Low Porosity Hair

Disclaimer: Not all low porosity hair types are created equal because it's an infinite spectrum. Everyone's hair is unique, reacts differently, and is on a different level or stage of their journey. This is only to be a source of reference NOT a one size fits all.

I know how it feels to start your natural hair journey. You're so excited about this fresh start that you want to do everything perfect. So, you buy different hair products based on what you've seen others use or you try different types of styling methods like LCO/LOC, etc. What ends up happening is you end up over moisturizing your hair. After a while you realize your hair is not acting right, it's hard to style, so on and so forth. You can't figure your hair out, so you're tempted to throw in the towel and give up. But wait, I hope what I'm about to explain will clear up some confusion you may be feeling.

If you've tested your hair porosity using the water test and it left you still puzzled, then understanding the characteristics and observing your hair's behavior is a better option. It's more accurate and a better way to become a true expert on your own hair.

Characteristics

There are other characteristics of hair besides the curl pattern. For example, density, porosity, length, elasticity, and width (the actual thickness of the strands of hair and not volume of hair). While all are good to know, out of all of them porosity is the most important one.

When we talk about porosity we tend to focus on extremes, but a lot of people tend to feel like they have characteristics of both high and low porosity range. Medium porosity is pretty much the goal because hair is balanced. So how do you know when your hair's porosity is in the medium range? 

  • It doesn’t need assistance to absorb more products and it can stay moisturized for a few days.

  • There’s less susceptibility for breakage

  • Hair can retain length with the least amount of work

  • Tangles and knots are not a major issue

Takes a longer time to dry when it's soaking wet. Why? The function of cuticle layers in a hair strand is to protect the more fragile layers underneath from all types of wear and tear, such as excessive heat. So when hair with tight cuticles gets wet, water slowly seeps in. Your tight cuticles make it possible to take in what it needs and rejects the rest in the form of water beads. When a cuticle does not lie flat, it sticks out and cuticles that stick out are likely broken off. Broken cuticles equal more porosity. These water beads are a big indication that your hair is low in porosity.

Tip: After washing and conditioning your hair, blot it with a t-shirt or microfiber towel before adding products to it. Make sure hair is damp before adding products to it or use a diffuser to speed up the drying process.

Products build up easily. Product build up occurs because of the hair's tight cuticle which makes it difficult for creams, oils, and conditioners to penetrate easily, so they just end up sitting on the surface of the hair strands. As you add more and more product, the layers thicken and harden, which makes your hair feel less flexible. This layer of product blocks the moisture from the air from getting in. Low porosity hair has fewer negative charges to adsorb conditioners and cationic (positive charge) ingredients and is more likely to experience product build-up.

Over time as that layer of product dries and hardens, your hair strand underneath also dries out and leaves your hair feeling stiff and “sometimes” gummy. You'll also notice your go-to products aren't working like they used to. There are different severities in product build up:

  • Single strand knots are created easily (usually in more kinky, tighter curls)

  • Water that did penetrate is held in tightly and slowly escapes over time. So, if you put product on top of soaking wet hair, it can take even longer to dry.

  • Too much moisture in your hair for too long can cause inflammation on your scalp, damage your hair follicles and potentially slow down your hair growth.

  • ·Can potentially cause an infection on your scalp.

Handle with Care

I love how Wendy the Hair Scientist says this, “Low porosity hair needs gentle handling and PERSONALIZED care. So why do people describe having a hard time moisturizing low porosity hair? What's missing? Why isn't conditioner the quick path to moisturized hair? Why does oil seem to sit on top, but soak in for everyone else?

Hydrating low porosity hair takes a different mindset and a special bag of tricks. If your hair is medium to coarse, it may need help with softness and flexibility, something you get from conditioners and oils. Look for conditioners thickened with Cetyl Alcohol to add softness to your hair. Well hydrated hair is more flexible, more elastic and less frizzy or fluffy than dehydrated hair. Hydration is all about water in and around your hair.

Sometimes it's unpredictable to how your hair will react to treatments. Only your hair knows. Do what works for you and observe how your hair responds. If you use a treatment that works well for somebody else and get an undesirable result, don't think there's something wrong with your hair, it could be that something wrong with how that treatment INTERACTED with your hair”

Pre-poo Treatments

I know we all have our opinions with using oils on dry hair, but pre-poo treatments are a great way to keep your hair hydrated throughout the washing process. Oils have the ability to make hair soft, lubricated, and flexible. I agree with Wendy, Hair Scientist when she says that oils don’t create build up like conditioners can (with the exception of cocoa butter & plain shea butter). Low porosity hair is more prone to build up, so oils can be a good option for deep conditioning. When your hair feels tangled, use oils that have good lubrication for your pre-poo like sunflower oil, grapeseed, jojoba, olive or avocado. Remember, not every oil and application is right for everybody, but hair penetrating oils are ideal for some people's hair because they "waterproof" the inner part of the hair that swells.

