In a recent email newsletter I touched on the problem of porosity in black hair. Here I go a bit into a bit more detail and also look at another problem that goes hand in hand with porosity, hygral fatigue.
A pore is a gap/hole in the fiber of your hair that both allows fluids in and out again. Because of the natural bends in afro hair, cuticles on the curvature of the hair when in it’s natural state usually remain open so a higher level of porosity is to be expected.
With relaxed hair, porosity is increased during the relaxing process because the high alkalinity of the relaxer will cause some damage to the hair fibre as it straightens.
Other factors that increase porosity is bleaching, mechanical damage or even prolonged exposure to sunlight. Under a microscope you will often find that the ends of long hair (which have had the most exposure to sunlight) will be completely devoid of cuticles! They have either worn away or fused together, and this is before taking into account any mechanical or chemical damage.
Hygral fatigue is usaully a direct result of high porosity in hair. It is the weakening of hair caused by the strands swelling during the uptake of water and contracting when the water is lost. The swelling and contracting of the strands weakens them substantially and increases the likelihood of breakage.
I have often noted some contradictions in hair care. While some will say that mineral oil* is the devil, there will always be an example of someone with waist length hair who uses a procuct laced with mineral oil*. Same goes for some hair care techniques.
Some relaxed and naturals ladies have noted great length retention with wet bunning but I on the other hand got tangles and breakage for my troubles! Where hygral fatigue is concerned, some people swear by co-washing their hair 2-3 times per week.
If your hair has high porosity and subsequently hygral fatigue, co-washing so often would be one of the biggest mistakes you could make. But it’s not all doom and gloom, moisture is still vital in hair care and the solution is so simple it’s laughable!
There are things you can do to keep porous hair looking and feeling healthy. The best solution of course would be to try and reduce the things you are doing that caused the high porosity in the first place. But once the damage is already done then there still a second line of defence.
First off is the practice of prepooing. To prepoo (pre-shampoo) for those of you who don’t know, is the practice of applying oil or other ingredients to your hair a few minutes to a few hours before shampooing it.
This serves both to prevent excessive dryness to your strands after the shampoo and to prevent the occurence of hygral fatigue.
Coconut oil in particular is fabulous at preventing excessive uptake of water because the molecules are small enough to actually penetrate the hair.
It’s no wonder that oil rinsing is so popular with some women. Some of them are probably preventing hygral fatigue and correcting porosity without knowing that’s what’s going on!
The use of thick conditioners that contain hydrolyzed protein or other lipids are also particularly helpful. In essence, anything that can penetrate your hair and prevent excessive uptake of water is doing your porous strands good.
That said, you should still reduce the time that your hair is drenched with water. I’m not talking about a light spritz with water to soften dry strands on a hot summer’s day, I’m talking about having your hair waterlogged for extended periods of time. Baggying can be great for your hair once in a while but baggying everyday when you have porous strands is definitely overkill.
There are of course products created specifically for correcting the problem of porosity like Roux Porosity control or Silkening Technologies Porosity Control Mask which you can also incorporate into your regimen.
Even though I am natural, I love to color my hair and that isn’t going to stop any time soon. If you relax your hair, straighten it often or have an outdoorsy job that requires you to be in the sun for extended periods assume that the porosity of your hair has been compromised.
A few minor changes in your regimen is all that’s required to control the problem, a small price to pay for the health of your hair.