Hair is a form of self-expression. Bohemian waves, straight and sleek locks, or maybe you flaunt voluminous coils that bounce and shine. When it comes to styling our strands, we spend a lot of time focusing on hair texture finding the best curly hair products to enhance our natural curls or a reparative hair mask to beat dry and frizzy hair. But there’s one important element we often overlook: hair porosity.
I always knew my hair was thick, coarse, and wavy, but once I identified my hair porosity, it completely changed how I care for my hair. In this article, I’ll break down the different porosity types and help you identify your own hair porosity while giving you a must-have list of products and care tips based on your porosity level that will make your strands look and feel healthier than ever.
Ready for an entirely new outlook on your hair? Let’s dive in.
What Is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to soak up and retain products, nutrients, and moisture. The level of porosity is predominantly determined by your genetics, which affects the overall shape and size of your hair cuticles. Every strand of hair on your head has a protective outer casing of cuticles layered with overlapping scale cell “shingles” that open to allow moisture through and close to seal it in. For some people, these layers naturally remain more open and exposed, while others may have hair cuticles that open enough to draw in moisture and then quickly shut to lock it in.
How the cuticle behaves directly affects your hair porosity, and external factors play a role too. For example, applying heat to your hair will open the cuticles, while a rush of cold water will seal them shut. The first step in determining which products will work best for your hair is identifying your level of hair porosity: low, medium, or high.
What Is Low Porosity Hair?
If you have low porosity hair, your hair cuticles are tightly packed together. This makes it difficult to absorb hydration and allow moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. Here are some telltale signs that you may have low porosity hair:
- Hair products don’t absorb easily and tend to sit on the surface of your hair
- You notice water beading on top of your hair when you shower
- You find it difficult to saturate your hair fully when washing
- It takes a long time for your hair to air dry (sometimes over 8 hours)
While low porosity hair takes longer to dry than medium or high porosity hair, it does have its benefits. Low porosity hair is typically stronger, shinier, and healthier looking than high porosity hair types because the hair cuticles lay flat. It is also less prone to split ends if you’re not heat styling on a regular basis.
If you have low porosity hair, lightweight products will be your best friend for washing and styling. When choosing products for low porosity hair, reach for formulas with humectants such as glycerin that will help draw in moisture. Avoid ultra-rich or heavy butters and oils as they will only sit on top of your hair, making it appear greasy and weighed down.
What Is High Porosity Hair?
If you have high porosity hair like me, your hair will allow water and products to easily be absorbed into the hair shaft but it won’t retain moisture for very long. This is because the cuticles in high porosity hair strands are more spread out with gaps and spaces between them. Here are some ways to tell that you might have high porosity hair:
- Your hair quickly absorbs water and other moisturizing products
- Your hair is prone to breakage, damage, and split ends
- Your hair feels frizzy and dry
- Your hair air dries fast
High porosity hair can be genetic or caused by damage from chemical processing, bleach, and hot tools. My tip: add a deeply moisturizing leave-in conditioner and reparative protein treatment into your routine to help hydrate and repair the hair shaft, strengthen your strands, and shield against future damage.
How Can I Tell If I Have Medium Porosity Hair?
If you have medium porosity hair, congrats! It’s widely considered the hair porosity holy grail. With medium or normal hair porosity, the cuticles are smooth and well-spaced out not packed together or too open. This allows moisture to penetrate the hair shaft but doesn’t let it easily escape, so your strands retain hydration and nutrients for longer periods of time.
Here’s how you can tell if you’ve been blessed with normal or medium hair porosity:
- Your hair styles easily and can hold updos, curls and other styles for hours
- Your hair takes on color well and doesn’t experience rapid fading
- Your strands look healthy, shiny, and glossy
- It doesn’t take too long to air dry your hair
Medium porosity hair doesn’t require as much maintenance but remember, your hair porosity can change over time. Avoid over processing your hair with chemicals or exposing it to heat damage so you can protect your perfect porosity!
