A Complete Care Guide for Low Porosity Hair

October 29, 2018


Verna Meachum

Picture showing a low porosity hair strand magnified

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Leonela Carabajal Paladino

Leo possesses more than 17 years of valuable experience as a researcher and lecturer within the fields of Biology and Genetics. Holding a PhD in Biology from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina...

Low porosity hair isn’t just a term; it’s a specific hair characteristic defined by a healthy, resilient shaft with well-aligned cuticles. Often found in untreated, virgin hair, this type is marked by fewer pores and reduced pore volume, making it inherently less susceptible to damage.

You might assume that managing low-porosity hair is a Herculean task, but with the right approach, it’s entirely manageable. The first step? Understanding the very nature of low-porosity hair. Knowledge here is more than power; it’s the pathway to optimal hair care.

To elevate your understanding, I’ve partnered with a leading expert in the field: a Ph.D.- holding hair scientist specializing in cosmetic chemistry. Together, we’ve delved deep into the science of hair care to offer you not just tips but well-researched guidance for making informed decisions about your hair.

What is Low Porosity Hair?

Image of hair cuticle showing low porosity, medium porosity, and high porosity.

Hair porosity serves as a revealing metric for assessing the quality and condition of your hair fibers. This measure offers insights into your hair’s structural integrity and its capacity to absorb and retain moisture. 1

Hair porosity exists on a spectrum that encompasses three primary categories: low-porosity, medium-porosity, and high-porosity.

High-Porosity Hair: Often associated with damage,2 high-porosity hair (also known as porous hair) boasts a dense pore structure. It features an abundance of pores, empty spaces along the hair shaft, and raised or lifted hair cuticle layer, making it particularly vulnerable.3

Low-Porosity Hair: Generally indicative of healthier, often untreated hair, low-porosity hair possesses medium-sized cuticle openings and a modest number of pores. However, it’s worth mentioning that even low-porosity hair isn’t immune to wear and tear. Specifically, the tips may show signs of aging more than the roots, influenced by environmental factors and grooming habits.3

Medium-Porosity Hair: Occupying the middle ground, medium-porosity hair has moderate cuticle openings and a balanced pore structure. This allows it to readily absorb small molecules, such as active ingredients and water, without much difficulty.

Understanding your hair’s porosity level is crucial for adopting an effective care routine, as each type comes with its unique set of challenges and benefits.

But how can you determine if you have low-porosity hair? Let’s delve into some telltale signs that can help you pinpoint your hair’s specific needs, enabling you to tailor a more targeted and effective care routine.

Signs You May Have Low Porosity Hair

Image with signs you have low porosity hair.

Here are some common indicators that you may be dealing with this particular hair type:

  1. Surface-Level Product Build-up: Products often appear to merely sit atop the hair strands rather than penetrating them, leading to noticeable buildup.
  2. Water Bead Formation: If you observe water beads persistently resting on your hair surface rather than soaking in, this is a telltale sign of low porosity.
  3. Chemical Treatment Resistance: If your hair doesn’t react as expected to chemical treatments like coloring or perming, its low porosity might be the reason.
  4. Slow Product Absorption: Hair products take their time to get absorbed, adding extra minutes or even hours to your hair care routine.
  5. Difficulty Retaining Moisture: Despite your best efforts, your hair struggles to stay moisturized and may be prone to dryness and breakage as a result.

How to Test Your Hair Porosity

Image of float test.

While there are a handful of DIY tests you can perform, they are not always accurate or reliable. However, they can certainly serve as a starting point or helpful guide. Let’s explore your options for gauging your hair’s porosity—both at-home hacks and professional evaluations.

Preliminary At-Home Tests

  1. Float Test 4
  2. Spray Bottle Test 4
  3. Slide Test
  4. Occasionally, the Stretch Test

Deep-Dive: The Float Test

For those curious about the float test, it’s relatively straightforward but demands some preparation for more accurate results:

  1. Preparation: It’s crucial that your hair is free of any products. Opt for conducting this test on your wash day, ensuring your hair is clean. If any residues persist, swish your hair in water with a drop of detergent, then rinse and let it dry before testing.
  2. Execution: Immerse your hair strands in water, ensuring they’re entirely submerged to break the surface tension.
  3. Variability: If you have both treated and untreated areas on your hair, it’s wise to separate them and test each part independently.
  4. Volume Over Individual Strands: For enhanced accuracy, consider tying around 20 strands together. A bundle holds water more effectively than a single strand, offering a more reliable insight into porosity.

