Hair Porosity: Types, Characteristics, and Right Treatments

It only takes standing at the hair product aisle to know you do not have all the information you need to buy the right hair care product to restore your hair. Texture, curl patterns are important, but so is hair porosity.

Hair porosity is sometimes overlooked or underestimated. But this shouldn’t be so. Porosity is quite important when it comes to selecting your products.

I mean, what’s the use of buying good hair products, and they don’t work because your hair’s absorbent level is too low or too high. This is why knowing your hair’s porous level is important.

hair porosity

Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb moisture. It is also characterized by the ability to retain said moisture. So you see that this affects the products you choose.

The oils, creams, lotions, and conditioners you apply on your strands might be good, but they might not penetrate your cuticles or rather slip off easily and build up at the roots.

So you need to create a hair care routine that would suit the type of your hair porosity. This is quite important if you want to grow and retain your hair length.

How do you describe hair porosity?

I highlighted hair porosity as the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. But this is dependent on your hair cuticles.

When your cuticles are raised, open, and spaced out, it creates a wide space in between, like a pinecone. This means it’s easy for moisture to get in. This is what we call highly porous hair.

On the other hand, when the cuticles are closed and almost overlapping each other, it becomes smooth and tight, making it hard for moisture to penetrate.

This is what we call low porosity hair. This is quite difficult to maintain and is mostly characterized by dry and brittle strands.

And we have the in-between, where the hair is not so raised, and the cuticles are not closed or overlapping. This is the middle ground, medium porosity hair.

How to Determine Porous Level

Now that you know your hair can be porous based on absorption, you have to determine what type of porous hair you have.

You can conduct a porous level test straight in your home. The simple test requires you to observe your hair. This will give you an idea of what type of hair you have.

Water Cup Test

The first test is the water cup test.

Here you take a few strands of your hair and drop it in a clear bowl or glass of water. Observe the reaction of your hair next. If your hair strands sink to the bottom almost immediately, then it is highly porous.

On the other hand, if your strands sink slowly to the bottom, then it is medium or normal porosity. Meanwhile, if it floats at the top, then takes a while to sink, then it is low porosity hair.

The Spritz Test

Another way to determine your porous level is to spritz your hair with water.

All you have to do is spritz water on your hair and observe how it dries. If your strands dry up fast, absorbing the moisture almost immediately, then you have high porosity.

On the other hand, if the water sits on your dry hair for a while before it evaporates or is absorbed slowly, then you have low porosity hair.

The Strand Test

And you can test your hair porosity using the strand test.

This involves taking a strand of your hair, placing it between your thumb and index finger. Then you slide your fingers from the root to the end of your hair.

If your hair feels rough or snags and breaks between your fingers, it means you have high porosity hair. Meanwhile, low porosity would feel easy on the fingers. Also, it would be dense and hard to touch. And medium porosity hair is angled with twists and turns.  

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Types of Hair Porosity

Your hair can be high, low, or medium porosity. When you want to treat hair problems with products, you need to know the characteristics of these three to identify what type of porous hair you have and how to treat it.

High Porosity Hair

High porosity hair is hair that has the ability to absorb moisture fast. This is good for the hair. However, it also means your hair loses moisture just as quickly as it gains it, making retention hard.

The cuticles are usually widely spaced between each other, which helps moisture slip in and out of the layer. This would leave the hair always dry and frizzy. Also, the hair would be prone to breakage and damage because it is weak.

Characteristics of High Porosity Hair

  • Absorbs and loses moisture quickly
  • It tangles up easily because there is no moisture holding it
  • The hair is prone to breakage
  • Highly porous hair feels dry often
  • It frizzes easily
  • Curls up very easily

Causes of High Hair Porosity

Several factor contributes to high porosity hair and they include the following:

1. Genes

High porosity hair can be caused by genes. When this type of porous hair runs in the family, you will likely also have porous hair.

2. Heating tools

Heating tools like straighteners and dryers open up the hair cuticles. When you overuse these heating tools, your hair could become weak. This leads to the hair cuticles being more open, therefore becoming highly porous.

