Understanding Hair Porosity & How to Adjust Your Hair Regimen

Understanding Hair Porosity & How to Adjust Your Hair Regimen

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There was once a popular saying amongst the online hair community: “Products don’t grow your hair, technique does.” For a while, I believed and even promoted this mantra. But then I realized that’s a load of crap!  I can take care of my hair all day long but if I am using a stripping shampoo, a conditioner with non-moisturizing ingredients, and moisturizers full of junk….then it doesn’t matter that my regimen and techniques are good.  My hair will still suffer!  Without being so extreme, that is why things like understanding your hair’s porosity are so important.  In addition to the “basics rules” it allows you to cater more personally to your hair’s needs.  Choosing products and making adjustments based on the porosity of your hair is one way to take your healthy hair journey to the next level.

With all the buzz within the last couple of years about it, you’ve probably asked yourself a time or two exactly what is hair porosity?! We’ve talked about it previously, but it is so important that it bears revisiting.

What is Hair Porosity?

Porosity is defined as the ability of your hair to absorb moisture.  It is most determined by the outmost layer of the hair strand, which is the cuticle.  There are three major categories of hair porosity:  low, normal and high.  The most highly recognized way to determine your hair’s porosity is the strand test.

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The Strand Test:

Drop a strand of clean, shed hair into a glass of water for three to five minutes.  If the strand floats, you have low porosity hair.  If it sinks, you have high porosity hair. If the hair suspends in the middle of the glass, your hair has normal porosity.

Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair has very tightly compacted cuticles, making it difficult to infuse moisture into the hair strand.  However, once absorbed, moisture is extremely well retained.  One defining characteristic of low porosity hair is that it takes a long time to dry.   The challenge with low porosity hair is that it resists moisture and conditioning oils; therefore you must correct the porosity by raising the cuticle enough to provide moisture and prevent dryness.  Here are ways to adjust your hair regimen to combat low porosity hair:

  • Apply products to slightly damp (not soaking wet) hair
  • Use heat when deep conditioning, I love the Hot Head deep conditioning caps, to open (raise) the cuticles of your hair shaft
  • Shampoo with gentle cleansers that do not contain sulphates which strip the hair of its natural moisture
  • Clarify regularly to prevent product buildup that could further prevent moisture from penetrating your hair shaft. Apple cider vinegar rinses are perfect because they correct porosity and clarify strands.

Normal Porosity Hair

Normal porosity hair has flat laying cuticles that easily allow moisture in.  This is the easiest type of hair to care for – follow a normal balanced regimen that includes regular deep conditioning (with heat), moisturizing and sealing and occasionally reassessing hair with the strand test to make sure nothing has changed.

High Porosity Hair

High porosity hair has cuticles that are raised, punctured or torn and therefore moisture is absorbed but not retained and flows through freely.  High porosity hair usually has been damaged and is prone to frizz and dryness.  High porosity hair normally feels coarse and appears parched.   Relaxed, color treated and heat damaged hair typically has higher porosity.  Here are ways to adjust your hair regimen to combat its high porosity:

  • Use balancing deep conditioners at least once per week to provide both moisture and protein
  • Use oils and products high in ceramides to repair damaged cuticles
  • Rinse hair in cool water after shampooing and conditioning to close the cuticle
  • Avoid using direct heat, instead opt for rollersets to both straighten and curl hair
  • Use porosity correcting treatments after any chemical process

Recommended Hair Porosity Correcting Products

  • Kenra Platinum Revive Conditioner: delivers smoother locks. This lightweight conditioner neutralizes environmental irritants, and it repairs the structural integrity of each hair strand.
  • Roux Porosity Control Corrector: Exclusive formula works to infuse moisture, equalize porosity and return hair to a balanced state for increased smoothness and vibrancy.  Closes the cuticle with a pH of 4.5 to rebuild a barrier of protection and achieve predictable results prior to chemical service.
  • Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment: a deeply conditioning treatment that instantly restores damaged hair cuticles so they act more like new. Restores moisture levels to healthier, undamaged hair.  Protects from future damage and strengthens hair to become 20x more resistant to breakage.  Silicone free.
  • Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Preshampoo Treatment: Delivers a rush of moisture into the hairs cuticle to help reduce breakage and restore the hair’s strength and stretchability, leading to less breakage and snapping.
  • Redken Time Reset Porosity Filler: Redken Time Reset Porosity Filler is an at-home 4 week corrective treatment for porous, age-weakened hair.

Understanding hair porosity is an important part of creating a healthy hair regimen. Unlike other parts of your hair profile like density and texture, porosity changes depending on the health of your hair.  You can both damage and repair your cuticles so it is important to assess your porosity by doing the strand test every so often.  You can proactively protect the integrity of the cuticle of your hair by following a few simple rules:

How to Achieve & Maintain Healthy Hair Porosity

  • Clarify and correct porosity every 4-6 weeks (more if you use products with silicone or dimethicone) with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
  • Deep condition regularly with heat using a protein-moisture balanced conditioner.
  • Apply a porosity correcting treatment before and after any chemical process.
  • Detangle on damp or conditioner coated hair with wide tooth seamless combs or specialized brushes to maintain the integrity of the hair cuticle.
  • Rinse hair with cool water to seal cuticle.
  • Seal moisture into hair with pure oils.
  • Avoid damaging hair by over using direct heat, opt to air dry or use indirect heat instead.
  • Don’t tease or backcomb hair as it can cause physical damage to strands
  • Protect hair in silk or satin while sleeping