Hair porosity does not get the same attention as hair length or curl pattern but it is essential to truly understand your texture. Porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, oils, or chemicals like color. Low, medium, and high are different degrees of porosity. Due to damaging habits such as mechanical manipulation and color treatment, many naturals suffer with high porosity hair.

Why porosity matters

Low Porosity – the hair cuticles are tight and very resistant to opening for water and other forms of moisture. Women with low porosity often complain of products merely "sitting on their hair."

Medium (Normal) Porosity – the hair cuticles are raised enough to readily absorb moisture, oils, and chemicals. Normal porosity hair tends to hold moisture, shine, and absorb color and chemicals better than low or high porosity strands.

High Porosity – the hair cuticle that is highly raised or even chipped and therefore quickly absorbs moisture. The down side is that because it’s raised and remains raised, you can lose the moisture just as quickly as it was absorbed. Oftentimes this hair type is damaged from harsh chemicals, high heat, or harsh shampoos that strip the hair. Because the cuticles are aggressively raised, the strands catch onto each other and become easily tangled.

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 Treating high porosity hair

Protein treatments
Incorporating protein treatments in your regimen is important for high porosity hair to gain strength and not break as frequently. Oftentimes, hair that is highly porous is a result of damage so if you haven’t incorporated protein, it's time to start. Highly porous hair has holes in the hair shaft and protein temporarily fills those holes and strengthens the hair. It’s like patching a tire. Protein treatments are usually advised to be monthly. For an extra boost, you can also use light protein treatments every few weeks in between the monthly heavy protein treatment. Remember that protein is not a moisturizer and should not be treated as such.

Deep conditioning
This should be done following every wash. Remember to slather on generous amounts and heat it up! If you do not have a hooded dryer, do not fret. Covering your hair with plastic cap or a warm towel for 15 min. will suffice. I often leave my deep conditioner on overnight and rinse in the morning. Find a thick deep conditioner like SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. I love this because it really brings my hair back to life.

Use Heavy Butters/Oils
Heavy products will help seal in the moisture that your hair soaks up without releasing it back to the air. Shea butter and olive oil are both heavy and great for sealing. Since olive oil is one of the few oils that penetrate the hair shaft, this would be a great option for sealing.

Heavier products with natural oils
Heavy products will reinforce your sealing from the butter or oil and help compensate for the protective layer that's missing. Make sure to check the back of your products to look for heavy oils like olive, castor, or avocado oil in the first five ingredients.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and Aloe Vera
Both of these will adjust your hair’s pH balance. Rinsing with the slightly acidic ACV will help flatten the cuticle and seal in the moisture. Some naturals add aloe vera gel or aloe vera juice to their leave-in conditioners or spray bottle solutions.

By now you've likely encountered the hair tutorial gone wrong that resulted in unassuming YouTuber Tori Locklear losing a full section of hair. The country gasped with her when she realized what high heat had done to her hair, and many of us thought twice before touching a flat iron or curling wand to our strands again.

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Temperatures encountered during blow-drying, flat-iron straightening, and hot curling processes can be high enough to cause severe trauma to the hair. Results of this can include cracks in the cuticle layer, bubbles or voids in the cortex, frayed and split ends, chipped and ragged cuticles, faded color, diminished curl and increased frizz, as well as, in Tori's case, broken strands. If avoiding high heat styling methods is not an option, it is important to take precautions to prevent or minimize damage. There are a number of products on the market advertised as heat protectant sprays, lotions, and serums which claim to prevent or repair the detrimental effects of high temperatures on hair. Are these products effective, and if so, how do they work, and which ingredients are responsible for their performance?

Heat & Hair

Flat-irons, curling, irons, and blow driers all impose extreme thermal stresses upon hair strands. With temperatures exceeding the boiling point of water (100°C) and reaching as high as 200°C or more, damage can occur by several different mechanisms.

One heat-induced phenomenon responsible for damage to hair is loss of moisture. Water molecules inside the cortex, both free and bound to keratin proteins, provide critical support to the structure and properties of hair. Evaporation of these molecules due to application of heat can alter the internal protein structure and change the intermolecular interactions that govern the mechanical properties of individual hair strands. This can change curl patterns, cause frizz, and result in hair that is less bouncy and more prone to breakage. The tactile feels of the hair is less pleasant too, having a straw-like texture. This sort of damage is pretty common with routine blow-drying.

Rapid Water Loss
The extremely high temperatures encountered in flat-iron straightening or even straightening using a hair dryer and round brush create intense conditions that can cause water to rapidly boil or “flash” off from sites where it resides within the interior of the hair shaft. This rapid boiling can create voids in the hair structure that can be seen via microscopy and look like strings of bubbles within the strand. These can cause ruptures that burst through the cuticle, leaving gaping spots in the hair, which inevitably lead to split ends and breakage. Cracks can form in the cuticle as well, making the hair vulnerable to further moisture loss and breakage. This type of damage is both severe and completely irreparable.

Protein Damage
Hair strands are complex biomaterials that derive the bulk of their properties from the keratin protein structures in the cuticle and cortex. Thermal degradation from styling tools can occur via softening of the keratin, disruption of the three-dimensional structures due to water loss, and conformational changes in the protein. All of these changes can adversely affect the strength, elasticity, curl, shine, and texture of the hair.

