Moisturizing Dry Curly Kinky Coily Porous Hair

09/19/2012 | By | More

There are literally thousands of commercial products you can use to keep your hair soft and moisturized, but unless you absolutely have to why spend the money on something that won’t work for your hair type?

This blog is relatively new, but we’ve already received a half-dozen questions from women complaining about the dryness of their hair. “No matter what I do my hair is dry!” or “I can moisturize my hair and 20 minutes later it’s dry again!” So I think the first step in understanding how to keep your hair moisturized is to get clear on what type of hair you have and how it handles water.

The chief issue with moisturizing is the porosity of your hair, meaning how open the cuticle of your hair may be, and how well it either absorbs or repels moisture, protein and nourishing oils applied to your hair. Damage to the hair shaft can affect your hair porosity. Hair that is too porous negatively impacts your hair’s ability to retain moisture. When hair is too porous, it becomes fragile and weak, thus unable to effectively handle the stress of styling. If your hair is porous you’ll likely experience lots of breakage.

Porous Hair and Waterwhat we need for dry hair is water and moisture

All hair absorbs water, but the amount of water that penetrates the cuticle of your hair can vary based on its porosity. It’s estimated that normal, healthy hair absorbs about 30% of its weight in water; but hair that is damaged will absorb as much as 50% of its weight in water! You might think that’s a wonderful thing because your hair is more moisturized at 50% than it is at 30%.

Wrong.

Extremely porous hair absorbs more water when it is wet, but as it dries the water goes as well. The hair cuticle is either so lifted or so damaged that your hair has lost its ability to retain moisture. If your hair has a high porosity level when dry it will feel puffy and rough to the touch. You’ll find yourself constantly moisturizing your hair with a spritz or leave in moisturizing conditioner trying to combat the dryness to no avail.

Testing Hair Porosity

There are two ways to test the porosity of your hair.

Porosity Test #1:  Wash your hair and let it dry without products.  Do not blow dry or do anything to smooth the cuticle of the hair. Place water in a sprayer bottle that will generate a fine mist.  Take a 2″ square segment of hair in your hand. Hold the sprayer about 8″ away and spritz your hair. Carefully note the way the water reacts with your hair.

If the water sprayed is immediately absorbed and disappears right before your eyes, your hair is very porous. Porous hair readily absorbs not only water but chemicals, and can easily be over-processed with color treatments, relaxers or perms.

If the water beads up or begins rolling off the hair immediately as if you have a waterproof coating on your hair, it means your hair cuticle is compact, and the cuticles are closed too tightly. Resistant hair repels moisturizers, conditioners and protein treatments.  Chemical services performed on hair with low porosity require a more alkaline solution than those on hair with high porosity to raise the cuticle and permit uniform saturation and penetration of conditioners.

If your hair is within normal healthy ranges you will notice the water bead up at first, but after a few moments your hair will absorb it. This lower absorption of water means your hair cuticle is smooth and flat (not lifted or damaged), but not so tight that it prevents penetration of moisturizing products.

Porosity Test #2:  Put two or three strands of hair in a container of water. Select hair from the area of your head that is the driest – for most women that is in the crown of the head slightly towards the back. If the water is absorbed quickly and the hair sinks, it is highly porous.  If your hair floats away like a boat, it is resistant. Normal, healthy hair with smooth cuticles will float for a short time then slowly sink to the bottom of the glass.

porous hair damaged hair damaged cuticle dry hair breaking hair

What to Do About Overly Porous Hair

Porous hair is usually associated with chemical over-processing such as relaxers, bleaches or dyes. Other factors that can also affect porosity include heat damage, chlorine, metropolitan hard water and associated mineral saturation, UV damage from the sun, or use of harsh ingredients that strip the hair of natural protective oils.

In other words, if your hair is highly porous it means your hair is damaged resulting in fragile, crispy dry, and brittle locks.  Your hair feels like straw instead of smooth to the touch because your cuticle layer is raised. Your hair absorbs water quickly but releases it just as fast, just like a holey bucket.

The best way to nurse your high porosity hair back to health is with deep conditioning treatments.  Protein treatments (both rinse out deep conditioners and leave-ins), help to rebuild and strengthen your damaged hair cuticle. Co-washing is ideal for people with porous hair, and use of shampoos or shampoo bars with a pH of 8 and over is a bad choice. Shampoo bars and commercial shampoo products are often alkaline which lifts the cuticle – the opposite action of what people with overly porous hair need.

Because your hair structure has been weakened by damage, brushing or frequent combing is contraindicated. Finger combing to get rid of tangles is the way to go. You may also find it easier to detangle highly porous hair when it’s dry and oiled or with a wide tooth comb or fingers while covered with conditioner.  High porosity hair is more vulnerable to damage than ever when it’s wet, so handle VERY gently.

What to Do About Resistant Low Porosity Hair

It’s a challenge to keep your low porosity hair moisturized.  The cuticles will be smooth, but because they’re so tightly concentrated, it’s very difficult to get moisture into the hair.   Hair products sit on your hair instead of being absorbed, so even though you moisturize your hair half to death, you’re still suffering with dry hair.

The trick for you is to use products that are slightly more alkaline in nature. The cuticle of the hair can be lifted with more alkaline products which are higher on the pH scale such as baking soda mixed with water and most commercial shampoos. After rinsing out your shampoo or baking soda wash, apply the deep conditioner of choice.  Co-washing is great for those with low porosity hair as well. The heat of warm water is alleged to help open up the cuticle slightly, helping your hair to absorb moisture.

Once your hair conditioner has been applied and given time to absorb, you can rinse with cool to cold water to close your cuticle again, sealing the moisture into the hair shaft.conditioner, reseal the cuticle with an acidic rinse such as aloe vera or apple cider vinegar mixed with water. The acidic rinse will cause the cuticles to contract and close, sealing moisture into the hair.

apple cider vinegar and honey rinse for porous hairApple Cider Vinegar and Honey Rinse

An acidic rinse with apple cider vinegar (ACV) every week or so is a popular solution for addressing hair porosity. 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 once per week as it may increase your porosity problems. Some is good – too much of even a good thing is not good at all.

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Category: Moisturizing

About the Author ()

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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