January 18, 2023
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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum
Looking for the right shampoo for low porosity hair can be a tricky task – what ingredients should you look for? What ingredients should be avoided at all costs?
With so many products on the market and so much information online, it can be tough to make sense of it all.
If you have low porosity hair, shampooing with the wrong type of product can be a huge mistake. For starters, shampoo designed for high-porosity hair may be too heavy and weigh down your locks.
On the other hand, shampoo designed for low-porosity hair can give your locks a much-needed lift, due to its ability to penetrate and help moisturize the cuticles.
If you’re confused about which shampoo to choose for your low porosity hair, we’ve got you covered!
We’ve rounded up a list of shampoo ingredients that are ideal for low porosity hair as well as shampoos that work well for low porosity hair.
Low porosity hair has a tightly-packed cuticle layer that doesn’t easily allow moisture or product to penetrate. As a result, it’s difficult for certain ingredients to get in and do their job.
Low-porosity and high-porosity hairs differ in their level of porosity, pore size, pore volume, and the number of pores laying on the hair surface.
The two hair types also differ significantly in their physicochemical properties. Generally, low-porosity hairs are virgin, non-chemically treated, and natural hair fibers.
On the other hand, high-porosity hairs have usually undergone extensive damage due to chemical treatments or other environmental factors. They both have very different moisture levels and mechanical strengths.
Low-porosity hair has specific needs when it comes to daily care and styling. The starting point should be finding the ideal cleansing formulation for these particular strands.
Hair cleansing is essential to ensure a hygienic scalp, free of sebum buildup, product residue, and debris.1-2
Choosing the right shampoo formulation will maintain both a healthy head of hair as well as its natural texture and appearance.
If you’re not certain if you have low porosity hair, you can do a float test to find out. The float test is one of many ways to assess your hair porosity.
Though the test is not always reliable due to different factors, it provides a general idea. Generally speaking, hair tends to float due to the oil it has.
This natural sebum and any extra product you might use in your haircare routine amplify this effect. Your hair does not necessarily have low porosity if it is floating on the water since oil will always be lighter and float.
It is a little challenging to measure low-porosity hair. If your hair floats, it could be that your hair is coated with a product. So, make sure to test your hair when it is clean, and make sure to test several strands of hair.
Keep in mind that this is purely a rough guide to potentially help you determine your hair porosity.
Now, let’s take a look at an ideal formulation for low porosity hair. We will compile a list of preferred cleansing and conditioning ingredients that are beneficial to these delicate hair fibers.
We will also analyze the ingredients that could damage low porosity hair and should be avoided for optimal health.
The primary goal of shampoo formulation is to efficiently clean hair fibers and scalp surfaces. To do this, the formula comprises a blend of surfactant molecules.
Surfactants, otherwise known as surface active agents, are chemical compounds that have the ability to reduce water’s surface tension and enhance its wetting power.3
A myriad of surfactants are now accessible, making it possible to create top-tier shampoo products.
The commonly used surfactants for shampoo are characterized into two major classes: Anionic Surfactants and Non-Ionic Surfactants.
Anionic surfactants carry a unit negative charge and show strong detergency properties along with foamability. These are then further divided into two categories: sulfates and non-sulfates (also referred to as ‘sulfate-free’).
Modern industry is increasingly shifting towards sulfur-free solutions due to their performance and environmental benefits.
Non-sulfate Anionic surfactants:
Non-ionic surfactants are the second major class of cleansing agents. They do not carry any unit charge (positive or negative) and thus are called non-ionic.
Thanks to recent strides in detergent science, a new high-performing non-ionic cleansing agent has been conceived that adds multiple advantages to hair care formulations.
The commonly used ones are:
Besides having surfactants as a major component of a shampoo formulation, a shampoo also may contain:
For low-porosity hair, an ideal formulation should be sulfate-free, mild, and gentle which should not remove essential lipids from the hair shaft and scalp surface.
