the moisturizer work well. Your hair could feel wet after, but the job has been done.

Tip: if you don’t have much time, just use a steamer, or you could rock a turban or beanie and no one knows what’s lurking underneath 😉

  • Humectant: Humectants are better explained in this post. Since your hair has a tendency to dry up easily, using humectants constantly, would keep it attracting moisture. Remember to use this sparsely in the dry season, so it doesn’t suck moisture off your hair rather than the atmosphere.
  • Use WARM WATER to wash. This helps in opening up cuticles.
  • PROTEIN TREATMENT: You still need protein in your hair, especially as it grows longer. However, average protein treatments won’t work cause the molecules are too large, and so DIY protein treatments containing egg, mayonnaise etc would only make your hair very brittle. Look out for products with hydrolyzed protein, silk protein or wheat protein; they have been chemically treated to reduce their sizes.
  • Baking Soda: This has two amazing benefits. One, since there’s a tendency to get build-up often, and too much use of shampoo dries out the scalp, using baking soda followed by cowashing or a lot of water, helps to mildly cleanse your scalp and keep it clean till your next washday. Two, baking soda is alkaline in nature and so helps to open up the cuticle, to allow your deep conditioner work better. I do a baking soda rinse before I deep condition, about once a week. It also helps to cleanse my scalp while in a long-term protective style.

2. High Porosity

  • GO HEAVY: Contrary to low-po hair, you need heavy products to moisturize cause you want to fill up those open cuticles and pores and prevent moisture from evaporating; leave-ins and butters, would do the job. Don’t go overboard and use too much, just keep it simple.
  • ACV: This is Apple Cider Vinegar. You’ve probably heard a lot about it. Apart from its microbial and cleansing properties, it also helps to seal in cuticles. Doing regular ACV rinses after washing or conditioning help close up hair shafts and keep your hair strong and moisturized.
  • No Baking Soda: Your hair shaft is open already, you really don’t want anymore opening do you?
  • PROTEIN is about the most important thing. Depending on how porous, you’ll have to do protein treatments 1-2 times a month. On the bright side, DIYs work just fine. Dyed hair needs a high level of protein to keep growing, maybe not deep conditioners, but moisturizers; use moisturizers with light proteins. Remember to keep it balanced though, cause as much as your hair needs it, too much just ruins it.
  • HEAT: You don’t need heat when conditioning, and you also don’t need warm/hot water to wash.

3. Normal Porosity

Caring for your normal porosity hair is simple. FOLLOW ALL THE RULES!

Now you get your hair porosity, and first hand info on building a personal regimen. Love your hair, understand her and treat her well!

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My lo-po healthy hair just after deep conditioning with enough heat. Was strong and healthy, and not as brittle as it used to be before.

Below is an image of high porosity and low porosity, and how they both take in moisture on the average. Comment below if you can spot the difference, and tell me which is which 😉

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