Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Are there different levels of hair porosity?
The porosity level is a measurement of your hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture into the cortex. It is determined by how easily moisture and oils can pass through the flexible outer layer of the hair strand, called the cuticle.
Low Porosity Hair
Has tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat making it difficult for moisture to penetrate the cortex to provide hydration. These close together scales on the cuticle also make it hard for moisture to be released from the hair.
Medium Porosity Hair
Has a looser cuticle layer, allowing for a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of your hair.
High Porosity Hair
Has raised scales or gaps in the cuticle allowing moisture to easily pass in and out of the hair usually resulting in dry and sometimes fuzzy texture.
Determining your hair porosity will help you to understand what your hair needs and what chemical treatments it can take.
What causes the change in porosity levels?
Porosity is mostly determined by genetics, but it can also be affected by external factors including;
Heated styling equipment (curling/straightening irons, hot rollers, blow dryers)
Direct sunlight exposure
Swimming in chlorinated water
Bleaching or highlighting hair
Chemical relaxers or permanent waves
Over brushing of hair
Low Porosity Hair - Characteristics
Hair takes a long time to become fully saturated with water when you wash it
Water often beads on hair on the outside of the hair and doesn’t get absorbed.
It’s resistant to water, creams, and oils
Hair takes long time to dry completely
Hair lacks elasticity
Products tend to sit on top of your hair and weigh it down product
Products tend to build up on the hair
Low Porosity Hair - What to use
To avoid product, build up apply products to slightly damp hair and evenly distribute
Use lightweight formulas or liquid-based products to help avoid product build up.
A weekly clarifying shampoo is great to remove build-up
Heated conditioning treatments and hot oils help penetrate the moisture and hydration into your hair
Protein-free daily conditioners with humectants (products that attract moisture) like glycerine or honey
Moisturizers rich in emollients such as jojoba oil, Shea butter, coconut oil, or mineral oil.
Medium Porosity Hair - Characteristics
Hair responds well to hair colouring and chemical treatments
Hold styles well and doesn’t require a lot of styling product
Hair looks shiny and has natural volume
Hair requires less moisturiser and absorbs it easily
Hair usually doesn’t get fizzy or visibly drier as the day goes on
Medium Porosity Hair - What to use
Be mindful of over styling the hair with heated tools as this can change the porosity level higher
Treat your hair to a high protein hair-strengthening mask once a week only
High Porosity Hair - Characteristics
Looks dull, no shine
Hair air dry’s really fast
Excess frizz and dryness
Hair constantly tangles and is prone to knots which causes breakage
Hair doesn’t get weighed down or greasy when it soaks up hair oils
High Porosity Hair - What to use
Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner to replenish moisture levels in the hair
To repair the hair, use a deep conditioning treatment
Protein-packed deep conditioner will help strengthen the hair cuticles, but too much protein can cause breakage
Use anti-frizz products when it’s humid to seal the cuticles like heavy butters/creams, thicker oils, and leave-in conditioner.(Ex: raw shea butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil)
Try to avoid heat that may further dry out your strands, if you need to use the blow-dryer, straighter or curling tong, spray hair with a heat protectant spray to help protect your strands from the high heat temperature.
Rinse hair with lukewarm water will prevent hair strands from drying out further
How do I test for my hair porosity level?
The Float Test
1. Place a single strand of clean hair into a bowl of water (hair covered in products or dirty can affect the results)
2. Let the hair sit in the water for a few minutes
3. If your hair floats you have low porosity
4. If your hair sinks, you have high porosity
5. If your hair floats somewhere in the middle of the bowl you have medium porosity
The Slip ‘n Slide Test
Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up it, toward your scalp.
If you feel small bumps along the way, this means that your cuticle is lifted and that you have high porosity.If your fingers slide smoothly over the hairyour cuticle is bound tight and you have low porosity hair.
The Spray Bottle Test
1. Take a small section of your hair and mist it with a spray bottle.
2. Watch the how the hair absorbs the water
3. If the water beads up on your hair, it is low porosity.
4. If the water absorbs into the hair after a few minutes you have medium porosity hair.
5. If it absorbs quickly, your hair is high porosity.