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How to Take Care of High Porosity Hair with the Help of Science!

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Table of Contents

Image of a before and after photo of damaged hair vs restored high porosity hair.

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Are you constantly battling dry, frizzy, or brittle hair despite your best efforts? Whether you have straight, wavy, coily, or curly hair, you might be dealing with high porosity hair, which is essentially a form of damaged hair. Simply put, this damage manifests as tiny cracks in the protein structure of your hair, leading to pores. The presence of these pores or cracks is an indicator that the hair is damaged.

Factors like chemical treatments, heat styling, environmental damage from sun exposure, or mechanical stress from rough brushing often cause this issue.

So, what’s the solution for repairing or caring for high-porosity hair? Consider adopting a personalized hair care routine to set your hair on the path to recovery. Focus on keeping your hair well-moisturized, treating it to deep conditioning sessions, replenishing lost protein through targeted treatments, using a leave-in conditioner to shield against sun damage, and incorporating natural oils to keep your strands soft and smooth.

To give you the most reliable advice on how to take care of high porosity hair, I’ve consulted with an expert in the field of hair science—a friend who holds a PhD in Chemistry. Let’s get into it.

What is Hair Porosity?

In short, porosity is a measure of hair damage. There are three main porosity levels; low, medium, and high.

  • Low porosity hair refers to hair strands with fewer openings and smaller pore sizes compared to damaged hair.
  • Medium porosity hair, often called normal porosity hair, has medium-sized cuticle openings and a balanced number of pores. This allows for easy absorption of active ingredients and water into the strands.
  • High porosity hair (also known as highly porous hair) is characterized by significant damage, evident through enlarged pores on its surface and empty spaces beneath the cuticle layer. In severe cases, the cuticles can wear away, exposing the inner cortex to external elements.
Image showing different levels of hair damage.

What Causes High Porosity?

Now, let’s look into some factors that can lead to this type of damage:

  • Chemical Damage:
    • Harsh treatments like alkaline bleaching, permanent coloring, and straightening using agents such as sodium or guanidine hydroxide can weaken hair.
    • Such treatments can alter hair proteins, break disulfide bonds, and lead to protein loss.
    • The aftermath? Hair that’s prone to breakage and frizz.
  • Chemical Treatments:
    • Regularly using hair dyes, relaxers, or perms can strip away the hair’s protective layer, leading to increased porosity.
    • These treatments often involve harsh chemicals that weaken the hair’s natural structure over time.
  • Heat Styling:
    • Over-reliance on tools like straighteners, curling irons, and blow dryers can lead to heat damage and severely dry hair.
    • Continuous high heat exposure can disrupt the cuticles, increasing hair porosity.
  • Environmental Wear:
    • Hair exposed to the sun, wind, or saltwater for extended periods may suffer from cuticle degradation.
    • This exposure increases the hair’s vulnerability to moisture loss and raises porosity levels.
  • Physical Strain:
    • Aggressive brushing, tight hairdos, or the use of restricting bands can damage the hair cuticle.
    • Even friction from everyday items like cotton towels or pillowcases can wear down the protective hair cuticle layer, resulting in higher hair porosity.

Characteristics of High Porosity Hair

Image of my severely damage high porosity hair.
This is an image of my severely damaged high-porosity hair. While the photo doesn’t capture it, my hair felt extremely dry and rough to the touch. It tangled easily and was breaking quite a lot.

Here are a few characteristic features of high-porosity hair fibers:

  • Rough texture
  • Severe dryness
  • Prone to breakage during combing and brushing
  • The presence of split ends
  • Highly frizzy hair
  • Tends to tangle quickly and easily
  • Susceptible to curl knots and twists
  • Lacks natural shine and gloss
  • Easily absorbs much moisture from the environment, especially under the changing humidity levels. 1,2

How Do I Determine My Hair Porosity?

High-porosity hair is delicate, prone to breakage during combing or brushing, and often feels dry and coarse to the touch. It lacks luster, may exhibit an undefined curl pattern, and can have visible split ends.