How to Interpret Your Results

  • Low Porosity: If your hair remains afloat after 5-10 minutes, it’s likely you have low to low-normal porosity hair.
  • Mixed Porosity: Partial floating and sinking indicate that your hair ends might be more porous than the roots. For a precise interpretation, wet only the roots or ends and re-do the test.
  • High Porosity: If your hair sinks or remains just below the surface after 10 minutes, you’re likely dealing with porous hair.

Check out this video tutorial for alternative ways to test your hair porosity:

Video credit: Healthy Afro Hair

When to Seek Professional Help

For those interested in indisputable analysis,5 professional laboratories can assess various properties of your hair, including thickness, level of damage, and, of course, porosity. These specialized services can also recommend products suited to your hair type based on their expert analysis.

Understanding your hair’s porosity through these methods sets the stage for selecting care routines and products that are not just effective but are also well-aligned with your hair’s unique characteristics.

Observation: Your Ultimate Tool for Understanding Porosity

Beyond the multitude of products and tools flooding the hair care market, sometimes the most insightful instruments are your own senses: sight, touch, and intuition. Learning how to interpret the signals your hair gives you can be transformative, guiding you toward making wiser, more personalized choices for your hair care regimen.

Recognizing Low or Normal Porosity Hair

If you find that oils and conditioners tend to sit atop your strands instead of absorbing into them, and you’ve generally been gentle on your hair—meaning no harsh dye jobs or mechanical abuse—your hair likely falls into the low to normal porosity spectrum.

Identifying High Porosity Hair

Conversely, if your hair seems to gulp conditioners effortlessly, hardly ever feeling weighed down, yet frequently appears dry and brittle, you’re probably dealing with high porosity hair.

The Complexity of Mixed Porosity

Life—and hair—is rarely black and white. It’s entirely plausible to have a melange of porosity levels across your head. You might find low porosity hair sprouting from the roots, transition to a normal porosity mid-shaft, and discover high porosity towards the ends.6 This complexity necessitates a more nuanced approach to hair care.

The Importance of Intuitive Care

Ultimately, tuning into what your hair is telling you is invaluable. While tests and professional consultations can offer guidance, nothing replaces the daily dialogue you have with your hair. Let your observations dictate the care routines and products you choose, ensuring a personalized strategy that respects your hair’s distinct personality.

Now that you’re well-versed in decoding your hair’s signals, let’s dive into tailored strategies to help your hair flourish.

How to Take Care of Low-Porosity Hair

Managing low-porosity hair can be a bit like solving a puzzle, especially when it comes to moisturization. The cuticle layer of this hair type is tightly bound, creating a sort of natural barrier against moisture penetration.

For optimal hair health, targeted care strategies are more than advisable; they’re crucial. Central to this is the practice of thoughtful conditioning and lubrication, designed specifically to navigate the challenges unique to low-porosity hair.

Understanding that this hair type is naturally water-repellent elevates the importance of deliberate and specialized moisturizing efforts. This isn’t merely a recommendation—it’s a cornerstone principle for achieving well-conditioned, vibrant hair.


  • Embrace Indirect Heat: When deep conditioning, consider using indirect heat sources like a hair steamer or heat cap. These tools not only lift the cuticle layer but also infuse your hair with much-needed moisture.
  • Water is Your Friend: Make sure to incorporate plenty of water into your styling routine. Hydrated hair is more elastic, flexible, and frizz-resistant.
  • Choose the Right Humectants: Opt for film-forming humectants that help retain water in your hair. Ingredients to look for include marshmallow root, slippery elm, pectin, flaxseed gel, pathenol, beet extract, and aloe vera, among others.
  • Experiment with Natural Oils: Jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and sweet almond oil can lubricate your hair without weighing it down. On the other hand, heavy oils like mineral oil may not be beneficial. However, it’s important to remember that not all oils work well for everyone, so take the time to experiment and find the oil that best meets your hair’s specific hair type.
  • Regular Clarification is Key: Product buildup can sabotage even the best hair care routine. Regularly clarifying your hair with a clarifying shampoo ensures that your other products can work their magic effectively.
  • Be Mindful of Protein: The best indicator of whether protein is beneficial for your hair is its texture post-application. Smaller proteins are generally easier for low-porosity hair to absorb. Always pay attention to how your hair reacts to protein treatments, as this will guide adjustments in your care regimen.
  • Opt for Lightweight Products: Products that are too heavy can exacerbate the challenges of low-porosity hair. Stick to lightweight products that provide the care you need without adding unnecessary weight.
  • Essential Oils for Scalp Health: Tea tree oil is excellent for stimulating hair follicles and maintaining a healthy scalp.7 For the best results, consider incorporating essential oils into your routine, either by direct application or through products that include it as an ingredient.