Sulfates are known to be harsh and have high irritation potential. Unfortunately, these ingredients can leave your hair parched and brittle by drawing out too much moisture.
Not only do they leave the scalp dry and vulnerable to irritations, but they can also cause discomfort. Sulfates can solubilize lipids and make hair dry and porous.4
Furthermore, the formulation should contain small molecular weight cationic hair-detangling agents e.g. Polyquaternium-10 or Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride.
These ingredients can effectively detangle hair fibers, smooth cuticles, and reduce combing force for both wet and dry hair, however, they should be used in low dosages.
Moisture is the key to the health of low-porosity hair. Therefore, shampoo should contain hydrating agents, such as propanediol and betaine instead of traditional humectants, glycerin, or propylene glycol.
Floral or plant-based extracts are highly sought after for their gentle and skin-friendly qualities, decreasing any potential skin irritation when applied in a cleansing formula.
Below, we’ve listed some key ingredients that are skin friendly and suitable for low-porosity hair.
• Glucosides-based surfactants – are preferred due to their strong skin compatibility, low irritation potential, yet effective and efficient cleansing. Therefore, they are major and primary cleansing surfactants in a formulation.
• Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate – preferred co-surfactant. It generates a voluminous rich creamy lather. It also demonstrates a strong hydrating benefit to scalp and hair fibers.
• Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate – mild amphoteric surfactant for gentle cleansing.
• Cocoamidopropyl betaine – mild amphoteric surfactant.
• Betaine – a natural hydrating agent, highly efficient in delivering water molecules.
• Propanediol – corn-derived natural moisturizing agent.
• Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride – A guar gum-derived cationic conditioner.
• Polyquaternium – 10, a starch-derived cationic conditioner.
• Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5) – fiber moisturizing and strengthening molecule.
• Biotin – Scalp regeneration, hair thickness, and moisturizing agent.
• Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein – hair conditioning, strengthening, and moisturizing.
• Green Tea Leaf Extract – scalp healing, makes formulation gentle and mild.
• Coconut oil – fiber conditioning, emollient and detangling, thermal protection.
• Olive Oil – antioxidant, fiber conditioning, emollient, scalp revitalizing.
• Argan Oil – antioxidant, scalp and fiber conditioning, emollient.
• Castor Oil – fiber conditioning, moisturizing agent, and hair growth.
• Fragrance – Plant-extracted essential oils are the preferred choice due to their multifunctional benefits compared to synthetic fragrances. Tea Tree Oil, Peppermint Oil, Rosemary Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, and Lemon Peel Oil are aromatic liquids commonly added as a fragrance. Besides their characteristic aroma, they are scalp stimulants that boost blood circulation to the scalp area and accelerate cellular turnover.
• Preservatives – for a safer and more sustainable skincare experience, opt for biodegradable natural preservatives. Not only are they naturally sourced but also gentle on the skin.
– Sodium benzoate and Potassium sorbate offer a broad range of protection against bacteria and fungi.
–Hexylene Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, and Phenoxyethanol are also fine for low-porosity hair fibers. They are known for their strong protection against microbes.
Low-Porosity Hair consumers should avoid using sulfate-based shampoo products. Particularly, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)as it is known to remove essential lipids from the scalp and hair surface.
When hair is washed with SLS, hair can lose some of its proteins, which eventually leads to weak compromised hair.
This type of sulfate also has the potential to dry out both the scalp surface and hair fibers. Furthermore, repeated exposure may even cause skin irritation such as redness or itchiness on the skin.5
Glycerin and propylene glycol are two traditional humectants often used in hair care formulations. Both bind water molecules from the air and add them to the scalp or hair fiber.
However, both are polyhydric alcohols. Their usage in high concentrations is not suitable for natural, virgin low-porosity hair.
Glycerin is sticky and its high dosage makes hair heavy while both also suppress the detergency and foamability of the cleansing formulation.