To assess your hair’s porosity, you can perform a straightforward test (explained below) in the comfort of your home.

Float Test

Image of float test.

To gauge hair porosity, hair experts recommend the “Floating Test,” a practical and easy-to-follow method.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gently remove a single strand of hair from your comb or brush.
  2. Fill a glass of water with room-temperature liquid, ideally between 25-30°C, as hair’s reaction to water can change based on its temperature.
  3. Carefully place the hair strand into the water without disrupting its surface and immediately begin timing.
  4. Monitor the time it takes for the hair strand to sink. If the strand absorbs water and sinks rapidly, this indicates high porosity. Conversely, if it takes a longer time to sink, the hair is likely of low porosity.
  5. For comparison, you can conduct the same test using a strand of color-treated or bleached hair to observe variations in porosity.

Caring for High Porosity Hair: Essential Tips

Image of my fully restored hair from damage.
This photo, taken a year after the previous one above, showcases the transformation of my hair. The damage is gone, my natural curl pattern is evident, and it looks shiny, healthy, and has body and bounce.

Because high-porosity hair is fragile, it needs a tailored hair care regimen to restore its natural texture, body, and volume. Here are some of the pivotal methods I used to restore my severely damaged hair:

Craft a Hair Care Routine

Establish a regimen beginning with gentle cleansing and conditioning and progressing to regular deep conditioning sessions and protein-rich deep conditioning sessions.

Moisture retention is key to keeping your hair hydrated and maintaining its moisture level.

How Often Should High-Porosity Hair be Washed?

Aim for a minimum of twice a week.

Maintaining hair health requires proper cleansing. For those with high-porosity hair, a twice-weekly wash is recommended. Your cleansing routine should include:

  1. A clarifying shampoo to control buildup and cleanse the scalp and hair of debris.
  2. A mild and conditioning shampoo that’s gentle yet effective in detangling and aligning high-porosity strands.

Use Deep Conditioners

Engage in frequent deep conditioning with protein treatments to replenish lost protein, enhancing the hair’s strength and elasticity. Use hair masks or deep conditioners to replenish moisture.

Should High-Porosity Hair Use Steam During Deep Conditioning?

Absolutely! I once believed that using a steamer on high-porosity hair, which already has lifted cuticles, would be unnecessary. However, I’ve since realized I was mistaken.

Experiments have demonstrated that using heat via a hooded steamer or warm air over hair covered with a plastic cap enhances the penetration of active ingredients. Also, more cationic conditioning agents bond to the hair surface when heat is applied.

Additionally, heat can speed up the effectiveness of polymers and protein ingredients, which can improve hair quality and conditioning, and help to repair damage.3,4

Use a Leave-in Conditioner

Incorporate a leave-in conditioner as this is a must-have product for your routine. It offers continuous moisturization with adequate emollience. It also eases combing and styling and protects your hair against photodamage.

Look for products that have shea butter, aloe vera, and jojoba oil as key ingredients. Shea butter helps your hair retain moisture, aloe vera is known for its hydrating and healing benefits, and jojoba oil closely resembles the natural oils in our scalp.

Use Natural Oils

Utilize natural ingredients, such as oils as they provide much-needed emollience and lubrication to the hair shaft and reduce fiber-to-fiber friction. Oils with strong penetration ability can go deep inside the cortex (i.e. coconut oil) and reduce the porosity level.

How Can You Prevent Damage to High-Porosity Hair?

  1. Opt for sulfate-free shampoos.
  2. Minimize the use of intense chemical treatments.
  3. Shield your hair from direct UV rays.
  4. Always comb, brush, and style gently. Always apply a detangler or leave-in conditioner for added protection.
  5. Minimize the use of thermal styling tools. Always apply thermal protectant before blow drying or using heat-styling tools, such as flat irons.
  6. Use gentle hair accessories and avoid tying hair with rubber bands or anything that will cause friction and tangles.
  7. Don’t let your hair remain wet for extended periods. Dry it promptly after washing or bathing to prevent rapid water absorption, which can lead to hair swelling.
  8. Be cautious in high humidity conditions, as excessive and rapid absorption of water can cause osmotic pressure and swelling to hair fiber.