Finding the Best Products for Your Hair Porosity
We now know that genetics is a key player in determining whether you have low or high hair porosity, so it can’t easily be changed. However, a comprehensive haircare routine tailored to your specific porosity level can help improve the manageability of your hair will making it appear healthy, shiny, and smooth.
Before you start overhauling your haircare routine, you’ll need to determine if you have low, medium, or high porosity hair. I’ll outline a simple at-home hair porosity test so you can easily identify your level of hair porosity and select the product lineup that is best for you.
How to Do the Hair Porosity Test
You can easily determine your hair porosity from the comfort of your own home by conducting a “float” test. This hair porosity test is quick and uncomplicated:
Shampoo and rinse your hair to remove any product buildup. Once your locks are clean and dry, pluck a single strand of your hair and place it in a glass of water. If the hair floats at the top, you have low porosity, but if it quickly sinks to the bottom of the glass, you probably have high porosity hair. If the strand hovers around the middle of the glass and slowly descends through the water, it’s most likely medium porosity.
Not convinced? There are a few other at-home hair porosity tests you can try. Run a finger along a strand of your hair and note how it feels. Due to the closed cuticles, low porosity hair will feel sleek and smooth. High porosity hair has open cuticles that will feel rough and coarse to the touch. If you want to conduct a third hair porosity test to be sure, try air drying the faster your hair dries, the higher the porosity. High porosity hair can fully air dry in approximately 2 hours, while low porosity hair may need over 8 hours to no longer feel damp to the touch.
Products tailored for your hairTake test
4 Key Tips for Low Porosity Hair Care
If you’ve conducted a hair porosity test indicating you have low porosity hair, it’s time to rethink your haircare lineup. From protein-free conditioners to clarifying shampoos, these are the care tips and products for low porosity hair that will keep your locks looking their best:
Use Protein-Free Conditioners
Low porosity hair types hold in moisture better than others, so they don’t require as much as protein as hair with a higher porosity level. A protein overload can leave hair looking dull, dry, and prone to breakage, so a protein-free conditioner, like Grow Perfect™ Conditioner is ideal as it is easily absorbed into the hair and likely won’t cause unwanted product buildup. Pro tip: dilute the conditioner with water and wet your hair before applying to maximize moisture absorption.
Choose Lightweight, Hydrating Ingredients
The key word here is lightweight. Products with heavy oils and butters will have difficulty penetrating the cuticle and tend to weigh hair down, leaving an unpleasant greasy residue. Instead, when choosing products for low porosity hair, go for ultra-hydrating ingredients like glycerin or Aquaxyl™, a sugar-derived compound that provides intense (yet lightweight!) moisture for the hair, skin and scalp.
Apply Gentle Heat to Open the Cuticle
When conditioning your hair, apply gentle heat to help open the cuticle. You can do this by using a steamer, heat cap, or hooded dryer. If you don’t have any of these tools on hand, you can cover your hair with a shower cap once you’ve applied your conditioner to build up some heat.
Opt for a Clarifying Shampoo
Product buildup can be an issue for those with low porosity hair. The tightly compacted cuticles prevent moisture and product from entering the hair shaft, causing it to accumulate on the surface of your hair. A sulfate-free clarifying shampoo like Scalp Delight™ Detox Scrub helps open up the cuticles to let moisture in while sloughing away grease, oils, and product.
5 Must-Have Products for Low Porosity Hair
Finding the right products for low porosity hair is key to keeping your locks feeling healthy, fresh, and hydrated. I suggest starting with a lightweight shampoo and conditioner that won’t weigh your hair down. Grow Perfect™ Duo is one of my top picks, formulated with hardworking yet lightweight ingredients that fortify your strands and protect them from future damage. An everyday hair oil like Moisture Hero™ Hair Oil will also help hydrate low porosity hair in need of nourishment. This one is 100% naturally derived and features six nutrient-rich oils that deeply hydrate without leaving a greasy residue behind. Win-win.
A pre-shampoo treatment like Moisture Hero™ Pre-Shampoo Balm will help create a barrier between the shampoo and your hair, shielding your low porosity strands against the stripping effects of shampoo. Product buildup is also a common issue with low porosity hair types, so a scalp detox is essential. The Scalp Delight™ Bundle gently cleanses, exfoliates, and nourishes your scalp, removing excess sebum and product buildup to leave your hair looking and feeling instantly refreshed.
