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Curly hair is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. It could be super-defined one day and a frizzy concoction the next day – and it's never exactly the same from one head to another. Our mission is to equip you with the necessary tools for restoring and maintaining healthy locks and celebrating the hair you were born with! 

How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients

February 9, 2023


Verna Meachum

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Curl care

With extensive experience in the beauty industry, I specialize in writing for curly hair care brands, websites, and magazines.

Not only do I have curly hair, but my children, friends, family members, and even friends who are professional curly hairstylists, each with their unique curly textures.

 You get the point :) 

I also partner with a friend who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist, ensuring our content is scientifically accurate and help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. 

Hi,I'm Verna

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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum

When it comes to learning how to moisturize high porosity hair, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. We all have different curl patterns and different scalp needs, and many of us aren’t sure what method works best for our hair types.

If you’re unsure how to start your moisturizing journey or just looking to fine-tune an existing routine, this blog post is designed with you in mind!

Here we will break down everything from the types of ingredients that work best on high porosity tresses, moisturizing techniques, and natural oils that enrich each strand from root to tip.

With a step-by-step guide full of packed with science-backed advice, you’ll be ready to start your moisturizing journey in no time!

Let us first explore what high porosity hair is so that you can gain a better understanding of how it works and how to care for it.

What is Porosity?

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

It is a fundamental truth that understanding your hair porosity level is essential if you are to properly care for and maintain high porosity hair.

Hair porosity is a term used to describe the physical state of the hair fiber. Hair is a porous material that has countless openings in the cuticle layer, but it varies depending on the individual’s cuticle condition.

The level at which your hair can take in liquids will influence its appearance and texture, so it’s important to comprehend how porous your hair is to select the most suitable solutions for preserving it.

Hair porosity is generally categorized as:

What is High Porosity Hair?

Hair is identified as “High Porosity Hair” when it has an abundance of opened pores, larger pore size, and greater spacing in the cortex matrix.

Image of hair structure. How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients
Hair structure – vector illustration

Hair that is high porosity (also known as “highly-porous”) has many cuticles that are raised or lifted, which means it absorbs water easily but loses it quickly too.

Highly porous hair often referred to as “high porosity,” displays cuticles that are raised or lifted. This quality allows it to rapidly absorb moisture while simultaneously losing it just as quickly.

On the contrary, “Low Porosity Hair” features significantly fewer openings with much smaller pore sizes. It is difficult for low porosity tresses to both absorb and keep moisture, making it a challenge to hydrate and style.

Those with medium porosity hair have the ideal balance of cuticle openings and pores – not too small, nor too large. This allows just enough access for active ingredients and water to enter without difficulty or hindrance.

What Causes High Porosity?

There are several reasons why hair becomes high porosity, with the most common being heat styling tools and chemical treatments.

Here are a few more reasons:

● Oxidative Hair Bleaching – Alkaline hydrogen peroxide to lighten hair color with ammonia or monoethanolamine.

● Permanent Hair Coloring – High pH and hydrogen peroxide.

● Hair Perming – Alkaline thioglycolic acid.

● Hair Relaxers – Sodium Hydroxide, Guanidine Hydroxide to straighten hair fibers.

● UV – Damage – excessive and repeated exposure to solar radiations particularly to already damaged and compromised hair.

Why Does High Porosity Hair Need Moisture?

Hair is made up of keratin and has thousands of tiny pores all over its surface.1 For our scalps and hair to properly grow, we must provide them with an adequate amount of water.

Although hair is dead once it reaches the surface of our scalps, it still requires water to keep up its vibrancy and health.

Hair can absorb moisture from the surroundings depending on the humidity level and physical state of the hair.

At a relative humidity level of 65%, hair may have 30- 35 % water absorbed by its proteins.2 Chemical treatments such as oxidation bleach, coloring, perming, and alkaline straightening weaken hair fiber, making it porous and fragile.

Owing to the intense chemical treatments, these hairs have a higher number of pores, higher pore volume, and empty spaces underneath the cuticle layers.

This is due to the erosion of protein components (Protein Loss) as a result of aggressive chemical treatment.3-7

These chemically-altered strands are referred to as “High-Porosity Hair” and they can appear extremely dry, rough, and frizzy.

To nourish them back to health and keep them hydrated, intensively moisturizing along with strengthening products must be used to help restore lost proteins.

