Moisture 101: What is Porosity and Why is it Important?

Moisture 101: What is Porosity and Why is it Important?

If you’ve been in the natural hair world for a while I’m sure you’ve heard or read things about porosity and its importance.  If you haven’t heard of porosity then this post is for you! Knowing your hair’s porosity, in my opinion, is way more important than categorizing your hair by a certain number, 4a, 4b & 4c, etc.   Several women rarely have the same hair texture all over so don’t be too quick to hair type yourself.  Instead, focus on moisturizing your hair and not only will you achieve growth but your hair will overall become more healthy.  So let’s dive right in!

What is Porosity?

Porosity is the term coined to describe your hair’s ability to absorb moisture.  Moisturizing your hair whether you are natural, relaxed or loc’d is the core foundation of healthy hair.  There is not too much you can not without providing H2O to your strands similar to almost every other thing on earth.  Understanding your hair’s porosity level will help you in making sure your hair absorbs AND retains moisture adequately.  Special focus on retaining which we will discuss further down.

Why should I care?

Great question! Well you should care because often we receive hair advice and tips from our girlfriends and blogs (like me), however; as I’ve said before everything doesn’t work for everybody.  For example, you may have a friend that swears by castor oil for her hair but when you tried the oil it did absolutely nothing for you, was too heavy and left your hair limp.  By knowing your hair’s porosity level, you can make smarter hair regime decisions and even change certain products you are investing tons of money into every month.

How do I determine my hair’s porosity?

There are 3 types of porosity levels: low, normal, & high.  A simple way to determine your level is the float test with a glass of water.  The hair shaft is composed of cuticle layers that overlap each other similar to shingles on the top of a roof.  The cuticle also controls how much water enters and leaves the hair.  For the float test, first drop a strand of your hair into a glass of water.  If your hair floats to the top, you are noted as having low porosity, meaning the cuticle is very tight and water is hard to enter.   If your hair sinks to the bottom, you are noted as having high porosity, meaning your cuticles aren’t tightly closed and water is absorbed quickly.  And finally, if hair floats in the middle, your are noted as having normal porosity, meaning water eases in and out the hair cuticle easily with great balance…yay for you!

hair-porosity-types

I have low porosity…now what?

With low porosity focus on opening the hair cuticle.  My favorite way to do this through steam treatments.  Steaming gently lifts the hair cuticle so moisture is infused directly.  Deep conditioning with other mild heat techniques like sitting under a hooded dryer is another great way to open the cuticle ensuring your hair is soaking up as much moisture as possible.  The upside about low porosity hair is once moisture gets into the hair strand, it doesn’t leave as quickly.  You may even notice that once you wash your hair it takes forever to dry, another sign of low porosity hair.

Leave in conditioners are and should be your best friend.  Other great hydrating agents are aloe vera juice or gel, and flaxseed gel.  These two ingredients create a slight film over your hair to trap the moisture without being super heavy or oily while also keeping the hair hydrated.  Aloe Vera is my personal favorite.

I have high porosity…now what?

With high porosity hair focus on retaining moisture since clearly there isn’t a problem with your hair absorbing water.  Have you ever noticed after shampooing and conditioning your hair it dries super fast?  With highly porous hair, as quickly as your hair sops up water it can also easily lose the moisture.  I’ve read over and over that high porosity is usually a sign of damaged hair, because the cuticle is extremely raised; however, I can not confirm or deny that statement.  To retain or seal the moisture the LOC method is always super helpful.  The LOC method is a series of steps used to apply products: L – Liquid or Leave in Conditioner  O-Oil  and C-Cream.  Although I have low porosity hair I still use this method.

Another way to seal moisture and one my new favorite things to do are apple cider vinegar rinses.  Apple cider vinegar is great for soooo many reasons, but when it comes to hair it’s a great inexpensive product that will help close the cuticle.  Simply dilute with water, using a 1 to 1 ratio (1  tablespoon of vinegar to one tablespoon of water) and then rise your hair after shampoo and conditioning.  The first time I did this treatment I fell in LOVE and now I’m addicted!  Don’t worry about the smell it will quickly disappear in the air as your hair dries.

Final Thoughts

Clearly moisture is key.  Remember; although oil is important part of your hair regime, it doesn’t provide moisture like just plan water can.  Oily hair does not equal moisturized hair.  If you touch your hair and a good amount of oil residue is left on your hands, most likely is simply sitting on top of your hair and not really penetrating the strands.  In addition, remember everyone’s hair is DIFFERENT.  Some treatments may work for you and some may not.  The trick is truly understanding your hair type and finding a great regime that works for you.   Hope these tips were helpful.

What are your thoughts on porosity? Leave a comment below and let’s talk!


Image courtesy of Isangs.com

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Charlene Walton
Charlene Walton

Charlene Walton McCraney, known on social media as @TexturedTalk, is a Dallas beauty and lifestyle blogger. After years of styling her and several friends’ hair as a hobby, offering advice and tips, she decided to combine two of her favorite things…writing and talking about natural hair!

Her blog, TexturedTalk.com was created to promote healthy hair care for women of all textures and has since evolved into other beauty and lifestyle topics. Charlene loves teaching other aspiring bloggers on how to take their passion and turn it into amazing content to provide value.

When she’s not blogging she is probably crunching numbers as a Senior Financial Analyst, dancing or figuring a way to meet Beyonce in person. :)

Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

6 Comments

  1. jay
    August 5, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    Hello, I have been natural for 6 years or more and I don’t have a good curl pattern.mind will just look like afro and dry.
    Why every time I pick my hair out it shreds bad. Little curl up hair. Can u help me find a good regimen. And I have hard water.

    • Charlene Walton
      Author
      August 6, 2015 / 10:52 am

      Hi, thank you for commenting! Well first things first there’s no such thing as a “good curl pattern” just different textures :). Moisture and retaining moisture should definitely be high on your priority list. This includes moisturizing daily with water, leave in conditioner and depending on your hair texture sealing that moisture with oils or maybe something thicker like a shea butter mix product. In addition, implementing a deep conditioning regime is key. Since you have hard water check out my recent post about Hard Water here https://www.texturedtalk.com/hard-water-vs-soft-water-is-your-hair-secretly-suffering-due-to-your-area/

      If you want feel free to send me an email to [email protected] with a picture of your hair and we can talk about developing you a personal, tailored regime. Thanks!

  2. September 22, 2015 / 11:20 pm

    I did the big chop on Saturday. I live in a very arid climate, and have been looking at blogs, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube almost non-stop to find product recommendations and advice. This, by far, has been *the* most helpful information! Thank you, and wish me luck! 😉

    • Charlene Walton
      September 23, 2015 / 1:23 pm

      Oh wow thank you so much! Welcome to the natural hair community and best of luck to you on your journey! Thanks also for taking time to read and comment 🙂

  3. Katina Henderson
    December 7, 2018 / 7:15 am

    Hi!!!I did the big chop yesterday! Thank you so much for your informative post. I’m on the product search now so the sample idea was great. How do I moisturize for if I
    have normal porosity? (Thanks for the new term)

    • Charlene Walton
      Author
      December 12, 2018 / 9:03 pm

      For normal porosity, you just want to make sure you have a daily moisturizing regimen. That can be with a hydration spray, leave in conditioner or hair lotion, etc. Thanks so much for reading!

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