Hair Porosity: Low vs High Porosity, How to Test & More

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hair porosity

When it comes to really understanding the needs of your hair, knowing your hair porosity is the best place to start.

This will help you figure out what products to use, how often to wash your hair, whether or not to use heat to deep condition and so on.

And yes, ‘the higher the porosity, the better’ is just a myth.

Read this article to learn more about hair porosity including how to determine your hair porosity.

What is Hair porosity?

Hair follicle, showing hair porosity
Hair follicle. Hair porosity illustration

Hair porosity refers to how well the hair absorbs and retains moisture and nutrients. It is affected by the flexible outer hair layer called the cuticle

It’s basically a term that describes the hair`s ability to absorb and hold water as well as products.

Porosity, or ‘porousness’ of the hair is largely influenced by genetic factors although hair care practices have an influence as well.

The science behind hair porosity is rooted on the structure, particularly the hair cuticle.

Cuticles with small gaps are less likely to retain water while those with large gaps retain large amounts of water.

Hair porosity is classified into three: low porosity, normal porosity, and high porosity as we shall see shortly.

1. Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair is characterized by compact cuticles with very small gaps that allow for little moisture to be absorbed.

Some signs that your hair has low porosity include hair taking too long to get wet, as well as to dry. This is because the hair strands take a longer time to let water seep into the hair and out during hair drying.

This goes for products as well which will take long to absorb, increasing the probability of product build-up.

Low porosity hair benefits greatly from products such as clarifying shampoos which gets rid of excess build-up and humectants that aid hair strands to absorb moisture.

With low porosity hair, you want to tailor your products to those that are light and that increase absorption taking care to avoid heavy hair products and oils.

2. High porosity hair

With high porosity hair, cuticles have larger gaps and as such are further away from each other. As a result, hair easily absorbs moisture but easily loses water.

Hair like this easily gets wet during washing but also easily dries.

Some common signs of high porosity hair include hair dryness which can lead to breakage, frizzy, dull, and easily tangled hair.

On a positive note, this hair easily absorbs products and is less likely to have product build-up.

Hair care for high porosity hair largely involves avoiding drying products typically found in shampoos.

Depending on dry your hair is, you may opt to co-wash, as well as integrate deep penetrating treatments and hair oils to bring back the moisture and shine in your hair.

3. Normal Porosity Hair

Normal porosity hair is the in between high and low porosity. It’s what everyone dreams of having.

The cuticles are not too compact nor are they too spread out. As a result, it absorbs a good amount of moisture and can maintain it.

This type of hair looks healthy and resilient and has good elasticity. It is less prone to drying, breakage, and product build-up.

With normal porosity hair, you want to deep condition over a longer frequency and avoid high protein levels in your hair care products.

Low vs High Porosity hair 

Now that we know what each porosity type is, here are a few key differences between low and high porosity hair.

Low Porosity HairHigh Porosity Hair
Takes time to absorb moistureEasily absorbs moisture
Adequately holds/retains moistureEasily loses moisture
Benefits from humectants and light hair care productsBenefits from anti humectants in humid areas and heavy moisturizing hair care products
Easily prone to product build-upIs less likely to develop product build-up
Less prone to drying and breakageIs more prone to drying, breakage, and dullness

How to Determine Hair Porosity

There are several tests you can take to determine the type of porosity your hair. Many of them are based on the hair`s ability to absorb and hold water. They include:

  1. Hair porosity quiz : this involves a set of questions that you answer to help determine your porosity like the one linked.
  2. Float test: Put a few strands of hair in a glass of water. Hair that floats at the top of the glass has low porosity while hair that sinks has low porosity. If hair is floating in the middle, then you have normal porosity.
  3. Slip & slide test: For this test, put a strand of your hair in between your fingertips and move the fingers to the end of your hair. If the hair feels smooth then it is low porosity but if it feels bumpy this indicates high porosity.
  4. Dry test: Wet your hair and a separate part of your body and observe which one dries first. If your hair dries first, you likely have low porosity but if your body dries first you may have low porosity.
  5.  Watershed test: Spray your hair with water and observe how long it takes to absorb water. If it takes a short time, you may have high porosity. A longer period indicates low porosity.

For more accurate and reliable results always aim for taking at least two different types of tests.

For more on these tests check our detailed article on hair porosity tests.

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