What Is Hair Porosity & What Type Do You Have?

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The hair care industry is huge and we are constantly finding out new things about our hair that we may have not been aware of in the past. You may have heard hair being referred to as ‘high porosity’ or ‘low porosity’ before. A hairdresser may have mentioned it to you in passing. But what does this mean in hair care? If you love to take good care of your hair so that it can look its best, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we break down all the characteristics of high porosity, low porosity, and medium porosity hair. Plus, we’ll take a deep dive into how you can identify your hair porosity. There’s also a sneak-peak lowdown on the ultimate products and oils to use for your specific hair type, depending on its porosity. Believe it or not, one person’s holy grail hair product might be a disaster on someone else’s hair. In order to achieve healthy, shiny looking tresses, it is necessary to learn the best hair care secrets for your unique hair type. 

What Is High Porosity Hair?

Back of woman with short blonde hair.

Woman with healthy, dandruff-free hair.

High porosity hair occurs when the hair cuticles are open. As a result, they absorb moisture and product easily. Sounds good, right? Well, the bad news is it lets go of that moisture as soon as it gets hold of it. High porosity hair does not retain moisture or oils well because moisture can escape the open hair cuticles. For this reason, high porosity hair is more susceptible to getting dry and frizzy. There are several factors that can cause high porosity hair. It could either result from damage to the hair cuticle, such as heat styling, chemical treatments, bleaching, or coloring. These processes open up the hair cuticles. The other cause could be as simple as genetics. Some people are born with higher porosity hair and their natural hair is more susceptible to becoming dry and frizzy.

High porosity hair is also more common in people with curly or wavy hair types. The bends and curves in the hair strands can create cracks and ridges which allow moisture to enter and escape the hair cuticle. Having said that, it is also possible to have high porosity straight hair and low porosity curly hair. 

High Porosity Hair Characteristics  

Anyone with damaged hair from bleaching, coloring, regular heat styling, or chemical hair treatments is probably familiar with dryness, tangling, and frizz. The two go hand in hand. The open cuticles in high porosity hair (or in damaged hair) do not retain moisture, oils, or other product well. As a result, high porosity hair tends to get dry and frizzy quickly, tangles easily, and is more prone to breakages and split ends.

If you have high porosity hair, you will also notice that your hair gets soaking wet immediately when you wash it, and it subsequently dries quickly. It’s best to apply product onto high porosity hair when it is very wet and rinse off with cold water so as not to raise the cuticle more open than it already is. High porosity hair is best left to air dry after showering as exposing it to the heat of a blow dryer could dry it further and make it frizzy. There is usually no need to use a blow dryer as the hair dries quickly naturally. 

What Is Low Porosity Hair? Signs Of Low Porosity Hair

Back view of woman in field holding her hair up.

Woman with flat hair.

Low porosity hair is hair that’s tightly packed on the outside and therefore won’t let anything in. This means that it tends to fall flat on your head and look pretty bleh. It doesn’t hold much hair styling and can struggle to retain moisture. The main signs of low porosity hair are when your hair doesn’t work with any conditioners, it easily builds up dirt and product, your hair is either too oily or too dry and it takes a long time to air dry. 

Generally speaking, low porosity hair can happen to anyone but there are 2 main factors to consider. The first is genetics and the second is a lack of proper deep cleansing of your hair. If your hair is low po you should avoid heavy oil or butter products and co washing method. You might also want to avoid leave in conditioners as they only coat the strand but are not able to penetrate it due to your hair condition. These products only work when your hair can digest them but with low porosity hair this just isn’t the case. 

What Is My Hair Porosity? 

To better understand the concept of hair porosity, let’s first explain the makeup of our hair. Our hair is made up of three layers: 

  • The cuticle – this is the protective outer layer of your hair shaft.
  • The cortex – this is the thickest layer of your hair and it contains proteins and the pigment which gives your hair its color.
  • Medulla – this is the soft, innermost layer of your hair, consisting of transparent cells and air spaces. 

Hair porosity is determined by whether the cuticles of your hair are open or sealed shut. It also depends on how much your hair absorbs and retains oils and moisture as a result of the cuticle. For example, hair with cuticles that are tightly sealed does not absorb moisture or oils easily. As we discussed, this is considered low porosity hair. On the flip side, hair with cuticles that are open and absorb moisture and oils quickly but have trouble retaining it is referred to as high porosity hair. Medium porosity hair falls somewhere in the middle and is a balance of hair that can absorb some moisture and retain it. It is the ideal, healthy, and easiest to manage hair type.

