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Everything You Need To Know About Low Porosity Hair

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Understanding the difference between high, medium, and low porosity hair is essential to achieving a gorgeous, healthy mane, no matter what natural curl type you have.

That’s because your individual combination of hair texture, density, and porosity, will help you select the right hair products and styling techniques for healthier hair.

But what does low porosity hair mean, and how do you know if you’ve got it?

This guide will help you understand the difference between low, high, and normal porosity hair. I’ll share some DIY tests to help you identify your hair porosity and some easy tips to help you care for low porosity hair. 

What is Hair Porosity?

The term ‘hair porosity’ describes your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. It’s described as low, medium, or high, and you can even have different porosity on different parts of your head.

Each hair strand is made up of three layers:

  • The soft medulla lies at the center of the hair shaft. 
  • The thick cortex layer lies between the medulla and the cuticle. It absorbs moisture and gives your hair strength, structure, and color.
  • The cuticle is the protective outermost layer. It’s covered in tiny scales that overlap like roof shingles.

The scales on the cuticle layer open slightly to allow moisture and nutrients into the strand and then close again to help it retain water. 

You’ll find more info about hair porosity in our Guide to Hair Porosity.

hair porosity chart

What Determines Your Porosity?

Low porosity is usually due to genetics, and it’s hard to make hair less porous. Straight hair tends to be less porous than curly hair types, as all the bends and curves in curly hair fibers can increase the porosity.

High porosity can be genetic, but it’s also caused by a poor hair care regimen or exposure to sunlight, hot styling tools, or chemical treatments.

What Is Low-Porosity Hair?

The cuticle layer on hair with low porosity has tightly closed scales that lie flat against the hair shaft. This makes it hard for low porosity hair to absorb moisture and nutrients, which can cause it to be brittle and prone to breakage. 

Low porosity hair can struggle to absorb moisture and nutrients, so hair care treatments and styling products may not work very effectively. 

However, once moisture is absorbed, the tightly closed scales lie flat against the strand and lock it in. This means low porosity hair retains water well and can look smoother and shinier than high porosity hair.

And because of this, low porosity hair struggles with buildup. If you also have fine hair, then you’ll likely struggle with most products being too heavy for your hair (this is my problem).

Low Porosity Hair Characteristics

The characteristics of low porosity hair can affect how your hair looks and feels. Here are some of the main characteristics to look out for:

  • The hair takes a long time to become saturated in the shower.
  • It also takes a long time to air-dry.
  • The hair feels smooth and looks shiny.
  • Products tend to build up on the hair’s surface.
  • Oils don’t penetrate the hair shaft easily.
  • Colors don’t always take very well.

On the other hand, high porosity hair often feels dry and frizzy, and the strands readily absorb water. More porous hair also dries quickly and tends to take hair colors well. 

Medium porosity hair lies in between these two, so it’s sometimes called normal porosity. 

low-porosity-hair

How To Check Hair Porosity

Here are some simple DIY tests to determine your hair’s porosity at home. 

The water test or float test is easy to carry out but isn’t always totally accurate. Porosity can vary across your head, as the top of your scalp gets more sun exposure and longer hair has had more time to get damaged by heat or chemicals. So, try testing hairs from different areas of your scalp for a more accurate result.

Snip a few clean, dry strands, or take a few strands you have naturally shed, and pop them into a glass of room temperature water. Low porosity hair takes a long time to absorb water, so the strands remain floating at the top of the glass. Medium porosity hair sinks slowly, and high porosity hair sinks more quickly as it has the ability to absorb water very easily.

It’s a good idea to cut long hair strands into two or more pieces for testing because your hair’s porosity can vary between the roots and ends.

The spray test is an easy alternative to the float test. You simply spray your locks with room temperature water from a spray bottle and see what happens. If you can see visible beads of water on the hair’s surface, or if the water even rolls off the strands, your hair has low porosity. High porosity hair will become saturated much more quickly.

woman with low porosity hair

How To Take Care of Low Porosity Hair

Understanding your hair’s porosity is one of the essential steps in creating a tailored hair care routine. Here are some tips on caring for low porosity hair to keep it soft, moisturized, and manageable:

Clarifying Shampoo

Hair care products, dirt, and natural oils from your scalp can all build up on low porosity hair, making it even more difficult for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. Use a clarifying shampoo regularly to remove build up and keep your hair and the surface of your scalp as clean as possible. 

Clarifying shampoos can also strip your strands of the moisturizing oils from your scalp. You can avoid this by choosing a gentle clarifying shampoo like Devacurl Buildup Buster. If you prefer a more powerful clarifying shampoo like OUAI Detox Shampoo, apply a deep conditioning treatment afterward.

I find I have to use a clarifying shampoo weekly on my fine low porosity hair. My favorite is the Malibu C Un-Do-Goo.

Top Pick
Malibu C Un-Do-Goo Clarifying Shampoo
$17.00 ($1.89 / Fl Oz)

This is my top pick for clarifying all hair types. It removes buildup the best and is still gentle on curly hair.

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Shampoo

Low porosity hair tends to be dry, so you may not want use shampoo on it too frequently, as this can make it even drier. Depending on your hair type and lifestyle, you might be able to shampoo it once a week and freshen up with a dry shampoo in between wash days. This is NOT the case for my hair, so do keep in mind that you also have to factor in texture and the health of your hair.

Choosing a shampoo without harsh chemicals like sulfates and phthalates is also a good idea, as they can have a drying effect. 

