Let’s be real, finding the right products for your your wavy, curly, or coily hair can be a real challenge. I’ve lived your experience and feel your pain. The good news? I’m here to make your journey with hair products a lot less painful.
The most important thing to consider when selecting the right products for your hair is POROSITY. Ever heard of it? In regards to hair, porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. This particular hair property is directly related to the condition of your cuticle layer, or outermost layer of hair. Whether your hair is low or high porosity affects how products (think moisturizers & oils) pass in and out of the cuticle.
Imagine the cuticle layer of your hair like shingles on the roof of a house. A roof with overlapping, compact shingles prevents moisture from coming in your house (i.e. low porosity hair). While a roof with several holes and gaps, allows for water to seep in but also not absorb (i.e. high porosity hair). Both levels of porosity lack the amount of moisture needed, but solving that problem requires two very different solutions.
Low Porosity Hair
If you have low porosity hair, the challenge you face is breaking through the barrier of your tightly compact cuticle layer. There are minimal holes or gaps, making it difficult for moisture to even enter the hair shaft. Ever notice that your hair drys super quickly? It’s because beads of water tend to sit on the hairs’ surface or bounce off versus absorbing into the hair.
Best products for low porosity hair
Low porosity hair is prone to build-up because products have a difficult time breaking through the cuticle layer. Imagine hair products like guests you invite to a party. Instead of welcoming these guests in, you let them chill at the front door. Wow, such a shitty host you are.
When selecting products, go for moisturizers that are rich in emollients, such as jojoba or argan oils. These oils are lighter by nature and won’t weigh your hair down or cause flakey build-up.
For you low porosity folks, this also means avoiding deep conditioners that are protein-based. I know, shocker! This goes against everything “experts” have told you.
Yes, the hair is made of keratin, which is a fancy word for protein. However, too much protein can be very harmful for your hair and leave it feeling straw-like. Often times, folks with low porosity hair believe their hair to be damaged and unhealthy, when it’s actually quite the opposite. These are where mistakes are made.
Low porosity hair is typically the most healthy and full of protein because nothing can get in or out. If you overload it with protein, your hair becomes imbalanced. It will begin to feel brittle or dry, lack its natural shine, and appear lifeless. So instead of running for products full of protein, reach for hair products that are oil-based and light vs. heavy. Low porosity hair also greatly benefits from humectants or products that attract moisture.
High porosity hair
High porosity folks, I am one of you. Our challenge is keeping moisture in. It’s possible that your high porosity hair is hereditary, but often times it’s a result of environmental, chemical, or heat damage that we’ve inflicted on our own. When we chemically alter our hair or use excessive heat, the cuticle layer (remember outermost layer of hair) takes a hit each time. It causes the shingles on our roof to become weaker and raised. Soon, we’re getting gaps and holes in our roof and moisture is seeping in but also leaking out.
Best products for high porosity hair
If you’re a person with high porosity hair, your main goal is to fill and seal the holes in your cuticle layer so the right kind of moisture is locked in. Because highly porous hair can loose moisture easily, it’s important to use leave-in conditioners and sealers. Your hair can handle heavier products like butters and needs them to fill the gaps in your cuticle. Layering these products helps to prevent frizz and keep your curls defined.
You also have to consider environmental factors when selecting products for your highly porous hair. We want to keep the good moisture in and keep the bad moisture out. If we don’t fill and seal the gaps in our cuticle, we risk letting too much moisture in, leaving the hair prone to frizz in humid weather. To counter this, use anti-humectants in climates with high heat and humidity.
When you reach for a deep conditioner or moisturizer, think protein, protein, and more protein. High porosity people: your hair needs a little TLC because it’s been stripped of its natural keratin. You’re going to want to choose products that are protein fortified. Maybe skip the daily conditioners and go for a deep conditioner every wash day.
So…how do I know if I have low or high porosity hair?
Fortunately, there are a couple easy ways to test the porosity of your hair. My favorite happens to be the “sink or float” trick.
- Fill a glass with water (must be see through).
- Pull a strand of hair from your head or grab one from your brush.
- Drop the strand of hair into the glass.
- Let it sit for 2-4 minutes.
If your hair floats, you have low porosity hair. If it sinks to the bottom of the glass, you have high porosity hair.
Not feeling my favorite porosity test? No problem; you have options. You can give the “strand test” method a try. It’s a bit subjective in my opinion but go for it.
- Grab a few strands of hair on your head (no need to pull them out).
- Pinch the strands of hair with your fingers.
- Gently slide your fingers from ends to roots.
If you move your fingers up the strand and it feels smooth or dense, you have low porosity hair. If you do this and your hair strand feels rough or rigid, you have high porosity hair.
If you’ve learned anything from this lesson on porosity, I hope your takeaway is that science matters (*wink wink*), especially when considering which products are right for your curly hair.
Questions? Comments? Shoot…