Oxidation of pigment particles
High temperatures can also cause oxidation of pigments found in hair, both naturally occurring ones and artificial hair color. This fading is particularly pronounced in reds, auburns and lighter brunette shades.

Products that Protect

Heat protectants are products marketed with the claim that they prevent damage to hair from high temperature styling. Multiple studies have shown that these can be very effective in reducing, but not eliminating thermal trauma to hair. How do they work? The key ingredients in heat protectant products work in a few different ways.

Reduction of moisture loss
Since it is clearly very harmful for hair to lose its precious water molecules, one of the key tasks of a heat protectant is to both maximize and seal in moisture. Humectants such as panthenol, propylene glycol, and phytantriol are used to bind as much water as possible to the hair. Polymers, silicones, and some botanical oils are used to seal the water inside the cortex. They achieve this by coating and encapsulating the strand of hair in a film through which water cannot diffuse. Testing of both control samples and silicone-treated hair strands via thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) showed that silicone treatment significantly improved moisture retention.

Insulation from high temperatures
Silicones (especially amine-functional ones, such as amodimethicone,) some polyquats, and copolymers of acrylates are particularly effective at minimizing the damaging effects of heat styling due to their low thermal conductivity. When evenly distributed across the hair surface into a protective film, these materials act as insulators by reducing the transfer of heat from the styling tool to the hair strand. Data from thermal analysis (DSC- differential scanning calorimetry) confirmed that heat flow was reduced to hair samples treated with these types of materials.

Raw materials suppliers such as Dow Corning, Croda, and GE have also used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mechanical testing to evaluate the levels of protection from damage provided by various silicones and heat protectant polymers, and they found that crack formation, cuticle damage, void formation, and loss of strength and elasticity were all reduced when hair was treated with a heat protectant polymer.

What Can We Learn from Tori's Mistake
If you enjoy the results of occasionally flat-iron straightening or blow drying your hair, heat protectant products can make a real difference in how your hair handles those extreme conditions. However, it is important to note that while thermal protection products containing the right mix of humectants and insulating materials can help reduce damage, they cannot completely prevent it. This means that if heat styling is frequently used, cumulative damage will occur. The only way to fix that type of damage is to cut off all the affected length. So, if you prefer to wear your hair long, use heat rarely. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the polymers and silicones used by these products to encapsulate the hair strand may be difficult to remove and have been known to cause hair to feel sticky or tacky with repeat use.

Besides a quick flick through her recent book ‘It’ (guerilla handbook on how to snag an Arctic Monkey), I don’t know that much about Alexa Chung. I am aware, however, that Alexa knows a thing or two about winged liner. So I was keen to try out her collaboration with Eyeko; a brand which used to be considerably more affordable before rebranding themselves into that quasi-high-end position in the market.

I had slight reservations (beyond the usual ‘celebrity name sticker slapped on the front of an existing product’) as the video accompanying the marketing material shows Alexa with perfectly applied liner, presumably by Lisa Eldridge, already in-situ when she hovers the pen around the wing area, chatting away without really doing anything. However, rampant skepticism aside, I really love the Alexa Chung for Eyeko Eye Do Liner*.

Alexa Chung for Eyeko Eyeliner and Mascara

On the surface, it looks incredibly similar to one of my favourites, Soap & Glory’s Supercat (£6); the cap clicks on tightly, it’s easy to hold and the nib is just thick enough with a slight bend to it, helping to cover up slightly wobbly lines whilst still achieving a sharp wing. The one thing I dislike about Supercat is that it can be difficult to draw over an existing line, as the nib pulls away any already dried liner and the whole thing gets a bit messy. Eye Do will glide smoothly on top of dry product, making it easy to correct lines or touch up later in the day.

It’s deep black in one swipe and fairly glossy. I prefer matte formulas as the gloss can sometimes make the line look a little patchy, but it’s not glossy enough to put me off. The formula is the sort more likely to flake (versus Supercat’s slightly smudge-prone kind) but I didn’t find that to be a problem; in fact, this stuff does not budge. At the end of the day it withstood a quick wipe with a dampened hand without smudging, before removing easily with my usual cleanser. I even used it on my upper waterline with minimal transfer.

The only thing I can’t comment on is how quickly it will dry out, but judging by the packaging similarity to Soap & Glory, I don’t think it should be a problem. At £15, the Eye do Liner is more affordable than Chanel’s Écriture de Chanel Automatic Liquid Eyeliner (£26, reportedly one of Alexa’s favourites) but just a little more than one of my other favourite liners, Pixi’s Lash Line Ink (£12).

The Eye do Lengthen & Strengthen mascara* was nice enough, but nothing too special for £20. That said, I do love the packaging. Why aren’t more mascaras housed in squeezy tubes? It makes so much sense!

*PR sample

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(Acne silk tshirt, Alexander Wang men’s sweats, Phillip Lim Vincent mules, Michael Verheyden tote bag, and Miansai bracelet)

The combination of a tshirt, sweats, and some slip-on shoes doesn’t have to look the way it sounds. Semi-casual Friday.

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