There is a lot of focus on hair type and texture, but not as much on porosity, which is mostly determined by genetics. This is concerning considering porosity is the very important ability of your hair to retain and absorb moisture.

The higher your porosity, the easier it is for products to penetrate and exit your hair.

The lower your porosity, the more difficulty you will have absorbing moisture.

This post will dive deep into porosity types and care plans for each.

What is porosity?

 Let’s quickly go over the makeup of your hair. As far as we are concerned, the strand consists of three main parts:  

  • Cuticle: Protective outer layer of the hair made of overlapping cuticles, like scales on a fish.
  • Cortex: Thickest layer of the hair, made of proteins, protected by the cuticle
  • Medulla: Soft core of the hair strand

The closer your cuticles are together, the lower your porosity, since it would be harder to penetrate the strand.

The further apart your cuticles are, the easier it is for water to pass through, this also means it is easier for water to leave the hair. 

Test for your Hair Porosity

If you notice certain products do not instantly make your hair feel soft, you probably have low porosity hair, the opposite is true for high porosity. But if you have not noticed, here is an easy way to test for your porosity type.

Fill a glass with water and drop a clean dry strand of hair inside. 

  • Low: Floats at the top before sinking
  • Medium: Floats in the middle before sinking
  • High: Quickly sinks to the bottom

Your porosity type can be changed by heat and chemical treatments. Damaged hair will have permanently open cuticles that will not hold moisture properly. 

Your Porosity Type

Knowing that porosity refers to the make up of our hair’s outermost layer, the cuticle, and its ability to absorb and retain moisture.

If there are more gaps, then moisture is easy to absorb and difficult to maintain: the hair has high porosity.

If there are little to no gaps, then the moisture will sit on top of the hair instead of soaking in: the hair has low porosity. 

High Porosity

High Porosity cuticles are naturally spaced further apart (or damaged). Moisture can easily enter the shaft, but it leaves just as quickly.

  • Moisturizing products quickly penetrate the hair
  • Hair can be frizzy and dry out quickly
  • Dry hair breaks easily
  • Dull color

Low Porosity

Low Porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles that prevent moisture from entering the hair.

  • Moisturizing products need time to seep in
  • Hair becomes hard, when improperly moisturized
  • Hard dry hair breaks easily

 

Care for High Porosity Hair

High porosity’s greatest struggle is retaining the moisture that enters the hair.  It can occur naturally, but is often due to damage from heat or chemical treatments. This means your hair is fragile and needs constant moisture and protection.

Protein treatments

The cortex of your hair is made of protein fibers. Protein treatments help fill in the gaps that cause your hair to become weak. A basic protein treatment every 6 weeks will help you maintain stronger hair.

Deep Condition

Since your hair is open, it will be easy for the conditioner to enter the shaft, the important part is to seal with an oil.

Seal your Leave in conditioner

When you apply your leave-in conditioner, follow up with an oil immediately after to lock in the moisture

Seal with Oils or Butters

When you moisturize your hair, immediately seal with an oil. Coconut oil is great for penetrating the cuticles, and thicker oils like shea butter or castor oil lock in moisture by sitting on top of the hair and blocking the water from leaving the cortex or medulla.

Avoid Heat & Chemicals

Color treated and heat treated hair will damage your cuticles and cause further breakage. Just don’t do it, you’re already on thin ice just having low porosity hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

ACV closes your hair cuticles and smoothes them down. Your hair will be softer and any product build up is rinsed away. Be sure to dilute the vinegar, rinse thoroughly, and follow up with a conditioner and oil.

Care for Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity’s greatest struggle is getting moisture to enter the hair at all. Tightly packed cuticles mean no moisture in and as a lucky side-effect, no moisture out.

Pre-Poo

Pre-Shampooing your hair is essential to maintaining low porosity hair. If done properly, it opens up and softens your hair, as well as provides a protective barrier against harsh shampoos that strip your hair and cause it to feel rough and brittle. I always use a conditioner with a humectant and a light oil like coconut oil together.

Deep Condition in the Shower

Heat from the shower opens up your cuticles. Since your hair is open, it will be easy for the conditioner to enter the shaft, the important part is to seal with an oil directly after rinsing excess product away.

Use Sealants with your Leave in conditioner

When you apply your leave-in conditioner, follow up with an oil immediately after to lock in the moisture. Extra points if you braid each section up after moisturizing.

Seal with Oils or Butters

When you moisturize your hair, immediately seal with an oil. Use thicker oils like shea butter or castor oil lock in moisture by sitting on top of the hair and blocking the water from leaving the cortex or medulla.

Steam

When you’re in the shower, the steam from the water opens up your cuticles to accept more product. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use this to your advantage. When the steam causes your hair to shrink it is because the water is penetrating your hair shaft. Apply your conditioner at this moment and cover with a plastic cap while you complete your shower. In the end, rinse any excess product and seal with an oil.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

ACV closes your hair cuticles and smoothes them down. Your hair will be softer and any product build up is rinsed away. Be sure to dilute to 1 part vinegar 3 parts water, rinse thoroughly, and follow up with a conditioner and oil.

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