Choosing Hair Care Products for High Porosity Hair

It’s essential for individuals with high porosity hair to choose their products with care. Before purchasing a new product, always check the list of ingredients.

Before applying a new product to the entire scalp, always conduct a patch test. A standard hair care routine for high-porosity hair should include:

A gentle clarifying shampooOnce a month
A mild hydrating, conditioning shampooTwice a week
A rinse-off hydrating conditionerTwice a week (right after washing)
A leave-in conditionerDaily
A natural oil-blendTwice a week
A deep hydrating/conditioning protein treatment (which will depend on your hair’s health and circumstances)Maybe once a week


Is there a way to “fix” high-porosity hair?

Absolutely! This regimen should encompass cleansing, conditioning, protein treatments, and the right styling methods (that do not cause stress to the hair follicles).

Regular use of hydrating, conditioning, and hair-strengthening products is key. Look for formulations that include vegetable proteins, keratins, and micro-polymer molecules.

Proteins have been scientifically shown to enhance hair strength and restore its natural sheen. Additionally, cationic conditioning polymers can enhance hair quality by reducing its porosity. Through such a routine, you can effectively improve and achieve healthy hair.

What is the best treatment for high-porosity hair?

A deep hydrating protein treatment. Because high-porosity hair is often dry, coarse, and lacks volume, it needs an adequate level of moisture to restore its natural texture.

Therefore, hydration is essential and should be paired with proteins. Proteins work both on the surface and deep within the hair fiber, rejuvenating its natural texture and enhancing strength. Combining hydration and protein is the go-to solution for treating high-porosity hair.

How can you keep high-porosity hair moisturized?

The best way to keep high-porosity hair moisturized begins at the foundation – with cleansing and conditioning using hydrating products that contain a mix of mild surfactants, humectants, and emollients. Incorporate a deep hydrating protein mask into your routine.

When applying the mask to wet hair, ensure it covers each strand evenly. Consider covering your hair with a cap and applying heat, either with a blow dryer or a hooded dryer, to enhance the penetration of conditioning ingredients deep inside the hair fiber. This method offers superior results, making hair evenly moisturized and conditioned.

For more strategies on this, check out my blog titled, “How to Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.”

Should High-Porosity Hair Avoid Proteins?

Absolutely not! Proteins are excellent hair conditioning actives for this type of hair. These multifunctional ingredients are essential for high-porosity hair health. They impart moisture to dry strands, improve the surface texture, and recover protein loss from chemical or heat treatments.

Multiple scientific studies have shown that protein treatments increase hair tensile strength and elasticity, leading to decreased hair breakage.5 Hence, using proteins is highly recommended for high-porosity hair. It’s recommended to apply a protein treatment at least biweekly for optimal hair fiber reconstruction and conditioning.


  1. Syed, A. N.; Ayoub, H., Correlating porosity and tensile strength of chemically modified hairCosmetics and toiletries 2002, 117 (11), 57-64. ↩︎
  2. 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. ↩︎
  3. Lötzsch, K.; Reng, A.; Gantz, D.; Quack, J. In The Radiometric Technique. Explained by the Example of Adsorption and Desorption of 14 C-labelledDistearyl-Dimethylammonium Chloride on Human Hair, Hair Research: Status and Future Aspects; Proceedings of the First International Congress on Hair Research, Hamburg, March 13th–16, 1979, Springer: 1981; pp 638-649. ↩︎
  4. Johnson, D. H., Hair and Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 1997. ↩︎
  5. Neudahl, G. A., Proteins for conditioning hair and skin. In Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin, Schueller, R.; Romanowski, P., Eds. Taylor & Francis: 1999; pp 139-166. ↩︎


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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