What is Hair Porosity & What Does It Mean for My Hair?
Hair porosity is a key part of understanding your hair type, yet many don’t know about it-- even when it comes to elevating their hair growth journey! It helps illuminate how absorbent your strands actually are, which helps you pick the best products for your hair type.
Hair porosity is classified into three broad categories-- low, medium, and high porosity. Low porosity hair means that the cuticles of the hair are closer together; medium porosity means that the cuticles are less tightly bound, and high porosity means that the cuticles are more widely spread and absorbs products better. Keep reading to find out what products will work for you!
Why Does Porosity Matter?
To best understand how it works, let’s get back to basics! Your hair shaft consists of three layers-- the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. The cuticle is the tough, protective outer layer of your hair, made of smaller cuticles that overlap over one another like shingles on a roof to keep in moisture and protect against outside irritants like free radicals. The cortex is the thickest layer of your hair, containing fibrous proteins and pigments that give your hair its color!
Lastly, the medulla is the soft, central part of the hair shaft. For your hair’s health and longevity, any water, oils, or moisturizing products need to get by the cuticles to reach the cortex. If the cuticles are too close together, barely any hydration can penetrate through. On the other hand, if the cuticles are too widely spaced out, your hair will have a hard time retaining moisture and staying hydrated. So no matter how much time and money you invest into your hair care routine, it could be escaping or not penetrating deep enough to help your hair out!
What Causes This?
The difference in hair porosities is largely due to genetics and can be influenced by changes in hormones, over-processing hair, etc. Over-processing can cause damage to the cuticle layer with heat damage, chemical treatments like bleaching, over-washing, and using harsh products. They can cause the hair cuticles to raise and open, making it harder for your hair to retain moisture. If you thought free radical damage from UV rays was bad enough, the ultraviolet light exposure can increase the porosity of your hair too! Combat this by keeping your hair protected from the sun by wearing a hat or other kind of head covering when you’re outdoors and stay away from tanning beds!
How To Test Hair Porosity
There are a few ways to test what kind of hair porosity you have to find out what products to purchase. The best time to test is after shampooing and rinsing your hair to remove any build-up that would change the test results. Fill a glass with water and with your now clean and dry hair, drop a single strand of hair into the glass. Watch the strand to see where it goes-- If your hair strand stays at the top, you have low porosity. If your hair sinks to the middle, you have normal/medium porosity. If the strand sinks to the bottom of the glass, then you most likely have high porosity hair. Keep in mind that all the hair on your hand may not be the same porosity level, so try different ones to get a holistic sense of your hair!
Low vs High Porosity
Now that you have an idea of how porous your hair is, what does it mean for your hair care routine? Since low porosity means that the cuticles are tightly packed and very close together, it makes it very hard for moisture to properly penetrate into the hair shaft. You may find that it’s hard for water to saturate your hair when washing it, that your hair products tend to sit on top of your hair and don’t absorb easily, and it can take a long time for your hair to air dry. This also means your hair has a harder time taking color from hair dye, and your hair can appear dry. On the opposite side of this, some characteristics of higher porosity hair that you might have not realized are that your hair tends to break easily, your hair can be frizzy and dry because the moisture is not retained, and it does not take much time for your hair to air dry. (Source)
Products for Different Porosities
Since your hair porosity type is mainly due to your genetics, there’s not much that can be done to change this. However, you can combat the effects of overprocessing hair with a quality hair care routine! For low porosity hair, use protein-free products to allow the moisture to penetrate into your hair shaft. Try WOW Skin Science Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo & Conditioner Duo, as the active ingredients will be able to properly penetrate into the hair. Apply your conditioners while your hair is already wet to lock in hydration, and dilute the conditioner with water to better penetrate the hair shaft.
Using products that have ingredients like honey or glycerin (also found in the Moroccan Argan Oil line) are good options for low porosity hair as it tends to penetrate easier. To improve moisture penetration, try to apply heat when you condition your hair with a steamer, heat cap, or hot towel. This opens up the cuticle, keeps the products moist, and gives your hair more time to properly absorb it. If you don’t have any of these things, try using a shower cap over your hair after applying your conditioner. After your hair is dry, seal in hydration with WOW Skin Science 10-In-1 Hair Oil for its curated blend of nourishing botanicals that won’t weigh down low porosity hair. (Source)
For high porosity hair, use leave-in conditioners or treatments in your hair to help it hold on to moisture for longer. Keep hair hydrated intermittently with WOW Skin Science Hair Revitalizer Spray for essential moisture without weighing it down. Products with thick nourishing ingredients like butters and thicker oils will nourish for longer. Use WOW Skin Science Coconut Milk Shampoo & Conditioner to deliver deeper hydration and ability to allow your hair to actually hold on to the moisture.
Hair oils are a favorite around here, to use as a styling oil, overnight treatment, or pre-shower leave-in conditioner. Use WOW Skin Science Onion Black Seed Hair Oil or the Castor Oil to give your hair the nourishing care it deserves!
With any of these recommended products, only use lukewarm water when shampooing and conditioning as hot water can damage high porosity hair, whose cuticles are already spread out and don’t need to be opened more (or none of your hair care products will stay in!)
Hair health is something we pay attention to after we’ve already damaged it. Bad hair care includes how you use your products. Learning your hair porosity and how it’s able to retain moisture will help you choose the best routine for your hair type. Good luck!