Determining your hair porosity is often key to discovering what products and techniques will and won’t work for your hair. So knowing which hair porosity type you have can save you money, time and frustration. But what is it? Hair porosity refers to you hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.
The cuticles of the hair shaft determine this. For the most part hair porosity is genetic, but factors like heat, chemical and environmental damage can all have an impact. Hair porosity does not depend on race, climate, hair length or curl pattern.
Hair porosity can also change, due to a few different things. Both for the better, and for the worse. For example, if you colour, highlight or chemically treat your hair, it’s almost always going to become high porosity. Because of the damage these processes do to the hair shaft and cuticle.
Ideally you want healthy hair, with cuticles that can open up to absorb moisture and hydration. But then close again, to protect the hair shaft and retain that moisture and hydration. This post is to help you determine what porosity you have, using the tips and characteristics as a starting point. Let’s get started!
Low Porosity Hair Characteristics
- Hair takes a long time to get fully saturated because it naturally repels water.
- Hair dries quickly. Again, because the hair repels water.
- Difficult to hydrate.
- Products tend to build up on the hair, rather than absorb into the hair shaft.
- Natural oils don’t readily penetrate, but rather sit on your hair usually making low porosity hair quite dry and coarse.
- Difficult to chemically and colour treat, especially highlights. Low porosity hair doesn’t take colour well.
- Hair can appear dull or shiny, it depends if there’s buildup.
- Prone to product build up because products can’t penetrate the hair shaft.
- Less prone to breakage and split ends.
- Regular clarifying washes are required to remove build up – see this post for more info on clarifying.
- Hair doesn’t tend to have much elasticity or volume.
- Lightweight products such as gels and mousses work better than curl creams and butters.
- Gentle clarifying shampoos/lo poos are great for low porosity hair.
- You need heat to help open up the cuticles, so moisture and product can penetrate the hair shaft.
- Regular deep conditioning using thermal heat caps are essential for deep conditioning! You can purchase Curl Maven Thermal Heat Caps from my shop.
- For best wash day results, use warm/hot water and apply products to soaking wet hair, when the cuticles are open.
- Use light oils such as argan, grapeseed, mongongo and jojoba.
Low Porosity Protein Myth!
There’s a theory that low porosity hair types should avoid using products that contain protein, or doing protein treatments. That’s simply not true, and misinformation. Our hair is made of protein, all hair is. Every hair type needs protein! That’s like saying short people don’t need to drink water, but tall people need to drink lots of it. We all need to drink water, we are all made primarily of water. Same with hair and protein, all hair needs protein, because it’s made of protein.
Medium Porosity Hair Characteristics
- Hair in it’s most natural, healthy state is medium porosity.
- Usually full of bounce, volume and elasticity – provided the right products and techniques are used. See this post if you’re struggling with root volume.
- Hair doesn’t take too long to get wet, or too long to dry.
- Requires less maintenance and effort choosing which products will/won’t work.
- Easily absorbs and retains moisture inside the cuticle.
- Easier to maintain a healthy protein moisture balance – see this post if that’s something you’re struggling with.
- Holds styles well and can be colored with good results.
- Lightweight products work best, but you can use curl creams provided they’re not loaded with cheap quality, heavy oils and butters.
- Lo poos work great on medium porosity hair, or light weight cleasnsing co-washes.
- Occasional clarifying washes are good practice, but not required as regularly as low porosity hair.
- Hair looks and feels healthy with lots of shine.
- Minimal breakage and split ends.
- Use light oils such as argan, grapeseed, mongongo and jojoba.
High Porosity Hair Characteristics
- Hair easily and quickly absorbs water because it’s so highly porous.
- Hair takes a long time to dry. Often taking hours, or even a day or so if drying naturally.
- If your hair is coloured, highlighted or chemically treated, the damage caused during these processes causes hair to become high porosity.
- High porosity hair absorbs and takes colour really well, because it’s so porous and thirsty, it drinks the colour up.
- Holds moisture for so long it tends to lean towards over-moisturized hair more often than others.
- High porosity hair loves and needs protein.
- Hair is often frizzy – check out this post on how to beat halo frizz.
- Hair gets tangled easily.
- Most prone to breakage and split ends.
- Regular deep conditioning, with a balance of moisture and protein. Moisture because hair porosity hair is dry, protein to repair the damage and heal the hair. See this post all about protein moisture balance.
- Do cold water rinses to close the cuticle.
- Cleansing co-washes are great for high porosity hair, with occasional clarifying, lo poo shampoos.
- Use sealing oils and products to seal moisture into the cuticle after styling.
- Well-formulated shea, coconut and mango butters can be good for high porosity hair. But only if the hair is quite thick/coarse.
Top Tip: When looking for fellow curlies to follow on social media, look out for those who have the same hair porosity as you. There’s a better chance the products and techniques that work for them, will work for you too.
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