3. Chemical treatments

Treatments like bleaching or coloring and hair relaxers can crack the hair cuticles. When your cuticle is cracked, it makes it open wider than usual.

4. Sun damage

Too much exposure to the sun could lead to cuticle damage. The UV radiation from over-exposure to the sun can damage your hair strands. To protect your hair, you can wear loose-fitting hats or caps, especially if you have damaged hair.

5. Longer hair length

We all want long healthy hair, but having it comes with a price. The more your hair grows, the more susceptible it is to become highly porous. Also, longer hair is more exposed to hair product formulas. This is why you need to be observant of the products you use.

6. Over manipulation

When you manipulate your hair too much, you might end up with porous hair. Leaving your hair to grow naturally without combing it too much or stressing your strands would let it stay healthy.

Also, you have to keep your hands away from your hair. If you like to play with your strands or cup them in uncomfortable styles, it could lead to porous hair. This is why you should wear wigs or protective styles to keep your hair as less manipulated as possible.

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Low Porosity Hair

If highly porous strands are characterized by fast absorption, then low porosity can be described as not easily able to absorb moisture. The hair shaft doesn’t absorb moisture fast enough. Therefore, the hair strands become dry.

Also, with the cuticles being tightly closed or overlapping, it makes it hard to style. This is because water or moisture slips from the hair cuticles.

This also affects the treatments for hair, which makes low porosity hair difficult to maintain. There is always buildup on the hair and residue at the roots.

However, it should be noted that low porosity hair is healthy hair. It only has difficulty absorbing moisture. But when done properly, you can have healthy low porosity hair strands.

Characteristics of Low Porosity Hair

  • Slow absorption of moisture and water
  • Prone to having split ends
  • Low porosity hair builds up products easily
  • It has less elasticity
  • Low porosity hair is difficult to hydrate
  • It dries slowly
  • Prone to breakage because it lacks elasticity

Causes of Low Porosity Hair

Genes are the major cause of low porosity. Most low porosity hairs are caused by genetic factors. There is usually no external cause for low porosity hair.

Unlike high porosity that can be caused by external factors, if you have low porosity hair, you were likely born with it. This is why it is not so easy to change your hair from low porosity to high porosity. That is unless you willingly intend to damage it (not advised by the way).

SEE: Is Rice Water Good for Low or High Porosity Hair? Find Out the Answer

Medium Porosity Hair

Medium or Normal porosity hair is characterized by a semi-open cuticle layer. The cuticle spaces are not as closed as low porosity, and they are not as widely spaced or raised as high porosity hair.

It has the right amount of space to absorb and retain moisture. This is why it is normal porosity hair. Furthermore, this type of porous hair does not get frizzy easily, neither does it get dry. It isn’t prone to product buildup either.

The hair is the best and easiest to maintain. It needs little monitoring. However, you should still use good products and carry out hair care routines that would grow your hair.

Characteristics of Medium Porosity Hair

  • It’s easy to maintain and style
  • Medium porosity hair is in a natural healthy state
  • The hair doesn’t take too long to get wet or dry
  • It also retains moisture
  • It has minimal frizz and split ends
  • Medium porosity hair takes color very well
  • It is a shiny and glossy hair

Causes of Medium Porosity Hair

There is no cause of medium porosity hair. This is the most natural and healthy hair state you would want your hair to be.

However, medium porosity hair can change to high porosity due to external factors like chemical or heat treatments. This is why you have to care for your hair as cautiously as possible.

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How to Treat Hair Porosity

Maintaining your high or low porosity hair is integral in keeping your hair healthy. Your hair won’t magically get better unless you take bold steps in keeping it healthy. Therefore you need to treat your hair porosity.

How to Treat High Porosity Hair

1. Use moisture rich products

You would need to increase your moisture dose when you have high porosity hair. And this does not include products with sulfates. Rather use products with deep moisturizing properties like butter, crèmes, and oils.