How To Determine Hair Porosity Explained

You could get a pretty good idea of your hair porosity just by looking at your hair or feeling your hair strands. Usually, dry and frizzy or damaged hair is high porosity, and hair that tends to have product build up and takes time to get fully wet and a while to dry is low porosity. Healthy looking hair is a good indicator of medium porosity hair. Having said that, if you are unsure of which category your hair falls into, you can try one of these three simple ways to determine your hair porosity:

  1. Drop a strand of your hair into a cup of water. If the strand of hair floats to the top, it is a sign that your hair is low porosity. If the hair sits somewhere in the middle of the cup it is medium porosity. Finally, if it sinks to the bottom of the cup it is low porosity. Keep in mind that this test does not necessarily produce accurate results. Some people say that hair will always float to the top of the cup no matter what porosity it is as all hair has natural oils in it. If you do try this test, make sure that your hair is completely clean as the test does not work on hair that has product in it. 
  2. Spray your hair with some water. If your hair does not absorb the water easily and you notice drops settling on your hair, your hair is low porosity. If your hair sucks in the moisture and becomes wet immediately, it is high porosity. Somewhere in between would indicate medium porosity hair.
  3. Run your finger up your hair strands. If it feels smooth to the touch, it is low porosity. If you feel static against your finger when you run it up the hair strand, your hair is most likely high porosity.

Low Porosity Hair Care: Best Oils For Low Porosity Hair  

Woman spraying curly hair.

Woman spraying her hair with oil.

If you have low porosity hair, you’re best off applying light oils that are less likely to build up on or weigh down your hair. Heavy products and oils tend to build up on low porosity hair. This is because the cuticle is closed and does not absorb moisture and oils easily. For this reason, consider trying lightweight moisturizing oils such as argan oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, or avocado oil (which is a little thicker but is super moisturizing), on low porosity hair. Applying the oil to damp, warm hair will also allow for better absorption as heat raises the hair cuticle. Avoid heavy oils, such as coconut oil. These can weigh down your hair, make it appear oily, and leave a residue. 

It’s also a good idea to use lighter weight shampoos and conditioners when it comes to washing your hair. In addition, shampoos and conditioners containing glycerin rather than oils work better on low porosity hair. Use a conditioner with a thinner consistency or dilute it with some water for better absorption. This also allowed for less likelihood of residue build up. Although hair care experts generally recommend rinsing your hair with cold water to avoid frizz, if you have low porosity hair it might be better to wash your hair with warm water. This is because heat raises the hair cuticle allowing moisture and product to penetrate and last.  

Best Products For High Porosity Hair  

High porosity hair doesn’t retain moisture well because of its open cuticles, and therefore needs deeply hydrating products that will stay in the hair for longer. Opt for heavy moisturizers and natural, rich oils and butters, such as castor oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter, to infuse high porosity hair with lasting moisture.

You can either apply the natural oil directly to dry or damp hair as a leave-in moisturizer. Alternatively, you can add a thick natural oil to your conditioner to give your hair a boost of hydration. When purchasing hair products, look out for hair creams, serums, masks, shampoos, and conditioners that contain hydrating natural oils and butters. Here’s our favorite three!

Eden BodyWorks Natural Pudding Souffle 

 EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Pudding Souffle.


EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Pudding Souffle.

The Natural Pudding Souffle is a rich and creamy moisturizer that is formulated to last throughout the day. Infused with coconut oil, shea butter, aloe, and avocado oil, the formula is deeply hydrating. It works to seal in moisture. This coconut moisturizer is ideal for curly hair types to define and soften curls. It also works to assist in styling hair but is effective on other high porosity hair types as well. To use the product, apply a generous amount to wet, damp, or dry hair and leave it in for smoother, shiny looking hair. 

ORS Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner 

ORS Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner.

Replenishing Conditioner by ORS.

ORS description for their Replenishing Conditioner reads that the conditioner ‘helps replenish vital moisture, helps strengthen and repair damaged hair, and leaves hair soft, tangle-free and more manageable’. In addition, it is formulated without sulfates, mineral oil, and parabens, making it healthier for your scalp and hair. This conditioner is enriched with olive oil to give high porosity or damaged hair moisture, strength, and shine. To use the product, apply it liberally to your hair following shampooing and leave it in for 45 minutes before rinsing off thoroughly.

Cantu Coconut Curling Cream

Cantu Coconut Curling Cream.

Cantu Coconut Curling Cream.

The Cantu Shea Butter Coconut Curling Cream is a rich leave-in cream designed to define and moisturize curls. It’s super hydrating making it great for high porosity curly hair types. The formula ‘moisturizes and strengthens strands with pure Shea butter to define curls without weighing them down’, according to its product description. To use the product, apply the cream onto damp hair section by section, beginning at the root and working toward the ends. Do not rinse. 

Conclusion  

There is no denying that hair is an important part of our appearance. Having healthy-looking hair can make all the difference to our appearance and to our mood.  Don’t we all feel better and more confident on a good hair day? Fortunately, it is possible to make every day (or most days) a good hair day! All you have to do is identify the best way to care for your specific hair type. Identifying your hair type and personalizing your hair care routine to your hair type is a great first step to ensuring that your hair is the healthiest it can be. 

Knowing the best products and oils to use on your hair – whether it is high porosity, low porosity, or medium porosity – can help you achieve those shiny, smooth, tresses that you’ve always wanted. If you’ve struggled with damaged, frizzy, or oily hair until now, it’s not too late to make a change! Replenishing and taming hard-to-manage hair might just be a matter of incorporating different products or oils into your hair care routine that are better fitted for your individual hair needs. 

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