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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! 

Tips For Caring For Low Porosity Hair

February 5, 2023


Verna Meachum

Learn tips for caring for low porosity hair

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

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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. 

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Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Verna Meachum

Navigating the world of curly hair care, it’s clear that each curl type has its distinct needs. Caring for low porosity hair, in particular, presents unique challenges. This hair type struggles with moisture absorption, often leading to dry and brittle strands.

However, there are well-researched methods for caring for low porosity hair. If you’re seeking an effective routine for your curls, you’re in the right place. Dive into this post tailored specifically for you.

What is Low Porosity Hair?

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

Low porosity hair is typically very healthy, having not been exposed to chemical processes or environmental damage. Not only are the cuticles usually intact, but they’re also healthy.

Low porosity hair is marked by a strongly-knit cuticle layer that doesn’t allow for moisture, product, or chemicals to get in easily, making it hard for certain ingredients to be effective.

Products often adhere to the external layer of hair, rather than penetrating it, resulting in an unwelcome build-up.

Nonetheless, this might be a disadvantage when attempting to maintain your hair nourished and healthy, since product build-up can easily make the hair look lackluster, dry, and hard to style.

But, before you give up the fight, we’ve got some tips and tricks for caring for your low-porosity hair.

What are the possible culprits of low porosity hair?

Low porosity levels of the hair are not determined by external factors like damage but are something naturally inherited along with other traits.

Although damage and aging can cause low-porosity hair to turn more porous, this isn’t a permanent change.

Your hair is made up of dead cells that are positioned in a specific three-layer pattern:

vector illustration of the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.
  • The outermost layer of your hair is known as the cuticle. It’s made up of overlapping individual cuticles, much like a roof’s shingles.
  • The cortex is the middle and thickest layer. It contains fibrous proteins as well as pigments.
  • The medulla is the innermost layer of the hair shaft, sitting between the cortex and cuticle.

Low Porosity Hair Characteristics

Image of the word characteristic highlighted in red for Tips For Caring For Low Porosity Hair blog.

Observing your hair’s qualities and properties is one of the most reliable methods for determining its porosity.

Generally, low porosity locks are identifiable by these characteristics:

  • Low-porosity hair has fewer pores that are also smaller when compared to extremely damaged hair. This, coupled with its smooth cuticles, makes it quite resilient and water-resistant.
  • Takes a long time for hair to get fully wet. The tightly packed and flat cuticle layers act as a shield, protecting hair from everyday wear and tear, which limits water absorption.
  • Low-porosity hair is prone to build-up from product and tends to be difficult to style.
  • Observe how the water beads rest on top of the hair strands – this is because of a successful cuticle seal, which allows them to take in only what it requires and let go of everything else. These water beads are a big indication that your hair is more than likely low porosity.
  • As your hair accumulates more and more products, the layers become heavier and stiffer, making it less flexible.
  • Single-strand knots are created easily (usually in more kinky, tighter curls).
  • Drying your hair can be a tedious and time-consuming process, especially when you opt for air drying.

Low porosity and high porosity differences

Image showing damaged hair versus healthy hair.

Low-porosity hair has strong densely packed cuticle layers, making it harder for moisture and products to penetrate. This leads to product build-up, which can make it difficult to style and manage.

Low-porosity hair tends to be relatively impenetrable due to its low pore volume or size, when compared with severely damaged locks.

Water and other substances bead up on the strands’ smooth cuticles because of this attribute.

On the other hand, high porosity hair’s cuticles contain numerous gaps or holes along the hair shaft that enable quick absorption of water and chemicals.

These raised flaps on the outside layer of the cuticle are what allow for extended absorbency compared to nonporous hair.

High porosity hair is typically caused by damage. Heat, styling products, chemicals, and the sun could all harm your hair’s cuticle layer.

When this happens it can lead to high porosity hair – damaged cuticles that have gaps between them which leaves the strands unable to retain moisture properly.

Understanding Hair Porosity and Its Role in Hair Care

In the early days of my healthy hair journey, I was largely focused on understanding my curl pattern. Little did I know that porosity was just as important.

Other hair characteristics that are important to know are density, elasticity, and width (the actual thickness of the strands of hair and not the volume of hair) as they all play a role in caring for your hair.

If you recognize the porosity of your hair, it can help explain why your strands act as they do, how to properly maintain them, and how to choose the right products and techniques to care for them.

In simple terms, porosity determines your hair’s capacity for moisture retention and absorption.

Each person’s hair boasts its unique degree of porosity, ranging from high to medium to low. All strands, however, are naturally permeable and absorbent to varying amounts of water molecules.

How to Test Hair Porosity

Image of float test.

If you’re looking to test your hair porosity, there are a few efficient methods. One of the most simple and straightforward approaches to doing this yourself is called the float test.

While the accuracy of this test may fluctuate due to varying circumstances, it gives a general indication.

To ensure accurate results, be sure to test your hair when it’s clean and sample several strands.

  1. Take a single hair fiber.
  2. Achieving the perfect temperature is key when it comes to wet hair. To achieve optimal results, fill a container with water that ranges between 25-30 degrees Celsius.
  3. Slowly slide the one hair strand into the water, taking care to not disrupt its surface.
  4. Begin timing your progress. Keep a close eye on the duration of time that the hair fiber is completely submerged.
  5. Hair with a high porosity level will rapidly take in water, sinking more swiftly than its low-porosity counterpart which requires a much longer time to absorb moisture. Medium porosity will generally take somewhere between the two.

