What is Hair Porosity? and Why It's Such a Big Deal!

Hair porosity is something that's not talked about until there's a problem. However, its extremely important to pay attention to, for the overall well-being of your hair. Your hairs ability to absorb moisture past the cuticle layer of your hair, into the cortex layer often tells a story.

If something's overly porous, it can absorb moisture very quickly but the downfall is that it also has the ability to lose moisture just as fast. That's why it's vital that your hair is not too much, not too little, but 'just right'!

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Blonde hair is naturally more porous than darker hair colors but all hair is generally porous to some degree. If it wasn’t, moisturizing hair products couldn’t permeate into your hair strands and wouldn't help your hair at all.

The trick to controlling porosity lies in treatments that help close the cuticles of your hair. To understand why, you’ll need to know some hair basics.

non porous hair image

Hair Porosity 101

Most hair has 3 layers. The cuticle is the outer layer, the cortex is the inner layer, and some thicker hair textures have an additional inner layer called the medulla. When your hair cannot absorb or retain moisture, your hair has poor porosity.

The outer layer of your hair is called the cuticle. Hair cuticles are either open, closed, or somewhere in between. The cuticle layer has little scales or barbs on it that stick out if they’re raised even slightly. When your hair’s cuticles lay down properly, your hair looks and feels smooth and silky. If scales are raised, over time, your hair can feel dry and look poofy or frizzy.

Lifted scales do not lay flat against the other scales, which allows moisture to escape easily. (low porosity) Regular shampooing and chemical processes increase poor porosity. Hair ends are always more porous than roots or the mid shaft hair simply because ends the oldest, most exposed, and most abused.

microscopic view of lifted scales on hair strand image

The bottom line? If your hair won’t cooperate with you when you curl or style it, won’t accept chemical treatments, feels dry even when you moisturize regularly, dries quickly when it’s soaking wet, or looks frizzy and poofy all the time, you need to correct the porosity of your hair.

Causes of Poor Hair Porosity

There are many things that contribute to hair being overly porous. Some of them include:

  • Regular use of heating tools.
  • Repeated use of shampoos and conditioners that contain harmful chemicals.
  • Environmental contributors like wind, sun, and extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Abuse from chemical processes.
  • Regularly pulling or tugging wet hair.

    Genetics also have a role in your hair type and the kinds of problems you have with your hair.

    Chemical process abuse is probably the biggest contributor to overly porous hair. The process forces the cuticle layer to open, in order for your hair to accept the chemical application. If done too often, chemical processes degrade elasticity and the tensile strength of your hair.

    You can test your hair in water to attempt to figure out if porosity is low. However, the test most always shows a positive result.

    Why? Because If chemicals are abused, even regular conditioning can’t mend the degradation. The harsher the chemical process, the more porous hair becomes and the more breakage and damage your hair is likely to have. Bleach for example, is one of the biggest contributors to poor porosity. For this reason, great care must be taken to fix hair porosity before it completely obliterates your hair.

    Hair Porosity Test in Water

  • Get a couple strands of hair from your hairbrush. Add them to a clear glass of water so you can easily see them.
  • Does your hair float?

    If so, it means that your hair isn't overly porous (low porosity) but that's not always true because:

    1) - Hair is generally always 'light' anyway.

    2) - If you use conditioners or oils after shampooing, then your hair will most certainly always float. Everyone knows that oil floats on water.

    3) - Even if you didn't condition, hair has it's own natural source of oil so it's going to have some amount of lubrication on it anyway.

    4) - Did you use hot or warm water? Rinsing your hair with a hotter temperature will strip some of the oils from your hair but it's doubtful if it'll remove them all. Some people think water temperature matters but I'm not convinced.

    5) - If you have coarse hair naturally, your hair is liable to always sink anyway because it weighs more.

    These are just some of the reasons that results from this test are questionable. Perhaps there's a better way to tell?

    Here's a simple hair porosity test you can perform if you think you've got a problem. Even if you don't though, its always good to know if your hair is retaining all those products you apply to it!

    Fingernail Hair Porosity Test

    Make sure your hair is clean and dry and product-free (such as leave in conditioners, gels, mousse, etc.) when you try this test.

  • Single out one strand of hair.
  • Pull it out from the root. (Ouch a little!)
  • Run your fingernail along it from the END to the ROOT.

    Did your fingernail snag or tug or pull at all?

    If so, you may need some help!

    But before you run off to the next page, here's the deal. If your WET hair feels mushy or overly-stretches when you comb it, you've probably got a problem with elasticity, and this is a sure sign that porosity is poor.

    Check out this page if you need to correct or improve the porosity of your hair!

    Improve Porosity and Give Your Hair a Lift!

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    Testing the Porosity of the Hair

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