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How to Moisturize Low Porosity Hair: A Detailed Guide

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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The common belief that low porosity hair is challenging to moisturize and manage is a misconception. Understanding hair porosity is essential for effective hair care, especially when it comes to low porosity hair, which has its own unique needs due to the structure of the hair cuticles.

Low porosity hair features cuticles that are tightly bound and lay flat, making it difficult for moisture and oils to penetrate. This characteristic leads to a natural resistance to absorbing moisture, often resulting in hair that can seem challenging to keep hydrated.

To properly moisturize low porosity hair, the approach should be thoughtful and systematic. Start with a gentle cleansing routine that doesn’t strip natural oils. Deep conditioning with heat can help open up the cuticles, allowing moisture to penetrate more effectively. Utilizing the right oils and applying them in the correct manner is crucial; lightweight oils that can penetrate the hair shaft without leaving residue are ideal. Each of these steps will be explored in greater detail in the blog.

For this topic, I’ve consulted with a friend who is an expert in hair science and a cosmetic formulator with a PhD in Chemistry. His in-depth knowledge and expertise on the subject will provide valuable insights into caring for low-porosity hair, ensuring the advice given is both practical and scientifically backed.

Optimal Moisturization Strategies for Low Porosity Hair

Gentle Cleansing Essentials

Cleansing is a fundamental step in hair care, particularly for low porosity hair, which benefits from specific attention to avoid damage. Traditional shampoos often contain sulfate-based surfactants—like sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium cocoate sulfate, and especially sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients can strip hair of essential proteins and lipids, leading to increased dryness and damage.

Avoiding sulfates is crucial for individuals with low porosity hair to prevent fiber damage and maintain hair health. This is especially true for those with sensitive skin, chemically treated, or naturally dry and frizzy hair. Although many shampoos on the market are sulfate-free, vigilance is necessary as some may contain similar harsh compounds.

Water is key to maintaining hair’s moisture. Therefore, selecting a sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo is essential. Low porosity hair may look good but requires consistent hydration to maintain its health. Ingredients like sugar-based alkyl polyglucosides (APG) offer a gentle yet effective cleansing action, removing buildup without harming the hair’s delicate structure. Look for shampoos with mild surfactants, conditioning polymers, and emollients for a balanced and hydrating cleansing routine.

Deep Conditioning for Enhanced Hydration

A robust moisturizing routine is vital for low-porosity hair, which is prone to dryness. Incorporating a moisturizing conditioner or deep conditioning mask can significantly improve hair’s moisture levels.4 The goal is twofold: introduce more water to the hair and prevent water loss.

Humectants like glycerin attract moisture from the air, increasing hair’s water content. Advances in material science have introduced new humectants, such as sodium PCA, betaine, and lactic acid, which hydrate effectively without leaving residue.

To retain moisture, applying lipophilic materials like natural oils and butters forms a protective barrier that minimizes water loss. These emollients also enhance manageability by reducing friction between hair fibers.

For low-porosity hair, conditioners rich in both humectants and emollients are recommended. For best results, incorporate a deep conditioning treatment weekly and use a leave-in conditioner for daily protection, especially against environmental stressors like sunlight.

Choosing the Right Oils and Butters

Natural oils and butters are invaluable for their multifunctional benefits, particularly for low porosity hair that requires light, penetrative moisture. These ingredients help maintain scalp and hair moisture while facilitating easier styling and reducing breakage.

Lightweight oils such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, shea butter, mango butter, macadamia oil, argan oil, and baobab iil are excellent for low-porosity hair. These oils can be tailored to individual needs, offering a personalized approach to hair care that respects the unique characteristics of low-porosity hair.

Moisturizing Tips for Low Porosity Hair

Discover how to create a straightforward hair care routine ideal for low porosity hair with Shanique Buntyn’s tutorial. Through her video, she meticulously explains her effective regimen, offering the guidance necessary to attain and sustain beautifully moisturized hair.

YouTube video
Video credit: Shanique Buntyn

The Challenges of Low Porosity Hair

Macro view of hair strands
Macro view of hair strands

Dealing with porous hair strands presents a significant challenge for many aiming to achieve healthier and more lustrous hair. Porous hair, often appearing weak and lacking in shine, can be stubbornly resistant to styling efforts.

Research has linked hair porosity to hair fibers’ overall quality and ability to withstand tension without breaking.1 This connection highlights why finding effective and immediate care solutions has become a priority, leading to a surge in products tailored for hair with high porosity.

Hair porosity is generally divided into two categories: High-Porosity Hair and Low-Porosity Hair. This classification stems from extensive testing aimed at gauging individual hair strand porosity through a meticulous process of trial and error.

