In order to figure out how products will react in your hair, you need to know these four things about your hair:
1. Its type (curl pattern);
2. Its density (how tightly packed strands are on your scalp);
3. Its width (fine or thick/coarse stands of hair); and
4. It’s porosity (how easily each strand holds and absorbs water)
Knowing these four things will help you identify the unique properties of your hair and will determine the kind of products your hair needs to maintain/restore health.
I’m already resigned to the fact that I may not be able to accurately tell which curl pattern I have on my head until my relaxed ends are completely cut off. Relaxed hair tends to be heavier than natural hair, therefore pulling (and distortion) may occur. From what I can tell about my natural growth, it’s a mix ranging from type 3c through 4c. But that’s a determination for another day.
Meanwhile, I have medium-to-high density hair with mostly coarse strands (my edges/baby hairs are fine).
What I don’t know is how porous my strands are. Luckily, there’s a relatively simple test to determine how porous your hair is. Take a strand of hair and drop it into a glass of water. If the strand sinks to the bottom of the glass within 2-4 minutes, you have high porosity hair. If it takes a while and lingers in the middle, chances are you have hair with medium porosity. If the hair refuses to sink, you have low porosity hair.
Below, I filmed the short test on a strand of my hair, noting that the strand was half relaxed hair and half natural hair (it’s fairly obvious when you take a look at it).
The results: my natural hair is low porosity hair, while my relaxed hair is at the opposite end of the spectrum with high porosity properties.
What does this mean for me?
Low porosity hair (though considered healthy) repels water. So it will benefit from emollients and humectants.
Emollients are complex chemical agents specifically designed to make to make skin/hair softer and more pliable. They increase hydration by reducing evaporation. In plain English: sealers. Examples include shea butter and coconut oil (my two go-to’s).
A humectant draws water from the air or environment around you through absorption (humidity anyone??). A common example is glycerin. These products are needed for my hair to absorb and retain moisture. However, I’ll be staying away from the greasy stuff to avoid buildup since products will tend to sit on top of the hair.
I will also be sure to keep protein treatments to a minimum for my natural hair, as low porosity hair tends to be healthy and shiny, with few holes in the strands. Protein treatments, in turn, will just make that kind of hair feel dry and straw-like.
However, my relaxed ends have the exact opposite attributes as that of my natural hair. High porosity hair can either be genetic or the result of damage (like damage from relaxing). Because of large holes in the cuticles, it both absorbs too much water and loses water quickly. Therefore, this kind of hair benefits greatly from protein treatments (to fortify the strands), heavy butters (to help close up those holes), and anti-humectants (which prevent moisture absorption from the air).
So what’s a girl to do? I haven’t quite figured out that part yet, but it seems I’ll have to choose which part of my hair I want to focus on for health maintenance. The obvious choice is my natural hair as that is the part I’m growing out and I will eventually just cut off the relaxed ends. This certainly explains why I have a hard time blending my textures if I try to wear my hair loose.
Any transitioners out there with this problem? What solutions have you come up with? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Peace, Love, and Live Life Full,