How To Care for High Porosity Hair

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Understanding your hair porosity is essential if you want to achieve gorgeous, healthy hair. Combined with your hair type and hair density, knowing if you have low or high porosity hair will help you choose the hair care products and techniques that will keep your hair healthy and looking fabulous.

High porosity hair types can be dull and frizzy, with strands that break easily, so they need a little extra care compared to low porosity or medium porosity hair. However, with a few simple tips and tricks, making your highly porous hair smoother, shinier, and stronger is easy. 

In this guide, we’ll explain what high porosity hair means and the characteristics that identify highly porous hair. We’ll help you work out your own hair porosity and share some care tips and recommended products to make high porosity locks look amazing.

hair porosity chart

What Is Hair Porosity?

Hair porosity refers to how well hair can absorb and retain moisture. This is vital for good hair health, as your strands must be able to absorb moisture and nutrients for healthy hair. 

Each strand is made up of three layers:

  • The medulla is the soft layer at the center of the strand. 
  • The cortex is the thick, middle layer that strengthens the hair and holds the color pigments.
  • The cuticle is the protective outermost layer of the strand. 

Your hair’s porosity determines how much moisture it can absorb and retain. The three categories are low porosity, medium porosity, and high porosity. 

Different areas of your head can have different hair porosity, and individual strands may be more porous at one end than at the other.


How To Determine Your Hair Porosity

There are two popular ways that many people use to identify hair porosity.

The first method is the water test or float test. This is a simple method of determining porosity, but it isn’t always accurate (in fact, I don’t recommend this method).

Trim a few strands of clean hair and drop them into a glass of room temperature water. If you have high porosity hair, it easily absorbs water so the strand sinks to the bottom quickly. 

If you have low porosity hair, your dry hair will float at the top of the glass. You’ll see a medium or normal porosity hair strand slowly sinking to the bottom as it gradually absorbs water. 

Your hair porosity can be different at the roots and ends. So, if your hair is quite long, it’s a good idea to cut the strands into two or more pieces for the water test. 

The second method is to check your hair porosity by observing the appearance of the strands and how quickly they absorb water. You can do this in the shower or with water from a spray bottle. This is more accurate than the float test.

What is High Porosity Hair?

High porosity hair absorbs moisture, oils, and products easily but struggles to retain them afterward.

That’s because the scales on the hair cuticle are spaced far from each other and are open, so they stand up from the hair shaft. This allows moisture to penetrate through to the cortex more easily, but it also means that moisture and nutrients can quickly evaporate or be washed out from your strands. 

It can help to think of your hair strands as being like a sponge. The large, open pores in your strands are like the holes in a sponge, which allow it to easily absorb moisture. But the water can also be easily squeezed out of the sponge, so it dries out quickly. 

You can read more in our Ultimate Guide to Hair Porosity.

What Causes High Porosity?

All hair types can be highly porous, and some people are prone to high hair porosity due to genetic factors and how their hair naturally grows. 

However, high porosity is often caused by external factors like UV exposure from sunlight, blow drying, excessive heat styling, chemical treatments like colors and perms, or even brushing your mane too roughly.

I used to have high porosity hair when I had highlights. Before coloring, it was low porosity. I remember it took a really long time to bleach the first time. After that, it was much faster.

What Does High Porosity Hair Look Like?

If you look at a strand of high porosity hair under a microscope, you can see that the scales of the outer cuticle layer are open and widely spread along the hair shaft. This gives high porosity locks a dull and frizzy appearance.

On the other hand, low porosity hair looks smoother and shinier because the scales of the hair cuticle are spaced close together and lie flat along the hair shaft.

High Porosity Hair Characteristics

Highly porous hair tends to have some specific characteristics:

  • Often looks frizzy
  • Tangles and breaks easily
  • Gets wet quickly in the shower
  • Wet hair will air dry quickly
  • Has dull strands without much shine
  • Absorbs products quickly

If you have high porosity hair, you’ll also find that hair colors take very quickly and intensely. However, colors don’t last very well as the pigment is quickly washed out. 

