When a natural hair wearer complains that her hair won’t hold moisture no matter what product she uses, it is apparent to me that she needs to stop spending money on products and instead take a look at what is going on with her hair. There are several factors which impact your hair’s ability to retain moisture, and it is always one (or a combination) of these conditions:
Porosity of Natural Hair
Porosity is simply defined as the ability of your hair strands to absorb and retain moisture. Hair can be too porous, balanced or have low porosity.
- If your hair is HIGH POROSITY, it means that due to the raised cuticle layer, hair absorbs too much water (moisture). The raised cuticle also means that your hair is unable to retain moisture that you put on, so it always looks and feels dry. In most cases a raised cuticle indicates damaged hair. Chief characteristics of high porosity hair is that it is dull and dry-looking, sometimes feeling crunchy and rough to the touch.
- If your hair is considered LOW POROSITY it is resistant to moisture, and conditioning products just seem to ‘sit’ on the hair. In this case the hair cuticles are sealed tight, extremely compact and overlapping. However, once you lift the cuticle and your hair can absorb moisture, it is capable of holding it. In other words, this hair type has excellent moisture and protein retention abilities. Low porosity hair often looks very healthy, but in most cases it lacks elasticity and breaks easily when the hair is handled.
- NORMAL POROSITY hair absorbs and retains moisture adequately. The hair looks healthy with a nice sheen. When handled or styled, the hair is resilient with appropriate elasticity, and full of body (or “jump” as it is referred to in the natural hair industry).
There are two popular ways to find out what your hair porosity is.
The most commonly used is called “the Float Test.” To test your hair using this method, take a couple of strands of hair from your comb or brush and drop them into a bowl of water. Let sit for 2-4 minutes. If your hair floats, you have low porosity. If it sinks to the bottom, you have high porosity. If it sits on top then slowly starts absorbing water and sinking, your hair is considered “normal” porosity.
The Slide Test: Take a single strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft (from the end of the hair towards the scalp). If it feels rough to the touch and you encounter “bumps in the road”, it means that your hair cuticle is raised. Your hair is considered “high porosity.” If your fingertips slide up the hair shaft smoothly and without a hitch, your hair is low porosity.
Solution: Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Rinse
An acidic rinse with apple cider vinegar (ACV) every week or so is a popular solution for addressing high porosity concerns. Combine about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1/4 cup aloe vera juice, and 2 cups of cool distilled water. Make sure honey is dissolved in the liquid before use. Pour this mixture over the hair as a final rinse after shampooing and conditioning. Rinse out thoroughly with cool water. This acidic rinse (pH of 2.0-2.5) will temporarily reduce porosity by constricting the cuticle scales.
The honey acts as a humectant to draw moisture into the hair. The apple cider vinegar rinse also provides a nice shine, defines curls, smooths the hair shaft by sealing the cuticle, helps detangle the hair, and gives limp hair some body. If you find that your hair feels hard or gets tangled after using an ACV rinse it means you must use more water and/or less vinegar for YOUR hair.
Do not use an ACV rinse more than twice per week as it may increase your porosity problems. Some is good – too much of even a good thing is not good at all.
Product Build Up on Natural Hair
Lots of cowashing (conditioner cleansing) or the use of high protein products, oils and butters can leave your hair ‘coated’. Shampoo scum, mineral deposits from hard water, and caked on product residue means moisturizing conditioners won’t be able to penetrate the hair shaft and do their job. So there you are using tons of products that are basically just sitting on your coated hair for a few minutes then being washed down the drain. Along with your money.
It’s easy and inexpensive to clarify your hair and eliminate product buildup as the reason for your dry hair.
Solution A: Using Dried Herbs to Clarify Hair
Herbs such as rosemary and thyme make a fabulous natural hair clarifier. Simply place 4-5 tablespoons of dried leaf thyme or dried rosemary in 10 oz. of distilled water. Bring mixture to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain herbs from liquid. Add another cup of distilled water. Use this mixture on wet hair immediately after shampooing. Another added benefit is that both herbs are well known to nourish the hair follicle and stimulate hair growth.
- 2 tablespoons of non-paraben, sulfite free shampoo
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Measure out two tablespoons of shampoo into a small unbreakable container and add about half as much (1 tablespoon) of baking soda to it.
Wet hair and use the baking soda clarifying shampoo as you normally would, using fingertips to massage into your scalp.
Let mixture sit in your hair no longer than 3-4 minutes.
Rinse out thoroughly with cool water, then deep condition as you normally would.
Final rinse should be with an acidic rinse to return hair to its proper acid balance such as aloe vera juice.
Environmental Impact on Natural Hair
A lot of what people can do with their hair isn’t about what you put on it, but what is going on around it. For instance, the chemicals in the water of YOUR municipality will greatly affect YOUR hair’s porosity and feel after cleansing. Your skin may also feel like all the oil has been sucked out of it, leaving a dry feel and ashy look.
Weather and wide variances in temperature can also greatly affect your hair’s moisture balance. The weather in the area where YOU live will greatly affect YOUR hair’s ability to maintain moisture. If your hair is subjected to sudden temperature changes such as outside heat/inside air conditioning on blast, OR outside snow and ice/inside heater on blast it may break in protest. Those are things many people don’t think about when considering the reactions of their hair to products and a maintenance regime.
Solving your dryness and porosity problem may very well require that you do the LOC or LCO method as long as you live in that area to save your hair, along with aloe vera rinses to close lifted hair cuticles and smooth the hair shaft.
Sealants are non-penetrating oils like mango butter, castor oil (plain or JBCO), raw Shea butter, Jojoba oil (which is actually a wax), or raw cocoa butter.
Solution A: Protect Your Hair From Weather
Cover your hair when going outside in the sun or wind and snow with a silk or satin lined hat.
Solution B: Seal in Moisture at Night or While at Home
Try the “greenhouse method” or what sistahs called “the baggy method” of hair moisturization which involves sleeping in a plastic shower cap, secured with a sleep cap or head band.
Solution C: Use a Moisturizing Spritz As Needed
A mixture in your spritz bottle of natural penetrating oils, aloe vera juice and rosewater or distilled purified water will help keep your hair moisturized and soft in warm weather.
About the Author (Author Profile)Blogger, writer, relationships/dating expert, fitness trainer and natural hair enthusiast since 1997. Sharing information from grandmomma, books and scientific journals, as well as my personal discoveries and experiences with natural hair as we journey from relaxers, flat irons and weaves together.
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