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Your Guide to Types of Hair Porosity and Taking a Hair Porosity Test

The must-know facts about hair porosity.
13 Aug 2021
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 really 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 cuticles are like doors that open and close to channel moisture and then seal it in. These stacked layers 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.

There’s a distinct difference between low vs. high porosity hair. On the other end of the spectrum, if your cuticle is hard to open, a.k.a. you have low porosity, not a lot of moisture can get in at all. Tighter hair textures may have cuticles that overlap with each other, causing hair to have a low porosity. In this case, you’ll naturally start to notice that your hair feels and looks really dry.

With low porosity hair, you may notice that product or even water from your shower just beads up on top of your hair. This is because with low porosity hair, the cuticles are shut so tightly that the moisture cannot absorb. Whereas high porosity strands have more space between the cuticles or less layering, high porosity is often the driest of the bunch because water just flows in and right back out. 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. Here’s how.

Start By Filling a Glass With Water
Since porosity is all about moisture retention, you can test how well your hair absorbs moisture by analyzing your hair in water.

Grab One or Two Strands of Hair and Drop Them In The Glass
As previously mentioned, your hair’s porosity can change depending on your styling habits and the types of products you use. You likely also have different curl patterns around your head, so it’s best to gather strands from different parts of your head.

See Where It Lands
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. Other ingredients to steer clear of if you have low porosity hair include highly acidic products like an apple cider vinegar rinse. This is generally used to keep the cuticle closed, so they’re not ideal for hair with low porosity either.

Wash Day Delight Water-to- Foam Cleanser

What does help are steam treatments which lift the cuticle so products and moisture can seep in. The best low porosity hair products include a sulfate-free water-based cleanser like Wash Day Delight Water-to- Foam Cleanser. It’s a great starting point for any hair porosity.

Wash Day Delight Conditioner with Rose Water

Moisture will get in the hair cuticle and not having sulfates in the formula will keep hair from drying out. You also want to add a layer of moisture after your shampoo. Top off your low porosity hair care with the Wash Day Delight Conditioner with Rose Water. Hydrating rose water is lightweight enough to penetrate hair, while glycerin helps seal in the moisture without coating hair like a heavier oil can do.

Once you get some moisture in, a low porosity hair product like the Monoi Strengthening Serum is a good option to further seal and fortify the hair both inside and out. As a styler, the Pracaxi Nectar Style & Hold Foam also offers hold to smooth curls while still allowing moisture to still get in.

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 normal porosity hair care 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. Use a conditioner that isn’t too light or too heavy. A milky formula like the Almond Milk Leave-In Conditioner imparts moisture without the weight.

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. And you can keep your cuticle smooth with daily swipes of the Mimosa Hair Honey.

How To Care For High Porosity Hair

While there is 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 a mid-weight cleanser like the Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner, 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 there could be permanent damage to a cuticle in some cases that even a deep moisturizing treatment or oil can’t close. Other solutions like more acidic products and protein-based porosity hair care treatments 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.

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