If you haven’t caught on, moisture is HUGE within the natural hair community, and for good reason, considering some of the biggest healthy hair concerns shared by naturalistas revolve around moisture retention. That is why knowing your hair porosity is so important.
Hair porosity refers to how well your hair can absorb and retain moisture. Whether your porosity level is low or high depends on your genetics as well as the current state of your hair.
Knowing your hair porosity can help you choose the right products and moisturizing techniques to improve and maintain the health of your curls.
If you’re wondering how to determine your hair porosity, my favorite methods of doing so are the “floating hair test” and the “slide test.”
Determining your hair porosity
Method #1: The Float Test
- Fill a small container with room temperature water (I recommend a clear container for optimal visibility).
- Take a few strands of (preferably clean) hair and drop them into the container.
- Let them settle for 2-4 minutes.
- If your hair sinks immediately, you have high porosity hair. Your hair absorbs water quickly.
- If your hair is still floating, you have low porosity hair. Your hair is resistant to moisture.
- If your hair is slowly sinking or in the middle, you have normal porosity hair.
Method #2: The Slide Test
- Grab a single strand of hair on your head (no need to pull it out).
- Starting from your ends, slide your fingers up the hair shaft towards your scalp.
- If your hair felt bumpy, you have high porosity hair. If your hair felt smooth, you have low porosity hair.
So what’s the difference?
Characteristics of high porosity hair:
- Absorbs excess moisture, but is unable to retain it (due to gaps in hair cuticle)
- Appears dull and dry
- Generally damaged and/or over processed (prone to split ends)
- Prone to tangles
- Tends to be frizzy
Characteristics of low porosity hair:
- Resistant to moisture, but able to retain it (due to closed cuticles)
- Has difficulty absorbing hair product, color and treatments
- Accumulates water atop the hair
- Takes long to dry
- Appears healthy, but lacks elasticity or volume
What should I do?
Caring for high porosity hair:
- Use protein to fill the gaps in your hair cuticle. Protein-rich products include ingredients such as aloe, wheat protein, or coconut oil.
- Look for heavy products and creams to nourish the hair.
- Deep conditioners are your best friend!
Caring low porosity hair:
- Incorporate heat, and no, I don’t mean the straightener – put it down! Use heat to open the cuticles and let moisture in by washing your hair with warm water or heating your deep conditioner.
- Use lighter products! Look for those with humectants (substances that attract water from the atmosphere) such as glycerin and panthenol or light oils, such as argan and grapeseed oil.
- Wash your hair to reduce build up. Build-up blocks additional moisture from entering low porosity strands.
So now that you are an expert on hair porosity, give your strands a test to see if you are doing what’s best for your curls!