Navigating the diverse spectrum of low-porosity hair types can make finding the ideal care routine feel like a quest. However, once you’ve discovered the regimen that resonates with your specific hair texture and needs, it becomes second nature.

Factors Leading to Increased Porosity

After mastering the art of caring for your low-porosity hair, you might be curious about what factors can actually alter your hair’s porosity level. Knowing these factors can arm you with the knowledge to better preserve your hair’s health. Here they are:

  1. Environmental Influences: Frequent styling and coloring, as well as heat usage, can exacerbate hair porosity.8
  2. Hair Weathering: The natural aging and wear of hair over time also play a role in elevating porosity levels.9
  3. Chemical Interventions: Treatments like dyeing, perming, and relaxing can compromise the hair structure, leading to higher porosity.10
  4. Mechanical Stress: Constant tension from styles like tight ponytails or braids can increase porosity by stressing the hair shaft.11
  5. Sun Exposure: Harmful UV rays can damage the hair cuticle, contributing to higher porosity.12
  6. Grooming Habits: The tools and techniques you employ for hair grooming can either mitigate or aggravate porosity issues.13
  7. Inadequate Care Regimens: Using unsuitable products or following inappropriate hair care routines can worsen porosity over time.

Key Ingredients Beneficial for Low Porosity Hair

Having explored the factors that can change your hair’s porosity, it’s only logical to turn our attention to the ingredients that make a real difference in low-porosity hair care. The right ingredients can be game-changers, helping you not only maintain but also elevate the health of your hair.

Let’s examine this curated selection of ingredients:

  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate: Offers conditioning and detangling benefits while optimizing the hair cuticle’s smoothness for improved moisture absorption.14
  • Fatty Alcohols (Cetyl, Stearyl, Myristyl): These alcohols hydrate, refine hair texture, and assist in locking in moisture.15
  • Natural Oils and Butter (e.g., avocado oil, argan oil, grapeseed oil, mango seed butter, shea butter): While these ingredients provide nourishment, it’s essential to tailor their use to individual hair needs, recognizing that hair care is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
  • Plant-Based Extracts and Humectants. Ingredients such as aloe vera gel, flaxseed gel, nettle extract, slippery elm, marshmallow root, burdock root, and others can be particularly beneficial for low-porosity hair.
  • Cetrimonium Chloride: This ingredient enhances the smoothness of hair cuticles, promoting moisture uptake and facilitating detangling.14
  • Proteins (Hydrolyzed Silk, Keratin, Amino Acids, Collagen, Wheat, Hydrolyzed Quinoa): These proteins can strengthen and revitalize hair strands.
  • Humectants: These agents play a pivotal role in retaining and delivering water molecules to hair.

Be sure to check out my post, “Ingredients to Avoid for Low Porosity Hair: A Comprehensive Guide” for a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid.

Best Low Porosity Hair Products

Embarking on a natural hair journey is an exciting endeavor, and the instinct to get everything just right is perfectly natural. You may find yourself eagerly filling your shopping cart with top-rated products and diving headfirst into different styling routines like the LCO (Liquid, Cream, Oil) or LOC (Liquid, Oil, Cream) methods.

Yet, it’s important to temper that enthusiasm. Overzealousness in moisturizing—or the opposite, neglect—can lead to hair that’s challenging to manage and style. This sort of setback can not only be frustrating but may even make you contemplate throwing in the towel.

Consider this article a cornerstone guide rather than an exhaustive list. It’s designed to give you a solid foundation from which you can build a regimen tailored to your unique hair type.

By balancing eagerness with knowledge and experimentation, you can find a hair care routine that not only works but celebrates your unique hair.

Cleansers and Low Porosity Shampoo and Clarifying Shampoos

Selecting the right shampoo is vital for rejuvenating your scalp and hair while removing product build-up. Here are our recommendations:

Low porosity hair - Cleansers and Low  Shampoo and Clarifying Shampoos.
Low porosity hair conditioners.
Low porosity hair deep conditioners.
Low porosity hair leave in conditioners.
Low porosity hair curl creams
Low porosity hair gels
Low porosity hair oils

I hope these low porosity hair products will help you take your hair to the next level!


Is low porosity hair bad?

