Tips for Low Porosity Naturals

I talked about porosity a few posts ago but as a refresher, porosity is the measure of absorption in the cuticle layer of your hair.  The cuticle layer of your hair is arranged like shingles on a roof.  A tight, compact shingle pattern make penetration difficult yielding low porosity.

So how do you know if you have lo-po hair?  Well when you apply products, particularly heavy creams or butters, does it feel like the product is just sitting on top of your hair rather than being absorbed?  Do you have to drench and dunk your hair in water to get it wet?  Does your hair tend to resist chemical treatments like coloring?  If you answered yes then you may have lo-po hair.  Another way is to do a porosity test by placing a clean, dry, product-free strand of hair in a bowl of water.  If the hair floats at the top of the water you have low porosity.

So what is a natural with lo-po hair to do?  Well below are tips from NaturallyCurly.com member Marah Mizrahi on caring for lo-po hair:

Here are a few [product] suggestions. The Kinky Curly Line is a good one. Curl Junkie is another one that has decent products for low porosity hair. Tigi Moisture Maniac Conditioner. Oyin Honey Hemp Conditioner. Giovanni 50/50 Balanced Hair Remoisturizer.

Any line that has humectants and emollients that soften the hair. Try not to go oil or protein over board. Low porosity hair doesn’t need a lot of either one. Some low porosity folks find they are extremely oil sensitive and avoid mostly all oils, especially coconut oil.

I can’t recommend Carol’s Daughter because I don’t like the line at all. I also don’t recommend Miss Jessies or Mixed Chicks.

A lot of people with low porosity have to find ways to get things inside their hair shaft. Because the cuticle is tight what you try to do is raise the cuticle so the products can penetrate.

Ways to do this is use Very warm (not hot) water before your conditioner is apply. Another way is steam (some people invest in steamers or create their own). You can apply your conditioner to wet hair and put a plastic cap and sitting under a hooded dryer with conditioner on the hair which is basically a heated deep treatment. The most important thing is to get moisture in and the way to do that is raise the cuticle. Alkaline type solutions do this as well.

A controversial way to do it is to use baking soda treatments on the hair. Where you basically add a little bit into your conditioner and rinse it out. You have to make sure to rinse with cold water or use very diluted apple cider vinegar to close the cuticle back though. I say this is controversial because some people swear by it, others think it’s a bad idea to use baking soda in the hair.

Try to find water based products that contain humectants. A humectant would be like glycerin, pathenol, honey, aloe, fructose, glucose, hydrolyzed silk, urea, propylene glycol, etc. Ingredients that draw moisture to the hair.

You’ll have to test the glycerin because some folks feel they are glycerin sensitive. If you have very low porosity hair though as you describe..this might help you out provided you don’t’ live in an extremely dry climate and it’s probably one of the easiest humectants to spot on the ingredient list of products.

Avoid protein laden products. Look for richer conditioners with great emollients but not a bunch of unnecessary oils. You’ll probably want to avoid a lot of oily products, silicones, mineral oils, petroleum anything that can super coat the hair shaft since you already have a compact hair cuticle you don’t really need to use a lot of oily ingredients to majorly coat the hair. Because you want a decent amount of moisture drawn to your curls so if you use any oils just be picky and use the least amount you can.

Some low porosity folks actually prefer to use shampoo as opposed to conditioner washing only because of the fact that it (shampoo) ingredients helps to opens the cuticle. They look for a good moisturizing shampoo that doesn’t terribly strip the hair. Some are fine with sulfates,others are not. If you still want to avoid sulfates but use shampoo try to find a decent moisturizing one. Aubrey Organics Honey Suckle Rose is a good one, so is Giovanni 50/50 Shampoo.

