What is Hair Porosity and How to Determine Yours

hair porosity


Everyone wants healthy hair. Whether you are just starting your natural hair journey or searching for the right natural hair products for you, you might have heard it is important to know the porosity level of your curly hair for your hair to maintain its health. This is true! Hair porosity affects the way you wash, condition, style, and maintain your hair so learning if your hair is low, medium, or high porosity and what the different types of hair porosity levels mean can save you money and time.


Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture and hair care products such as shampooconditioner, and curling creams. How your hair absorbs and retains moisture is largely due to genetics. So, if low porosity hair runs in your family, there’s a good chance you’ll have low porosity hair, too. But blow drying, bleaching, straightening, over-washing, and using harsh products can all damage your hair over time and cause your hair cuticles to become raised and open, which may make it harder for your hair to retain moisture, affecting your porosity.


Hair with low porosity has a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat and repel moisture. Hair with medium or normal porosity has a looser cuticle layer and allows just the right amount of moisture to enter while preventing too much from escaping. High porosity hair has gaps and holes in the hair cuticles, which let too much moisture into your hair and can create product buildup.


Curlier hair tends to be low porosity and drier because of how difficult it is for oils to make their way through the coils from root to tip, but this doesn’t always mean that all highly textured hair has the same porosity. Two people, both with 4C hair, can have very different porosities and two people, both with 3B hair, can have very different porosities which is why it is important to conduct a test and find out your individual level of porosity.


To determine the porosity of your hair you can do a hair porosity test and it only takes a few minutes! While there are different ways to test your hair, one option is the hair porosity float test. Simply drop a clean non conditioned strand of your hair into a room temperature glass of water or small container of water. Let it sit for 15 minutes and if the strand of hair floats, your hair may be low porosity. If the strand sinks just below the surface or to the middle, you may have medium porosity hair. If the strand sinks all the way to the bottom, you may have high porosity hair.


Another test option is the spray bottle test. Take room temperature water and mist it over your hair. Let your hair air dry. If the droplets sit on top of your hair, you most likely have low porosity hair. If the droplets absorb into your strands, you most likely have high porosity hair. If the droplets sit on your hair and after a few minutes absorb into your hair you have normal porosity hair.

A third option is the strand test. Gently stretch a tiny section of curl strands from different areas of your head – front hairline, nape, crown and temple. Place the stretched curl between your thumb and finger and slide it up the hair strand from the tip towards the scalp. If your fingers move easily up the strand and it feels dense and hard, you have low porosity hair. If it feels smooth, you have normal porosity hair. And if the strand feels rough or dry or it breaks, you have high porosity hair.


After you conduct the test of your choosing, you will be prepared for the dreaded hunt for your “perfect” products. Knowing your porosity is only half the battle because not all products work the same on all hair porosities. If you have low porosity you want to find the right products that will get down in your hair shaft and give your hair hydration. So a brand that works well for someone with high porosity hair might not work as well for you because it is not hard for products to get into their hair cuticles.


There are things you can do depending on your hair porosity level to make your hair healthier, more manageable, and easier to style. For low porosity hair, use protein-free conditioners because these tend to be more easily absorbed into your hair and may be less likely to cause product buildup. Also, apply conditioner to hair that’s already wet to make it easier for your hair to absorb. Look for ingredients like glycerin and honey in shampoos and conditioners because these are better at penetrating the cuticle. Lastly, apply heat when you condition your hair. Normal porosity hair has compact cuticles that easily let moisture enter in. Continue to do regular deep conditioning treatments to maintain good product absorption.  For high porosity hair, Look for ingredients like butters and oils in shampoos and conditioners, as these ingredients help moisturize your hair. Use leave-in conditioners and sealers because these products help your hair hold on to moisture. Apply a heat protectant product on your hair before you blow dry or use other heat styling treatments to protect your hair from heat damage and use lukewarm water when shampooing and conditioning.


It is important that you do your research before you buy products. Find out what ingredients are going into a product you are interested in, look up reviews and see if the product worked for anyone else with your porosity level. Sometimes it will take trial and error and you can do all the right things prior to using a product and it still not be the right one for your hair. But, the more you know about your hair type the easier the process will be.


Now that you understand your hair porosity level, are you ready to start purchasing products with informed decisions? Allow 4th Ave Market to provide you the best products to nurture your healthy hair.




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