No, it is not bad. Many people believe that those with low porosity hair should take measures to make it medium porosity.

Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t aim to change your hair’s porosity level. Instead, get to know your hair type/curl pattern and learn to work with it.

To be frank, all hair types have both good and bad qualities. The key is learning how to take care of your specific hair type so that it can reach its full potential.

Is low porosity hair healthier?

Yes. Porosity is an indicator of hair health because it shows how well the cuticles are laying flat on the surface of each strand.

Those with low porosity have tightly “closed” or compacted cuticles that highlight healthy hair strands by reflecting light and making it appear noticeably healthier, shinier, silkier, etc., than those with high porosity hair. Fewer pores on its cuticles make it the closest thing to undamaged hair fibers.

How do you fix low-porosity hair?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You will need to experiment with different methods and products to find what works best for you and your hair type.

Can low-porosity hair use rice water?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Some people have had success in using rice water as a treatment for their low-porosity hair, while others have not.16

It is recommended that you test a small amount of rice water on a hidden section of your hair before applying it all over your head to avoid any potential damage.

Does low-porosity hair get wet fast?

No, it does not get wet fast. In fact, it repels water because of its compacted cuticles.4 This is why it is so important to use methods and products that help add hydration to the hair shaft.

Is low-porosity hair curly?

Yes, low-porosity hair is curly. However, it can also be wavy and straight as well because all textures of hair are considered to have low porosity.

Is coconut oil good for low-porosity hair?

There are mixed opinions about using coconut oil on the scalp or strands of your low-porosity hair. Coconut oil is a penetrating oil that has many benefits. It is great for lubrication and adding softness to your hair.17

The trick to using it (or any other oil) is to use a very small amount and use it on just the ends of your hair and allow it to soak in for a few hours (adjust according to your hair’s needs).

If coconut oil doesn’t work for you, try using a lighter oil, such as sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, or sweet almond oil, etc. instead.

Can you deep condition low porosity hair?

Yes, you can deep condition your low-porosity hair to restore moisture and nutrients that were lost during the washing process, or just from environmental or external factors.

However, keep in mind that moisturizing your hair before using a deep conditioner works well for some, as low-porosity hair does not absorb moisture as well as other hair types. So, play around with methods.

What does low-porosity hair need?

Low-porosity hair needs moisture.4 This is why it’s important to use cleansing methods that are less harsh on the scalp and strands, such as co-washing.

Also, using moisturizing conditioning products will help restore lost hydration in your low-porosity hair shafts.

How often should you wash low-porosity hair?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Some people with low porosity hair need to wash their hair more often, while others can go up to a week or two without washing it, and still have healthy hair.

It all depends on your scalp’s oil production, how often you use heavy products, your lifestyle, and how much product you use.

What is the best way to style low-porosity hair?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as each person’s hair will respond differently to different styling methods and products.

However, some of the most popular styles for low-porosity hair include twist-outs, braids, Bantu knots, roller sets, and flexi-rods.

Does low-porosity hair grow slowly?

No one knows for sure if low-porosity hair grows more or less than other types of hair.

Low porosity hair has a difficult time retaining moisture, so it is very important to keep the strands well-nourished and moisturized, so you can see hair growth!

What other characteristics are important with hair?

Understanding your hair goes beyond just its curl pattern; factors like density, porosity, length, elasticity, and strand width are crucial.

Is hydrolyzed wheat protein good for low-porosity hair?

There are a few different types of protein that can be used to treat low-porosity hair, but hydrolyzed wheat protein is one of the best. This protein can help to fill in the gaps in your hair shaft, which will make your hair look and feel healthier.

Hydrolyzed wheat protein is also a great choice for low-porosity hair because it is less likely to cause build-up on your hair.4 If you are looking for a protein treatment for your low-porosity hair, hydrolyzed wheat protein is a great option.

What are the best As I Am products for low-porosity hair?

The Coconut Cowash Cleansing Conditioner, the Leave-In Detangler, the Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner, and the Doublebutter Cream.

What are the best products for low porosity 4c hair?

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for low porosity, type four, and curly hair. The main thing is to look for products that will hydrate and moisturize the hair without weighing it down.

Oils and butter are great for this hair type, as they can help seal in moisture. Leave-in conditioners and deep conditioners are also key, as they will help hydrate the hair and keep it looking healthy.

Look for products that are specifically designed for low-porosity hair, as they will be the most effective.

