You may have heard the term “hair porosity,” but do you know what it means? Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Each strand of hair has a flexible outer layer known as the hair “cuticle” and the cuticle determines how easily moisture can pass in and out of the hair strand.
Porosity can be genetic, but external factors may also play a role. Chemical processing, heat treatments and environmental exposure may also affect your hair’s porosity.
Why does it matter? Your hair’s porosity affects how well oils and other moisture products pass in and out of the hair cuticle. Knowing your hair’s porosity can help you determine the best products and treatments suited to your individual needs, to keep your hair well-moisturised, strong and healthy.
Porosity is broken down into three categories: low, normal and high.
Low porosity: Cuticles are very closely bound.
Normal / Medium porosity: Cuticles are slightly less bound.
High porosity: Cuticles are more widely spread out.
How can you determine your hair’s porosity?
The most common way is by doing a float test. Take a few strands of hair from your hairbrush and drop them into a bowl of water. Wait for 2 – 4 minutes. If the hairs float, you have low porosity. If they sink, you have high porosity.
How to care for your hair according to its porosity
Because the cuticles are tightly bound together, it is harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. Hair products may sit on the hair, causing build-up, because they aren’t absorbed easily, it may be difficult for water to saturate your hair when shampooing and it may take long for your hair to air dry.
But just because your hair has low porosity, it doesn’t mean it’s not healthy, it just means that it may become very dry if it is not moisturised correctly.
Look for ingredients like honey, shea butter, jojoba oil and coconut oil in your hair care products. These moisturisers are rich in emollients and will penetrate the hair more easily. Try Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream (R149.95), a deeply nourishing treatment formulated with 100% pure shea butter and other natural oils to leave dry, damaged and coarse hair softer, more manageable and more resilient.
Apply conditioner to wet hair, as it may be absorbed more easily if it’s a little diluted. We recommend The Perfect Hair Mango & Marula Deep Conditioner (R89.99). Enriched with mango butter, castor oil, and marula oil to give your hair an intense moisture boost. Leaves your hair wonderfully soft.
Use a steamer or heat cap to apply heat when you condition your hair as this will help the product penetrate the hair shaft more easily.
Medium / normal porosity
When your hair has medium porosity, the cuticles aren’t too open, but not too tightly bound either. This means moisture can penetrate easily, and can also be retained for a longer time. If your hair has medium porosity, it should take colour well, be easily styled and hold a style, is shiny and doesn’t take too long to air dry.
Medium porosity hair requires the least amount of maintenance. Occasional deep conditioning treatments will maintain the hair’s health and increase product absorption. Cantu’s Shea Butter Natural Hair Intensive Repair Masque (R59.99) penetrates deep into the hair shaft for an intense treatment to repair, restore and strengthen dry, damaged hair.
Hair with high porosity can absorb moisture, but cannot retain it due to the gaps or spaces in the cuticles. High porosity hair tends to break easily, can be excessively dry and will struggle to hold colour.
Use hair products that contain ingredients like butters and oils, as these will help moisturise high porosity hair. Try Cantu Shea Butter Coconut Curling Cream (R199.99), which helps to define, moisturise and strengthen every lock, or The Perfect Hair Sunflower Leave In Treatment (R69.99), which contains sunflower, coconut and castor oils that penetrate the hair to soften, strengthen and repair. Another great option to seal the hair is Jamaican Mango & Lime JBCO Original Hair Oil (R155.00). Made with grounded Jamaican castor bean and boiled to perfection, it softens and moisturises hair and skin, leaving it nourished and treated.
Avoid hot water when shampooing and conditioning, use lukewarm water instead. It’s also important to apply a heat protectant product before heat styling or blow-drying your hair.
Invest in leave-in conditioners and sealers as these will assist your hair in retaining moisture. Crème of Nature Strength & Shine Leave-in Conditioner (R149.99) is a unique two-phase formula that combines Argan Oil liquid shine and a strengthening protein complex that improves hair strength, protects against damage, and adds moisture and shine.