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Understanding Hair Porosity

September 24, 2018


Verna Meachum

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 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

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Last Updated on August 25, 2022 by Verna Meachum

Do you know what your hair porosity is? This little-known hair characteristic can play a big role in how well your hair retains moisture.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about your hair’s porosity very often. But if you want to have healthy hair that is easy to style, it’s important to understand your hair’s porosity and how to work with it.

In this post, we’ll talk all about hair porosity and how to determine what type of porosity your hair has.

So whether you’re just getting started on your natural hair journey or you’ve been rocking your curls for years, read on for some helpful information!

What Does Hair Porosity Mean?

Porosity is a measure of how well your hair can absorb and retain moisture. Hair with high porosity (also known as “highly-porous”) has many cuticles that are raised, which means it absorbs water easily but loses it quickly too.

Low porosity hair (low-porous) has tight-fitting cuticle scales on the surface. The surface of low porosity hair is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. It does not readily absorb water nor does it easily lose its water content.

Why Does Hair Porosity Matter?

Have you ever wondered why your hair seems to behave differently at different times? Why it might be dry one day, oily the next, and then normal a few days after that? Well, part of the reason for this is hair porosity.

Knowing your hair’s porosity can help you choose the right products and techniques for keeping your curls looking their best.

To better understand porosity, picture your hair like a shingled roof. When the roof is new, it protects the household items beneath it and can shield the house it covers.

It can withstand the rain, sun, all types of weather, and so on. The roof’s protective barrier may be broken as it ages and becomes brittle and dry.

The holes or gaps in the roof can develop over time as a result of missing shingles. The roof has deteriorated or weathered (porous) with age.

Our hair functions like a roof. The hair’s protective cuticle layers begin to peel and lift away as it ages. As a result, the cuticle has changed. This causes the hair to be less able to absorb and retain the moisture it once could.

The oldest part of your hair is more porous (i.e. your ends) or has a higher porosity than newer hair (your roots). This is due to what’s called age progression along the hair fiber.

If you want to have healthy hair that is easy to style, it’s important to understand your hair porosity and how to work with it.

So again, why does hair porosity matter? It matters because it influences the amount of protection your hair requires (what you’ll put on it) and how quickly it will lose water.

Understanding your hair porosity is the key to determining what products and ingredients to use (i.e. you don’t want to use a product with a high concentration of protein on low porosity hair) and what styling techniques you use for your hair.

Ways to Figure Out Hair Porosity

Determining your hair porosity can help you better customize your hair care routine to achieve the shine, volume, and overall health you desire.

Knowing your hair’s porosity can help you to better understand how to take care of it and what products will work best for you. So, how do you determine your hair’s porosity?

There are a couple of ways to get a general idea of our hair’s porosity without getting too bogged down in the science.

The Float Test: Reliable or Not

One of the most popular ways to determine hair porosity is to perform what is called “the float test or hair porosity test.”

In this test, you will need to perform it on clean hair.

  1. Fill a glass with water
  2. Drop a single strand in the water
  3. After approximately 5-10 minutes, check to see if the hair strand floats or sinks to the bottom of the glass
The hair porosity test is one way to figure out your hair's porosity

If the hair strand sinks to the bottom of your container and stays there, you have low porosity hair.

If the hair strand remains on top of the water or slowly sinks but eventually goes to the bottom, you have high porosity hair.

If it floats in between, then your hair has medium porosity.

The problem with the float test is that it’s not always accurate, as there are other factors at play besides hair porosity that can cause a strand of hair to sink or float.

As far as we know, there is no way to truly test your porosity at home without sending your hair off to a lab for analysis.

The next way to help you to determine your hair’s porosity is to understand the characteristics of each level of porosity.

What are the characteristics of high porosity hair?

If you have high porosity hair—your hair’s cuticles are raised, which allows for quick absorption of moisture and products.

High porosity hair has raised cuticles

Signs of High Porosity:

– Hair that tangles easily and is difficult to brush or comb through

– Hair that is dry and straw-like in texture

– Increased frizziness and flyaways

– Difficulty retaining moisture, often feels dry after washing

– Easily absorbs products, leaving a weighed down feeling

-Hair is quicker to air dry

-Hair seems to break easily

-Hair strand feels bumpy or rough if you run your finger across it

What are the characteristics of low porosity hair?

Do you have trouble retaining moisture in your hair? If so, you may have low porosity hair. Low porosity hair is a common type of hair that has difficulty absorbing and retaining moisture.

Low porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles

Signs of Low Porosity:

– Hair that is difficult to wet and takes a long time to air dry

– Hair that is resistant to styling products

– Prone to dryness, even though the hair retains moisture well

– Does not take color well

-You’ll notice water beads sitting on top of your hair strands

-Hair strand feels smooth if you run your finger across it

-Hair is likely to experience product build-up

What are the characteristics of medium porosity hair?

If your hair absorbs moisture easily and retains it for a longer period of time, when compared to high porosity, then you may have medium porosity hair.

