Do You Know Your Child's Hair? Let's Talk Porosity-Part 2

Last week, I started a three-part series discussing the topic of porosity. As explained in the Part 1, porosity is pretty much a measure of how well the hair absorbs and retains moisture deep into the cuticle layers.

Low porosity hair is generally resistant to moisture absorption due to tightly closed cuticles and can leave the hair feeling dry and weighed down with product build up. High porosity hair is generally a sign of damaged hair that absorbs moisture easily due to highly lifted cuticles yet is quite difficult to keep hydrated despite persistent conditioning/moisturizing efforts. Normal porosity hair is ideal because water can both be absorbed and retained inside the cuticle layer to efficiently keep the hair properly moisturized.

Knowing your child's hair porosity (low, normal, high) can help steer you in the right direction toward which products to use and how to apply those products on your child's hair for maximum moisturizing results.

In this post, I will describe several different methods I have researched for testing hair porosity. As a disclaimer, I am not claiming these home tests are 100% accurate (Read my thoughts at the end of this post about our own experience with one of the tests (float or sink test)).

The Porosity Experiments:
Ideal to use freshly cleaned (no products added) and (air) dried hair before performing these tests.

Float or Sink Test

  • Most documented test found on blogs and hair boards
  • Take a few strands of shed hair (with white bulb at end, not broken hair) and place them in a bowl of water
  • Wait 5-8 minutes
  • If hair stays afloat, the hair has low porosity
  • If hair floats in the middle, the hair has normal porosity
  • If hair sinks, the hair has a high porosity

Soak Test

  • Wet hair in shower and observe how long hair actually feels fully saturated with water (hair is like a sponge and can absorb up to half its weight in water)
  • If hair quickly feels soaked, the hair is likely porous 
  • If hair slowly feels soaked, the hair is less porous
  • Note: Porous hair dries quickly in the ends while less porous hair takes much longer to dry

Glide Test

  • Take a strand of hair and gently slide the hair between the index finger and thumb along the length of the strand from tip to root
  • If hair feels really smooth, the hair is less porous (tightly closed cuticles)
  • If hair feels really uneven and bumpy, the hair is more porous (highly raised cuticles)

Mist Test

  • Take a spray bottle of water and set the opening to spray a fine mist
  • Hold bottle 6-8 inches away from hair and mist the hair
  • If hair is coated with beads of water and they just run down the strand, the hair has low porosity
  • If hair is coated with beads of water for a few moments before absorbing the water, the hair has normal porosity
  • If hair immediately absorbs the water without beading on the strand, the hair has high porosity

What is my take on the popular Float or Sink  Hair Porosity Test?

I performed the float or sink test on both my hair and Z's hair. Based on the criteria above, our results showed that our hair has low porosity since our hairs remained on top of the water. However, when I pushed both of our hairs underneath the water to see what would happen, they quickly sank to the bottom.

So does that mean we have highly porous hair? I am almost 100% sure we do not have porous and damaged hair because we do not use heat, chemical, or harsh treatments on our hair. So the float or sink test really left me questioning the validity of the test I have seen so many women use to determine their hair porosity. 

In my research, I came across this post by The Natural Maven that was posted earlier this year (Jan 2013) about the junk science of hair porosity tests. After reading her post, I pretty much had the same sentiments about the float or sink test. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think. I do not want to spoil it for you!

Here is another article done by the Science-y Hair Blog that further solidifies the reasons why these these tests are not as reliable in determining hair porosity. Overall, the message of the article suggests that the best way to understand your child's hair porosity is to:
  • simply observe the shine of the hair (high shine-low porosity, low shine-high porosity)
  • how moisturized the hair feels on a daily basis
  • how the hair responds to products

At the end of the day, learning and knowing your child's hair is all a matter of trial and error. The goal is to figure out what works for your child's hair and to implement those things as a regular part of your child's hair regimen. I will say that most children's hair fall under the low/normal porosity unless their hair has been exposed to high heat, harsh chemicals, and/or rough mechanical handling (brushes, combs, hats). 

In the next post, I will conclude the three-part porosity series with some techniques to help maximize your child's moisture absorption and retention based on her/his porosity level.

Until blessed!

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