Moreover, your shampoo should be sulfate-free to help retain natural oils and nutrients to keep your hair strand nourished.

Moisturizers like jojoba oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are excellent oils. Also, citric acid is a great ingredient to get your cuticle to close up. Rich butter would stay longer in the hair shaft and keep your strands moisturized longer.

2. Use protein products

High porosity lacks protein. A protein called keratin is found in the hair shaft. It strengthens the strands and keeps them strong. However, high porosity hair lacks these keratin proteins.

Therefore, you need to fortify your hair strands if you are lacking in protein. You can use protein for deep hair breakage like Hi Pro Pac Extremely Damaged Hair Repair Intense Protein Hair Treatment. The hair treatment helps to restore excessively damaged hair.

Or an intense protein treatment mask like Fortifying Protein Hair Mask and Deep Conditioner. The hair mask helps to keep the hair smooth and shiny.

Use protein treatment to treat your damaged hair once or twice a month. The protein treatments are concentrated and need once in a while treatment.

3. Moisturize with hydrating mask

The key to caring for highly porous hair is to use moisture. It needs to keep being moisturized constantly to penetrate the hair shaft properly.

You should deep condition your hair once a week to keep your hair moisturized. You can use deep moisturizing masks like MAJESTIC PURE Avocado and Coconut Hair Mask. The mask saves you from losing moisture and hydrates your hair. Also, it is formulated with heavy oils and butter like coconut oil and shea butter.

Or use a hair masque like EARTH SCIENCE – Olive & Avocado Deep Conditioning Hair Masque. The mask will give your hair the much-needed moisture it needs.

Apply the conditioner contently to your hair and cover with a plastic cap or wrap for about 15 to 30 minutes. After, rinse with water to get the cuticle to close in and lock moisture.

4. Trim regularly

You need regular trimming to keep your damaged hair clear of frizz and split ends. For high porosity hair, you would need a major trim once in a while. This is the best possible way to grow new hair that is needed.

5. Use anti-humectants

This pertains to high or humid climates. When in humid seasons like summer, you should use anti-humectants to seal your hair and prevent it from absorbing excess moisture.

Moisture is essential. However, excess moisture will keep your cuticles opened wider and also blocked. So nothing would be getting in or out.

6. Reduce manipulation and styling

You need to minimize manipulation and styling when you have high porosity strands. This includes heating tools and chemicals. Instead, go for protective styles like box braids, Bantu knots, or head wraps made of silk.

Also, you should keep your hair strands protected when you sleep. This would help you minimize static and friction. You can also talk to your stylist about the best styles you need to keep your hair maintained. 

7. Use heat protectant

If you have to use heat tools, use a heat protectant to protect your hair strands. This would safeguard your hair cuticles.

Heat protectants would serve as a coat on your cuticles and would protect them from artificial heat. Also, it maintains the strength of your hair strands.

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How to Treat Low Porosity Hair

1. Shampoo regularly

Low porosity hair builds up easily. Therefore, you need to shampoo regularly. This is a routine that should be taken seriously.

You need to carry out hair washing and co-washing routines to clarify your hair. You can use a clarifying shampoo like Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Shampoo to get your hair shaft and root clean and clear.

Also, when you shampoo, your hair cuticles would need to take advantage and use a conditioner right after. This would allow moisture to penetrate your hair cuticle.

2. Enhance conditioner with heat

High porosity hair does not need as much heat as low porosity. You can use heat to open your hair cuticles and allow products in. When you have added your conditioner, you should wear a heat cap or go under hooded dryers.

The key point to this is to let your cuticles open to get the moisture in. And heat is an assured way of doing that.

3. Avoid thick oils and butters

Another opposing tip when it comes to high and low porosity hair is the oils. Low porosity doesn’t do well with heavy butter and oils. Thick products accumulate easily, which is why you should use oils and butter with a light consistency.

You can use light oils like grapeseed oil, almond oil, and argan oil for hot oil treatment to open up your shaft and to move through your strands with ease.

After applying the oils and butter, you can also seal your hair up to let the oil deeply penetrate with heat. Do this once a week till your strands are rejuvenated.

