The topic of hair porosity can sound confusing and hard to grasp. For the longest, I wanted to pull my hair out of my scalp because I would be told by many YouTubers and bloggers how important it was to know my hair porosity. I could not figure it out although, I will preface that taking time to research and perform trial and error is really all that it takes to find your natural hair’s porosity.

Knowing and understanding your hair porosity level will help in determining which hair products work for your hair and what kind of hair care routines you need to focus on. Your hair porosity is how fast or slow your natural hair receives and retains moisture. You might have heard of the float test, strand test, and the what-ever-else test which is supposed to be the secret sauce for helping you figure out your hair porosity level. But before you continue reading this post, know that it is impossible to constrict the right porosity level of your hair by any of these tests. It might work for some, but these tests tend to provide faulty answers simply because everyone’s hair is different. No two 4C hair textures behave the same.

Why the Float Test and Strand Test is Flawed

The hair porosity float test is one that is said to be done by simply dividing your hair, in its natural state, into 4-6 equal sections and taking a strand of hair from those sections. Next, the strand from each section must be placed into lukewarm water in separate containers (one container per section of hair of course). Wait about fifteen minutes to observe if your hair sinks (high porosity), floats at the top (low porosity), or floats in the middle of the water (medium or normal porosity). The float test only works if the natural hair has products in it. Outside of this, you will not get an accurate result on what your hair porosity is. If the natural hair is also manipulated in any way with products, shampoo and conditioned, or even towel-dried, it will affect the accuracy of the float test. Aside from that, the float test overall is not entirely representative of the porosity of the entire head full of hair. The best way to get a good result is on freshly shampooed hair, without any conditioners and oils present.

The strand test (or the Slip’n’Slide Test) is simply when you run your fingers up and down a piece of a hair strand. It can be done by diving your hair into sections and getting the feel of each strand. The test teaches that you have high porosity hair when you feel small bumps along the strands of your hair. It also holds the notion that you have low porosity when your strands feel smooth on your fingers as you move up and down the strands. This is simply flawed because it is a test that, in my opinion, did not carefully consider the afro-textured hair when the conclusions were made. Granted afro textured hair runs anywhere between 4a, 4b, and 4c, 4c hair is specifically coarse in texture and is always going to feel somewhat bumpy when you glide your fingers through the strands. So then is all 4c hair High in porosity? I would not make that grand conclusion. Although I am not a 4a or 4b chick, I would imagine that the same principle applies.

What is Hair Porosity: Low, Medium, and High Porosity hair?

Here is a youtube video I created to better explain hair porosity, as well as, differentiate between low, medium, and high porosity hair. Remember, it is possible for parts of your natural hair to have a different porosity level than other parts of your hair.

Accurate Hair Porosity Test

The accurate hair porosity test is to simply step in the shower or sink to properly cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo, preferably first. This will allow you to remove any product build-up and leave your strands squeaky clean and void of dirt. Do not apply any conditioner or additional product yet. After this cleansing process, simply do the old fashion wait period. This might sound shocking, but think about it, how can you get the accurate porosity level if you have past products just sitting on your hair? The wait allows you to see how fast or slow your hair dries. If your hair dries fast, you are high porosity. If your hair takes hours to dry or sometimes over 24 hrs, then you are in the low porosity range. For normal porosity, I would say the regular dry time should not exceed 3 to 3.5 hours.

Demonstration of how I wet my 4C hair in the shower. Hint: Small beads of water sitting on your hair are typical signs of low porosity.

An Alternative but Still Accurate Hair Porosity Test

There is another way to test if you keep up with clarifying your hair. This would still be the same process of stepping in the shower or leaning over a sink. Run room-temperature water over your entire head of hair. If you notice that your hair takes a while to absorb the water, meaning it takes a while to get all the strands wet, then you are low in porosity. On the flip side, if it absorbs the water rather quickly, you may have high or medium porosity hair. The only way to figure out the answer regarding whether or not it is high or medium would be during the natural drying process. Now, I know some of you loathe shrinkage. Trust me. I’ve been there and done that. I have a perfect solution, once your hair is wet, you can part it into sections and let it dry that way. I personally like to not have my results manipulated in any way, but some of us have severe shrinkage, so you can get away with twisting your hair into sections, just don’t twist it too tight to avoid getting the wrong result.

I hope this helps you on your natural hair journey. Stay Blessed.