Over the past couple of weeks, some friends and family have reached out to ask what is the most efficient way to curl their hair. They’ve been quarantined for almost a month now ( like really quarantined) and they literally don’t know what to do with their hair.
In my country, curly hair was considered bad hair until a few years ago an Afro movement started, and curly hair is IN. I’ve always loved my curls but growing up I had to straighten my hair if I was going to a birthday party, wedding, family meetings, holidays and basically any especial occasion until it became an every Saturday event. Curly hair was informal,unprofessional; going to the beach, to the pool and vacation was the only time it was ok to wear your hair curly.
It was a habit to always straighten my hair even though it felt wrong, not because I didn't like the way it looked, but it just didn't feel like me sometimes. It is so frustrating not knowing what to do with your own hair! I remember buying gels with maximum hold, sprays, all kinds of products that promised perfect curls, but my hair was so damaged by all the heat that I would end up with half curly and straight hair. I tried for years to go natural but I looked so ridiculous that I always ended up straightening my hair.
What changed? My husband has always liked my curly hair, he says it goes better with my personality but that wasn’t enough. What really made me go natural was having a second child. I had absolutely no time ( it used to take me 2.5-3 hours to straighten my hair) nor did I have the desire to do so. I started doing DIY masks every weekend because my hair was hating me, it started to fall out, it was super damaged and dry so I decided to give it a chance. I haven’t straightened my hair since November 2017. It has been a hard and long process but today I can say I know my hair, my hair loves me and I love it.
What I learned? Now that I’ve embraced my curls I know the importance of teaching our children to love themselves just the way they are. Super cliché I know but the fact is my mom didn’t know the first thing about curls so she always put my hair up and when I was “ready” I got a permanent hair straightening treatment every 6 months. I couldn’t go in the pool, I didn’t want to sweat because my roots would start to curl, I had to sleep with hair clips and a hair cap ( super uncomfortable ) I had to retouch my roots with a flat iron every day... not so fun when you are 13 years old.
Most of us with curly hair get discouraged when we buy products that are trending on social media promising frizz free, well defined curls that you won’t need to style for days, but the finished product always ends up being an epic fail. Understanding that not all curly hair reacts the same and personalizing your hair care routine to YOUR hair’s need is key to see your curls flourish. The first and most important thing you need to know is your HAIR POROSITY.
What is hair porosity? It is the ability your hair has to absorb moisture and retain it. The porosity of your hair will be determined by the kind of cuticle you have. The cuticle’s job in a hair strand is to protect the weaker layers underneath it and it is the only way your hair is able to absorb and retain moisture.
Why is this important? Moisture is the key element for healthy, frizz free curls. Knowing your hair porosity will help you understand your hair’s behavior and most importantly it will help you choose the RIGHT products for your hair.
There are three types of hair porosity levels:
LOW POROSITY: the cuticles are tight which makes it difficult for water to penetrate the hair shaft, but once you get moisture in it is easily retained. With this hair type thicker products like creams and oils easily build up on the surface of the hair strand and with time the products will harden and dry leaving your hair feeling stiff. At this point the more product you add the more your hair will block moisture.
Low porosity hair characteristics:
- Hair takes a while to get completely saturated with water
- Water beads form on top of your hair
- Hair takes a long time to dry
- Oils and creams sit on top of your hair
- Hair does not color easily
Heavy oils are a NO go for low porosity hair, use lighter, moisturizing oils like almond and jojoba oil. Fun fact: the main components of jojoba oil are very similar to our sebum oil which is the natural oil our body produce to keep the skin and hair moisturized, so our hair loves this oil.
If you are using oils on your hair you need to know there are two different types of oils: moisturizing or penetrating oils and sealing oils. The order in which you apply these oils is extremely important because if not properly used they can result in more build up.
Moisturizing oils penetrate the hair allowing moisture in the hair and scalp. They should be used before washing your hair and left on for about 20-30 minutes (use a hair cap for a little heat and maximum penetration).
Sealing oils help lock in moisture and control frizz. These oils should be used as the last step in your styling routine.
Indirect heat when you deep condition is important since the cuticles are closed tight. The hair will benefit from a little warmth, just enough to open your hair cuticle so that the hair can absorb the product you are applying. Wash your hair with warm water to open up the hair shaft, moisturize in the shower so the steam keeps on stimulating the cuticle to open.
Clarifying your hair regularly to get rid of product build up. For low porosity hair it is suggested to use a clarifying shampoo or simply an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse once or twice a month to cleanse the hair shaft and make sure the products you apply are penetrating the hair and not sitting on top of it.
Limit protein treatments. Low porosity hair is protein sensitive. This means that your hair reacts harshly when you apply products containing protein, however, all hair needs protein. Understanding what type of protein is best for your hair is a must and reading the label of the products you buy will help you decide what products will best fit your hair's needs.
Most low porosity hair can handle small proteins better like wheat protein. Watch out for things like hydrolyzed silk, hydrolyzed keratin, hydrolyzed amino acids.
The reaction your hair has to these proteins will vary depending on your hair condition. It is all about trial and error.
NORMAL POROSITY: the cuticle is raised just enough to absorb and retain moisture. This hair type needs little maintenance and has a lot of elasticity and bounce. It takes color quickly and looks shiny. I will be focusing on Low and high porosity levels as they are the ones that need more attention.
HIGH POROSITY: the cuticle is wide open, your hair absorbs moisture fast but it will not retain it. Contrary to low porosity, high porosity hair has no problem absorbing water, moisture comes right in but it does not have the ability to retain it. The goal when you have this type of hair is to close the cuticle so it can retain moisture.
High porosity hair characteristics:
-Feels dry and has a dull color
-Hair dries quickly
-Tangles and brakes a lot
-Absorbs water and moisturizing products easily
Frequent protein treatments. With this hair type using protein treatments is a must. Our hair is made out of a protein called KERATIN. Protein balances the moisture in the hair and gives it shape and strength. Heat, hard water, chemical treatments, color treatments, and detangling are all things that disrupt the keratin in your hair. When your hair is High porosity there are gaps in the protein bond and you need to fill in those gaps in the hair shaft by applying protein based masks to moisturize the hair.
Deep condition on a regular basis and do not add any heat. Your hair cuticle is already open, adding heat will only help keeping it open and that’s the opposite of what we want to do. Deep conditioning will provide the nutrients your hair needs and add elasticity.
Limit the use of heat and chemicals. While porosity is generic other factors influence your hair’s porosity such as applying direct heat to your hair, chemical treatments and coloring your hair. Limit the use of heat and avoid any chemical treatments.
Sealing oils or heavy butter are perfect for high porosity hair. Finishing your styling routine with a sealing oil (Shea butter) or a heavy cream will help your hair retain all the moisture you put in it. The hair benefits more with products that are oil and cream based rather than gels or water based products.
Detangle gently. Keep in mind that the cuticle is open so your hair will tangle more. Try to finger detangle as much as you can, since your hair is prone to break easily when is at a high porosity level.
knowing your hair porosity is the first step to healthy, fabulous curls. This will open a door that will leave you wanting to know more. If you read this, you are in the right track and I assure you, once yours gets the love it needs, you will absolutely fall in love with it.