On the other hand, low porosity hair tends to take longer to become fully saturated in the shower. Products aren’t absorbed and instead tend to build up on the outside of the strand.

Can High Porosity Hair Be Reversed?

If your hair’s high porosity is due to genetics, there isn’t much you can do to change it. 

However, if your hair has become highly porous through heat damage or chemical treatments, you can use hair treatments to repair and strengthen your locks. You can also prevent further damage by avoiding the causes of your hair’s problems.

My hair changed from high porosity over time to mostly medium and low porosity. It has gotten healthier as I stopped coloring and heat styling, so if yours is caused by damage, you can grow it out.

How To Care For High Porosity Hair

If you have high porosity hair, learning how to care for it is essential. These high porosity hair care tips will help you smooth your hair’s cuticle layer, retain moisture, and minimize damage.

Detangle gently

The raised hair cuticles on your strands makes it easy for high porosity hair to tangle, so detangle before you hit the shower. Apply a good detangling product or oil first, and work up from the ends towards the roots of your hair to reduce tension on your strands and make detangling easier. 

Don’t shampoo too often

Washing high porosity hair too frequently can strip away the natural oils and make your strands even drier. Aim to shampoo once or twice weekly and freshen up with a dry shampoo between washes. 

Use conditioner after every wash

Conditioner is essential for high porosity hair as it restores moisture to dehydrated strands. Use a deeply hydrating conditioner after every shampoo, and follow up with a leave-in conditioner for an extra layer of protection.

Treat your locks to a deep conditioner or hair mask at least once a week, leaving it on for 15-20 minutes to deliver intense moisture deep into the strands. Once you’ve rinsed out the treatment, finish with a cold water rinse to close the cuticle layer and boost shine. 

Treat your hair with protein

Protein treatments can help fill in the gaps in your hair’s outer layer and create a protective coating on the shaft, to your hair retain moisture. 

Try using a protein treatment every week or two, choosing one with ingredients like keratin, collagen, silk protein, or wheat.

Too much protein can make hair feel brittle, so moisturizing treatments are essential to maintain a healthy moisture balance. 

high porosity curly hair selfie
back when I had high porosity hair from coloring

Get regular trims

Dry, damaged hair is more prone to split ends and breakage. Schedule regular visits to the salon for a half-inch trim to keep your hair looking healthy. 

Fight frizz with hair oils

High porosity hair is prone to frizz, but hair oils are excellent at boosting hydration and preventing frizz. Penetrating oils like grapeseed oil or avocado oil will deliver moisture deep inside your strands, while sealing oils like coconut oil or jojoba oil will reduce moisture loss.

Try the LCO Method

The LCO method involves layering liquid, cream, and oil (LCO) onto hair porosity. It’s a fantastic way to hydrate your strands and lock moisture into your strands. 

Avoid excessive heat styling and harsh treatments

It’s better to avoid using blow dryers and heated styling tools on high porosity hair as it can cause further damage to the cuticle layer. If you want to blow dry or style your hair with heat, always apply a heat protectant first and avoid setting your tools higher than 350°F.

Diffusing doesn’t really damage hair so you don’t have to worry about that. To be safe, you can diffuse on medium heat. But I have always used high heat and my hair is very healthy now.

Wear protective styles

Protective styling reduces the amount you have to touch and manipulate your hair. Styles like braids, twists, and buns can help protect your hair from damage, or you could try wearing wigs or natural hair clip-ins to give the look of fuller hair without heat styling. 

Sleep on satin or silk

Your hair can be subjected to friction overnight, as the strands rub against each other whenever you turn over. Cotton pillowcases can also dry out your strands, making them more prone to damage and breaking. 

Try wrapping your hair in a silk scarf, wearing a satin turban or cap, and sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase. 

affordable curly girl method products

Best Products for High Porosity Hair

Any hair type can have high porosity, so it’s essential to bear this in mind when you’re shopping for hair care products. You can check your hair type with our Quick Hair Type Quiz.