Low Porosity Hair Tips

Tip #1: If you have low-porosity hair, it is tempting to apply a lot of products in the hopes of achieving better results. Unfortunately, this will be futile as the cuticles on these types of strands are tightly sealed together and won’t absorb much product. Therefore, use no more products than necessary for the best results.

Tip #2: To achieve the best results with low porosity hair, be sure to discover items that are specifically tailored for it. Ensure you opt for those ingredients which can easily penetrate your hair shafts.

Tip #3: To experience loads of hydration, seek out ingredients such as water-based conditioners, glycerine, avocado, and film-forming humectants like flaxseed extract, aloe vera gel, marshmallow root, or beet juice. For added moisture boost try honey too. If any of these ingredients don’t work for you, then don’t use them.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to try Hydrolyzed protein! Most shy away from proteins, and while there are those who are protein-sensitive, a lot of hair types thrive on it. It’s a great moisturizer as it prevents the loss of water from your hair. The key is to use the best proteins for low porosity hair.

Smaller proteins are perfect because they can seep under the cuticles and keep the water in your hair longer. Stick to smaller proteins like amino acids, peptides, silk, collagen, keratin.

Image of Amino acid structure. Tips for caring for low porosity hair blog.

Tip #5: To ensure hair health and vibrancy, ensure that you’re consistently providing your low-porosity locks with the necessary moisture.

Tip #6: An essential step to healthy hair is applying products when it’s wet and warm. The heat will open the cuticle of your strands, allowing them to readily absorb moisture and oils that nourish the hair shaft.

Tip #7: Unlock the full potential of deep conditioning by using heat. Heat can help effectively raise the cuticle, allowing your hair to gain maximum nourishment from your deep conditioner.

Before applying a conditioner to your locks, ensure that you are utilizing some form of heat therapy to get optimal results.

Tip #8: Use a hair cap to help the hair cuticles raise. You can also just have a shower cap and your body heat. After applying the treatment evenly throughout, cover with either one of these options – then sit back and let it work its magic.

Your locks will soak in all the goodness of this nourishing therapy as long as you keep that cuticle open! Other options for steam are a handheld steamer or hooded steamer.

Image of table top Hooded steamer. Tips for caring for low porosity hair blog.

Tip #9: Avoid build-up. Low-porosity hair is often prone to product build-up. To prevent this, use lightweight ingredients that won’t leave residue on the strands and shampoo regularly.

Tip #10: Clarify your hair at least once a month. Low porosity hair is susceptible to build-up if not washed regularly. Product accumulation builds up a barrier on each hair strand, preventing it from getting enough water.

Tip #11: Always let your hair be your guide! Get to know your hair. My most important advice is to keep an eye on how your hair is responding and experiment with the solutions that seem to work best.

Ingredients to Avoid for Low-Porosity Hair Care

Image of the word "avoid" in red with a magnifying glass for Tips for Caring for Low Porosity Hair blog.

When selecting haircare items for low-porosity hair, certain ingredients should be avoided. These ingredients may harm the integrity of your hair’s health and make styling efforts futile.


Silicones are water-repellent oils that hair care products often contain in order to provide slip, detangling capabilities, shine, and heat protection.

Cyclomethicone and Dimethicone are two of the most common silicones used today; they have a large molecular weight which makes them both insoluble and viscous when mixed with water.

Petrolatum and White Mineral Oil

As two of the industry’s oldest ingredients, petrolatum and white mineral oil have been derived from petroleum since cosmetics first came into fashion. These hydrocarbon oils continue to be a key component in many products today.

Petrolatum has a jelly-like consistency with an extremely high viscosity, while white mineral oil is a clear liquid.

Not only do both substances offer lubrication to hair or scalp and minimize water loss from their surfaces — they also serve as occlusive materials that create a protective layer on the hair surface, preventing moisture from escaping.

Despite their effectiveness, these products can be incredibly oily! If applied to low-porosity hair, they could make it excessively greasy and heavy due to the high thickness of the product.

Formaldehyde or Related Preservatives

Hair care products that contain formaldehyde or other preservatives can be damaging to your hair. These ingredients are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms.

These preservatives can bring on skin sensitization and subsequent discomfort, but they may also result in other health issues.


Avoid high dosages of humectants. High concentrations can lead to lackluster or limp hair, so it’s recommended that you use them in moderation.


Avoid shampoos with sulfates. While sulfates in and of themselves aren’t bad, because it depends on the formulation, they can be too harsh for some.

Sulfates are known to strip the hair of its natural oils, which can lead to dryness, brittleness, and increased breakage.

For those with sensitive scalps or color-treated hair, sulfates can also cause irritation and fade hair color more quickly.

It’s essential to choose sulfate-free shampoos if you want to maintain the natural moisture balance and health of your hair.

For more detailed information on ingredients to avoid, read my blog, ‘Ingredients To Avoid For Low Porosity Hair: A Comprehensive Guide.’

    Low Porosity Hair Products

    Here are some products specifically designed for low-porosity hair:

    How to Moisturize Low Porosity Hair Daily

    If your hair is always dry and you’re looking for a way to moisturize low porosity hair on a daily basis, try using water and a leave-in conditioner. Moisturize whenever your hair feels dry.

    For extra-dry hair, two to three times a week is normal. For others, once a week should be enough. Make sure to use water-based moisturizers.

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