Lastly, for an extra dose of hydration, I always recommend a nourishing leave-in treatment like the Split Fix™ Leave-In Conditioner. This air-light, silicone-free spray delivers much-needed moisture, nutrients, and antioxidants to your strands for a soft and healthy finish. Remember, products for low porosity hair should be nourishing, moisturizing, and lightweight.
How to Take Care of High Porosity Hair
My hair is thick, dry, and super porous it doesn’t hang on to moisture for long. When choosing the right products for high porosity hair like mine, stick to ingredients lists that are packed with nourishing butters and oils that will deeply moisturize your mane.
Other key products for high porosity hair that you shouldn’t overlook are leave-in conditioners and sealers that help lock in hydration. Reparative proteins are also crucial, as high porosity hair types need extra protein to keep moisture sealed into the hair shaft for longer.
For everyday styling, use a heat protectant before blow drying or using hot tools to shield your strands against damage. When washing, avoid hot water as it will further open the hair cuticles. Instead, go lukewarm or rinse with cold water after deep conditioning to help your strands retain moisture for a soft, shiny finish.
What are the Best Products for High Porosity Hair?
My strands are coarse and dry, so I’m always on the hunt for the most effective products for high porosity hair. In my experience, a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner is a must. Moisture Hero™ Duo is formulated sans sulfates, and gently cleanses (without stripping!), giving dry and frizzy hair that much-needed moisture boost. As I mentioned above, one of the essential products for high porosity hair is an intensive protein treatment like Protein Repair™ Hair Mask to help fortify the cuticle and reduce damage.
You should also add a moisture shampoo and conditioner into your rotation. Moisture Hero™ Shampoo and Moisture Hero™ Conditioner are specifically formulated with a medley of deeply hydrating botanicals and hydrolysed proteins to replenish and repair ultra-porous, dry hair. If you have curly, high porosity hair, the Curl Crush™ Bundle, Curl Crush™ Duo, and Curl Crush™ Co-Wash give you everything you need to transform frizzy, lackluster curls into shiny and smooth ringlets with healthy body and bounce.
Finally, a heat protectant. As I mentioned earlier in this article, this needs to be on your list of must-have products for high porosity hair. Thermal Shield™ Heat Protectant is lightweight and silicone-free, shielding your strands against damage, breakage, and frizz. A few spritzes of this naturally hydrating spray goes a long way.
Care Tips for Medium Porosity Hair
Medium porosity hair is typically the easiest to care for. This porosity level is balanced with looser cuticles that allow space for moisture to get in but don’t open too much so that the nutrients or hydration will escape.
If you’re lucky enough to have well-balanced medium porosity hair, you can use most hair products and see great results. You can easily incorporate ingredients like the rich oils and butters that you may find in products for high porosity hair, or the lightweight sprays and clarifying shampoos that are recommended for low porosity hair.
Split ends can be an issue for all hair types - medium hair porosity included - so a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner like Split Fix™ Duo will help combat damage and splitting by replenishing moisture levels. You can also add in a more intensive treatment once a week like Split Fix™ Hair Mask to help strengthen your strands, reduce breakage, and promote healthy growth.
How Else to Protect Your Hair Porosity?
In this article I’ve recommended the best products for low porosity hair, must-haves for high porosity hair, and everything in between. If you want that extra boost, follow these golden rules to further protect your hair porosity:
- Wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo that has a pH below 5.5
- Use a pre-wash treatment like a pre-shampoo balm to better absorb moisture
- Avoid heat styling when possible and swap for a Heatless Curls Kit instead
- If you must use hot tools or heat treatments, always use a heat protectant first
- Reduce damage and breakage by drying with a Bamboo Hair Towel instead of a hair dryer
- Use an intensive, repairing hair mask at least once a week.
Once I learned how to properly care for my high porosity hair, it completely changed the look and feel of my locks. I hope it will have the same transformative effect for you. So don't hesitate, try the hair porosity test at home now!