Arguably – Understanding your hair porosity is one of the most important things you need to do in order to build an effective 4C hair care routine.
There are 4 easy and common methods to test 4C hair porosity. These include: (i) Float Test, (ii) Slip and Slide Test, (iii) Dry Test and (iv) Water Shed Test. This article will go into the details on each of these methods.
Before we go into the details of these methods, you need to understand what hair porosity is and the different types of hair porosity. If you are already familiar with these, feel free to go straight to the hair porosity test methods.
What is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity is how well your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture. It is affected by the flexibility of the outer hair layer known as the cuticle, which determines how easily moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair. To develop a 4C hair routine that is effective and choose the right products for your hair, it is important to understand your hair porosity type.
Types of Hair Porosity
Hair porosity is classified into 3: high, normal and low porosity. We will go into the characteristics of each of these types below.
1. Low porosity
When your hair has low porosity it means the cuticles are tightly clamped down preventing moisture from entering the hair. Low porosity hair takes longer to saturate with water and natural oils. This leads to build-up as they sit on the hair.
Low porosity hair requires products that light and can easily penetrate the hair shaft. This type of hair also benefits from products which attract and hold moisture to your hair.
Read this article to learn about the best light oils for low porosity hair.
2. Normal Porosity
This type of porosity is a balance between low and high porosity, this type of hair can hold moisture for a prolonged period of time. The hair has a looser cuticle layer, allowing for a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of your hair preventing too much from escaping. This porosity type holds styles well and accepts color without difficulty and evenly.
3. High porosity
Highly porous hair has cuticles that are raised, this allows moisture to go in and out quickly. This type is often characterized by frizzy and straw-like hair. It is important to note that highly porous hair can be as a result of genetics, damage from chemical processing, rough treatment, environmental damage or aging.
How To Test 4C Hair Porosity
There are several methods you can use to determine your hair porosity. Some are more accurate than others. I would recommend you test with at least 3 methods in order to compare the results.
Another alternative is to take online quizzes for hair porosity from trusted sites. Just some caution, do not rely on those alone, you have to validate the results by running your own independent test. Lastly, see a hair expert to help you determine your porosity type.
Below are the various tests you can use to determine your porosity type: Quick tip, ensure you use hair from different sections of your head. This is because porosity may vary from one section to another.
1- The Float Test
Take some strands of hair from your comb or brush and put them in a bowl of water. Let them sit for two to four minutes. If the hair floats, it has low porosity. If the hair gradually sinks, it has normal porosity, but if it sinks instantly, the hair is high porosity.
2- The Slip & Slide
This method can also be referred to us the Strand Test.
Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft (towards the scalp). If you feel little bumps along the way, this means that your cuticle is lifted hair indicating that you have high porosity hair. If your fingers slip smoothly, then you have low porosity.
Other things to know from the strand test:
- If your hair feels stringy, limp, or even sticky; then it will need protein.
- If your hair feels rigid and hard, then it has too much protein.
- If your hair feels and looks tangled, dry, and/or brittle; it needs moisture.
- If your hair is too soft but is breaking and won’t style, it has too much moisture
3- The dry test
The dry hair test is very simple. Wash and condition your hair as usual. Do not add any other products. The aim of this test to compare how fast your dries up in relation to your body and therefore do not dry try your hair or body. If your hair dries faster than your body, then you have high porosity hair.
4- The Water Shed Test
To determine your hair porosity using this method, spray a small section of the hair with water and observe how it reacts. If water remains on the hair strand if your hair has low porosity hair while absorbs water quickly if it is highly porous.
Factors That Affect Hair Porosity
Porosity is mostly genetic, but it can also be affected by external factors such as heat treatment, exposure and chemical processing. Here are 5 factors that affect hair porosity.
pH has been known to have an effect on the level of swelling of the hair and on the cuticles themselves. Low pH causes the Cell Membrane Complex (CMC) layer to contract and maintain the cuticles flat. High pH does the opposite, as it causes the cuticles to be more lifted. These directly impact the amount of water your hair takes or releases.
In low porosity hair, using low pH products does not help the hair to absorb more moisture. As an alternative, using shampoo at slightly high pH can help the hair to swell more. You can finish with a low pH conditioner rich in humectants. On the other hand, if you have high porosity hair, do not use products with high pH. Sealing the moisture with products is basically the key here.
Heat causes the fiber to swell. Warmer temperatures help the hair to swell more which is great for low porosity hair, like during showers. Nonetheless, finish on cool water rinses to bring down the swelling and keep the moisture in. If you have high porosity hair, you might want to stay on the cooler end of the thermometer all through the showering period. The water doesn’t have to be extremely cold, but avoid hot. Heat styling can also cause the hair to swell. Irrespective of how porous your hair is, heat styling will cause loss of moisture from the hair. Use a protective product before heat styling.
3- Chemical treatments
Chemical treatments such as coloring and perming directly impact the structural integrity of the hair. The very high pH and oxidizing or reducing agents in the chemicals will damage the protective external lipids of the cuticles, damage the protein of the hair, and damage the layer which is supposed to keep the cuticles down. With increased swelling, more lifted cuticles and more protein loss, the hair becomes highly porous. The level of damage differs from treatment to treatment but in one or the other way, the hair will need more conditioning to seal in moisture.
4- Pool water
Chlorine is well known to have oxidizing effects on the protein of the hair. It can reduce the protein in the cuticles. The proteins get fragmented and are lost in the long run. The damage caused here will also make hair more porous.
5- Product build-up
Product build-up from for example heavy oils and insoluble silicones, makes the hair appear low in porosity. The fact is that these hydrophobic materials act like lipids, as they have a tendency to repel water. They stick to to the hair cuticles and resist shampooing. If you have low porosity hair you should avoid using too much of these ingredients.
Porosity has become very important lately. It has gained significance as people especially those with 4c curly hair have started understanding its relevance to hair dryness.
One last thing about 4C hair porosity
Your hair porosity type will determine your hair care regimen. Now that you understand the basics of hair porosity and how to determine your hair porosity, the next thing you need to understand is how to care for your porosity type. I will cover this in the next article. Be sure to be on the lookout when I have the article posted.
Before you leave, you may find this recommended products page useful. Here you will find the natural hair products that my friends & I find to be very good for natural hair.
I wish you all the best in your hair journey, should you have any questions on hair porosity or any other hair topic, leave your question in the comment box below.