What Is Hair Porosity and Why Does It Matter?

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Hair porosity is a term which we might not have heard of a few years ago, but with the growth of the natural hair community on social media and more companies catering to customers with naturally oily and curly hair, we’ve all been encouraged to learn more about our hair and how to properly care for it.

Personally, I only learnt about hair porosity a couple of years ago, but it’s really helped me understand what products to use for my hair and how to nourish it properly, so hopefully after reading this you’ll be in the same boat!

Porosity refers to the volume of pores that something has.

When it comes to hair porosity, we’re actually talking about how well our hair can absorb and maintain moisture. The main element in determining this is the outer layer of our hair, which is called the cuticle. This outer layer determines how easily moisture can actually penetrate our hair shafts.


The porosity of our hair is usually determined by genetics. So if both of your parents have low porosity hair, its likely that you’d also have low porosity hair. However, hair porosity can also be altered by a variety of things. For example, heat damage, excessive use of chemical treatments like relaxers and even exposure to harsh outdoor elements or materials.

To find out the porosity of your hair, there are a couple of popular tests – probably the most popular is the float test.


Float Test

To do this all you need is a couple of strands of your hair and a small bowl or jug of water.

Drop your hair into the water and wait for 4-5 minutes.

If your hair sinks, it’s high porosity as the open cuticle layers allow it to absorb water which weighs it down.

If your hair floats, then it’s low porosity, because the tightly sealed cuticle doesn’t allow easy penetration.

If your hair is somewhere in the middle of the water though, you have medium porosity hair which allows some penetration but not as much as high porosity hair.

The second test is the slide test.

Slide Test

For this you need to find a strand of hair on your head and use two fingers to slide up and down it. If it feels smooth, you have low porosity hair as you can feel a smooth, sealed cuticle.

If it feels rough, its likely that you have high or medium porosity hair. As the cuticle is looser, you can feel it as you slide your fingers.


Each porosity type is different and naturally, needs to be cared for in a slightly different way.


Low Porosity Hair

If you have low porosity hair, this means that the cuticle layer on your hair is bound tightly and the overlapping layers lay flat. With this porosity type, products are not able to penetrate the hair cuticles easily, often leading to product build up – this is why a good clarifying shampoo is an essential for all those with low porosity hair.

In terms of ingredients in products, protein free daily conditioners with glycerin or honey are great at attracting moisture to the hair. It is also a good idea to use emollient products like shea butter and coconut oil (sparingly) after lighter product to seal in the moisture.

A pro tip for those with low porosity hair is, when deep conditioning, consider using a heat cap or a hair dryer even to apply a low level heat. This will allow the cuticles to open up just a little bit in order for the product to moisturise and penetrate into the hair shaft.


Medium Porosity

Medium porosity hair is often referred to as normal, as it allows just enough moisture to enter without letting too much escape and requires the least maintenance.

With medium porosity hair, deep conditioning can be very beneficial as the hair will absorb a good amount of moisture and will be well nourished by it.


High Porosity Hair

Last but not least, high porosity hair has a very open cuticle. This can be as a result of genetics, or as a result of damage over time. With high porosity hair, too much moisture is able to get into and out of the hair which can lead to easy tangling and frizziness.

In order to help your hair absorb less moisture especially in hot and humid climates, those with high porosity hair can use anti-humectant products.

Anti-Humectant product will help to prevent hair from absorbing extra moisture from the air, as well as preventtoo much moisture from being absorbed into the hair (it’s important to also retain moisture as high porosity hair looses it easily).

To help with this, its a great idea to use leave-in conditioners and to layer products in order to seal moisture in e.g the Liquid Oil Cream (LOC) layering method, with high porosity hair though, to seal in the moisture of a water based liquid and a lighter oil, a hair butter can be used instead of a cream. Using this layering technique, especially when finishing with a heavy product such as a hair butter, can actually help to fill some of the holes in the cuticle and allow less moisture to escape!

It is really important for you to know about our hair porosity as it allows you to tailor your hair care routines and to know exactly what our hair needs.

Often, products are advertised as being good for particular things such as growth, frizz, breakage etc. and that just might not be the case for you.Through knowing your hair porosity, you can properly determine whether products will actually work for you – despite their claims – AND what ingredients work for you.

Having this knowledge will actually enable you to be able to  care for your hair properly – maintaining its health and length!


Written by Chidimma

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