I’ve been natural since 2007, after a bad perm in the seventh grade, and I’m still learning about my hair every single day. There is an entire curly girl community that exists now, which I love, but I found myself overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information about what I can do with my hair. I couldn’t figure out which deep conditioner to use, the best ingredients for shampoo, or which hot oil treatments were best for me. I got so frustrated with my hair that I repeatedly put it up in a bun until I could figure out some styles that didn’t leave my new growth broken and dried out. Last summer, I decided to get serious about growing and maintaining healthy hair. Instead of going straight to figuring out which new products to buy, I wanted to learn more about how the products I had were affecting my hair, and what strategies I could use to help it grow and stay hydrated.
While diving down a curly hair rabbit hole on YouTube, I discovered a term that I hadn’t yet heard about: hair porosity. It is defined as the ability for moisture to travel through the outer layer (cuticle) to the thickest layer called the cortex. There are two hair porosity types:
- Low: Hair cuticles are very close together, making it difficult for moisture to penetrate the cortex within the hair shaft
- High: Hair cuticles are further apart, allowing the hair to retain moisture, albeit a short period of time.
There’s even a very simple 5-minute test that can be done at home to figure out your hair porosity type, called the Float Test. You’ll need to wash and dry your hair first to eliminate product buildup, and afterwards, grab two items: a glass of water and a strand of hair. Next, you’ll simply add the strand of hair to the glass and see if it floats or sinks to the bottom. If your hair floats, you have low porosity hair, and if it sinks fast – you have high porosity hair.
When I took this test, I learned that I have low porosity hair, which explained why my hair was always dry and had a lot of product build up in a short amount of time. Now, armed with the information about my hair porosity, I learned about what ingredients would best meet my hair growth needs and overall healthy hair goals. Low porosity hair needs deep conditioners that include glycerin and shea butter, and moisturizers with oils like argan, jojoba, avocado and grapeseed oil – while avoiding sealants like castor oil that would make it even more difficult for my hair to absorb. Overall, the keys for low porosity hair are lightweight ingredients that can pass through the cuticle.
Learning my hair porosity allowed me to feel more confident about being able to maintain healthy hair. After my porosity test, I revisited my hair drawer and started scouring over the labels. I noticed that I had a mix of products that I could keep using, but needed to largely throw out my protein-rich conditioners and heavy oils that weighed my hair down. Before learning about which products worked best for my hair, my buying habits were largely dictated by what I saw worked for other people online or what seemed to have the best reviews. This left me feeling frustrated when products didn’t work and I wasn’t able to achieve the results I wanted.
It was important to my hair journey to learn how to best care for my hair. The hair porosity test was critical to being able to keep and achieve the goals I’ve set for my hair. Since learning about what seems like the secret to healthier hair, my hair has grown about 3 inches! Take the time to invest in your hair journey - you may be surprised where it leads.