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Hair porosity is a term that’s used to describe how easily your hair is able to soak up and retain moisture. Depending on how porous your hair is, it may be classified as having high, medium, or low porosity.
If you have high porosity hair, it means that water, oils, and other types of products can be easily absorbed by your hair. On the flip side, because your hair is highly porous, it may not be able to retain moisture as well as other types of hair.
If you want to get a better understanding of highly porous hair, how to care for it, and the types of products to use, this article may have the answers you’re looking for.
To understand hair porosity, it helps to know a bit about the hair’s structure.
Each strand of your hair is made up of three layers:
- cuticle: the outermost layer
- cortex: the middle layer
- medulla: the innermost layer
The outermost layer of your hair shaft consists of tiny cuticles that are too small to see with the naked eye. These cuticles protect the inner layers of your hair by controlling how much moisture, as well as products and chemicals, can be absorbed.
If the cuticles are too close together, it can prevent moisture from being soaked up. This is known as low porosity.
If the cuticles are too far apart, it has the opposite effect: Moisture can easily get into the hair, but it doesn’t stay long enough to nourish and moisturize your hair. This is high porosity hair.
High porosity hair can be genetic, which means that it runs in your family. Many times, though, it’s caused by hair processing and styling treatments like straightening, blow-drying, bleaching, and other chemical applications.
These types of treatments can damage your cuticles, causing them to lift or separate. This can create gaps between your cuticles and, as a result, your hair may be more porous than it would normally be.
You may have high porosity hair if your hair:
You can easily test your hair porosity using a dry, freshly washed strand of your hair and a clear glass or bowl of water.
Hair porosity test
- Fill a clear glass or bowl with water.
- Place a strand of your hair in the water.
- Watch to see how quickly it sinks to the bottom.
- High porosity hair will sink to the bottom quickly.
- Medium porosity hair will likely float in the middle of the glass for a while before sinking to the bottom.
- Low porosity hair will float at the top for some time before slowly sinking.
By understanding your hair porosity, you can take steps to ensure that you’re managing it correctly and using products and ingredients that are well-suited to your hair.
When it comes to caring for highly porous hair, the goals include reducing and reversing damage to the cuticle, and also helping your hair retain moisture.
To help nourish, moisturize, and repair highly porous hair, it’s important to use products that have the right formulation for this hair type. Typically, this will involve using hair care products that include “heavier” ingredients like oils or butters.
If you want to know what types of products and ingredients tend to work well for high porosity hair, here are some suggestions.
The following shampoos may be especially helpful for cleansing your hair without drying it out.
- Devacurl No-Poo Decadence Milk Cleanser. No “poo” means this product isn’t a normal shampoo. Instead, it’s like a hair cleanser that’s made with quinoa proteins to help soften and moisturize porous hair.
- L’Oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo for Damaged Hair. This protein-packed shampoo contains conditioning ingredients and almond oil to soften hair while reducing frizz.
- Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. This shampoo is designed to maintain internal moisture and strength to prevent breakage.
Conditioners that contain butters and oils may help seal the gaps in the cuticle and provide a protective layer.
Here are some examples of conditioners that may be especially helpful for highly porous hair.
- Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner. This intensely hydrating conditioner contains almond and olive extracts to nourish and moisturize hair.
- SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Conditioner. This product doesn’t contain sulfates, which makes it a good choice for porous hair. Shea butter, mafura oil, honey, and fig extract can help strengthen and moisturize hair.
- Silk18 Natural Hair Conditioner. This daily conditioner contains argan oil as well as amino acids to help reduce static and frizziness.
Deep conditioning treatments are especially helpful for adding moisture, nourishment, and softness to highly porous hair. Try to use a deep conditioner at least once or twice a week.
Some deep conditioners that are well suited to porous hair include:
- SheaMoisture High Porosity Moisture Correct Masque. Made with hemp seed, apple cider vinegar, and baobab proteins, this deep-conditioning mask can help coat and cushion the hair.
- Marc Anthony Grow Long Anti-Breakage Hair Mask. This deep-conditioning mask contains ingredients such as avocado oil, argan oil, and keratin that may be especially helpful if you struggle with breakage.
Highly porous hair is often damaged from heat or styling treatments, so you may want to consider using products that can protect your hair from further damage.
Some products to add to your beauty basket include:
- L’Oreal Paris Advanced Hairstyle BLOW DRY IT Thermal Smoother Cream. This lightweight cream product contains both a detangler and a frizz-protective component, and can be applied to your hair before blow-drying.
- Sun Bum Revitalizing 3-in-1 Leave-In Hair Conditioner Spray. This gluten-free, vegan hair conditioner spray is safe for color-treated hair and protects against UV damage. You can use it as a leave-in conditioning spray or as an application before going out in the sun.
- HSI Professional Argan Oil Heat Protector. This best-selling product contains argan oil and can protect against heat styling up to 450°F.
Highly porous hair is often prone to breakage that can keep your hair from growing.
In addition to using nourishing, hydrating hair care products, the following tips may help cut down on hair breakage.
- Avoid sulfates, parabens, silicones, and sodium laureth sulfates. These ingredients can pull a lot of natural oil from your hair.
- Use only lukewarm water when you wash and condition your hair. Hot water may lift the cuticles and cause further damage.
- Dry your hair with a cotton T-shirt. Vigorous drying with a towel can create friction and cause breakage. A smooth fiber, cotton shirt can be more soothing and may help protect your hair from damage.
- Minimize heat styling. You can also use heat styling appliances on a lower heat setting and use a heat protecting product on your hair.
If you have high porosity hair, water and oils can be easily absorbed, but your hair will have a hard time retaining that moisture. This can lead to hair that’s dry, frizzy, and prone to tangles and breakage.
However, there are certain products you can use, and strategies to try that may improve the health of your hair, and make it easier to manage and care for.
If your hair continues to break or lacks moisture, talk to your stylist about ways you can improve your hair’s texture and overall health.