Have you ever heard of porous hair? Capillary porosity means the ability of the hair to absorb and retain moisture. Hair porosity influences how much oils and moisture pass in and out of your hair’s outermost layer, the cuticle.
Each strand of your hair is made up of two or three layers: the medulla, cortex and cuticle. The cuticle is the tough, protective outer layer of your hair, made up of flattened cells that overlap like shingles on a roof.
The cortex is the thickest layer, made of fibrous proteins and pigment that holds your hair’s color. The medulla is the soft, central part of the hair. Fine hair is less likely to have a pith than thick hair.
Hair porosity can be divided into three categories: low, medium and high porosity. Low porosity has cuticles that are very close together, while high porosity has cuticles that are farther apart.
What causes high hair porosity?
Hair porosity can be influenced by genetics or your hair care routine. A person can have strands of hair with varying levels of porosity and even different levels of porosity in a single strand of hair.
If having porous hair runs in your family, then there is a good chance that you also have high porosity hair. Bleaching, straightening, blow-drying and the use of harsh chemicals can damage the hair over time, causing the hair cuticles to lift and open which in turn makes it difficult for the hair to retain moisture.
Ultraviolet exposure is also a contributing factor in increasing hair porosity. A good alternative for protecting your hair from the sun is to wear a hat or some kind of head covering, such as a scarf, when you are outdoors.
Generally, individuals with normal hair porosity have difficulty getting the hair to retain hair dye or bleach and this hair type tends to absorb 75% of the maximum possible water in a few minutes.
Already people with porous hair, have the hair cuticle compromised in some way. Porous hair absorbs water quickly, dries quickly, looks frizzy and dry, and also breaks easily.
How can I test my hair porosity?
One way to test your hair’s porosity is by using a glass of water. See how to do it below:
- Wash your hair with shampoo and rinse well to remove any product residue;
- Fill a glass with water;
- With dry hair, take a small lock of hair and place it in a glass of water;
- Watch to see if the hair strand sinks or floats.
Results: If the strand floats, you probably have low porosity hair. If the strand floats, your hair is medium or normal porosity. If the lock quickly sinks to the bottom of the cup, you have high porosity hair.
Ways to change hair porosity
In case you have high or low hair porosity due to genetics, it is difficult to change this characteristic. However, there are some measures that can make your hair healthier, and easier to comb.
1. For low porosity hair:
- Use protein-free conditioners, as they absorb more easily into the hair and are less likely to cause product buildup.
- Apply the conditioner to wet hair, diluting the product to facilitate hair absorption;
- Look for shampoos and conditioners that contain glycerin and honey in their composition. Avoid using products with oils, as they tend to have a harder time penetrating the cuticle.
- Apply some type of heat when conditioning your hair. It can be through a thermal cap, dryer or steamer. If you don’t have one, place a shower cap over your hair after adding the conditioner.
2. For high porosity hair:
- Use shampoos and conditioners with butters and oils, as they will help hydrate your hair. Oils are great allies for sealing in moisture, but don’t overdo it. Remember that a little goes a long way. Hair oils or avocado oil are great alternatives, as well as polyunsaturated oils that work best for hair.
- Use leave-in conditioners and sealants to help hair retain moisture;
- Use heat protectant on your hair. Apply heat protectant before blow drying or other styling heat treatments to protect your hair from heat damage. People who have porous hair should limit heat sources and chemical treatments on the hair to prevent further damage to the cuticles, making it even more difficult for the hair to retain the moisture and nutrients it needs;
- Do not wash your hair with hot water. Warm water is best;
- Protein treatments help repair the hair cuticle and decrease hair porosity. Protein products can help fill in areas of the cuticle that have damaged cells, smoothing the cuticle and creating a protective layer over the hair shaft.