Natural hair

Hair Porosity 101: Everything You Need To Know About It

What is it?

Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to hold on to moisture. An easy way to understand it is by thinking of it as the number of “holes” in your hair shaft. The fewer holes you have, the lesser your hair’s porosity because there are fewer “doorways” for water to get in and out of your hair. Get it? Porosity is characteristic of all hair types not just natural hair.

Why do you need to understand it?

Knowing your hairs porosity (and type) will help you understand your hair, so you can nurture it better.

Hair can either have high, normal, or low porosity, keep reading for a brief description on all three.

High porosity hair
  • Quickly absorbs water, but also loses it very fast.
  • Often looks and feels dry.
  • Dries really fast after washing.
Low porosity hair
  • Has a hard time absorbing water.
  • Takes a while to dry after washing.
  • Products easily build up in it.
  • Oils have a hard time penetrating the hair shaft.
Normal porosity hair
  • Very cozy balance of both types above, absorbs just enough water for its use, strands look shiny and elastic, and the hair is generally easy to manage.
Testing for your hair’s porosity.

There are three main ways to check your natural hair porosity.

  • The water test

Take a strand of shed hair (one that has a whitish stub at the bottom) and put it in a glass of clean water. If it gradually sinks to the bottom then you have normal porosity hair. If it immediately falls to the bottom, then it’s of high porosity. Finally, if it floats to the top, you have low porosity hair. It’s best to do this test on freshly washed, but unconditioned hair.

  • The spray test

Put some water in a spray bottle, spritz a little on your hair and watch how your hair reacts to it. Do the droplets sit on your hair for an extended period? This indicates low porosity. If your hair absorbs the water in the blink of an eye, then your hair has high porosity. If the water takes a little time to gradually absorb then your hair is likely of normal porosity.

The tests mentioned above are the major ones used to determine hair porosity. Sometimes though, they aren’t very accurate. Take for instance, you try to do a porosity test when you have a high amount of product build-up. The build-up can clog your cuticles and prevent water from getting in, then after taking the test, it seems like your hair has low porosity. In reality, you likely have normal or high porosity hair.

Anatomy of the human scalp. How to find your natural hair porosity.

Another point to note is that different parts of your hair might vary in porosity. For instance the crown of your head might carry more porous hair than your nape and/or your temples. It is actually very normal and there’s no need to start looking for ways to “remedy” the situation. After all, people of mixed races sometimes have different hair textures on their heads, so varying porosities shouldn’t be so shocking.

These two situations are not sufficiently taken into consideration by the popular tests, so other ways to determine your hair porosity are;

#1  Try the Slip ‘n’ slide

All this is, is taking a stand of your hair and running your fingers up and down the strand.

Does it feel very smooth? Then its likely low porosity, because this indicates that your cuticles are tightly shut. If it’s very jagged/rough, then you guessed it – high porosity due to raised cuticles. And if you’re not sure where you stand because the strand isn’t very smooth, but it isn’t all that jagged either, then you’re a prime candidate for normal porosity.

#2  How long it takes your hair to dry

This one can really prove if you have varying porosities on your head. After washing your hair and mopping it till it stops dripping, let it air dry. Try not to sit in a way that gives one side of your hair an advantage over the other. If your hair dries really fast – low porosity, if it takes ages – high porosity, medium porosity doesn’t take as long. Also if waited a while, and some parts of your hair are dry while others are still damp, it does indicate that these parts of your hair have varying porosities.

#3  How easy it is for your hair to take in products.

It’s not very hard to figure this one out. Some people use products like leave-in conditioners, and gels on their hair, and it just sits on their hair like a whit film before gradually being absorbed into the hair shaft. I experience this and it’s because I have low porosity hair, but it can also happen if your hair is teeming with product build-up. A quick fix is spritzing your hair with warm water before applying products. The warm water helps raise the cuticles and makes them more accepting of moisture.

NB: The warm water will not work as well if your situation is caused by product build-up, wash your hair sis.

#4  How often you need to re-moisturize.

Some naturals moisturize and seal properly at the beginning of the week and they’re covered till the next week. Others, not so much. If you’re part of the first group, your hair leans more towards low porosity, on the other hand, if you find your hair is very dry only 2 days after moisturizing, you’re leaning towards high porosity hair.

Hair porosity is the key to proper hair care (especially with natural hair). It isn’t always very easy to determine yours for sure, but once you do, you’ll have the information you need to create a kick ass hair regimen that will help you grow your hair and keep it very healthy.

Do you know your hair porosity? How has it helped you care for your hair more intentionally? You’re welcome to share in the comment section.

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5 thoughts on “Hair Porosity 101: Everything You Need To Know About It

  1. Omg thanks for this so much i want to go back natural I’ve been having a perm again for about a year and repermed it about 4 months ago, I want to cut it down low to start over what do you recommend? My hair grows fast I’m not worried about cutting it. Been there done that lol

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