Using preservatives and antimicrobial agents to protect shampoos is essential to maintain their quality throughout storage, shelf-life, shipping, and usage. Without it, harmful microbial growth could compromise the shampoo’s effectiveness while also posing a risk of contamination for its users.
Preservatives are chemical compounds added to inhibit the growth of these microbes.6
However, most of the preservatives are strongly skin irritants and sensitizing agents.
Formaldehyde was one of the oldest preservatives used in cosmetics, yet due to its powerful skin-sensitizing properties and carcinogenic nature, it has now been prohibited.
Additionally, formaldehyde-containing formulations can make skin and hair brittle and dry. As such, consumers should avoid using them altogether.
There are a series of preservatives that liberate formaldehyde when added into an aqueous formulation. Their preservation mechanism is solely based on formaldehyde release.
These formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are:
Hair care users should be vigilant when it comes to checking product labels, particularly the INCI listings. Make sure to steer clear of these preservatives at all costs!
Parabens are popular preservatives known for their strong antimicrobial activity. However, recent studies have described their carcinogenic activity and thus should be avoided for
Yes, it is perfectly fine to use protein-containing shampoo for low-porosity hair. Proteins are excellent moisturizing and fiber conditioning agents, however, care should be taken in choosing the right protein and its right dosage.
Now onto what you came here for. Let’s unpack some key ingredients and dive in! Although there are various high-quality shampoos accessible for low porosity hair, we’ve created a list to help you get started!
With the information here, you can dive deeper to discover a shampoo that’s uniquely tailored to your needs.
Not only does Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo eliminate product build-up without sapping moisture from your hair, but it’s also crafted with raw Black Soap to nourish and rejuvenate damaged follicles.
It has a tropical-scented blend, made with Cocoa Seed Powder, Plantain Skins, and Tea Tree Oil – designed to protect your hair while moisturizing it.
Did you know that cocoa seed powder can help make your hair stronger, hydrated, and more resilient?
Plantain is also a great substance for reducing split ends and bringing luster to lackluster locks. And if all of this isn’t enough, tea tree oil contains powerful anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which remove unwanted build-up from the scalp and roots.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice(Aloe Vera Juice, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Potash(Ashes of Plantain Skins, Cocoa Pods, Shea Tree Bark), Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Fragrance (Parfum), Botanical Blend Ingredients.
Righteous Roots Clarifying Shampoo is a gentle, sulfate-free option that will not strip your hair of natural oils. The primary surfactant combination is gentle, eco-friendly, and biodegradable, all while being sustainably sourced.
The shampoo is composed of a combination of gentle surfactants, such as Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Methyl Oleoyl Taurate, Lauryl Glucoside, and Coco-Glucoside – all from sustainable sources.
With these components carefully blended in one product you can be sure to achieve maximum results with minimal environmental impact!
It is a Cruelty-Free and vegan-friendly formula. It does not contain parabens, silicones, sulfates, (DEA / MEA), propylene glycol, mineral oil, or phthalates.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Methyl Oleoyl Taurate, Lauryl Glucoside, Coco Glucoside, Polysorbate, PEG- Methyl Glucose Trioleate, Propanediol, Citrus Paradisi Grapefruit Peel Oil, Glycerin, Adansonia Digitata Oil, Baobab Oil, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima, Avocado Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii Shea Butter, Panthenol, Allantoin, Mentha Piperita Peppermint Oil, Menthol, Urtica Dioica Nettle Root Extract, Phytic Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Acrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride, Acrylamide Copolymer, Annatto Extract, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol.
Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo is skillfully formulated with a unique combination of powerful surfactants, including isethionate, non-ionic decyl glucoside, and amphoteric disodium cocoamphodiacetate.
All four ingredients are lauded for their gentleness, providing a light cleanse that preserves natural hair oils.
This product is fortified with a selection of natural emollients, which help to moisturize the scalp and deliver lustrous locks.
