Hair care has long been a part of how we take care of ourselves while exhibiting our personal style. It’s culture, tradition and an expression of the times. Whether it’s fried, dyed and laid to the side or twisted/loc’d in a natural style, hair maintenance and hairstyles go hand-in-hand.

Hair health, though, seems to be at the forefront of many hair discussions ranging from modes of protection to growth. Now, and for some time now, hair porosity is a part of the conversation in relation to moisture and dryness. Low, normal and high porosity hair each have their own characteristics and ways of ensuring health. Here’s a bit more about how to identify and take care of your hair according to the hair porosity test. 

Hair Porosity: What It Means

Before we get into tests and strand styles, let’s take a closer look at the meaning behind hair porosity. Healthline shares that hair porosity determines how your hair holds onto moisture. It’s genetic which may come as a shock, but can obviously be impacted by bleaching, dying, perming and excessive heat. Those methods of styling open the follicle and it becomes harder for the hair to retain the moisture that it gains from a lightweight oil and/or cream. What we know about our hair and how we take care of it determines the relationships that we form with products. It also impacts the fads that we can embrace (without having to do the “big chop”). 

The “Ridge” Test vs. The “Glass Of Water” Test

You may be familiar with the “glass of water” test which demonstrates whether you have low, medium or high porosity hair. And we’ll get to that! First, we’ll explain the “ridge” test. Once your hair is shampooed and product-free, grab one of your strands with your thumb and pointer finger. Slowly glide those fingers up and down along the follicle. If you notice that it’s smooth, you have low porosity hair. If it has a slight texture in the form of a  bump or ridge, then you have normal/medium porosity hair. And, if the bumps/ridges define the follicle, appearing throughout the strand, then you have high porosity hair. Your hair’s natural curve (or lack thereof) is an indicator of how it will perform in a glass of water. 

Pattern Beauty Brand Educator, Ebony Bomani, demonstrates the “glass of water” test providing insight on how our strand’s perform and why. She suggests that the water be room temperature versus cold or hot because of the temperature’s ability to make it tighten/relax. Once you have your strands, place them into the glasses, poking them a bit so that they merge with the water. Low porosity hair will float whereas medium porosity will flow around the top to middle of the glass. High porosity hair will sink. Now these performances are no indicator of good or bad hair because that doesn’t exist. It’s simply a way to learn more about how you can treat your hair for better moisture retention,  length and overall health. 

Hair Porosity: Low, Medium Or High

Here’s what the results of your hair porosity test mean about your hair and how you can move forward ensuring you are taking the most optimal care of your mane.

Low Porosity

The hair that floats also tends to repel products and moisture in general. This isn’t due to a lack of health, although that’s the ongoing rumor. It just isn’t being moisturized correctly. For this hair porosity type, oiling ahead of shampooing has proven to be beneficial. This ancient tradition prevents tangling and dryness especially when the wash is followed-up by protein-free conditioning. Ingredients like glycerin and honey will help to add moisture. In this case, heat is a helper that strengthens the efficiency of the conditioner. Cover it with a shower cap and let it sit for a bit before rinsing. Products to consider include conditioner masks, aloe vera mousses and clarifying shampoos. 

Medium Porosity

The hair that lingers around the top to middle of the glass takes dye and styling with stride. It’s the least temperamental of the strands, but still requires its own types of care too. Deep conditioners and hair masks that contain protein go a long way in this case as well particularly when infused with Moroccan clay and shea butter. If you can keep this porosity hair type build-up free, the strength and moisture will shine through. For extra shine or hold, look into hair mists, milks and styling gels. Standing between low and high porosity hair, you can also pick and choose some tips from their methods of care and figure out what works for you. Each of us are worthy of learning what magical combo of products and styles best suit us. 

High Porosity

The hair that merges and sinks into the water does the same with products, quickly absorbing whatever is applied. In being so malleable, it does also tend to break easily leading to dryness and frizz. Shampoos that target breakage are your best friend along with deep conditioning serums. You can also use products that feature shea butter while keeping an eye on any excessive oiliness. Sun exposure can also have an impact so heat protectants are great to use whether for a day at the beach or ahead of straightening/curling. That also means reducing the heat of the water on your hair wash day. We know… possibly a huge compromise, but one worth making. 

In every case, we want to try and sray away from products that contain harmful ingredients like parabens and sulfates. The health of our hair matters as does the way it looks and feels. How you wear it is your decision to make and if you consider it to be a form of expression, continue to embrace your style and perhaps now, in healthier ways.