4. Use humectants

Humectants like glycerin, honey, aloe vera, coconut nectar, and others are excellent for low porosity. You need them to absorb moisture from the air to help your hair strands stay moisturized.

When you buy hair products, be sure they have humectants like Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Hair Masque. It is formulated with humectants like glycerin and aloe vera.

How to Treat Medium Hair Porosity

Medium hair porosity doesn’t need close watch or maintenance. It absorbs moisture and water well. Also, it retains moisture and keeps the hair nourished.

However, it should be treated with the right hair products. Also, avoid damaging it with heating tools, chemicals, and over manipulations. This could lead to it changing to highly porous hair.

Furthermore, take care of your hair with the right tools and not overindulge in products you are unfamiliar with. Always read instructions on how to use products and stick to a well-known routine. This would help maintain your medium/ natural porosity hair. 

And use protein products sparingly. It could be a deep conditioning mask you use once or twice in a month.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can my hair porosity change?

Yes, you can change your hair porosity.

Hair porosity got through genes is not likely to change naturally. You can change your hair porosity using products and treatments. But you should avoid damaging your hair.

For instance, heating and chemical products can damage a normal or low porosity, changing it to high porosity. You should take care of your hair. But you can temporarily change your hair porosity.

For example, using shampoo can raise your hair cuticles, making them absorb water. You can use conditioners too to lower the porous level of your hair.

Do I need protein products for my porous hair?

Yes, you do. A protein known as keratin exists in the hair shafts. This is what keeps your hair strong.

But the level of the protein your hair needs is directly proportionate to your porous level. That is, the more porous your hair, the more protein you need.

Therefore, low porosity needs little protein, medium porosity needs more, but not too much. On the other hand, high porosity needs all the protein it can get for its weak strands.

Why is my 4C natural hair low porosity?

Most 4C natural hair is low porosity because the hair is coiled or thickly curled. So when wet, the curls don’t easily clump down on each other.

This makes it harder for the moisture to reach the twirls of the strands. This is one of the most notable traits of 4C hair.

However, fine 4C hair is highly porous than thicker 4C hair. This is due to the fact there are not many curls. So it becomes easy for the curls to clump down on each other when wet.

Does my hair porosity matter?

Yes, it does. Knowing your porous level will save you the stress of buying the wrong products and damaging your hair further.

For instance, low porosity hair does not need protein. But if you are using protein-rich products, you could be damaging your hair strands further.

Also, not using deep moisturizing products for your highly porous hair would make it drier. Porosity is like a compass to the right products to use. You need to know this along with your hair type to get the best out of your hair care.

Can my high porosity hair be healthy?

Yes, it can. Your highly porous hair can be healthy if you take proper care of it.

Being highly porous does not mean you have damaged hair. Although some high porosity hair is caused by damages, you can manage the situation by turning to the right products.

That means you need to stop using heating tools, use heavier oils, stop chemicals or color treatments or use hair-friendly color treatments.

Does hair porosity affect hair growth?

It does not. Highly porous hair still grow naturally and healthily.

If you maintain a proper diet, use the right hair products, and avoid bad styling routines, your hair would grow naturally and healthily.

But knowing how porous your hair is would improve your growth phase because you would be steered towards the right products.

What type of hair porosity can take dyes?

Medium hair porosity. Your hair is in the safest most natural state you want when it is medium.

Medium porosity can take heat tools and chemical treatment. Also, it is the type that needs little maintenance.

But leaving it to its fate could lead to damage. You have to care for your hair in general. This is the right thing to do, no matter your porosity.

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The porous level of your hair makes it easy to choose hair products. It is imperative to know this to keep your hair journey as stress-free as possible.

No porous hair level, from high to low, is damaged if you care for it. All you have to do is use what works for it.

For instance, highly porous hair needs heavy moisture products, while low porosity needs light moisture and humectants, and medium porosity needs normal hair products.

Africana Fashion provides haircare article to help you with you grow a healthy retained hair.