With these things in mind, here are some of the best products for low porosity, type four, curly hair:

  • Oils: Coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil are all great options for low-porosity hair. They can help to seal in moisture and keep the hair hydrated.
  • Butter: Shea butter and mango butter are both great options for low-porosity hair. They are very moisturizing and can help to keep the hair hydrated.
  • Leave-in Conditioners: A good leave-in conditioner can help to hydrate the hair and make it easier to style.
  • Deep Conditioners: A good deep conditioner is essential for low-porosity hair. It will help to hydrate the hair and make it softer and more manageable.

With these products, you will be able to keep your low porosity, type four, curly hair healthy and hydrated. They will also make it easier to style and manage. Experiment with different products to find what works best for you.


I know how challenging it can be to care for low-porosity hair. It seems like every time you try to do something new, it just wreaks havoc!

But after a few trials and errors, you can finally learn how to care for your low-porosity hair in a way that keeps it looking healthy and shiny.

Your regimen should make sense for you, not anyone else. There are no rules or restrictions on low porosity hair care other than using good judgment based on the ingredient list of the product(s) being used along with understanding how your hair responds to certain things after they’re applied.

Your hair might respond in a variety of ways to the same treatment. Only your hair knows best. Do what works best for you and always remember to let your hair be your guide!


  1. Hessefort, Y. Z., Holland, B. T., & Cloud, R. W. (2008). True porosity measurement of hair: a new way to study hair damage mechanismsJournal of cosmetic science59(4), 303. ↩︎
  2.  Dias, M. F. R. G. (2015). Hair cosmetics: an overviewInternational journal of trichology7(1), 2. ↩︎
  3. Robbins, C. R., & Robbins, C. R. (2012). Chemical and physical behavior of human hair (Vol. 4). Berlin: Springer. ↩︎
  4. Bosley, R. E., Claire, C. R. S., & Claire, K. S. (2017). Developing a Healthy Hair Regimen II: Transitioning to Chemical-Free Styling (To Natural Hair) and Prevention of Hair TraumaFundamentals of Ethnic Hair: The Dermatologist’s Perspective, 91-101. ↩︎
  5. Velasco, M. V. R., Dias, T. C. D. S., Freitas, A. Z. D., Júnior, N. D. V., Pinto, C. A. S. D. O., Kaneko, T. M., & Baby, A. R. (2009). Hair fiber characteristics and methods to evaluate hair physical and mechanical propertiesBrazilian Journal of pharmaceutical sciences45, 153-162. ↩︎
  6. Dawber, R. (1996). Hair: its structure and response to cosmetic preparationsClinics in dermatology14(1), 105-112. ↩︎
  7. Satchell, A. C., Saurajen, A., Bell, C., & Barnetson, R. S. (2002). Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampooJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology47(6), 852-855. ↩︎
  8. Lee, Y., Kim, Y. D., Hyun, H. J., Pi, L. Q., Jin, X., & Lee, W. S. (2011). Hair shaft damage from heat and drying time of hair dryerAnnals of dermatology23(4), 455-462. ↩︎
  9. Dawber, R. (2002). Cosmetic and medical causes of hair weatheringJournal of Cosmetic Dermatology1(4), 196-201. ↩︎
  10.  Imai, T. (2011). The influence of hair bleach on the ultrastructure of human hair with special reference to hair damageOkajimas folia anatomica Japonica88(1), 1-9. ↩︎
  11. Swift, J. A. (1999). The mechanics of fracture of human hairInternational journal of cosmetic science21(4), 227-239. ↩︎
  12.  Šebetić, K., Sjerobabski Masnec, I., Čavka, V., Biljan, D., & Krolo, I. (2008). UV damage of the hairCollegium antropologicum32(2), 163-165. ↩︎
  13. Monselise, A., Cohen, D. E., Wanser, R., & Shapiro, J. (2015). What ages hair?. International journal of women’s dermatology1(4), 161. ↩︎
  14.  Douglas, A., Onalaja, A. A., & Taylor, S. C. (2020). Hair care products used by women of African descent: review of ingredientsCutis105(4), 183-188. ↩︎
  15.  Dias, M. F. R. G. (2015). Hair cosmetics: an overviewInternational journal of trichology7(1), 2. ↩︎
  16. Inamasu, S., Ikuyama, R., Fujisaki, Y., & Sugimoto, K. I. (2010). Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU‐SU‐RU) as a hair treatmentInternational Journal of Cosmetic Science32(5), 392-393. ↩︎
  17. Rele, A. S., & Mohile, R. B. (2003). Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damageJournal of Cosmetic Science54(2), 175-192. ↩︎

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