Whether you love it or hate it, most of you are aware of Andre Walker’s hair typing chart. One topic that is less ubiquitous is the term “porosity” as it relates to curly hair. As a fellow curly, I am well aware of the challenges we face — frizz, dryness, limp hair, fluffy hair, uneven hair, 2-3 textures…the list goes on and on. I firmly believe that you can solve most of your daily challenges by selecting the appropriate products based on your hair’s porosity. But first of all, let's take a look at just what hair porosity is.
- The state or property of being porous, or permeable to fluids and outside influences.
- A structure or part that is porous and capable of being penetrated.
- The ratio of the volume of all the pores in a material to the volume of the whole.
In essence, your hair’s porosity is the measure of its ability to absorb and hold onto moisture. This factor will help you determine the most effective way of moisturizing your textured tresses.
What is My Porosity?
Ready to discover your hair’s porosity? Take a strand of your hair (after gently brushing or finger combing your hair) and place it in a glass of water. Observe how your hair responds to being immersed in water.
- High porosity hair will sink quickly to the bottom, therefore it readily absorbs water.
- Low porosity hair will take a long time to sink to the bottom of the glass of water, if at all. In this case, the hair is unable to absorb the water.
- Normal porosity hair will sink at a medium pace, not too fast or too slow.
So now that you know your hair’s porosity, what steps do you need to take to ensure maximum moisture based on your level?
High porosity hair has a difficult time holding onto moisture as it easily escapes the raised cuticles. It is important to avoid drying detergents and silicones that will further exacerbate the issue.
Tip: Shop for rich creams and butters for your hair. I suggest sealing the hair in layers…start with a moisture rich leave in, follow up with a cream, and finish with a heavy butter.
I also suggest that high porosity curlies try a ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse. This is a great way to temporarily close your cuticle, and enable the hair to retain moisture.
Low porosity hair is typically much harder to moisturize since it is more difficult for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. Prep time is paramount for low porosity curlies. Every step in your daily routine is important and will determine how healthy your hair is. Avoid moisture sapping products, including alcohol based gels, hairspray and mousse.
Tip: Shop for water based, liquid leave in moisturizers that will moisturize without heaviness. Also, make sure to add a natural oil to your regime. Opt for a light to seal your hair after moisturizing. I prefer jojoba oil since it most resembles the sebum produced in our scalp. Heavy oils will be harder to absorb and will simply sit on top of it and weigh it down.
If you fall in this category, you are only lucky curly! Medium porosity hair is easily moisturized and retains its moisture level well. My hair has normal (medium) porosity. One of my favorite ways to keep my curls hydrated is to do a conditioning rinse, then reapply a thin layer of conditioner (add more on the ends) and finally seal with pure monoi oil.
Tip: Shop for moisturizing conditioners, silicone free preferably, that can double as a leave in. Avoid protein heavy conditioners for this purpose, as the residual protein can lead to straw like curls. Add a few natural oils to the mix for sealing your hair. I prefer oils that also offer amazing benefits. Monoi de Tahiti and pomegranate seed oil are my favorites.
This article was written by CURLS Founder Mahisha Dellinger. It was originally written in November 2012 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.