The more porous your hair is, the more it is able to absorb and hold moisture.  Your hair cuticle, which is the flexible outer hair layer, determines how easily moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair. You inherit your hair porosity from your parents genetically, but it can also be affected by factors such as exposure, heat treatments and chemical processing. 

Why does knowing my hair porosity matter?

Knowing your hair’s porosity can help you to select the best and most suitable products to keep your hair well-moisturized, supple, strong and shiny.

For Asian women, hair tends to run the spectrum from high to low porosity. A quick way to tell is how frizzy your hair gets: does it frizz easily in high humidity? Then you may have high porosity hair.

DETERMINING HAIR POROSITY

Test it out for yourself!

The Float Test: Take a couple of strands of hair from your comb or brush and put them in a bowl of water. After 2-4 minutes, take a peek: if your hair floats, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity.

The Texture Test: Take a strand of hair and feel along the strand with your fingers. If you feel some bumpiness, this means that your cuticle is lifted and that you have high porosity. If your fingers slip smoothly, then you have low porosity hair.

LOW POROSITY

Takes longer to dry after washing, more resistant to bleaching, perming

Structure of low porosity hair: Hair with low porosity has a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat. Tends to be very shiny – the classic long, straight Asian hair look.  

Low porosity hair repels moisture when you try to wet it and is hard to process since it resists penetration of chemicals.

Products to avoid: Protein-rich deep conditioning products that can leave it feeling stiff and straw-like; may also lead to build up. 

Products to use: Protein-free, daily conditioners with humectants such as glycerin or honey. Use moderate heat with protein-free deep conditioning treatments to help open up the tightly bound cuticle. Moisturizers rich in emollients such as shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil and mineral oil. Try humectant products, which attract and hold moisture to your hair. Choose lighter, liquid-based products such as hair milks that won’t sit on your hair and leave it oily or greasy.

MEDIUM POROSITY

Medium porosity means lower maintenance. Outer cuticle layer is looser, allowing just the right amount of moisture to enter while preventing too much from escaping. 

Hair with normal porosity tends to hold styles well; perming and dyeing produce predictable results. However, these processes can still wreak havoc on medium porosity hair and cause it to have higher porosity.

Take care of your hair with occasional deep conditioning treatments with protein conditioners; but avoid daily use of proteins.

HIGH POROSITY

You could have naturally highly porous hair, or it could have been caused by damage from chemical processing, rough treatment or environmental damage. 

High porosity hair has gaps in the cuticle, which let in moisture into your, leaving it prone to frizz and tangling in humid weather. Swimming and shampooing can create more damage and breakage due to the sheer amount of moisture highly porous hair can absorb. 

Products to use: Using anti-humectants in climates with high heat and humidity (like Singapore) can will help seal your damaged cuticles and prevent them from absorbing excess moisture in the air. Because highly porous hair can also lose moisture easily, using leave-in conditioners, moisturizers and sealers can help your hair hold on to the moisture you’re giving it. 

Porosity of hair will affect how hair dye stays in your hair, as well as the outcome of chemical processes. Want to find out more about your hair porosity? Speak to your stylist during your next appointment at Hairloom!

(content adapted from naturallycurly.com)