Thanks to these nourishing ingredients, hair will have improved detangling abilities as well as enhanced shine and suppleness.
Rather than relying on synthetic fragrances, this product employs naturally derived aromas to provide a unique and delicate scent.
This product will help clean your hair, loosen excess sebum, and leave your hair shaft as well as scalp surface free from any residuals.
Ingredients: Water, **Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, **Decyl Glucoside, **Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, **Glycerin **Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, **Propanediol, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Polyquaternium-10, **Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Biotin, **Vanillin, **Hydrolyzed Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Protein, *Nigella Sativa (Virgin Black Cumin) Oil, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Lactic Acid, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, **Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, **Boswellia Carterii Oil, **Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, **Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, **Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, **Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, **Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, **Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, **Geranium Maculatum Oil, **Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Seed Oil, **Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, **Pogostemon Cablin Oil, **Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Seed Oil, ** Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Caprylyl Glycol. *Certified Organic **Plant Derived 100% Oil Scent (no synthetic fragrance). ***BounceCurl changed its Preservative and removed Phenoxyethanol to a greener preservative in this formula.
This shampoo doubles as a clarifying shampoo and chelating shampoo! The Kinky Curly Come Clean shampoo contains Phytic Acid, a natural chelating agent that eliminates harsh water minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
It is an all-natural substitute for EDTA obtained from soybeans and corn, which will soften hard water making it easier to rinse off while preventing any buildup on your hair strands.
Pamper your hair and scalp with this luxurious blend of Mandarin Orange extract and Sea Kelp, designed to delicately rid dulling buildup while sustaining its ideal moisture balance.
This sulfate-free shampoo is perfect for dry damaged hair, gentle enough to be used daily.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Organic Mandarin Orange Fruit, Organic Marigold Flower, Organic White Willow Bark, Organic Sea Kelp, C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Coconut Derived), Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Sea Salt, Phenoxyethanol, and Natural Fragrance.
Revitalize your scalp and hair follicles with African water mint, which is an invigorating and stimulating experience. Trust me, your scalp will thank you.
This shampoo helps to rid your scalp of dirt, debris, and excess oils that can contribute to a dry, itchy scalp.
Activated charcoal purifies your scalp from dirt, oil, and excessive sebum which can impede the health of your curls and inhibit further hair growth.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants, ginger helps battle free radicals to make your hair stronger while preventing breakage.
Let your hair show its vibrancy with the natural conditioning and shine of Opuntia extract, which is abundant in Vitamin E.
The main surfactants are Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate is a mild alternative to harsh sulfates.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine tends to make a formula gentler while still cleansing effectively, making this shampoo perfect for low-porosity hair.
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin (Vegetable), Fragrance (Essential Oil Blend), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (Certified Organic Ingredient) (Fair Trade Ingredient), Menthol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopherol, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Flower Extract, Zingiber Officinalis Extract, Menthol, Aquatica Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Charcoal Powder.
The unique recipe of sesame and olive oils is blended together with organic honey a peppermint oil to create a hydrating puree that provides nourishment for all hair textures without stripping away its moisture.
The surfactants Decyl Glucoside and Coco-Glucoside are the main surfactants in this shampoo, both of which are mild and gentle for low-porosity hair.
Ingredients: Distilled water, decyl glucoside, coco-glucoside, and glyceryl oleate, glycerin hydroxyproyltrimonium (honey), sesame indicum (sesame) seed oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, mentha pipenta (peppermint oil), xantham gum, natural fragrance, phenoxyethanol, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, cassia gum, stearyl alcohol, phytic acid.
With its exclusive formula, this shampoo is tailor-made for those with curly hair. It replenishes the scalp using sebum that mimics organic and natural oils without removing the required moisture from tresses.
Cocamidopropyl betaine, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, and Lauryl glucoside are the main surfactants in this shampoo for low porosity hair.
