Everything needs water to live.
Moisture is water.
Hair needs moisture to live.
Oh, if that were all it too. You can do all of the most beautiful hair styles in the world. You can visit the most amazing hair stylist and get the most intricate, beautiful cut known and ever seen by man. You may still be asking yourself, "Why is my hair so dry?" It's simple: if your hair is not moisturized, however, your hair will not look good. Moisturized hair is the key to having beautiful, healthy long, natural hair that looks good no matter how it's styled. The following should help explain why moisture is so important to hair health and what you need to do to get it and keep it.
Natural hair and moisture
Many people have discovered the joy of natural hair. They’ve eschewed relaxers, chemical treatments, and heating appliances in order to be able to enjoy their hair in its most beautiful and natural state.
One thing they recognized almost immediately is that natural hair needs tons of moisture. If it wasn't hydrated, it tended to become extremely dry and break easily. Many people were surprised by this as they'd assumed that because their hair was curly, it automatically meant it was strong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Curly hair is actually more fragile than straight hair.
Sebum is the natural oil that comes from the sebaceous glands in the scalp. Sebum lubricates the strands of hair, making them strong soft and supple. If you have straight hair, it's easy for sebum to move down the hair shaft lubricating every inch of the Strand. If you have curly hair it's much more difficult for sebum to make its way down the shaft since it needs to go through get turned and coils. This means that sebum is not as easily distributed throughout curly hair as it is in straight hair. This makes curly hair prone to breakage and shedding if it is not fully hydrated. You have to add as much moisture as you can to curly hair in order to keep it looking healthy fresh and strong.
And the worst part is, the curlier the hair the more difficult it is to stay moisturized. But curly-haired mavens got the message. Whether their hair was Type 2, 3 or 4, they knew they had to go out and find products that would help their hair stay moisturized. They crowded message boards and hair forums, trading information with people who had the same hair type, searching for the holy grail of a moisturizing product that would give them them the locks that would give them moisture for days on end. After all, if you have the same hair type as somoene else, the products they use should work on you as well, correct? Well...
A Strange Thing Happened
Something strange happened. People noticed that even though they had the same hair type, they didn’t always get the same results when they used the same moisturizing products. Cindy with the 3B hair would extol the virtues of 3B Fantastico product while Maria with the 3B hair would declare 3B Fantastico the absolute worst product she’d ever tried and didn’t understand where all the love for the product was coming from, and maybe the reviews were fake….There has been drama on hair boards simply because the hair products that worked for one person didn’t work for the next person. People couldn’t understand how they could share the same hair type but have vastly different experiences. Little did everyone know that hair type wasn’t the only thing that determined how a product reacted on someone’s hair. There was another culprit in the room and her name was porosity.
What in the world is porosity?
Plainly put, porosity is your hair’s ability to take in and hold in moisture. It’s the answer to the question, “What happens when my hair is drenched with water?” How will your hair react when that happens? Will it drink up the moisture and plump strands? Will it roll right off? Will your hair remain damp for hours afterwards? Or will it be bone dry before you can turn around? The answers to these questions will determine how porous - or not porous - your hair is.
Low porosity hair is hair that has a tight, nearly impenatrable cuticle layer that makes it really hard for moisture to enter. On the flip side, once moisture does get into it, it stays inside because it’s nearly impossible for it to get out. Low porosity hair tends to look healthy, but it doesn’t have a lot of suppleness or elasticity, especially when compared to medium porosity hair.
High-porosity hair has a cuticle layer that has raised areas and gaps that make it easy for moisture to both get in and escape. Without the right products, it can lack luster and shine due to moisture escaping.
Normal (medium)-porosity hair:
Normal or medium porosity hair has a cuticle layer that opens just enough to let hydration get in and closes just enough to keep the moisture inside. Due to this, normal porosity hair is considered the best at remaining supple and hydrated. It tends to look healthy, and usually boaarsts plenty of bounce and elasticity.
How do you determine what porosity level you have?
It’s very easy to figure out your porosity level by doing a hair porosity test.
The float test:
Pluck or cut a couple of strands of clean hair from your head. Drop them into a glass or bowl of water, and wait a couple of minutes. If the hair floats, it’s low porosity. If it sinks to the bottom, you have high porosity. If it’s in the middle, you have normal porosity.
