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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:

  • looks and feels dry
  • tends to be frizzy
  • tangles easily
  • is prone to breakage
  • air dries very quickly
  • absorbs products quickly
  • rarely looks shiny

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

  1. Fill a clear glass or bowl with water.
  2. Place a strand of your hair in the water.
  3. Watch to see how quickly it sinks to the bottom.

Results

  • 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.

Shampoo

The following shampoos may be especially helpful for cleansing your hair without drying it out.

Conditioner

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.

Deep conditioner

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:

Styling products

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:

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.