So, here are some tips on what to look out for:


Moisturizing your hair regularly will help reduce breakage and prevent further damage. When choosing a shampoo for high-porosity hair, look for ‘hydrating’ or ‘moisturizing’ on the label.

Avoid hair care products containing sulfates, phthalates, and parabens, as these have a drying effect that will dehydrate your strands even more. 

This SheaMoisture shampoo and conditioner set is enriched with shea butter, manuka honey, mafura oil, and baobab oil to infuse dry hair with moisture.

SheaMoisture Manuka Honey Shampoo and Conditioner Set
$28.79 $24.99 ($0.96 / Fl Oz)
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Leave in Conditioner

A leave in conditioner will help moisturize your tresses between washes and can also be used as a pre-poo detangling treatment. 

Aunt Jackie’s Curls and Coils Quench Leave-In Hair Conditioner is enriched with shea butter, extra virgin olive oil, and marshmallow root to hydrate and refresh your thirsty locks without weighing them down. 

Aunt Jackie's Curls and Coils Quench Moisture Intensive Leave-In Hair Conditioner
$11.99 $6.97 ($0.58 / Fl Oz)

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Deep Conditioner

Regular deep conditioners are essential for high porosity tresses. Arvazallia Hydrating Argan Oil Hair Mask contains argan oil to hydrate and restore dehydrated strands, making them stronger, more elastic, and less likely to break.

Arvazallia Hydrating Argan Oil Hair Mask and Deep Conditioner for Dry or Damaged Hair
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Styling Products

Water and gel-based products aren’t as effective on high porosity hair when used along, so opt for cream- and oil-based products under your gel or mousse, layering them with oils for maximum hydration. 

Avoid products containing silicones, as these can cause product buildup, which makes it even harder to get moisture into the strands.

Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream
$9.99 ($1.66 / Fl Oz)
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Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream contains a vegan and cruelty-free blend of shea butter, soybean oil, and avocado oil. It’s an excellent curl cream for high porosity hair and can also be used for detangling.

I recommend adding a stronger hold gel over your cream to hold your curls, prevent frizz, and lock in the moisture.

Top Pick
OUIDAD Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Stronger Hold Gel
$26.00 $20.80 ($2.45 / Fl Oz)

This is by far the best gel for humidity. Your hair won't look perfect after being in the heat and humidity, but it will look a lot better than with any other gel.

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Hair Oils

Hair oils are an excellent way to moisturize high porosity hair. You can use a penetrating oil like argan oil or avocado oil to deliver moisture deep into the center of the hair shaft. Then, follow up with a sealing hair oil for high porosity hair, like coconut oil or jojoba oil, to lock in the moisture.

NOW Solutions Organic Jojoba Oil
$14.99 $10.99 ($2.75 / Fl Oz)

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03/09/2024 08:42 pm GMT


Looking for more info on high porosity hair? Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions:

Is High Porosity Hair Bad?

High porosity isn’t bad, but highly porous hair is more delicate and prone to frizz, split ends, and breakage. 

Is 4c Hair High Porosity?

Curly and coily hair types tend to be drier because the scalp’s natural oils struggle to travel down the hair strands. However, that doesn’t mean these hair types always have high porosity. 

Hair type 4c is more likely to have low porosity, but it can become highly porous if it’s damaged by heat styling or chemical processing.

How Often Should You Wash High Porosity Hair?

It’s best to leave 2-5 days between shampoos. In between, you can use a dry shampoo or try co-washing to freshen up your locks.

Is Rice Water Good for High Porosity Hair?

Rice contains a protein mimicker, so a rice water rinse is another excellent way to get similar results to a protein boost in your strands. 

The Bottom Line

Understanding your hair’s porosity, curl type, and density is essential for beautiful, healthy locks. If you have high porosity hair, your strands are likely to be delicate and will need special care to avoid frizz, split ends, and breakage.

But you can still have gorgeous, healthy-looking tresses with high porosity. Following the tips in this guide and picking the best products for high porosity hair will make it easy to keep your locks looking fabulous!

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