Low Porosity Hair: What You Should Know/Suggestions for Newbies

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  • 1 Post By artemis513

Just some thoughts on my mind that came up from reading a lot around the boards. I hope this helps someone…

LP and Dryness - Moisture LOSS is not the issue.

Low porosity hair that is extremely dry can seem like a nightmare at first. A lot of popular products that are marketed as remedies to dry hair often do not help the problem—you’ll see plenty of threads pop up that say “I moisturize and seal all the time, why is my hair still dry?!” The truth is that most products and moisturizing methods are catered toward normal-high porosity hair, consisting of very heavy and occlusive emollients (shea butter, castor oil, etc) that are meant to seal moisture in. The understanding is that the nature of curly hair is more porous than straight hair, but really that may not mean that all curly hair is extremely porous! For those of us with LP hair, it seems like it takes forever to get our hair wet and really hydrated, and then it takes forever for that hair to dry—the last thing we need is for our hair products making that time even longer or just not giving us the results we want. That is the life a of a LP head! The cuticles of LP are tightly closed so while it may seem a bit challenging at first to get moisture IN, once it’s retained in the hair it stays for a longer period of time compared to normal-high porosity hair. See this as a good thing!

Having trouble getting moisture IN? Remember that moisture = WATER. Not butters, not oils. WATER. So what’s the easiest way to get water into the hair? By wetting it, as often as you need to at first. I think every 1-3 days is ideal when you are first starting. I mean soak it in the shower, not mist it with a spray bottle! This is because once you get the hair plasticized and hydrated regularly with real live water and conditioner (one with low oils/butters) it will be easier over time to get moisture in the hair and keep it there. Just as an example, when I first started wearing my hair in its natural coily state, I rinsed and conditioned my hair every 2 days for about a month (I had been reading the CG book but not really following it yet). After that my hair adjusted and I could go super long and my hair was still hydrated and able to bounce back from whatever style I wanted to try. I now wet/re-style my hair every 3-4 days just for maintenance reasons but can go as long as 5-7 days if needed with no moisture issues (scalp is another thing haha).

A quick tip that is much less invasive than some other “remedies” out there touted as “solutions” for LP hair is to simply apply your cleansing product to dry hair right before you go to the shower to wet it. Your cleansing product has cationic surfactants/emulsifiers that act as a wetting agent, so when the warm water hits your hair it will soften everything faster and the water (warm water helps those cuticles to soften too!) and product can do their job faster. This will not work as well if you use an oil instead, because as we all know…water and oil do not mix. Use your co-wash or low-poo, and you don’t need to slather it on, just apply starting at the crown/canopy and smooth it down through the hair really quickly before getting it wet. You will end up needing less product when you go to actually wash your scalp and everything. No need to leave it on a long time unless you know your hair is really coated with highly emollient products. This will get the ball rolling as far as getting the hair thoroughly wet in the shower before you cleanse/condition. (Note: This is the tip that Devachan’s stylist Vida [a Black woman] gives for the Fractal/Zig-zag curl [aka type 4] chapter in the Curly Girl Handbook. This is because contrary to popular belief a lot of type 4 hair textures are low porosity; it doesn’t seem that way sometimes because folks tend to overuse products that are overly oil- and butter-rich and do not cleanse their hair properly so it’s hard to tell whatever kind of porosity you have. I digress but moving on to my next point…)

Healthy LP hair is CLEAN

So…you can’t get the maximum benefit of water into your strands if your hair is coated in products! If you tend to use a lot of products on your hair, you will want to wash your hair regularly (you decide what “regularly” means for your hair). This may mean a mild gentle shampoo, this may mean co-wash but the product you use should leave your hair CLEAN but not stripped. I personally am loyal to Curl Junkie Daily Fix (I use this every 3-4 days when I re-style my hair) because it is the only cleansing conditioner I have seen on the market that is oil-free but still quite conditioning/moisturizing; so it’s got the conditioning and the gentleness but it rinses clean while not leaving the hair stripped. This kind of formulation is key because the goal is to get the hair HYDRATED with water and not with a ton of coating. I have found that tossing in a mild shampoo every 2 weeks at minimum also helps keep things easy (I will DC at this time) and prevents over-conditioning or product build-up related issues. I use CJ Gentle Assurance or ABBA Pure Gentle for this.