Knowing your hair’s natural texture and porosity will help you choose the right shampoo and decide how often to use it. Check out our Curly Hair Type Quiz if you’re unsure what hair type you have.

👉Read more: 10 Best Shampoos for Low Porosity Hair

Conditioner

The tightly closed cuticle layer on low porosity curls makes it difficult for moisture to reach the inner cortex. So, always use a rinse-out conditioner and leave-in conditioner every time you shampoo your tresses.

To prevent your hair from drying out, choose products that contain moisture-attracting humectants like honey and glycerin, and light penetrating oils like avocado oil and sunflower oil. 

You can also use the LCO method (Liquid, Cream, Oil) to layer on moisturizing products for maximum benefit. Finish off with a sealing oil like jojoba oil to help your hair strands retain moisture. 

I prefer to use a regular rinse out conditioner and proceed to styling with a gel, as oils and creams tend to weigh down my fine hair.

Deep conditioning treatments

Using a deep conditioner like Mielle Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner, in addition to your regular rinse-out and leave in conditioner, can help trap as much moisture as possible in your hair. 

Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner
$13.30 $12.49 ($1.56 / Fl Oz)

A moisturizing deep conditioner with a little protein to hydrate and strengthen hair.

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After washing your hair, squeeze out excess water and then apply the deep conditioner to wet hair. For maximum benefit, you can use a hair steamer or hooded dryer, wear a thermal cap for a few minutes, or even use the steam from your shower to open up the cuticles as much as possible. This will help moisture penetrate deep into the strands. 

Remember that if your hair isn’t dry or damaged, you may not need to deep condition at all. I don’t!

Protein Treatments 

Moisture is essential for low porosity hair, but you need to balance it with enough protein. If your moisture/protein balance is too light on the protein side, the excess moisture can lead to hygral fatigue and mushy, gummy strands. 

Protein treatments like the Hairfinity Hair Strengthening Amino Treatment Masque will restore a healthy moisture/protein balance, fill any gaps in the cuticle layer, and strengthen the structure of low porosity hair. 

Be careful not to overdo the protein, as this can make your dry hair brittle and even more prone to damage.

Hairfinity Hair Strengthening Amino Treatment Masque
$19.99 ($2.50 / Fl Oz)
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Protective Styles

Brushing, combing, and playing with your curls will make them even drier and increase the risk of damaged hair. Protective styles like twists, braids, and hair coverings reduce the need to touch your tresses and make moisture retention easier.

Styling Products

Layering lightweight products will avoid weighing down low porosity hair, and applying your products to soaking wet hair will help them penetrate the cuticles more easily. 

Try using a curl cream like MopTop Curl Cream to moisturize your curls or a light styling custard like MopTop Curly Hair Custard to give your hair hold and definition. 

MopTop Curl Cream
$16.99 ($6.80 / Fl Oz)

A nice cream that defines and provides light moisture.

Use code HE10 to save at MopTop.com.

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MopTop Curly Hair Custard Gel
$17.99 ($2.25 / Fl Oz)

This is my favorite lightweight gel with curl enhancing effects, medium hold, and softness.

Use code HE10 to save at MopTop.com.

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The heat from blow dryers and hot styling tools can make hair more porous, so always apply a heat protectant first.

👉Read more: The Best Low Porosity Hair Products + How To Choose the Right Ones

selfie of woman with low porosity curly hair

FAQs

If you’ve still got questions about low porosity hair, take a look at these frequently asked questions:

Is Low Porosity Hair Healthy?

Low porosity hair has difficulty absorbing hydration and nutrients, which makes it brittle and more prone to damage and breakage. However, with proper care, low porosity curls can be very healthy and look fantastic.

Can You Change the Porosity of Your Hair?

Hair can easily become more porous if it’s damaged by chemical treatments, heated styling tools, or poor hair care. It’s more difficult to make high porosity hair less porous again, so try to avoid increasing your hair’s porosity if possible.

How Often to Wash Low Porosity Hair?

This partly depends on your curl pattern and lifestyle, but washing your hair too often can strip its oils and make low porosity hair even drier. Try washing it once a week and freshening up with a dry shampoo in between wash days. 

Is Honey Good for Low Porosity Hair?

Honey is a good humectant for curly hair, so products containing honey can be a good choice for low porosity hair.

Is Low Porosity Hair Harder To Grow?

Dry, brittle hair breaks easily, which is why it can seem like low porosity hair is more difficult to grow. Providing your tresses with the moisture and protein they need will help you achieve your hair length goals.

Can Low Porosity Hair Be Frizzy?

Low porosity hair tends to look smooth and shiny because the cuticles lie flat and reflect light easily. Because of this, it’s usually not as frizzy as other hair types, but it can be frizzy.

Should You Rinse Low Porosity Hair With Cold Water?

Low porosity hair already has tightly closed cuticles, so it’s better to use warm water (not hot) to help open up the cuticle and let moisture in. Think of it like applying heat to a deep conditioning treatment.

The Bottom Line

Knowing your hair porosity, along with your hair texture and density, is one of the essential steps to creating a personalized hair care routine. Luckily, the float test and spray test are two easy DIY ways to check whether you have low, medium, or high porosity hair.

Once you know you have low porosity hair, caring for it can be easy. It simply needs a little extra attention to help it absorb essential hydration and nutrients. 

Following the simple tips in this guide will help you create a proper routine that will keep your low porosity curls looking and feeling fabulous.

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