I remember the first time I realized just how porous my hair was. My girlfriend was in cosmetology school and I was getting a finger wave as part of her practical. Luckily she had the foresight to do a practice run because had she waited until test time to work with my hair, she most certainly would have failed. My relaxed hair was mad thirsty, it just kept sucking in the product and would not hold, much less finger wave. Since then I have learned a lot about my hair. Now, with the help of two hair care experts, I will help you to figure out How to Care for Porous Natural Hair and give some product suggestions to make you and your hair happy.
What is Hair Porosity?
When a material is porous, it simply means that it has small spaces through which air or liquid may pass. As it relates to hair, porosity refers to hair's ability to retain moisture.
How Do I Test the Porosity of My Hair?
#1 – THE STRAND TEST
Gently stretch a tiny section of curl strands from different areas of your head – front hairline, nape, crown and temple. Place the stretched curl between your thumb and finger and slide it up the hair strand from the tip towards the scalp. If your fingers move easily up the strand and it feels dense and hard, you have low porosity hair. If it feels smooth, you have normal porosity hair. And if the strand feels rough or dry or it breaks, you have high porosity hair.
#2 – THE SHEDDING HAIR TEST
Another way to check your hair porosity is to drop hair that’s been shed as a result of combing into a glass of water. If it floats, your hair is low porosity. If your hair sinks slowly, it has normal porosity, and if it sinks immediately, your hair is high porosity.
#3 – THE H20 TESTFrom Ouidad.com
To determine your hair porosity level using water, spritz a small section of curls with water and watch how your hair reacts – does your hair absorb the water quickly (indicating high porosity) or does it remain on top (indicating a low porosity level)?
So now that we've established what hair porosity is and how to determine the porosity of hair, let's turn to how to care for it.
According to Monica, licensed cosmetologist and healthy hair blogger from www.moknowshair.com, "porous hair needs more protein than other types [of hair] due to highly raised cuticle or even chips or tears in the cuticle. Protein will help fill in those holes. Retaining moisture is a problem because the cuticle does not properly smooth and "close" to protect the strand."
Hair accepts moisture best when it's wet. However, once the moisture is added to porous hair it will quickly evaporate, so it's imperative to seal the cuticles. "Using butters/creams and creamy leave-ins will help keep nutrients in the hair for styling and "seal" the cuticle," Monica suggests.
Product Suggestions from Monica (@moknowshair):
(She recommends pairing each conditioner with a shampoo from the same brand/line):
- Ouidad Curl Recovery Melt Down Extreme Repair Mask (ulta.com, $44)
- Aveda Damage Remedy Treatment (nordstrom.com, $36)
- Carol's Daughter Almond Milk Deep Treatment (Target.com, $14)
- Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Treatment (Philipkingsley.com, $51)
My Product Suggestions
In addition to the items listed above, I also recommend the following:
- Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Hair Mask (Target.com, $14.99)
- Shea Moisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Masque (Ulta.com, $12.99)
- Shea Moisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Co-Wash (Ulta.com, $10.99)
I've known for a long time that my hair was porous but I still chose the easy way out (#adulting is hard). I used silicone based detanglers because they work quicker and I often straighten my hair to get away from frizz, single strand knots and basically keep my sanity. Don't be like me, follow Ouidad Curl Expert Chadwick Pendley’s dos and don’ts when caring for porous hair:
1. Detoxify curls twice a month
To gently remove build-up of dirt & debris (product, environmental stressors, etc.) trapped in the sebum. Try Ouidad’s:
Water Works Clarifying Shampoo (ulta.com, $18)
Superfruit Renewal Clarifying Cream Shampoo (sephora.com, $26)
2. Give Your Ends Extra TLC
Because they are the most porous part of the hair shaft; always massage conditioner into the ends. Try Ouidad’s:
3. Mid-day Moisture Touch-ups
Day-to-day environmental stressors can de-hydrate ends throughout the day, so give them sip of nourishment! Smooth and tame porous ends that have lost moisture throughout the day, or on day 2-3 hair. Use Ouidad’s:
- Mongongo Oil (Ulta.com, $38)
1. Use products that contain waxes, heavy polymers, and silicones
These ingredients coat the hair giving a short term “solution” to disguise symptoms/ challenges often experienced by curly/porous hair but they are not actually healing and treating from the inside out. They also weigh the hair down.
2. Skip primer - apply immediately after Washing Hair
Think about skincare/makeup application – applying a primer prior to color cosmetics allows a smooth healthy foundation to build the look onto, and extends the length of wear. For porous curls, primer is an especially important step. “Filling the gaps” with this layer of nourishment provides a healthy base, allowing styling products to properly do their jobs. Try Ouidad’s:
3. Expose porous ends to extreme heat from styling tools
If heat styling can’t be avoided, it is extra important to use a primer, and to continuously replenish hydration levels with conditioning treatments.
The occasional blowout is a must for me. However, as you just read above it can be very damaging to porous hair, and especially so for porous hair with texture like mine. I always deep condition my hair before and after blowouts and I keep my flat iron between 350 and 375 degrees -- this reduces the chances of heat damage. Here's Ouidad Curl Expert, Chadwick Pendley, on straightening porous natural hair.
Tips to Safely Straighten Porous Natural Hair:
1. Always apply a primer to your ends to ensure moisture content before using any type of heat. Ouidad’s Moisture Lock Leave-In works well on every curl type.
2. Apply Mongongo Oil to your ends and mid shaft for thermal protection before use of heated tools.
3. Restore moisture content [post blowout] by getting Deep Conditioning Treatments every 2 weeks. You must replace the proteins and amino acids lost in curly hair. Ouidad’s Deep Treatment does that.
I really do hope this has been helpful. 💁🏽