How porous is your hair?

Hair porosity plays an important role in our hair care regime. One way of telling the health of your hair is its porosity. Hair porosity is determined by how easily moisture can pass through the cuticle layer of hair shaft. All hair is porous but the level of porosity depends on genetics and the amount of damage that the cuticle layer has gone through. The more damaged your hair is, the more its porosity. This damage can be done by chemical treatments such as straightening or coloring, heat styling or other mechanical damage such as combing, detangling towel drying, clips and hair tie. Due to these hair care routines, cuticle layer gets damaged with time which results in broken cuticles and hence more porous hair.


There are three types of hair porosity.
Hair cuticles are tight and resistant to moisture, water and even dye. People with low-porosity hair face a hard time to get the moisture inside but because of the same reason it retains the moisture inside very well. When you apply oil or conditioner on this type of hair, then it can make the hair oil-looking because product mostly sits on top. Low porosity is not really a bad thing. Rather this hair type is easier to keep healthy. A healthy hair is supposed to be hydrophobic. But sometime if there is not enough moisture inside the hair then this type of hair can look dry and brittle. Follow the routine mentioned below to keep it moisturized.
Highly porous hair has raised cuticles or can have gaps and holes in cuticles. It can be due to genetic factors or other damaging hair care routine. High porosity hair tend to absorbs more water and moisture. But because of the same reason, it tends to lose water as easily as it absorbs and hence they become dry easily. Also, due to raised cuticles it is prone to frizz, tangles and lacks shine.
Normal Porosity
With this type of hair, cuticles are raised enough to absorb moisture and good at retaining it.
How to measure it
One of the method that is suggested to measure the porosity of hair is the soaking test. Clarify your hair with a clarifying shampoo. Take couple of strands from different part of your head. Keep them soaked in a cup of water for 2-4 minutes. If your hair floats that means you have low porosity hair and if it sinks that means high porosity.
But this test is very inconsistent because there are too many variables associated with it like products applied on hair, a particular hair strand can not be of same porosity throughout its length. And also, all the hair on your head would not be same.
I would rather suggest listen to your hair. How your hair responds to different products and routines. Think about these questions. How much damage your hair has gone through like do you color treat your hair or blow dry? How often do you comb your hair? How much your hair is exposed to sun or how often do you swim without the cap? Also other factors such as rubber bands, clips etc can also chip your cuticles. The more is your hair exposed to these things, more the chances that it would be more porous. Chemically treated and heat treated hair is always more porous than non-treated one. On the other hand low porosity hair looks shiny because cuticles lies flat on the surface and reflects light.
Here is the routine you can follow based on your hair porosity.

High Porosity hair care
If you have highly porous hair, then you can include the following in your hair care regime.

  1. Cuticles are damaged in this type of hair, so you can use protein treatments once or twice a month to strengthen the hair. At home you can use Gelatin treatment.Use hair masks meant for damaged hair. These masks mostly have some kind of protein which helps to fill the cuticle hair gap. Once the cuticle is damaged, there is no way to reverse this process but you can temporarily fix it using protein treatment to fill in the gaps. All protein are different. High molecular weight helps the cuticle layers and small molecular weight protein penetrates inside and help with strength and elasticity by helping to retain the moisture.
  2. Use leave-in conditioners followed by sealing your hair with natural oils to lock the moisture inside (like the LOC method).  Sealing with oils helps to prevent loss of moisture. Please note as the time passes after wash your hair starts to lose moisture. So this method only helps to delay this process.

Low Porosity hair care
Low porosity hair is more resistant to products so you can follow the below routine to make the product penetrate.

  1. Use steam while deep conditioning or after oiling the hair. Steam helps to raise the cuticle and help to penetrate the product better. If you don’t have steamer then your can put a plastic cap and apply heat using a blow dryer or use a hot towel on the cap.
  2. Use products that are rich in humectants like glycerine, Sodium PCA etc. Humectants helps to retain the moisture inside the hair shaft.
  3. Low-porosity hair is prone to product build up so use clarifying shampoo more often.
  4. Avoid heavy butters as styling after wash.
  5. It is always better to moisturize hair when it is wet rather than dry. As water helps to raise the cuticles.
  6. Prevent oiling the hair strands for pre-poo.
I hope this article would be helpful to you and to keep your hair moisturized better.

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3 thoughts on “How porous is your hair?

    • Asha Barrak Post author

      Neena, for low porosity you can use products like loreal, oriflame, schwarzkoff. They all are not heavy. are you protein sensitive? Also for DC you can try matrix hydrasource.

  • Roshni Bhakta

    Hi Asha, gratitude from the bottom of my heart to make me a part of ICL family..i awe with your knowledge on Curlie curls..can blindly go for your recommendations..i have 2b/c type low porosity hair..I am confused with the products to start my CG journey..would be really helpful if you can help me with it..have been following the posts since a month now, however, unable to decide on which products to use and commence my journey..i do a DIY of coconut milk with honey/ onions with herb pack once a week and Mama Earth DC once a week..however i am using Amway Santinique Shampoo..I make a point to do a final rinse with ACV infused with a drop of rosemary oil..use kerastase leave in and aloevera gel..I would be really grateful if u can suggest/help me find a right shampoo and conditioner as per my hairtype..forgot to mention days i use coconut milk, i see more dryness than usual..but mama earth and onion masks work well..