Hair Porosity 101

As someone who has just started her natural hair journey, I was not familiar with the term “hair porosity”. I kept probing through the internet and YouTube to get familiar with how to take care of my natural hair, which seemingly felt dry and altogether crusty. I felt defeated, like I had let myself down, because the whole purpose of cutting my hair off was to make it finally feel healthy and to grow it out. I had spent the majority of middle and high school resenting the way my hair never cooperated and never mimicked the Eurocentric beauty standards I had seen in magazines and on T.V.; brainwashed into thinking that’s what my then relaxed hair was supposed to look like.

One day while scrolling through the endless videos of beautiful natural hair women giving tips and advice on what worked for them, I stumbled upon YouTube user Journey to Waist Length’s video discussing porosity and what exactly it was. Hair porosity is how much moisture an individual’s hair can retain and absorb, broken down into three categories: high, normal, and low. 

High porosity hair lets moisture in as easily as it lets it out. The hair shaft is splintered or raised more than the average hair strand which lets products, water, and most other substances into the shaft. The downside to this is that while it lets moisture in with ease, it releases it just as quickly. This hair type falls more on the dry side since it doesn’t maintain its moisture. Normal porosity hair doesn’t have much problem retaining water or taking in products and it retains shine well, while low porosity hair strands are tightly bound and doesn't let moisture into the hair shaft as easily. Using hot water or heated products such as hot oil treatments works best with this type of hair because it helps open up the shaft to let moisture in.

There are a few ways to determine which category that your hair type falls into. The most popular method of figuring out if you have high, normal, or low porosity hair is by taking a strand of hair from either a comb, brush, or even your head, then letting it sit in a cup of water. If the hair floats on the top after settling for 5-10 minutes, then you have low porosity hair since the water was incapable of penetrating the hair shaft. If it sinks half way, your hair is taking in enough water and is normal porosity. High porosity, however, hair sinks to the bottom. The strand has taken up all of the water and is weighed down.

Knowing the type of porosity your hair is makes it much easier to find products that suit your tresses and guides you to make informed decisions about your hair journey. So, good luck naturalistas and trust the process until you get where you need to go!