Thank you Marah so much for tips for the lo-po naturals.  The Cherry Lola treatment is also popular for lo-po naturals, this treatment can be found in my previous notes.  If you do Cherry Lola or another baking soda treatment be sure to follow with something  moisturizing! http://derbycitynaturals.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/cherrylola-no-frizz-protein-treatment/

Hair Cuticle Images.
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24 thoughts on “Tips for Low Porosity Naturals

  1. I found out last night that I sadly have very low porosity and have no idea what products to use and I can not spend a lot of money. What certain products exactly do u recommend?

    • Hey Audrey no need to be “sad” your hair is your hair. While lo-po has some advantage in that while it is hard to process, it is also hard to damage. We all have to fight our own curly battle.

      As for products it is very hard for me over the internet to know exactly what your hair will like the above listed products are suggestions that other lo-po girls tend to like. If money is a limiting factor for you I would suggest you start with the drug store products that can be found on the ground which will be less expensive. These would be Aubrey Organic, Giovanni and Tigi products.

      In general to moisturize your hair you want to get your cuticle open by using hot water or alkaline products that will open up your cuticle. Avoid protein like silk amino acids, hydrolyzed wheat protein, etc and sealers like heavy butters, mineral oils etc.

      I would also recommend that you check out Quest for the Perfect Curl blog. Elle is a low-porosity curly who is a self admitted product junkie. While everyone’s hair is different you can check out some of her favs as she uses a mix of boutique and drug store products.

  2. Pingback: How do you moisturize fine, low porosity natural hair? - CurlyNikki Forums

  3. Thank you for this explanation of lo-po hair! I’ve been wondering why a lot of things I’ve read about don’t seem to work for me. I tried co-washing and never really felt like it got my hair clean. Washing my hair has been challenging because I feel like it doesn’t get thoroughly wet. When I was relaxed my hair would get so wet and flat and small during a shampoo, then expand as it was dried. Now it always feels like the water just moves around my hair and through my hair, but never gets inside the strands unless I use some shampoo with sulfates. I’ll try the Cherry Lola treatment, then the henna a week or so later. (I don’t want to dye my hair with a box color but I cannot live with the grey flecks! I have the whitest, brightest grey hairs imaginable, and something must be done about that ish!)

    I suspect my lo-po is because I haven’t had a relaxer since 2000 or so, just before I started dreading. Now that I’ve chopped it off and gone loose and natural, I’m having to learn how to take care of my hair. I’d never seen my hair texture, really, since I cut my relaxer off, had a TWA, then immediately started coiling for locks. Without the generous sharing of information from blogs like yours, I don’t know what I would do. So thank you, for all the time you put into this.

  4. I have lo-po hair too. It’s not a bad thing because you don’t lose moisture as much as high porosity hair. The problem is getting the moisture in. I think I’ve reach a balance, just through trial and error. I’d be careful with the glycerin though. I only use a little and lots of conditioners tend to contain it too, so you have to be careful not to overdo it.

  5. This is a fantastic post. Thank you very much Derby, I love your spirit.
    This entire natural hair community is beautiful. I have been natural for two years and I initially attributed dryness to the disaster of my very last texturizer.

    After 2 years, I discovered POROSITY as a key characteristic for my 4a fine hair.

    MY REGIMEN AFTER 2 YEARS OF TRIAL & ERROR

    1. MOISTURE
    These are the products that have helped me not give up on this journey: CURLS Milkshake. This is used in combination with spraying on my strands 1 or 2x daily: a home made of 50% of Rose water and 50% of Aloe vera juice.

    2. CONDITIONERS
    After a long list of products bought and most of them ineffective due to the impossibility for them to penetrate my strands, I found: Curl Harmony Intensive Repair conditioner (this is a UK brand) is the best ever conditioner and the only think that penetrates my kinky hair without the use of a steamer or anything. Alternatively, Curl Junkie Smooth LOTION (as a rinse out conditioner). I tried co-washing, but because products tend to sit on my hair, I had to find a gentle shampoo. Tons of money spent and finally settled on JessicurL’s gentle cleansing CREAM (not the shampoo). I occasionally use Curl Junkie Repair me to restore some protein. This is the only protein treatment that my hair responds to

    3. OILS
    I USE oils to PRE-POO and as part of my L.O.C. (liquid Oil, Cream) method challenge. I have to be ultra careful with oils with my OIL SELECTION: My favorite is grapeseed because it is the lightest and penetrates. I also like Argan oil, Aloe oil. Castor oil works only if it is refined. I don’t use the pure popular Jamaican castor oil. Coconut is an odd one. I can only use it as a pre-poo.

