Biracial Hair Care Tips: Porosity Testing

When I discussed hair typing in a previous piece, I mentioned that the system did not take into account the coarseness of the hair. Another thing it doesn’t address is porosity. Porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. There are three categories of porosity – low, normal/medium and high.

• Low porosity hair means that the cuticle layer of the hair is tightly bound. The microscopic “scales” are flat and overlapping. It can be hard to get moisture into the strand. Protein rich products can cause build up and make the hair stiff and straw like. It’s best to use lighter, water based products like hair milk and butters (shea, mango etc) and oils to seal in the moisture in.
• Normal/medium porosity is what we hope for. It lets just the right amount of moisture in and retains it well. It typically holds styles well also. Using protein treatments occasionally is beneficial.
• High porosity hair has the loosest cuticle layer. Holes and gaps in the cuticle can cause too much moisture to penetrate and cause frizzy and tangled hair. As easy as it is to let moisture in, it’s just as easy to go out. The L.O.C method is best for this porosity, as it layers products to retain the moisture in.

So, how do you know what porosity level your child’s hair has? There are a few ways to test it. One is the water test. Drop a few clean strands (shed hair from detangling) into a cup of water. After a couple of minutes, check on it. If the strand is floating on top, you may be dealing with low porosity. If it has sunken to the bottom, it is high porosity and somewhere in the middle is normal/medium.

Another way to do the water test is by simply squirting it on clean, dry hair. If it absorbs very quickly, it’s high. If it sits on top, it’s probably low. You can also tell by how fast the hair dries. If it takes a long time to dry, then the moisture isn’t penetrating right and you may have low porosity.

A simpler test is just by stretching out a strand and running your fingers from end to root. If the hair is rough and dry, you may have high porosity. If it moves up very easily and the hair feels dense, you may have low. Remember the “scales” are what you’re feeling for.

Once you know what porosity the hair is, you can properly adjust your regimen.

-Sherry Ulvick