So why does high-porosity hair need moisture? Without it, high-porosity hair is difficult to manage, and style and will lack shine and body. 

A crucial query remains: how do we ensure they remain hydrated? And, what ingredients and formulations are ideal for dry, high-porosity hair?

Next, we will examine the moisturizing technique to fix this problem and enhance the quality of hair fibers. 

How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Techniques

Never Use Sulfated Shampoos

Many shampoos on the market contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS). They are the main cleansing agent in the formulation, acting as an essential backbone for the product.

However, High-Porosity Hairs are not a good fit for these surfactants. They can leave the scalp and hair strands dry, sometimes even irritating those with sensitive skin or scalps.

With potentially high levels of discomfort involved, it is wise to avoid sulfate shampoos if you identify as having high-porosity hair.

According to scientific research, protein loss has been observed in hair that was washed with a sulfate-based formula.8 This serves as an indication of the damaging effects these sulfate shampoos may have on high-porosity hairs.

In light of the current need for sulfate-free products, scientists have taken action by discovering novel and mild surfactants as possible alternatives to sulfates.

With numerous applicable surfactants available, it has become easier than ever before to create innovative, health-conscious goods that consumers demand.

Here is a list:

1) Alkyl Polyglucoside – These are sugar-derived green, mild, and highly skin-friendly surfactants. In personal care cleansing, Coco glucoside, Decyl glucoside, and Lauryl glucoside are commonly incorporated in sulfate-free shampoos. The three differ in their carbon chain length, detergency, and foam generation. Most importantly, these three surfactants are strongly hydrating, offering a gentle moisturizing cleansing experience. 

2) Isethionates – Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate and Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate are mild surfactants having an immense hydrating effect on scalp and hair fibers. 

3) Amino Acid-derived surfactants – These are exceptionally mild and gentle to skin and hair as well as efficient in cleansing and detergency. Below is a series of options.

a. Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate

b. Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate

c. Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate

d. Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

Look for Humectants and Moisturizing Ingredients

Image of aloe vera gel being poured in a container. How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.

Humectants are chemical compounds that can bind and hold water molecules. Upon applying them topically to skin or hair surfaces, they can hydrate them.

Glycerin and Propylene Glycol are two commonly used humectants. Both are efficient in hydrating and are cost-effective.

Choosing a moisturizing ingredient depends upon the type of product. Shampoos and conditioners might have different moisturizing agents due to their compatibility with other ingredients of the formulation.

Today, we are seeing a trend of shampoos and conditioners utilizing novel, green, bio-derived ingredients to provide moisture.

Preferred moisturizing agents for high-porosity hairs are:

1. Betaine – a small organic molecule extracted from sugar beet juice. It has a significantly higher water-binding capacity compared to glycerin or propylene glycol. It is our Top Choice for high-porosity hairs. 

2. Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid Salts – known for their water delivery performance, skin-friendliness, and a favorite for chemically processed hair.

3. Propanediol – a corn-derived natural polyhydric molecule with high water binding capacity, green and sustainable.

4. Proteins – amino acids and protein molecules are natural moisturizing agents. They are multifunctional ingredients that also enhance the mechanical strength of fragile hair fibers.

Choosing the right protein is the key to having desired results.

For high-porosity hairs, the best proteins are:

  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Keratin
  • Quaternary-modified Proteins
  • Silicone functional proteins are preferred, which are Quaternized Keratin, Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol. 

Oils and Butter for High Porosity Hair

Oil being added to butter. How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients

Natural oils and butter are excellent emollients and moisture-preserving agents. They form a water-resistant layer on the hair shaft and prevent water loss from the hair surface.

The top oil and butter choices for high-porosity hair are:

These emollients help to align the cuticle layer and reduce fiber-to-fiber friction. This also smoothes the rough surface of high-porosity hairs and prevents any further loss in hair mechanical strength. 

Petrolatum, white mineral oil, and other petroleum-derived emollients should be avoided when it comes to high-porosity hair.

These ingredients are heavy and greasy – not to mention unsustainable as they do not biodegrade easily.

Natural oils/butter are a green, sustainable, and biodegradable solution that serves many functions. Consumers should prioritize these natural emollients when selecting hair products for high-porosity hair.

Ideal Moisturizing Formulation for High-Porosity Hair

An ideal and suitable shampoo for high-porosity hair should be sulfate-free and should be based on one of the above-mentioned surfactants.

