Updated: Mar 18, 2021
In order to understand what is the porosity of the hair, we need to know what is the cuticle.
The cuticle is the outside layer of the hair strand. It is solid and rigid. It is composed by 3-10 layers of scales.
“Hair porosity” indicates how open the scales in the cuticle are, and therefore, in which degree the hair can act as a sponge. Generally, low porosity hair is considered healthy, whereas high porosity hair is weak and need nutrition and moisture.
We have several ways how to determine the hair porosity: the strand float test, the hair spritz test, the glide test… The one we use at the salon is the glide test:
Grab a strand of hair (20-30 hairs) from the top of the head, pulling them upright. Glide the fingers from the tips towards the head. If a mess of hair is dragged to the roots, the porosity is high. If our fingers slip smoothly through the strand, and there is no t much hair accumulated at the base, then we have low porosity hair.
Why the porosity is important? for many reasons. Some of them are:
- If the cuticles are very open, water is able to move under the cuticles and go out, and it can drag proteins and nutrients out of the hair, so the hair loses nutrients and gets weaker.
- If the cuticles are very open, water is able to move under the cuticles and go out, so if the hair is coloured or treated, the colour will fade quicker.
- The type of styling products depends on it.
Factors that increase the porosity (open the scales of the cuticle):
- Ammonia (because it is alkaline), that is why bleach it can remove colour.
- Hot water.
- Rubbing the hair (during washing, towel,…).
Factors that decrease the porosity (close the scales of the cuticle):
- Cold water.
- Products with acidic pH, like vinegar (that is why a last rinse with vinegar is useful!).
- Conditioners, masks.
- Hot tools and blowdrying, from the root to the tip (although we don’t recommend using this fact as a way to decrease the porosity, there are healthier ways).
- Light oils will help sealing the cuticule.
What the hair needs, according to its porosity? and what it implies?
It is when the scales in the cuticle layer are closed. Low porosity hair is very compact, and has sealed cuticles, that lay flat and do not easily allow moisture or products in or out.
Low porosity hair is susceptible to dryness, however, when the moisture gets inside, it tends to stay longer.
It can also be easily weighed down by product buildup.
Generally, low porosity hair is considered healthy and does not often suffer from split ends.
It is harder to get low porosity hair wet because moisture will often sit on top of the hair shaft, rather than penetrate it. For this reason, individuals with low porosity hair will benefit from applying products after the hair is washed with warm water and shampoo, and still wet, so the scales are open.
Wash the hair at higher temperature (warm, but not hot!).
Use the “scrunch” technique when applying products (conditioner, masks,…), so they penetrate better (see the picture).
Apply products while the hair is wet, simply pat dry with a towel.
After applying products, put your the with a t-shirt when it is wet, to allow the products to soak into the hair before drying.
Medium or normal porosity
The scales of the cuticle layer are a bit more open, allowing just the right amount of moisture and products to enter, while preventing too much from escaping. This means that medium porosity hair, if treated correctly, generally stays well moisturised and holds styles well.
Products and treatments:
Medium porosity hair tends to react well to most products, however, it’s important to learn to understand the hair and its needs, as these can change. Hence, learn to understand your own hair (follow this blog and follow us on Instagram/facebook, so you can keep learning!).
A good moisture/protein balance can keep medium porosity hair in good condition. Protein treatments and moisturizing treatments will help promote this balance. The frequency will depend on the hair, that is why it is important learning to analyse it with the porosity and the elasticity test.
Regarding styling products, a combo such as cream and gel will ensure the hair stays in good condition.
The scales are very open, possibly damaged. High porosity hair cuticles are more open, often with gaps and holes in the cuticle layers. High porosity hair can be the result of damaged, lightened hair.
Because the hair cuticles are open and stay open, high porosity hair easily accepts moisture, but it is hard for it to retain it. This means individuals with high porosity hair may be more susceptible to frizz.
The gaps in the cuticles can also cause high porosity hair to tangle and break more easily.
Make sure to protect hair when taking part in activities that can lead to excess water getting into the hair, things like swimming and bathing can be a recipe for breakage for high porosity hair due to the sheer amount of moisture the hair can intake.
To help close the cuticle after washing, rinse your hair with cold water.
Avoid products with synthetic sulphates: they are extremely cleansing, and they can end up opening the scales of the cuticle. A gentle shampoo will clean without damaging.
A final note… when the hair is damaged, the scales of the cuticle can break, increasing the porosity. Therefore, it is important knowing when the scales are simply open, or when there has been real damage, as the treatment will be different (have you seen our video about elasticity on Instagram, explaining it?).
If this seems daunting, in Gaia Organic Salon you will be able to receive a full diagnosis of your hair, have your hair treated with the most appropriate product, and buying the product to keep treating it at home.
Treatments that you can have done in our salon:
· Botanical Keratin treatment – a very complete boost of nutrients for dehydrated, damaged, fragile, frizzy and dull hair. Completely vegan: plant-based hydrolysed proteins are used to repair your keratin. You can get your aftercare to use it at home.
· Quinoaplex treatment – to repair deeply damaged hair, and to prevent the damage during lighting services. A more natural alternative to Olaplex.
· Olaplex treatment – to repair deeply damaged hair, and to prevent the damage during lighting services.
· Anti-frizz smoothing treatment – a more natural alternative to the “straightening brasilian blowdry”. However, it works by deeply moisturizing and nourishing your hair, instead of killing the structure of your hair, therefore do not expect a straightening system, but a smoothing result.
Products that you can find in our salon:
· Nutritional shampoo & conditioner, with masque treatment (for coloured or virgin hair) – for you weekly boost of moisture and nutrients. We have different sizes of bottles that you can take home with you.
· Magic Potion – a styling product ideal for frizzy, texturized (curly, afro) and very porous hairs, and to help during blow dry.
· Brume (no rinse conditioner) – ideal to give a boost of moisture to any hair, but especially useful for highly porous hair. It does not weight down your locks.
· Pure serum – to protect those tips for damage; use daily if needed. Do you know that it smells AMAZING?
We hope that after reading this post you have a better understanding of what hair porosity is, how to determine it and which products complement each type best. You can now go ahead and determine your own hair’s porosity and, if necessary, implement some changes to your hair care routine.
But it is important to remember that everyone’s hair is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
It is always best to take a ‘trial and error’ approach to your hair journey, to learn what products and methods work best specifically for you.
If you are still unclear, or you want a professional to diagnose your hair and recommend you a routine, have a look at our hair couching sessions, offer by Alex on Saturdays.