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There are several different types of hair, and each is unique and has different needs.
Because of this, most hair care products are made with different hair types in mind. There are products for fine hair, curly hair, thick hair, and many more.
But these aren’t the only factors to consider when determining your hair type.
There’s something else to keep in mind when finding out what kind of hair you have, and that’s hair porosity.
Hair porosity affects how well your hair responds to hair care ingredients. Knowing your hair porosity will help you understand what products you need.
After all, customizing your hair regime according to your hair type is the best way to ensure you are using the best products for your specific hair type.
But do you know the porosity of your hair?
There are three different levels of hair porosity, and there are simple hair porosity tests available so you can determine your hair porosity level.
Let’s take a closer look at how to test hair porosity and how to take care of your hair, depending on the results.
What Is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity is the ability of your hair strands to absorb and hold moisture based on the cuticle’s condition.
Let’s understand that a little better.
A hair strand has three main regions or layers:
- Medulla (present in gray, thick, or coarse hair)
For hair porosity, the focus is the cuticle.
The cuticle is the chemically resistant outermost layer of the hair strand. It consists of several overlapping flaps that resemble scales or roof shingles.
The cuticle is what makes the hair porous, depending on its health and condition.
There are three levels of hair porosity, namely:
- Low porosity
- Medium porosity
- High porosity
Hair porosity levels are determined according to the hair cuticle’s condition, which varies for each person, depending on genetics and grooming practices.
Low Porosity Hair
When hair has low porosity, the cuticles are packed really close to each other and lay flat. This makes the strand smooth, with very little space for moisture to enter.
Because they are so tightly packed, water and other cosmetic products can’t easily penetrate the hair. However, once the moisture does get in, it will stay there for a long time.
This is why if you have low porosity hair, it takes longer to dry your hair after it gets wet.
The characteristics of low-porosity hair include:
- Hair takes a long time to get wet.
- Hair treatments are less effective because chemicals can’t penetrate the strands easily.
- Hair strands are prone to breakage.
- Hair tangles easily and is susceptible to matting.
- Hair is difficult to color or chemically treat.
- There is often product buildup on hair.
- Hair tends to get greasy.
- Water beads up on the hair.
You may have low porosity hair if you notice any of these signs. But to be sure, you can take a porosity hair test to confirm.
Medium Porosity Hair
Medium-level hair porosity is also known as normal porosity.
If you look under a microscope, you’ll see that the cuticles in the strand are looser than that of low-porosity hair. They aren’t too close together and not as open.
This means moisture can get in quickly. Research says that medium porosity hair can absorb 75% of water within 4 minutes. However, the moisture won’t exit as fast.
The traits of medium or normal porosity hair include:
- Hair looks healthy and glossy.
- Hair doesn’t take too long to dry.
- Hair holds style (like curls) for a long time.
- Hair accepts chemical treatments such as hair dye and relaxers well.
- Hair is manageable.
You’re fortunate if you have this porosity level because it’s more manageable.
But you still need to take good care of your hair to maintain the normal porosity level and ensure it doesn’t go higher.
High Porosity Hair
In a strand with high porosity, the cuticles are wider apart. This means the hair absorbs water, oil, and products easily.
However, the hair can lose moisture just as quickly too because of the larger gaps among cuticles. That’s why it’s hard to keep high porosity hair hydrated and nourished.
Hair can be naturally highly porous for those with curly or coily hair because the twists in the curls cause the cuticles to lift up.
The characteristics of highly porous hair include:
- Hair gets wet quickly.
- Products are easily absorbed.
- Hair feels dry most of the time.
- Hair lacks elasticity.
- Hair is prone to frizz.
- Strands rarely look shiny.
- Chemical treatments process quickly but can have intense effects.
However, note that those with low or normal porosity hair can also end up with high porosity hair if they don’t take good care of their tresses and continuously expose their hair to chemical treatments.
Low and normal porosity hair can become highly porous due to damage from chemical treatments like:
It has also been observed that even everyday grooming activities can contribute to a change in hair porosity. Activities like these are examples:
- Heat styling
Natural Hair Porosity Tests
If you’re unsure about the porosity level of your hair, there are tests you can do at home.
These tests can be done without much effort and can give you a general idea of your hair’s porosity level.
However, before doing these tests, there are important things to consider.
- Cosmetic professionals say a person can have a mixture of low, medium, and high porosity strands.
- Moreover, they also confirm that porosity can vary in one fiber.
For example, a strand can be healthier and have normal porosity from the roots up to the mid-shaft but have higher porosity down to the tip because it’s been damaged more.
Because of these factors, one test alone may not yield an accurate hair porosity result. It’s best to do more than one test and compare the results of each to ensure accurate hair porosity test results.
1. Floating Hair Test
The hair porosity float test is the most common and recommended method of how to test the porosity of your hair.
All you need is water, a clear glass or bowl, and strands of your hair.
- Fill a clear glass or bowl with water.
- Take a few strands of freshly washed hair from different parts of your head.
- Drop a strand in the glass of water and observe it.
- Low porosity: The strand floats.
- Medium porosity: The strand quickly goes to the middle and stays there.
- High porosity: The strand sinks to the bottom.
You can repeat this process for your other strands and record your results. The porosity level you get the most may be your overall hair porosity level.
Make sure to do this test with freshly washed hair, though, because if there’s oil or any other product on the strand, this may interfere with the water absorption.
