Since the rise of the natural hair movement, there has been an “explosion” of information available to women who are interested and excited about returning to their natural roots. There are countless blogs, youtube videos, and naturalistas who have made careers out of sharing what they have learned on their own natural hair journeys. While we couldn’t be more “excited” that women are taking their natural hair into their own hands and searching for the information to meet their needs, there is one frequent misunderstanding that has a major impact on how to properly take care of YOUR natural hair. Porosity.
Many natural haired women look to other naturals for guidance when it comes to which products to use and how to maintain their natural hair. They follow the natural hair type system as the ultimate guide to determine whether another natural has the same hair type as them and typically follow their tips and notes without hesitation. However, getting guidance from a natural who doesn’t have the same porosity level as you, is setting yourself up for disappointment.
“Don’t ask anybody what products they use if they do not have hair like you.” ~ Urbanbella
Porosity is the biggest factor in managing your natural hair and you’ll need to understand and work with it if you want to achieve happy, healthy, strong hair.
What is Porosity
So what exactly is porosity and why is it so important in the natural hair conversation? To put it simply, porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb moisture. This includes how much your hair is able to absorb and how much it’s going to give up. When we say moisture, we’re primarily referring to water but it can include oil, creams, and other moisturizing products you apply to your hair as well. Porosity is genetic, meaning you were born with it, and there is no way to change or alter it so it’s essential to understand it so you can work with it to get your hair looking and feeling its best.
In the natural hair space, we typically discuss porosity on two ends of a spectrum: those with low porosity hair and those with high porosity (also referred to as porous) hair.
Low porosity hair is hair that is water resistant. It’s usually very smooth, as the hair cuticle is closed and flat, and also characteristically shiny. Low porosity hair doesn’t let moisture in without a struggle, but it also doesn’t lose moisture either. Low porosity hair tends to have a very defined curl pattern, takes longer to dry, with hairstyles lasting up to two – three weeks. Women who have low porosity hair tend to deal with a lot of product build-up as many times, products sits on the hair without being absorbed and their typical struggles include getting some volume to their hair.
Medium porosity is hair that lies somewhere in the middle and has an easy time absorbing water and keeping it in. You’ll find that women with medium porosity hair usually don’t require much maintenance, can hold styles really well, have a defined curl pattern, and looks relatively shiny.
High porosity hair is hair that absorbs and loses water with ease. It’s chronically dry and fragile as the hair cuticles are open and prone to tangles and breakage. It’s usually dull in appearance and often looks frizzy. Highly porous hair typically has an undefined curl pattern, drys fast, and doesn’t hold a hair style for more than a few days or a week at most. Women who have high porosity hair have struggles with reducing frizz, increasing shine, and turning down their hair’s volume.
What Products Should You Use & Why
When it comes to products, knowing your hair’s porosity is key. Remember, hair products are made of water, oils, waxes, and sometimes chemicals. “How well (or not) a product works is determined when the water evaporates”.
Low porosity naturals are able to use a wide range of products with ease because their hair generally doesn’t lose enough moisture. A poor quality product may seem like it’s holding up well, but if the hair isn’t losing enough moisture to gauge, it’s not an accurate representation of the product’s effectiveness.
High porosity naturals can only use high quality products that are made with nourishing ingredients. Their hair loses so much moisture that only a quality product can help keep hair moisturized after a certain period of time. A great way to gauge is how long after you apply a product does your hair look the same as when you first styled it? Poor products will only last a few hours where high quality products will last days.
To determine if the products you are using are right for your hair’s porosity level you’ll need to test them on the staple wash and go style. Twisting, braiding, and coiling will not give you an accurate representation of the products ability to moisturize your hair. You want to use products that absorb into your hair and keep it moisturized. If you can feel product on your hair a few hours after you’ve applied, that’s a major indication it’s not the right product for you. Likewise, if you’re hair feel dry and brittle a few hours after applied, you should move on to another option.