PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGESHair porosity does not receive the same attention as other hair characteristics like length or curl pattern, but it is an essential part of truly understanding your texture. Porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, oils, or chemicals like color. Low, medium, and high are different degrees of porosity. Due to damaging habits such as mechanical manipulation and color treatment, many naturals deal with high porosity hair.
Why porosity matters
Low Porosity – the hair cuticles are tight and very resistant to opening for water and other forms of moisture. Women with low porosity often complain of products merely "sitting on their hair."
Medium (Normal) Porosity – the hair cuticles are raised enough to readily absorb moisture, oils, and chemicals. Normal porosity hair tends to hold moisture, shine, and absorb color and chemicals better than low or high porosity strands.
High Porosity – the hair cuticle that is highly raised or even chipped and therefore quickly absorbs moisture. The downside is that because it’s raised and remains raised, you can lose the moisture just as quickly as it was absorbed. Oftentimes this hair type is damaged from harsh chemicals, dye or bleach, high heat, or harsh shampoos that strip the hair. Because the cuticles are aggressively raised, the strands catch onto each other and become easily tangled.
Don't know your hair's porosity level? Take our porosity quiz.
5 Ways to treat high porosity hair
1. Protein treatments
Incorporating protein treatments in your regimen is important for high porosity hair to gain strength and not break as frequently. Oftentimes, hair that is highly porous is a result of damage so if you haven’t incorporated protein, it's time to start. Highly porous hair has holes in the hair shaft and protein temporarily fills those holes and strengthens the hair. It’s like patching a tire. Protein treatments are usually advised to be used monthly. For an extra boost, you can also use light protein treatments every few weeks in between the monthly heavy protein treatment. Remember that protein is not a moisturizer and should not be treated as such.
2. Deep conditioning
This should be done following every wash. Remember to slather on generous amounts and heat it up! If you do not have a hooded dryer, do not fret. Covering your hair with plastic cap or a warm towel for 15 minutes will suffice. I often leave my deep conditioner on overnight and rinse in the morning. Find a thick deep conditioner like SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. I love this because it really brings my hair back to life.
3. Sealing with butters or oils
Butters and oils can help seal in the moisture that your hair soaks up without releasing it back to the air. Shea butter and olive oil are both heavy and great for sealing. Since olive oil is one of the few oils that penetrate the hair shaft, this would be a great option to use as a sealant.
4. Using heavier products with natural oils
Heavy products will reinforce your sealing from the butter or oil and help compensate for the protective layer that's missing. Make sure to check the ingredients label of your products to see if heavy oils like olive, castor, or avocado oil are listed in the top five ingredients.
5. Apple cider vinegar and aloe vera
Both apple cider vinegar (ACV) and aloe vera will work to adjust the pH balance of your hair. Rinsing with the slightly acidic ACV will help flatten the cuticle and seal in the moisture. Some naturals add aloe vera gel or aloe vera juice to their leave-in conditioners or spray bottle solutions.
This article was originally published March 2014 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.