As stated previously, Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a mild cleansing agent that leaves hair feeling clean. With its extremely gentle cleansing properties, sodium cocoyl isethionate eliminates excess oil to provide a smooth finish and minimize tangles and frizz.
Lauryl glucoside helps break down surface tension resulting in more efficient dirt and oil removal with each wash.
Aloe Leaf Juice is a remarkable conditioning agent that moisturizes and exfoliates the scalp, leaving hair feeling smooth. Additionally, it helps to ease itching and reduce flakiness.
Baobab Oil hones in on softness and elasticity for renewed strength while Wintergreen, Spearmint, and Peppermint Oils work together to cool down your dry scalp while nourishing it back to health.
This shampoo is vegan and cruelty-free that is free of sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate oxybenzone, coal tar hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban.
This remarkable item contains less than one percent of synthetic fragrances so it’s safe to use without worry!
Ingredients: Water (aqua), *aloe barbadensis leaf juice, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoyl isethionate, lauryl glucoside, sodium lauroyl lactylate, +glycerin, *adansonia digitata (baobab) oil, ricinus communis (jamaican black castor) seed oil, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, phthalates free fragrance, gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) oil, *mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, mentha viridis (spearmint) leaf oil, hydroxyethylcellulose, polyquaternium-10, dehydroacetic acid, benzyl alcohol, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, opuntia ficus indica (prickly pear) seed oil, *cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil, *lavandula (lavender) spica oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, menthol, urtica dioica (nettle) extract, citric acid.*certified organic ingredient +kosher ingredient used.
SheaMoisture Low Porosity Weightless Hydrating Shampoo is a lightweight, hydrating shampoo that gently cleanses while effectively removing product build-up on moisture-resistant, low porosity hair.
The main surfactants are Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate. Also, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate is in the formula that is derived from a fatty acid of coconuts. Its mild foaming properties make it an ideal ingredient for moisturizing sulfate-free cleansers.
Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate’s remarkable surfactant properties render it a natural alternative to harsh sulfates and silicones.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a mild cleansing agent that helps eliminate product build-up and excess oil from the scalp.
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate is an effective foaming agent that helps to remove dirt, oil, and other impurities without stripping away essential moisture.
This sulfate-free shampoo for low porosity hair provides your locks with the perfect balance of cleansing and hydration.
Blended with Grapeseed, Tea Tree, and Sunflower Oils, plus Fair Trade Shea Butter, this nourishing formula helps to restore vibrancy in your hair.
Ingredients: Water (Eau), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin (Vegetable/Végétale), Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Sodium Chloride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Panthenol, Coconut Acid, Polyquaternium-10, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Stearamidopropyldimethylamine, Menthol, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Citric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Capric Acid, Lauric Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Sodium Methyltaurate, Sodium Acetate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Phytate, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum).
1. Corbett, J. F., The Chemistry of Hair-care Products. Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists 1976, 92 (8), 285-303.
2. Mottram, F. J., Hair shampoos. In Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps, Butler, H., Ed. Springer Netherlands: 1993; pp 170-194.
3. Robbins, C. R., Chemical and physical behavior of human hair. 4th ed.; Springer-Verlag: New York, 2002.
4. Wagner, R. D. C.; Joekes, I., Hair protein removal by sodium dodecyl sulfate. Colloid Surf. B-Biointerfaces 2005, 41 (1), 7-14.
5. Löffler, H.; Happle, R., Profile of irritant patch testing with detergents: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and alkyl polyglucoside. Contact Dermatitis 2003, 48 (1), 26-32.
6. Halla, N.; Fernandes, I. P.; Heleno, S. A.; Costa, P.; Boucherit-Otmani, Z.; Boucherit, K.; Rodrigues, A. E.; Ferreira, I. C. F. R.; Barreiro, M. F., Cosmetics Preservation: A Review on Present Strategies. Molecules 2018, 23 (7), 1571.
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