If your hair is easily weighed down, hair penetrating oils need to be blended into other oils. Your hair's response will tell you which oils are too heavy, too light, or just right.

If you're using a mild shampoo, you might want to do a second wash with shampoo diluted with water if you used more oil than needed. If you're a co-washer, be sure to work the conditioner thoroughly into your hair to remove excess oil. 

Using indirect heat. Low porosity hair should use indirect heat (thermal cap, plastic cap, hooded dryer, hair steamer, etc.) when deep conditioning your hair. It helps to relax your tight cuticles enough for products to penetrate. Deep condition at least 30 minutes so that it gives your hair greater surface for binding conditioners.

Clarify on a Consistent Schedule

It's very Important to clarify your hair. If you walk around with old products on your hair, nothing you do will work right. You'll have a false belief that something is wrong with your hair or your hair is "sensitive" to something when it's just months of residue build that’s blocking your hair. If you use a lot of product or heavy product, you may want to clarify twice a month. If you're not a product heavy user, clarify a least once a month.

 “It's all about dose and application. It's easy to say, "I can't use oils or that conditioner or x-y-z". But sometimes the problem isn't in the ingredient, it's the dose. Low porosity hair for the most part still needs conditioners and oils, just in smaller doses. Sometimes they need those things diluted in water or they need to use them before washing hair instead of after. If you're using thick, rich conditioner for lubrication, but it feels too heavy or greasy, look for a lightweight conditioner that is more fluid but still has good lubrication. Note that not all low porosity hair needs a leave in conditioner.” (Wendy, Hair Scientist)

Protein

Your hair is the best judge on whether it will tolerate protein or not. There are many elements that figure into how your hair responds to protein. Such as your hair's width, density (low density hair sometimes can handle more protein than high density hair), the protein source, and how long you leave the product in your hair.

Limit protein treatments at first. When you use protein, start off by leaving it on your hair for only a few minutes. We make the effects of any protein containing product less intense when we leave it on for less time and with no heat.

To test out a protein, try a product with hydrolyzed silk, hydrolyzed keratin, peptides or amino acids. They are smaller proteins and less likely to create stiffness, dryness, or brittle hair (some signs of having used too much protein or the wrong type of protein).

Hydrolyzed protein for lower porosity hair acts as a moisturizing (hydrating) agent. Protein slows water loss from hair. Larger proteins form hair-hugging, water-grabbing films over hairs that trap moisture near your hair. Smaller proteins can do this and also settle in under and around the cuticles and keep the water in your hair longer. Proteins grab water from your wet hair and hold on to it so when your hair dries, it stays better hydrated or moisturized. Fine and medium hair are more tolerant of both large and small protein than coarse hair. Coarse hair that can tolerate protein may do better with smaller proteins like amino acids or hydrolyzed silk, keratin, collagen. Low porosity hair tends to have less of a "WOW!" result from protein overall, but as long as your hair isn't coarse, you might still get some really nice hydration and bounce from protein.

Fine and medium hair can usually tolerate more frequent protein than very coarse hair. Because protein adds some extra support to hair, it can make coarser hair feel rough and dry and abrasive if used too often. This is a link to a post with more about protein.

The best leave on products for low porosity hair contain a balance of film forming humectants, light conditioning ingredients, and oils.

Porous hair that is not coarse might do well with protein every wash day in a conditioner or leave in product, like mine. This is because protein is needed to manage hydration and porosity.

Low porosity hair that is fine and medium density may do fine with weekly protein in a conditioner or a protein treatment for the support and hydration.

Low density hair, low porosity may be able to use protein between weekly treatments also for support and hydration.

Coarser hair that is porous (dry, damaged, or chemically treated) may be able to use protein occasionally; maybe once a week (using smaller proteins) or every 2-3 weeks. But low porosity coarse hair may need protein only every 1-2 months in a conditioner if you're out in the sun a lot or your hair is wet for a long time.

Those who need to approach protein with caution are those whose hair is on the coarse side (wide hairs). It may not tolerate protein very well or often, but it may tolerate the smaller proteins and amino acids.


Sources:  Hair and Haircare. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. Sciencey-blog by Wendy. Journal of Cosmetic Science.

 

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