Spray bottle test
Spritz your hair with water from a spray bottle. If the water droplets bead up on your hair, you have low porosity. If the water seems to be sucked into the strand, you have high porosity. If the water droplets sit on your hair for a bit before being absorbed, you have medium or normal porosity levels.
What does it all mean?
The bottom line is that you need to know your hair’s porosity level before you can determine what type of moisturization you hair needs. Now you understand why the shape of your curl has less to do with what type of moisture you need. Someone with 3c low porosity hair needs a very different moisturizer than someone with 3c high porosity hair. The drama in all of those conflicting message board reviews has been resolved!
How to Moisturize Low Porosity Hair
The following ways can help you moisturize low-porosity hair.
Make sure that you use heat when applying moisturizing conditioner to low-porosity hair. Heat will help open up those sealed cuticles so that the moisturizers can penetrate deep into the hair shaft. You can apply the heat via the use of a steamer, a heating cap or simple warm water).
Make sure that you apply your moisturizer to hair that’s freshly washed or damp. Along with the heat, this will allow the cuticles to be opened up so that the moisturizer can actually penetrate the hair.
Use moisturizers and conditioners that are light and water-soluble that won’t sit on top of your hair like heavy moisturizers would. In other words, go for light oils like grapeseed oil, argan oil and jojoba oil. Heavier oils like coconut or shea butters will simply sit on top of hair.
Choose moisturizers that will help form a barrier around your hair and seal in the moisture, including those with ingredients like flax seed gel, nettle extract, aloe vera and marshmallow root. .
Some excellent low-porosity moisturizers include Mielle Organics Avocado Moisturizing Milk, SheaMoisture Baobab & Tea Tree Oils Protein-Free Leave-In Detangler, and DevaCurl One Condition.
How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair
The tips below can help you moisturize your high-porosity hair.
Use moisturizers that don’t attract moisture, also called humectants. Your hair doesn’t need help absorbing moisture, but it does have issues holding it in, so you’ll be looking for anti-humectants.
Use silicone-free conditioners that are lightweight and moisturizing.
Use a leave-in conditioner as it will absorb easily into your hair, but follow it up with a sealer that will help seal the cuticles and prevent them from releasing the moisture. Avocado oil and castor oil are great examples of excellent sealers.
Some great high porosity moisturizers include KeraCare Natural Textures Leave-In Conditioner, Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner, Kinky Curly Knot Today and Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave in Conditioner.
How to Moisturize Normal or Medium Porosity Hair
The tips below are excellent for people who have hair with normal porosity levels.
Condition and deep condition your hair on a regular basis using regular moisturizing conditioners and moisturizers.
Avoid using too many products or heating appliances on your hair. Because your hair stands up well to frequent manipulation, it’d be easy to think that it could take anything. The problem is that if you overdo it, your hair could lose porosity over time, making it more prone to breakage and damage.
Choose light conditioners that infuse your hair with plenty of hydration. You don’t have to be heavy handed with moisturizers since your hair absorbs them easily.
A few final notes about moisturization.
Understanding your hair will be the key to providing it with the right level of moisture. Don’t choose a moisturizer simply because it works for your mother. Choose one based on the above criteria so that you can ensure that the one you choose works for you and you alone.
Clarifying your hair on a regular basis is key no matter what your hair type or or porosity level. Clarifying with natural products like apple cider vinegar or mild clarifying shampoos can help remove buildup so that whichever moisturizer you end up going with has an opportunity to penetrate the hair shaft and do its job.
Moisturize your hair as often as you can no matter what your hair type. Curly hair will always need more moisture than straight hair in general, so make sure that you give it as much as it needs.
Keep in mind the environmental factors will also have an effect on how much moisture your hair needs. There will be days when you need moisturizers with fewer humectants, and there will be other days when you need a lot. There will also be days when the moisturizer that has always worked perfectly suddenly doesn't seem to be doing its job. When this happens, it's often due to buildup, so clarify the hair and try again, or try another moisturizer. You may simply need to switch to another moisturizer for a while.
Once you find your perfect moisture combo, you'll have set the groundwork for healthy, beautiful hair that will look good all the time.