You may have heard the term hair porosity and had no idea what it actually means. We hear you. It’s one of the more confusing natural hair concepts, but with an understanding of the various hair porosity types—namely low porosity and high porosity—you can really transform the way your hair behaves and how it responds to certain natural hair products. The answer to why your hair gets dry, soaks up your curl cream, or is easily weighed down by a hair moisturizer. has a lot to do with whether you have porous hair. While it makes sense to assume that your hair porosity is directly related to your curl type, this isn’t always the case. Before your next wash day, take a hair porosity test and find out how to adjust your routine based on how porous your hair is.
What Is Hair Porosity?
In the simplest terms, porosity is your hair’s ability to soak up and hold in moisture and products. There are three levels of porosity: low, medium, and high. Each strand of your hair has an outer shell of cuticles that kind of look like shingles on the side of a roof. These are stacked layers that open up when things like heat hit them and close when you smooth a product on top or hit your hair with cold water.
What Types of Hair Porosity Are There?
Hair porosity types are determined by how open or closed those shingle-like cuticles are. It’s important to note that your hair’s porosity can change for either the good or the bad. Products, certain styling practices, and hair dyeing are all things that can leave your hair in an open and vulnerable state where the cuticles stay open. So, while moisture is free to enter, without the cuticles closing to seal it in, it basically just runs right back out—this is high porosity. On the other end of the spectrum, if your cuticle is hard to open, aka you have low porosity, moisture can’t get in at all. In this case, you’ll naturally start to notice that your hair feels and looks really dry. Medium porosity is most ideal since moisture is able to penetrate but doesn’t easily escape—that’s the best of both worlds.
How Hair Type and Porosity Relate
Curlier hair tends to be drier because of how difficult it is for scalp oils to make their way through the coils from root to tip, but this doesn’t always mean that all highly textured hair has the same porosity. This means you can’t ask, “Is 4C hair low or high porosity?” and get one clear answer. Two people, both with 4C hair, can have very different porosities.
How Do You Test Hair Porosity?
Do you find yourself asking, “What is my hair porosity?” Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find out with a quick hair porosity test. Start by filling a glass with water. Grab one or two strands of hair and drop them in the glass. If your hair immediately sinks to the bottom, then it’s highly porous. If it floats in the middle, then it’s in the medium to normal porosity range, and if it sits on top, then it has a low porosity. Now that you’ve identified your hair porosity type with this easy hair porosity quiz, let’s dig into how to care for your hair.
How to Care for Low Porosity Hair
What does low porosity hair look like? Just as there isn’t one hair type that will have less porous hair, you can’t expect low porosity hair to have a specific look. What you may see is that hair with low porosity looks weighed down. This is because when you put products on low porosity hair, they just sit on top of the strands.
Now, what can you do about your hair porosity? Is coconut oil good for low porosity hair? Not quite. You’ll actually want to steer clear of oils like coconut and castor oil and other products that are made to seal the cuticle, because they’ll work against your efforts to get moisture inside. Also, highly acidic products like an apple cider vinegar rinse work to keep the cuticle closed, so they’re not ideal for hair with low porosity either.
What does help are steam treatments which lift the cuticle so products and moisture can seep in. Once you get some moisture in, a low porosity hair product like the Monoi Strengthening Serum is a good option to seal and fortify the hair both inside and out.
How to Care for Medium Porosity Hair
Ideally, you’ll want your strands to be balanced with a medium porosity. This means that your hair is not only able to take in moisture, but it can hold it for longer. It’s also best for keeping other products in longer, so leave-in conditioners, heat protectants, and other hair moisturizers that help keep hair healthy can absorb well and stick around to work their magic.
Keeping your hair at an ideal medium porosity takes some effort. Try not to go overboard with chemical processes or heat-styling too frequently. These are practices that over time can compromise your hair’s porosity. Incorporating a strengthening oil like the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil will help keep both your hair and scalp in optimal shape.
How to Care for High Porosity Hair
While there are an upside and a downside to having highly porous hair, it quite often means that your hair is damaged. Things like coloring, too much heat, and certain product ingredients may have disrupted the cuticle, so it no longer lays down or closes up as it should. The good thing is that hair easily soaks up moisture and product, but it isn’t always able to hold it in.
Looking on the bright side, it’s a lot easier to seal a cuticle once open than it is to open up a closed one. High porosity hair products include heavier hair butters like the Healthy Hair Butter, richer oils like castor oil, or the Monoi Repairing Conditioner, all of which can help close the cuticle. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in some cases, there could be permanent damage to a cuticle that even a deep moisturizing treatment or oil can’t close. Other solutions like more acidic products and a protein treatment can also help heal and seal a compromised cuticle.
Does Hair Porosity Matter?
Yes, in case it wasn’t obvious, your hair porosity matters! Porosity should have a lot to do with the types of products you use as well as your styling practices, so it’s good to know or have an understanding of what yours is. If you don’t have time for a porosity test, you can tell how well your hair is absorbing or resisting moisture by how it interacts with your products. Also note that much like your curl pattern, you may have different porosities on your head, so when testing, swipe a few strands from different areas. This could help you learn to better style your curls if different areas of hair require different types of products.
Ready to start styling based on your porosity? Check out the 20 Natural Hair Products to Try in 2020.