For some of us, when we first go back natural the first thing we want to find out is “what curl type do I have”? It can be exciting, especially if you do not really remember what your natural hair looks like after years of it being alerted. Personally, I am not a huge fan of categorizing “curl patterns” and to be honest when it comes to buying the right product for your hair, curls patterns will not help decide which products will work for you. Many naturals actually find out that they have a mix of curls all over and in all my time of trying out loads and I mean loads of different products, I have never come across one that states “For 3c curls” or “Only for 4c curls”.
When it comes to determining what products to use you will want to: 1. determine the porosity of your hair and 2.the width (thickness) of your hair strands. In this article we will go over how determining your hairs porosity can help you find what you should use and how much or little you need (Part 2: will cover the topic of width).
What is hair porosity?
Porosity speaks of the hairs ability to absorb and retain moisture.
- Low porosity - the outer layer of your hair (the cuticle) is closed and lying flat, making it difficult for moisture to enter the cuticle to reach the core and keep the hair moisturized.
- Medium porosity – moisture enters the cuticle and remains in the core without escaping because the cuticle is neither highly raised nor closed.
- High porosity – the cuticle is extremly raised making it easy for moisture to enter but also leave the hair, so it difficult to keep the hair moisturized.
How to determine your hair porosity?
- Water test – After washing and detangling drop a strand of clean (product free) shed hair into a glass of room temperature water for 1 – 2 minutes.
- High porosity - sinks before 1 – 2 minutes.
- Medium porosity – hovers in the middle of the glass for 1 – 2 minutes before sinking.
- Low porosity – floats for more than 1 – 2 minutes before sinking.
2. “Feel” test – Some people run their thumb and middle finger over a few strands of clean (product free) shed hair going from the ends to the root and back down.
- High porosity – extremely rough & jagged going from both directions.
- Medium porosity: smooth going from root to ends but slightly jagged going ends to roots.
- Low porosity: extremely smooth in both directions.
What can you do and what products can you look for?
- Slightly raise your cuticle (temporarily) while applying a Deep Conditioner (DC) as this allows the DC’s moisture to enter and penetrate the hairs core.
- Use low heat with a steamer or hooded dryer.
- A lightly damp and warm face cloth over your shower cap (not hot).
- Warm up your DC before application.
- Use a scarf or wool hat over your shower cap.
- Remember to close the cuticle afterwards to avoid moisture from escaping.
- A final rinse with cool water.
- Applying products that help close the cuticle e.g. Aloe Vera Juice.
- Products that list water within the first three ingredients if not the first are essential.
- Depending on the weather in your area, you can try products with humectants e.g.:
- Agave nectar.
- For sealing do not be too heavy handed or use very thick products instead opt for:
- Avocado butter
- Mango butter
- Coffee bean butter
- A mixed whipped butter
- Try light oils such as:
- Grape seed oil
- Sweet almond
- Almond oil
- Additional heat is not an necessity when applying DC’s however it can be beneficial.
- Moisturize with a light liquid based leave-in conditioner.
- Hair milks
- Light creams
- Use products that have water listed within the top 3 ingredients.
- For sealing you can use:
- Mango butter
- Aloe Vera butter
- Cupuacu butter
- A light whipped butter mixed with oils
- Jojoba oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Focus on locking in moisture.
- Try low humectant or non-humectant products, especially in climates with high humidity as too much water can lead to the hair swelling and causing extra frizz.
- Closing the hairs cuticle is just as important as sealing (see above).
- Use butters with a high fat content as they provide a wall around the hair’s cuticle.
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- A whipped Shea/cocoa butter mixed with oils
- Oils for additional sealing:
- Jamaican Black Castor Oil
- Castor oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
Remember that it is not necessarily the specific brand of product you use but the characteristics of your hair, the ingredients in your products, your process of application and the amount of products you use that can make a difference.