Humectants are a LP’s friend, not enemy

Humectants (such as glycerin) have been getting such a bad rep recently, and it mostly because they can be a “frenemy” to normal-high porosity hair. But not the case for us LPs! Humectants bind to the water in your hair and hold that moisture in your strands, so that makes them perfect for LP hair, because our hair holds moisture longer and it trades with the environment less than normal-high porosity hair. Humidity should NOT be an issue for well-hydrated LP hair, so if you are struggling with humidity and you are certain that you have LP hair, you may want to look at other factors related to your routine. Products that contain humectants are beneficial also because they are usually lightweight. We don’t need to seal our hair because our cuticles are already doing that job very well. So instead of piling on a ton of heavy product and risk over-conditioning and “white hair”, lightweight products with humectants do the job without greasy, or “frizzy while wet” hair in the end. Note: Best practices for humectants are to use products that contain them in the first five ingredients but also contain conditioning emulsifiers or emollients (as dictated by your hair strand size). Products that are properly formulated work best at maintaining your hair’s natural environment (basically the natural moisture balance your hair has) without competing with the outside climate (thus preventing frizz, dryness, etc).

To clarify, dew points can sometimes still be a factor for some LP curlies, but just not as severely as for normal-high porosity hair; it is still totally possible to use humectants in all dew points for us. Example: In lower dews, your RO can be humectant rich because you rinse it out, so get all the benefits of moisture, and then use a low-humectant or humectant-free leave-in/styler to support hair in the drier environment.

LP hair is very healthy – and EASY

Because the cuticle layers lie tightly and keep moisture in the hair longer, LP hair is less prone to damage (within reason—strand size dictates this). Again, LP hair is also more resistant to environmental factors such as humidity. We don’t need to seal our hair because our hair already retains moisture. IMO both the LOC and LCO methods are best used for normal-high porosity hair that has trouble with keeping moisture in. I am not saying don’t do them (I’ve seen LCO work well for color-treated LPs which makes sense as they are more low-normal), but just that these methods benefit normal-high porosity more, and LP should focus more on getting the water in, not necessarily on keeping it there. If you have LP and your hair is longer or you are growing it out, using oils may be beneficial on the mid-length and ends, as those areas are older and tend to be more porous. If so, apply sparingly to damp-to-dry-hair. Remember, oil and water do not mix and the purpose of oiling the hair is to mimic the hair’s natural sebum and is most effective at protecting the cuticle layers and maintaining pliability when the hair has dried.

Retaining more moisture in the hair is having at least 50% of the work done! More moisture = less tangles, more curl definition, less frizz = less products overall (though this is based on preference) = less stress over HAIR!

More factors to consider

Having LP hair is just ONE part of a healthy hair care equation. It’s important to remember that the size of your individual hair strands (texture) and how many hair strands you have (density) also play into what kind of products you choose to get the kind of hair you want. For example: Fine strands need more protein, coarse strands need more emollients, but having low porosity may mean that you just need to use SMALLER amounts or at lesser frequencies compared to normal-high porosity hair with the same strand size.

So be sure that when selecting products, you base your choices on ALL of the factors that describe your hair, rather than on just one like porosity. Everyone’s routine combination or hair care formula will be different, so trial and error is still the best way to figure it out, but understanding how each factor affects the whole can certainly cut out some unnecessary confusion.

HTH
BotticelliBrit likes this.
4a/3c, fine strands, low porosity, medium density
Last relaxer: Jan 2010 - BC'd: 2/27/11
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Fellow low porosity here. This is helpful, thank you. It should get a Sticky.
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BC Sep. 2007

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