It should also have a blend of co-surfactants, non-ionic or amphoteric (e.g. coco-betaine or cocoamphoacetate) to enhance foamability and detergency.

Moisturizing agents (e.g. propanediol, or PCA salts) are essential to lower the irritation potential of formulation and impart water molecules to the scalp and hair.

To improve hair detangling, address static fly-away, and reduce frizz in your hair, be sure to choose a shampoo with cationic conditioning agents such as Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, Polyquaternium-10, or Polyquaternium-7.

These special ingredients help align the cuticles of your hair, control frizz, and make combing your hair easier.

A conditioning formulation should be concentrated with moisturizing ingredients, such as:

  • Glycerin
  • Propylene glycol
  • Propanediol
  • Cationic detanglers (e.g. behentrimonium chloride, cetrimonium chloride, and behentrimonium methosulfate).

These key ingredients are the backbone of conditioning formulation and provide slip, detangling, and combat static charge density. It should be blended with oils and butter to control frizz. 

Image of myself holding the bouncecurl gel and cantu moisturizing curl activator. How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.

The two products I’m holding in the above photo are a great combo containing moisturizing ingredients for high porosity hair. While there are plenty of great product combo’s for high porosity hair, this combo is one of my favorites.

The product on the left is the Bounce Curl gel. Ingredients below.

Ingredients: Water, VP/VA copolymer, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Jojoba Esters, Hydrolyzed quinoa protein, Hydrolyzed Oat protein, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng root Extract, Salvia Officlnalis (Sage) Extract, *Nigella Sativa (Virgin Black Cumin) Oil, Boswellia Carter Oil, Aminomethyl Propanol, Carbomer, Sodium Phytate, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, **Fragrance (100% Natural Fragrance).*Certified Organic **New 100% Natural Fragrance.

Below are the ingredients for the Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua, Eau), Glycerin, Propanediol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Fragrance (Parfum), Polyquaternium-10, Stearalkonium Chloride, Stearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Euopaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernal Oil, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Lonciera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Laminara Cloustoni (Sea Kelp) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Silk Amino Acids, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate-60, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Key Steps to Taking Care of High Porosity Hair

● Keep your High-Porosity Hair clean and hygienic.

● Always wash them with a sulfate-free shampoo. Never wash with a sulfate shampoo. 

● Dry them quickly after washing, never leave them wet for long.

●A deep moisturizing treatment is a must, at least twice a week.

● Always apply a moisturizing leave-in conditioner before stepping outside.

● High-porosity hairs are fragile, so make sure to protect them against the sun.


High-Porosity hairs are extremely susceptible to damage, dryness, and breakage due to exposure to harsh chemicals.

To repair these strands and make them stronger, they require targeted moisture treatments that take some effort in selecting the right formulation.

To maintain healthy and luscious hair, it is essential to use moisturizing products promptly. Green and multifunctional hydrating agents are highly recommended for this purpose.

To learn more about the ingredients contained within these products, be sure to read the INCI listing on each package before purchasing!


1. Wolfram, L. J., Human hair: A unique physicochemical composite. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2003, 48 (6, Supplement 1), S106-S114.

2. Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 1986.

3. Lee, Y.; Kim, Y.-D.; Pi, L.-q.; Lee, S. Y.; Hong, H.; Lee, W.-S., Comparison of hair shaft damage after chemical treatment in Asian, White European, and African hair. Int. J. Dermatol. 2013, n/a-n/a.

4. Ruetsch, S. B.; Yang, B.; Kamath, Y. K., Cuticular damage to African; American hair during relaxer treatments; A microfluorometric and SEM Study. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 2009, 31 (3), 244-245.

5. Swift, J. a., The Mechanics of Fracture of Human Hair. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 1999, 21 (4), 227-239.

6. Silva, A. L. S.; Nunes, A. S.; Gesztesi Natura, J. L., Protein loss quantification of abraded virgin and abraded bleached hair according to Bradford assay. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 2005, 27 (2), 139-140.

7. Robinson, V. N. E., A study of damaged hair. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 1976, 27 (4), 155-&.

8. Wagner, R. D. C.; Joekes, I., Hair protein removal by sodium dodecyl sulfate. Colloid Surf. B-Biointerfaces 2005, 41 (1), 7-14.


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I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.

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