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Genetic or Biological Contributors to Porosity

Genetics and hair type (straight, wavy, or curly) contribute to how tightly the cuticle layer adheres. Some people have a circular hair shaft, which is optimal for cuticle scales to lie flat and overlap one another, resulting in low porosity. Other types of hair are more elliptical or even flat and ribbon-like. This geometry doesn't allow for all of the cuticle scales to lie flat and overlap one another along the axis of the hair, especially at the outer edges of the hair strand. This creates areas of discontinuity in the cuticle layer, which adds porosity to the hair.

In a similar fashion, curly hair has a tendency to be naturally higher in porosity than straight hair. This is because the spirals in the helical configuration of the curls create areas where individual cuticle scales are raised slightly away from the longitudinal axis of the hair. The curlier the hair is, the more breaks you have in the smoothness of the surface, so the porosity is invariably increased.

External Contributors to Porosity

Damaged cuticle

Environment: Exposure to UV rays for prolonged periods can fuse cuticle scales together, which inevitably leads to further damage of the cuticle layer. It is a good idea to cover your hair when in the sun or use products which contain sunscreen agents.

Chemical Processing: Perms, relaxers, and coloring processes all require the cuticle to first be opened via application of an alkaline solution. This allows the chemicals to access the interior of the hair shaft in order to make permanent changes to the structure of the proteins that are the building blocks of the hair. All of these processes are capable of doing permanent damage to the cuticle layer. This damage builds up with repeat use of the chemical process. Bleaching is the most damaging process, followed by perming and relaxing, with most permanent coloring processes being the mildest.

Heat treatments: Heat from a blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron, or hot curlers can all cause irreparable damage both to the cuticle and the cortex of the hair. These tools can heat water inside the hair past the boiling point and cause the hair to rupture from the inside out. It is not difficult to see how this could increase porosity.

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What if your hair both protein sensitive and has high porosity? What else can you do to help repair some of the damage besides using products with protein... beyond the use of moisturizing products?
What deep conditioning treatment products, which contains proteins, would you recommend?
I think I have low porosity hair...is there any way to help increase its ability to absorb water? I am fine in the shower - my hair gets very wet, but it's hard to refresh styles by water spritzing because the beads just sit on my hair...
I think this article just saved my hair! I definitely have high porosity with my 3c curls, and being that I have bleached blond hair, I have not been taking the necessary steps to protect my hair from damage. Thank you a million!
i love this site and its articles! i reccomend it to all of my curly girl friends as much as i can. i have beautiful 3a ringlets.... however i am still trying to find the right shampoo, conditioner, product,etc.i guess next time i take a visit to the hairdressers i'll ask the advice of my favorite curl experts!
Again, what defines a "soap"?
Retia McMullen: I'm a fairly new member to this forum and site, but I've been studying up A LOT and I've gathered that just because you have fine hair, doesn't mean protein is a must. It's very subjective. I have fine 3a Botticelli curls, and I'm pretty certain I'm low to normal porosity. My hair seems to like proteins, but at this early in my CG transition, I don't want to overdo it, so I'm using a moisturizer too. Figuring out your hair's protein/moisture balance seems to be something you just have to keep playing with until you find something that works. It's best to start with more moisture than more protein because your hair can recover from too much moisture faster than it can from too much protein. Hope this helps!
I love your article. I have low porosity hair. But, my hair is very fine, but thick corkscrew curls. It states that humectants and emollients are good for low porosity hair and proteins are not. I've tried humectant based conditioners and they just sit on my hair. I've heard people say that protein is a must for fine hair. Is there some type of balance that could be used to maintain the protein/moisture in my hair? I don't want to use to much humectants or too much protein.
You need to use a shampoo that's sulfate free. Examples: Original Sprout Baby shampoo and Children's Natural Shampoo; Mia Simone's Boutique Shampoo; Circle of Friends Shampoo; and Deva Curl makes some sulfate free shampoos as well.
Can you reccomend products that are SLS,SLES, etc free?
if your not suppose to use soap on your hair than what are you to use to clean your hair?
Awesome article! This has really helped my understanding of porosity. Thanks for the great information!

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