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What is hair porosity and why does it matter?

08 of April, 2022
What is hair porosity and why does it matter?

Hair porosity is a hot topic lately, as people try to figure out if their natural hair is high porosity, low porosity, and everything in between (yes, medium porosity is definitely a thing). But why does the porosity of your hair matter anyway? And while we’re at it, what does porosity actually mean?

Hair porosity essentially refers to the level of damage on the cuticle—the  outermost layer--of the hair. “This outermost layer is comprised of small structures that resemble the shingles on a roof,” explained Madison Keene, Not Your Mother’s Chemist and R&D Applications Manager. “In hair that has not undergone a lot of damage, those shingles are tightly bound and lay down quite well. When hair undergoes various types of chemical and mechanical manipulation, that cuticle layer receives the brunt of the damage. This leads to those shingles looking and feeling a little more haggard, with some pieces even being completely broken.” But don’t fret about cuticle damage just yet

On the flip side, Keene said “an intact cuticle layer is well-suited to keep water and other things from entering the hair shaft.” And here’s where porosity comes into play. Once the outer layer of hair  is compromised, hair becomes porous. Keene said that means that it’s easier for water, and other particles, to move in and out of the hair shaft. Porosity is therefore a measure of your hairs ability to absorb and retain moisture.

Porosity can change over time

The more damaged your cuticle layer is, the more susceptible it becomes to damage and the easier it is for water to move into the inner portion of your hair shaft. “There are not necessarily different types of porosity,” Keene said, “but instead varying degrees of damage.” In case you’re wondering, porosity does indeed change over time. Keene said on a single strand of hair, there may even be different porosities when you move from scalp to end. “In this case, the hair at the ends will, of course, have gone through more damage and therefore have higher porosity.” A quick and easy reminder – the more porous your hair is, the more damage it probably has.  

What about curly girls?

Textured/curly hair has shown to present a slightly different structure than straighter hair. Keene said “At different spots on a piece of curly hair, the cuticle layer may be thinner or thicker, depending on where you are in the helix of the curl. This equates to differences in the packing and overall thickness of that cuticle layer.” Before we get too technical, it’s worth also taking into account the fact that “The thinner portions of the cuticle, where usually a curl occurs, are inherently weaker and more susceptible to moisture damage,” Keene added.  When it comes to choosing products based on hair type, Keene said “you are essentially searching for the products best suited to aid in protecting your hair from any unnecessary damage.”

Curl Talk Shampoo and 3-in-1 Conditioner

Protect your hair with products designed for your hair

Did you know that hair products are created not just to add shine or bounce, but to attempt to repair weak spots? Keene said “Hair products designed for curlier hair will often incorporate a higher load of film-formers or depositing conditioning agents to attempt to reinforce weaker portions of the hair’s cuticle.”

So, what’s high porosity, low porosity, or medium porosity?

Keen explained that:

  • High porosity essentially equates to a higher level of damage.
  • Lower porosity refers to hair that has an overall lower level of damage.
  • Medium porosity is everything in between.

Keene also said that while there are a number of DIY tests you can do at home, “these are not truly accurate.”

Ingredients to look for:

If you have high porosity, you will want to add protein to your hair care.  Keen said highly porous hair can use a protein boost since “Most proteins are what we call ‘film-formers.’ Thanks to their chemical structure, they are designed to form a thin layer on the damaged portions of hair.” Keene said to think of this layer as your coat of armor against water and other damage. And don’t worry about overdoing it. She added that these products “have to also be designed to wash out easily and not build up on hair.”

It’s all a balancing act for giving your hair the best defense against undue damage. Keene said that your best bet is to incorporate both protein and protein free products into your routine to ensure a protein moisture balance that’s best for your hair. Your hair will let you know what it needs!

Product recommendations:

No matter your hair’s porosity, you can improve the look and feel of your gorgeous tresses with the right products. Not to brag (okay, maybe a little bit!) all Not Your Mother’s products are sulfate surfactant free, paraben free, and cruelty free.  

Best for wavy, curly, and coily hair that needs lightweight protein:
  • Curl Talk™ Gentle Shampoo: Pamper your curls with this super gentle shampoo that adds bounce without any harsh ingredients.
  • Curl Talk™ 3-in-1 Conditioner: Want a product that multitasks? This amazing conditioner is designed to hydrate curls and can be used as a leave-in conditioner, a rinse-out conditioner or even skip the
    shampoo every now and again and use as a co-washing conditioner. Pro tip: Enhance your curl pattern by gently massaging conditioner in before styling.
  • Curl Talk™ Leave In Conditioner: This lightweight leave in conditioner spray is perfect for looser textures and boosts softness, protects from heat, and improves combability.

Up next: Read how to identify your curl patterns.

Need a protein-free option? Check out some of our Naturals collection:

Sometimes taking the best possible care of your hair means paying as much attention to what’s not in your shampoo and conditioner. That also means that sometimes you might want to skip the protein and go with a protein-free option like something from our Naturals collection.  We listed some of our favorites below:

Up next: Read how to find the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type.

For all hair types that need a high boost of protein and moisture, you'll love our newest Naturals collection:

Up next: Read about the benefits of rice water in hair care.

What is hair porosity and why does it matter?

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What is hair porosity and why does it matter?