2. Slip and Slide Test
Another easy test is the Slip and Slide Test. However, this test shouldn’t be the sole basis of your results. As mentioned above, it’s best to do a couple of tests to compare and ensure accuracy.
For this test, you won’t need any materials.
- Take a strand of your hair between your fingers.
- Slowly slide your fingertips towards your scalp and feel the strand.
- Low porosity: smooth
- High porosity: rough
Generally, you can quickly determine the smoothness or roughness of the strand. But this can be confusing for those with medium porosity hair because it can feel like both.
3. Hair Porosity Water Test
This method is also known as the absorption test. You’ll need a spray bottle filled with water for this test.
- Take a section of your hair and spray it with water.
- Carefully watch how your hair reacts as it absorbs the water.
- Low porosity: Beads of water tend to slip off more than they’re absorbed by the hair. And overall, it takes longer for the hair to get wet.
- Medium porosity and high porosity: The hair quickly gets saturated.
The issue with this test is that there’s no standard to determine the timeframe for fast or slow. Without a basis, it’s hard to say if something happens quickly or slowly.
Laboratory Porosity Hair Tests
Determining hair porosity is not just important for individuals but also essential for experts who formulate hair care products. They need to know how their products will work on different hair porosity levels.
And these types of at-home hair porosity tests aren’t enough for professionals or chemists. They need something more accurate.
That’s why they utilize laboratory hair porosity tests. Some examples of tests done in the lab include the following.
4. Dynamic Vapor Sorption (DVS)
This method measures how the hair is affected by humidity changes.
In this test, the hair is exposed to humid air. Once it absorbs the moisture from the air, the strand is weighed.
We won’t get too technical about this, but experts do this test to help create hydrating hair products, especially for hair that doesn’t absorb moisture well.
For this test, the higher the weight, the higher the absorption. The higher the absorption, the higher the strand’s porosity.
5. Gas Adsorption and Pore Size Analysis
No, that was not misspelled. Adsorption is a process that involves atoms and molecules. But again, let’s not get too technical and get straight to the point.
How is this related to hair porosity?
In this test, the hair fiber is exposed to nitrogen to make the pores more visible. This way, scientists can measure the volume and pore size of the hair strand.
If the pores are large, the strand has high porosity.
6. Fiber Swelling
This test measures the size of the hair strand after being exposed to water.
This is done because one characteristic of hair is that it can swell to up to 15% in diameter and 1% in length when it absorbs water.
The strand has normal porosity if the size stays within that range. If it didn’t change so much, it has low porosity. But if the hair swells larger than expected, it’s likely highly porous.
The Right Hair Care for Each Porosity Level
Now that you understand hair porosity and know how to determine porosity, it will be easier for you to treat your locks correctly.
Here are some tips on how to care for your hair, depending on the porosity level.
The problem with low porosity hair is hydrating it since moisture does not penetrate the strands well.
The first thing you can do is open the cuticles to help your hair absorb moisture. You can do this by using steam.
The heat from the steam relaxes the cuticles and opens them a bit. Then, the water vapor can get into the hair shaft.
Just flip your hair down or wrap it around a towel and steam it for 5 to 10 minutes using a hair or facial steamer.
You can add a conditioner or treatment rich in humectants when you steam. The product will go into your hair fiber and help trap moisture.
Examples of Humectants
- Hyaluronic acid
Dos and Don’ts for Low Porosity Hair
- Use a clarifying shampoo to remove product build-up.
- Shower with warm water.
- Use lightweight oil to moisturize the strands.
- Dilute your conditioner with water to help it get absorbed better.
- Use the maximum hydration method.
- Don’t use products with silicone because they will only thicken the cuticle layer.
- Avoid protein-rich hair treatments.
Medium porosity hair requires the least maintenance, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your hair some TLC too.
After all, this normal porosity won’t last forever, especially if you are a fan of hair-damaging processes.
Caring for this type of hair is pretty straightforward.
Hair Care Tips for Medium Porosity Hair
- Use a mild sulfate-free shampoo when washing.
- Do moderate conditioning.
- Use light oils for moisturizing.
- Apply a heat protectant when using hot tools like a flat iron or curling wands.
- Use a deep conditioner every two weeks.
Highly porous hair needs extra care. While it’s easy to get hair products and moisturizers into the hair, keeping them there is challenging.
The key is sealing the gaps in your large hair cuticles. Here are some helpful tips when caring for high-porosity hair.
How to Treat High Porosity Hair
- Do a pre-poo (or pre-shampoo) treatment using heavy and creamy products.
- Wash hair with a mild shampoo.
- Condition hair regularly.
- Deep condition locks with protein-infused hair masks and treatments.
- Try an aloe vera or apple cider vinegar rinse.
- Use the LOC (leave-in, oil, cream) method.
- Avoid heat styling and chemical treatments as much as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is hair porosity important?
Hair porosity is important because knowing your porosity level can guide you in properly caring for your hair.
You’ll be able to choose the right products and adjust your care routine accordingly to give your hair the best care.
When should I do the hair porosity test?
If you’re doing a hair porosity test at home, do it after you’ve washed and shampooed your hair when it has already dried.
This will ensure that no products can affect the test result.
Hair Porosity Can Help You Get Healthier Hair
Hair porosity is a key factor in caring for and managing your hair.
You can utilize several home hair porosity tests to determine your level. Just remember to do more than one to ensure accuracy.
When you finally determine your porosity level, you can figure out the best hair care regimen for you to achieve healthier and more beautiful hair.
Do you know your hair porosity level? Which test did you do? We’d love to know in the comments!
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