Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hard, Dry Hair? Understanding Porosity Can Help You Fix It

Porosity is a word I've been seeing around since the start of my journey and I just never really got it. It seemed too science-y and complicated and I couldn't be bothered with understanding it. When people talked about having low or high porosity hair, I glazed over. 

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When I started my blog and wrote this article, I really wanted to include porosity but I couldn't seem to formulate my thoughts coherently; all the reading I'd done on it was floating around in a jumble in my head. So I gave up even trying. 

Until about a year later when I was shingling a friend's hair and had to wet it before we proceeded. I started spraying with gusto and was astonished when she had to get up to get a towel because the water was running down her face and neck. I know I have a heavy hand but this was El NiƱo-esque. Even after letting it sit for 5 minutes, her hair didn't seem to have absorbed much water. If anything, most of it was sitting in beads on top of her hair. 

My hair, in contrast, soaks up any drop of moisture it comes across. Whether I want it to or not. Yet I struggled with chronic dryness for a long time, despite twice daily remoisturising sessions. 

This, my friends, was the dreaded porosity in action. 

What Is Porosity?

               1. Porosity is defined as being full of tiny holes that water or air can get through


For the science-shy among us, hair porosity is basically how open or closed your cuticles are. The cuticles are the 'holes' that let water through. Except they look more like fish scales. They're on the outside of each hair strand and they protect all the bits inside. If they're laying down flat, water (or oils or protein or whatever) can't get out easily. Flat cuticles make hair feel smoother and reflect light better, making your hair look shinier.  Sounds wonderful right? Well, yes and no. 

Low Porosity Hair

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If the scales are laying down too tight, it makes it hard for water or oils to penetrate, meaning it is harder to moisturise or nourish your hair. Result? Your hair will feel dry and you may suffer from breakage. Your hair will also have a harder time 'catching' chemical treatments such as relaxers or colour etc. This is low porosity hair. 

High Porosity Hair

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If, on the other hand, your cuticles are lifted i.e not lying flat, then the water and whatnot will get in easily but will also get out easily. It means that no matter how much water you apply, your hair will look dull and feel rough to the touch. It's the reason why sometimes your ends feel rough despite getting a trim and applying lots of oils over etc to seal them or smooth them down. Your ends are the oldest part of your hair and therefore the cuticles there have suffered the most wear and tear.  This is high porosity hair.

So what's the ideal?
You want to have something in-between. Something that allows water to pass through but also helps keep most of it in. This means your hair stays moisturised longer which means it feels soft to the touch, has a nice sheen and retains length.  

Part Two in this series will list the factors that affect your hair's individual porosity. 

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