    4. BUTTERS
    I discovered after buying a huge pot of raw unrefined shea butter, that this is too heavy and does not work for me. Many brands have products that sit on my hair, including Afroveda. My favorite butter is mango based: Anita grant whipped Mango Coconut unscented butter. This butter is the most natural I found on the market and least greasy. Glycerine is ok only if it’s not listed as 1st to 4th. I prefer honey, aloe, and panthenol as humectant.

      • I love steam on my low porosity hair! I had tried the a simple hearing cap, hot towels, warming cap. They worked ok. I decided to get a steamer as a last heat attempt. Some people claimed it was great. Others said that it did nothing special. On my low porosity hair, it was heaven sent!!! Just amazing conditioning. Next I want to try the Cherry Lola treatment.

        • How do we low porosity hair girls prevent greying? Does indigo natural treatment work? Anyone one has a product to recommend that penetrates and works on our hair? Derby? Of course not everything works for everyone but it would be nice to know what some of you use. Thanks! Love this site!!!!

          • Good question. I will have to do more research. I would suggest you check the forums at NaturallyCurly they have sections just for lo-po curls. Indigo is just a stain it coats the surface of the hair and is only a temporary solution. I will see what I can find out.

  6. Can you help me understand glycerin sensitivity? My hair suffered massive breakage in braids and buns and then when I stopped that I did see a decrease. However, when I stopped using glycerin the problem seemed to stop entirely.

      • What has been said is that Glycerin is generally good in high humidity weather. For my very low porosity hair, I have given up on glycerin because 1) in high humidity weather, my style does not hold as glycerin attracts too much water and 2) in dry weather, glycerin makes my hair crunchy. So I use Darcy’s glycerin free pumpkin seed conditioner now. This has been a life saver although most Darcy products have done nothing for my hair hair (except for the cleansing cream). Best conditioner is the UK Brand Curl harmony (it’s heaven in a bottle). Best shampoo is Jessicurl cleansing cream.

  7. Let’s talk about HENNA!

    How did I miss this?

    Curly Nikki is a “henna head”!

    She used HENNA for one year every week and now once a month to get her head stronger (I really need strength), shinier and a bit looser (don’t care for that except to reduce tangles).

    Now 2 years into my journey, my hear started breaking badly after a summer by the sea (the sea salt killed it). It’s shedding and breaking everywhere. Desperate I checked out Curly Nikki articles. I don’t know how I missed her 2008 article disclosing she was obsessed with Henna.

    Now as a LOW POROSITY girl, I was immediately skeptical.
    So I want to ask you whether you’ve used henna and what has been your experience.

    Please help.

    I am thinking of cutting it all off!

  8. Miracle sealant: CURLS Control Paste “Passion Fruit”( sculpting shine pomade)! I have been desperately trying to seal my 4c Fine, dense, low porosity hair. These are the products that I have tried for the past few years. My bank account is testimony: Kinky Curly gel, Jane Carter’s “Nourish and Shine”, MyHoneyChild’s “Type 4″ butter, Oyin “Burnt Sugar” pomade (no hold, terrible smell), Moxie shine whatever, and many many more. I was beginning to think that nothing would work. Runner up became Karen’s body beautiful ‘s Butter love. But finally tried a truly wonderful product “Curls Control Paste”. My low porosity hair needs to seal properly once it finally has accepted moisture. This product really holds my fine hair and seals! The fine strands are held together so no more single stranded knots that have been holding me back in my quest for length retention.

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