Medium porosity hair can be considered the goldilocks of porosity: not too high and not too low, it’s just right.

Medium porosity hair is in between low and high porosity hair; it is the hair we would all like to achieve

Signs of Medium Porosity:

– Hair that is easy to wet and air dry

– Absorbs products evenly, without leaving a weighed down feeling

– Holds styles well

– Absorbs and retains moisture well

– Hair that can be colored easily

-Hair looks healthy and shiny

Hair Porosity Tips

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably spent a lot of time and money trying to find the right hair care routine and products for your specific hair type.

And if you’re like me, then you’ve also probably been frustrated by the lack of information out there on how to take care of hair with high porosity.

Well, don’t fear! I’m here to give you some tips on how to take care of your high porosity hair.

What can you do to maintain highly porous hair healthy and looking good?

High porosity tips

  • High porosity should focus on both moisture and protein. The reason you must concentrate on both is that high porosity hair has a difficult time retaining moisture, but it also can be over-moisturized.
  • Use deep conditioning treatments at least once a week.
  • Use gentle shampoos and conditioners that will not strip your hair of its natural oils.
  • Avoid using heat styling tools, as they can further dry out your hair.
  • Keep the amount of time your hair is saturated with water to a minimum.
  • Use oils on dry hair or before shampooing to prevent excess water uptake. Coconut oil, in particular, helps to prevent the swelling of hair in water and actually permeates into the deeper layers of the cuticle, particularly beneficial for high porosity hair.
  • Seal in moisture with a leave-in conditioner after washing and conditioning your hair.
  • Use protein. The cuticles along the hair shaft may have holes and gaps, and you’ll need something to fill them in temporarily. Protein is a great ingredient for just that. If your hair is lacking protein, it makes it difficult for hair to hold in moisture/water.
  • Use a protein treatment once every two weeks or as needed to strengthen the inner core of your porous strands and help reduce porosity.
  • Since the cuticles are raised, its ability to retain moisture is almost impossible. That’s why you need to use heavy-duty moisturizers and sealants in your hair regimen.
  • Some great products to add to your hair regimen are oils (i.e. coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil) and butters (i.e. shea and mango butter), and thick creams.
  • You don’t necessarily need to use heat when deep conditioning, as the cuticles are already raised.
  • Always remember to listen to your hair at every stage of your regimen. If it feels dry, then add more moisturizing products; if it feels weighed down, then reduce the amount of product you’re using, and so on.

Low porosity hair tips

So, you think you might have low porosity hair? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you already have an idea that your locks tend to be a little on the dry side. But how can you work with it to achieve the best possible results?

If you have low porosity hair, your hair tends to be resistant to moisture and products.

  • Low porosity should focus more on moisture than protein. For the most part, hair already has high levels of protein.
  • Don’t use protein unless you think your hair needs it.
  • Use heat when deep conditioning.
  • Apply products to soaking wet hair.
  • Avoid using too much oils, as these tend to have a harder time penetrating the cuticle.
  • Don’t overdo it with the products. Build-up is a real thing.
  • If your hair feels super dry, wiry, and/or brittle, it’s not always the case that your, it could be a sign that your hair is actually lacking hydration and flexibility.
  • Clarify your hair at least once a month.

For more in-depth tips for moisturizing low porosity hair, click here.

Medium porosity hair tips

  • Medium Porosity should focus more on maintaining an already balanced proportion of moisture/protein.
  • You don’t necessarily need to use a deep conditioner as hair is already healthy
  • If you need to use a conditioning treatment, alternate every other week until your hair feels balanced again.
  • Always remember, regimens will vary from person to person.


I have high porosity hair, it that good or bad?

It depends if your hair is the result of self-inflicted damage. Unfortunately, damaged hair is irreversible and the only way to deal with it is to cut off the damage and/or use products to help lower and improve the porosity.

High porosity hair is more porous or has more tiny holes along the hair shaft than low porosity hair. This means that your hair is more susceptible to moisture loss and can be dryer and harder to style.

However, because high porosity hair absorbs products better, it can also look shinier and feel softer if you find the right products for your hair type.

If your hair high porosity hair has not been damaged, then you will need to use more moisturizing products, but your hair is less likely to be frizzy or unmanageable.

I have low porosity hair, is that good or bad?

It’s not bad!

Low porosity hair has a tighter cuticle layer which means it doesn’t absorb moisture as easily, which can make your hair feel more wiry and dry. But that’s also one of the benefits! It just needs a little extra attention and some minor customizing.

The cuticle layer is harder to penetrate which means a higher shine level.

Which is better high or low porosity?

It is all a matter of perception and expectation.

High porosity hair is often seen as a good thing because it means the hair can easily absorb and hold onto moisture.

But low porosity hair can be just as healthy and shiny if you give it the right kind of care. So, it really depends on what you’re looking for in your hair.

Again, it’s all about perception and expectation. The key is finding the right products that work for your hair type, sticking to them, and educating and learning how to listen to your hair needs.

High and low porosity hair can be healthy, shiny, manageable… it just takes a little effort to get there!


Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

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