Hair porosity can be a confusing, overwhelming concept in the curly hair community. Information on how to test hair porosity in various ways is often conflicting due to misinformation and a misunderstanding of hair porosity. I’ll share how to test hair porosity, accurately. And what (common) tests are inaccurate, don’t work and are complete myths and a waste of time!
You can take this porosity quiz I developed to help you determine your hair porosity. You’ll then receive more information on the key products, techniques + routines that work best for each hair porosity type. Because once you know your hair porosity, it’s much easier to determine what products and techniques will and won’t work for your hair.
If you’re like most people when they start their curly journey. You’re probably trying to determine what curl type (pattern) you have. But finding out your hair porosity will make a much bigger difference to your healthy hair journey. Preventing the frustration and overwhelm that comes with the trial and error (and cost) of trying product after product.
Along with various techniques (which don’t work or aren’t recommended for all hair porosity types) in the hopes that you’ll get the consistent, long-lasting results you’re looking for. So if you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start, don’t worry. By the end of this article you’ll know your hair porosity!
What is Hair Porosity?
For more in depth information, read this article on Hair Porosity Types – which are low, medium and high porosity. That article lists the characteristics and best methods + techniques for each type. Think of your hair porosity the same way you would think of skin type: oily, combination, normal and dry. You don’t shop for skincare products based on skin colour or face shape, you shop according to your skin type. The same principle applies when it comes to hair porosity.
Porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain hydration and moisture. Knowing your hair porosity will help you maintain a healthy protein moisture balance in your hair. By determining if you need more moisture to keep it soft, or more protein to keep it strong. And which products, techniques + methods will work best for your hair.
Hair Porosity is one of the four characteristics that make up your holistic hair type. AKA your Hairoscope: Pattern, Porosity, Density and Texture. Once you know all of these, you’re well on your way to being able to determine exactly which products, methods and techniques will and won’t work for your hair. Which really helps to save money when there so many brands launching new products all the time.
How to Test Hair Porosity?
There are a few popular ways to test hair porosity. One of the most common is the float test using a cup of water. But it’s so inaccurate, I don’t recommend it. It’s a complete waste of time and is one of those myths in the hair community that just never seems to go away. I find the wet and dry tests are the best indicators, most consistent and most accurate.
The Wet Test
The wet test is one of the best ways to test hair porosity. But in order to get a truly accurate result, the hair needs to be completely free from build up, oils and butters that can prevent the hair from absorbing water. For best results, make sure your hair has recently been clarified using a chelating shampoo. Is clean, dry and free from styling products.
Do the wet test in the shower, or using a jug of warm water and wet a section of your hair. If it gets really wet, really easily, and it quickly becomes heavy with water, you have high porosity hair. Because high porosity hair is like a sponge and loves to drink up and hold onto water.
If your hair takes a long time to get wet, and almost repels the water, you have low porosity hair. Or if you use a spray bottle and lightly mist your hair and beads or droplets of water sit on top of your hair. Then you also have low porosity hair. Because low porosity hair rejects and repels water. If your hair doesn’t repel the water, or doesn’t take a long time to get wet or soaking wet really quickly. Then you have medium porosity hair.
The easiest way to do this is to prop your phone up. Use a tripod or ask someone to record you taking a section of your hair and wetting it under the shower head for 2-3 mins. Then watch the recording back. It’s hugely helpful to be able to actually see how your hair is absorbing or repelling the water to determine if you have high, medium or low porosity.
The Dry Test
This is another accurate way to test hair porosity. And probably the easiest and quickest way to tell which hair porosity you have. This is also where the most confusion and misinformation comes from. It’s important to note that your hair length, density (how much hair you have) and hair texture will affect drying time and therefore the dry test results. Because short, low density or fine hair will always dry much faster than long, high density or coarse hair.
For best results, let your hair air dry naturally, with no styling products or oils. This is because the ingredients in styling products can shorten or prolong the drying time, affecting the results. You can’t rely on how long it takes to diffuse your hair dry really either, due to different voltage in different countries. For example, it takes me 20-30 mins to diffuse my hair until it’s fully dry on medium heat and medium speed in the UK + EU. But in the USA, it takes me almost three times longer on a medium heat and medium speed setting due to the lower voltage.
If your hair dries quickly, (less than an hour) you have low porosity hair. Because low porosity naturally repels water, it dries faster. Often drying so quickly, you can see it shrinking and drying within 30 mins. If your hair takes ages to dry, (3+ hours) you have high porosity hair. Because high porosity hair loves water and drinks it up. Soaking it up like a sponge and holding onto that water for as long as it can. It can often take hours for high porosity hair to dry naturally, sometimes all day!
The Slide Test
I would never use the slide test as the only way to test hair porosity. But it’s a quick and easy way to confirm results from other porosity tests. Grab a strand of hair on your head, and hold it taught at the end. With your other hand, slide your thumb and finger up the hair shaft. If it feels smooth, it’s low porosity. If it’s bumpy, it’s high porosity. If it’s somewhere in the middle, not too smooth, not too bumpy then it’s medium porosity.
For best results, do the slide test on clean, dry hair with no styling products. Deep conditioning and certain washday products such as clarifying shampoos and cuticle sealers, smoothing conditioners and leave in conditioners. As well as styling products, heat protectants, heat styling tools and sealing oils can all affect the smoothness of the hair. As you can see in the image below.
Some things to note
It’s completely normal to have more than one hair porosity type. But that doesn’t mean you have to use different product, methods or techniques on different sections of your hair. Your porosity can change due to a variety of factors, such as heat, chemical or colour damage. It’s not true that medium porosity is healthy and low or high porosity hair is a sign of damage.
However, you need to take into account any damage to your hair, especially colour damage, which causes high porosity hair. Bleach and highlights dry out the hair and blow out the cuticle. Causing it to drink up water – which suggests high porosity. But dry quickly, which suggests low porosity. But it’s actually due to the damage caused to the hair cuticle during the bleaching process. If this is the case, focus on the health of your hair before you try to determine your hair porosity.
How you wash and style your hair can also affect how the hair absorbs and retains moisture. For example, most people wash their hair standing up in the shower, wear their hair down and concentrate heat styling on the top canopy layer. All these things contribute to that canopy layer being more dry, damaged and frizzy. And a looser curl pattern than the underneath. Not clarifying regularly or correctly, using cuticles sealers, sealing oils, film-forming humectants and heat to deep condition can all have an impact on the cuticle, and therefore the porosity.
Don’t forget to take the porosity quiz I developed to receive bespoke information on the key products, techniques + routines that work best for each hair porosity type. You might find this article on Hair Porosity Characteristics helpful. Make sure you subscribe to the Curl Maven Collective Newsletter for exclusive giveaways and offers, new content, products and services. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tips, advice and tutorials.
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