A thorough examination of hair fiber quality, coupled with a review of recent hair treatments, can shed light on an individual’s hair porosity. Yet, accurately gauging low porosity hair can be especially challenging. Its fibers have a unique composition that often masks their true porosity level, making it seem as though they’re in better condition than they might actually be. This can be misleading, as the ends of low porosity hair are prone to damage and breakage over time, despite appearing robust at first glance.

Establishing a consistent and effective hair care regimen is crucial for individuals with low-porosity hair. Emphasizing moisturizing and hydrating treatments can significantly improve the health and appearance of porous hair, ensuring it remains vibrant and resilient.

How to Identify Low Porosity Hair

Identifying low porosity in your hair can be straightforward if you know what signs to look for. Generally, hair with low porosity is often virgin hair, meaning it hasn’t been treated with chemicals.

You might notice that, overall, your hair looks glossy and healthy, but the ends remain dry. This condition persists even without any history of chemical treatments or significant heat styling, leading to hair that lacks shine and vibrancy.

Furthermore, if your hair frequently looks frizzy or unmanageable, this could also indicate low porosity. These characteristics are key indicators that your hair struggles to absorb and retain moisture, a common trait of low-porosity hair.

Understanding Hair Porosity: Simple Tests and Modern Research Insights

Modern hair research has advanced significantly, with researchers developing sophisticated methods to accurately measure hair porosity.2,3 These methods involve both qualitative and quantitative analyses of individual hair strands, providing a numerical value for porosity. This data is crucial for product developers to evaluate the impact of hair care products on different hair types and to enhance product quality based on these insights.

Despite these advancements, there’s a need for a simpler way for the average person to determine their hair porosity, whether at home or in a salon. Hair professionals suggest quick and practical tests for this purpose, with the float test being one of the most commonly recommended techniques.

It’s important to note, however, that several factors can influence the outcome of the float test, though it still offers valuable preliminary insights. Typically, hair may float in water due to the presence of natural oils (sebum) and the residual effects of hair care products, which can skew the test results.

An oily hair result does not automatically indicate low porosity. For more reliable results, perform the test with clean hair and use multiple strands from different areas of your scalp.

Remember, these tests are meant to provide a general indication of your hair’s porosity and should be seen as a helpful starting point rather than a definitive diagnosis.

Float Test

Image of float test. Hair porosity test for How to Moisturize Low Porosity Hair blog.
  1. Start by retrieving a single strand of hair from your comb or brush.
  2. Fill a glass with water at a normal temperature, around 25-30 degrees Celsius. Note that the hair’s response to water can vary with temperature changes.
  3. Gently place the hair strand on the surface of the water, careful not to disturb it.
  4. Begin timing with a stopwatch immediately.
  5. Observe how quickly the hair strand sinks. Hair that sinks quickly is typically high in porosity, indicating it absorbs water fast. Conversely, hair that takes longer to sink or remains floating has low porosity, showing resistance to water absorption.

Repeat this test with color-treated or significantly damaged hair for a comprehensive analysis comparing porosity levels between treated and natural hair strands. This comparison can reveal the impact of treatments on hair porosity.

To effectively manage low-porosity hair and ensure it stays hydrated, here are some tailored moisturizing strategies designed to lock in the much-needed moisture.

Key Points for Low Porosity Hair Care

  • Prioritize Moisture: Keeping your hair well-moisturized is crucial for maintaining its health and vitality.
  • Choose Sulfate-Free Shampoos: To preserve moisture and prevent dryness, select shampoos that are free from harsh sulfates and focus on hydrating formulas.
  • Incorporate Moisturizing Conditioners: Begin your hair care routine with a moisturizing conditioner, and seal in the hydration with a lightweight leave-in conditioner to ensure your hair stays nourished throughout the day.
  • Minimize Hair Stress: Protect your hair’s health by reducing chemical treatments, limiting sun exposure, and avoiding excessive use of heat styling tools.
  • Embrace Weekly Oil Treatments: Regularly treat your hair to oil therapy sessions to deeply nourish and reinforce hair strength, promoting overall hair wellness.


1. Marsh, J. M.; Gray, J.; Tosti, A., Healthy Hair. Springer International Publishing: 2015.

2. Syed, A. N.; Ayoub, H., Correlating porosity and tensile strength of chemically modified hair. Cosmetics and toiletries 2002, 117 (11), 57-64.

3. Hessefort, Y. Z.; Holland, B. T.; Cloud, R. W., True porosity measurement of hair: a new way to study hair damage mechanisms. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2008, 59 (4), 303.

4. Schueller, R.; Romanowski, P., Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin. Taylor & Francis: 1999.


I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

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