Hair Porosity

Hair Porosity: How to care for Porous Hair
By Lisa Riley

What does it mean to have porous hair? When your hair is porous, it means that your hair is incapable of absorbing moisture. There are three categories of porous hair: Low, medium, and high porosity. To determine if your hair is porous, you will have to take a porosity test. Caring for each type of hair differs. Depending on the hair type, daily moisturizing will be a requirement.

Categories of Porous Hair
Low Porosity Hair

To have low porosity hair means that your hair is healthy. The cuticle is what protects the inner layer of your hair shaft. It determines how you can style your hair.  When hair cuticles get examined under a microscope, they look like roof shingles. Part of the hair cuticle’s job is to allow moisture to pass through to the hair. The shingle-like scales open and close when it gets activated.
In low porous hair, the cuticle pushes back the moisture when you try to wet the hair. The same goes for chemicals. It will not take chemicals. When the hair shaft rises, it means that chemicals and other products can pass through to the hair. With low porous hair, the cuticles lay flat and do not allow moisture to go through. A low porous hair appears shiny in dark-colored hair.

Medium Porosity Hair

In medium porous hair, the cuticles are looser. The right amount of moisture passes through and remains there to keep the hair moist. The hair cuticle opens and can maintain hairstyles. It also allows chemicals like hair relaxers and dyes to pass through. If you add chemicals to your hair for extended periods, you can damage the cuticles.

High Porosity Hair

Hair that has high porosity means that the hair is damaged. The damage could be a result of over-processing, improper treatment, or environmental damage. The hair cuticles have too many holes in them. As a result, the hair becomes over-moistened and is prone to frizzies and entanglement during warm weather. Simple tasks like bathing, swimming, and shampooing may lead to more damage because of the moisture in the hair.

How to Tell if You Have Porous Hair
There are two tests that you can do to determine if your hair is porous.

Float Test

Remove a few strands of hair from your comb or brush. Drop the strands into a bowl of water. Let them sit in the water for two-four minutes. If your hair is floating in the water, it means that you have low porosity hair. If your hair sinks to the bottom of the bowl, you have high porosity hair.

Slip ‘n’ Slide Test

Grab hold of a strand of hair. Slide your fingers all the way up towards the scalp. If you feel ridges while you slide your fingers, it means that there is a raised cuticle, and you have high porosity hair. If your fingers slide all the way with a smooth feeling, it means that you have low porosity hair.

How to care for Porous Hair

Low Porosity Hair

When caring for low porous hair, use protein free conditioners on a daily basis. Ingredients to look for in the conditioners are glycerin or honey. When applying heat, use a moderate amount to assist in opening up the cuticle. Steaming the hair will also raise the cuticles.
Examples of products to use on low porosity hair include Shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and mineral oil. The products should be liquid-based and much lighter. Use hair milk. It is not recommended to use products that will sit in the hair and leave it greasy.

Medium Porosity Hair

This type of hair does not require much maintenance. However, on occasion, it would benefit from deep conditioning treatments with protein. The protein is not necessary to use on a daily basis.

High Porosity Hair

Use a moisture blocker on this type of hair. It will help to block the excess moisture and seal the part of the damaged cuticles. You can also use leave-in conditioners, moisturizers, and sealers. Hair butter or oil work well too.  According to Chime Edwards, you may need to rinse the hair on a regular basis with apple cider vinegar mix. In the interim, you can apply aloe vera gel and protein treatments.


Not all hair types are the same. You may need to follow certain routines to maintain healthy hair depending on your hair type. If the hair is unable to retain moisture, it means that the hair is porous.  Porous hair falls under three categories: low, medium, and high porosity. If the hair has low porosity, the bowl test will indicate that it takes a while for the hair to reach the bottom of the bowl. Medium porosity means that the hair does not fall to the bottom of the container that quickly. It can withstand chemicals and coloring due to the opening of the cuticles. High porosity hair will sink to the bottom of the bowl quickly during the test. It means that the hair is damaged.

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