Hair Science 101: Let’s Talk Porosity

Whenever people ask me about natural hair and I ask them what their porosity is, I usually hear “What the hell is that?” It is amazing how many naturals are uneducated about porosity because most tend to focus only on curl pattern. Although curl pattern is important, it is also essential to know about all aspects of your hair. This will make your natural hair journey easier when it comes to choosing products, techniques, styles and more. So let’s discuss hair porosity and what yours could be!
Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. The cuticles in your hair open and close, allowing moisture in and out. In a nutshell, the set up of your cuticles determine your hair’s porosity. There are three types of porosities: high, low, and medium. Let’s discuss each porosity and their characteristics to determine which one you may have.

Testing for Porosity

There are several tests to determine your hair’s porosity, but the most popular is the water test. Grab a clear bowl and fill it with water. Next take a strand of clean hair and drop it into the water. It is probably best to do this when your hair is freshly washed and free of product. Walk off for about 3-5 minutes and come back. Observe where your hair floats in the water. If it sits at the top of the water, that means you have low porosity.

Hair strands that sink to the bottom are high porosity. And if your hair is floating in the middle, you have medium porosity.

To see how this test is done more information on porosity tests, you can watch my video on it below.

HAIR POROSITY 101: What is Hair Porosity?

High porosity

High porosity hair means your hair can easily obtain moisture; however, it has a hard time holding it in. The cuticles are always open or broken off, which allows moisture in but will not allow your hair to hold it. This makes the hair dry out quickly and prone to fizziness. Some other characteristics are your hair tangles very easily, humidity is your worst enemy, and it weighs down easily. Ever noticed when washing your hair that you have a hard time keeping it wet? You may have high porosity hair! Those who have any type of heat, color, or chemical damage typically have high porosity. Even though this true, you can have healthy hair that is naturally high porosity.

Recommendations: It’s best to use cool water when washing your hair and cold air to dry it. Colder temperatures will help seal your cuticles shut to keep moisture in longer. Less heat and more-cool is the key! As far as products, thicker/heavier leave ins are the best to use. It’s ideal to use thick leave in conditioners, creams or gels to help seal over areas of the cuticles that are broken. The thickness of these products will trap moisture longer. Anti-humanants oils are also a great way to trap in moisture and block heat from the sun and humidity from entering your hair shaft. Some examples are coconut, avocado, or Jamaican castor oil. Lastly, it is recommended to wash your hair regularly with deep conditions and protein treatments. The products will help make up for the lack of protein in the scales of your hair.

Low Porosity

Low porosity hair has an extremely hard time absorbing moisture, but once it does, it can retain it easily. This is because the hair cuticles are always sealed closed tightly. This makes it hard for moisture to penetrate through to get into the hair shaft. Ever noticed that your hair seems to be over-saturated with water or product all the time? This is because moisture sits on the top of your hair caused by not being able to enter your hair shaft correctly. The biggest sign of low porosity hair is excessive product buildup. Another sign is that it takes your hair a long time to dry.

Recommendations: Heat (in moderation) is your best friend. Use warm water when washing your hair and warm air when drying. I caution you to not go overboard with the heat with too high temperatures. This could hurt your hair in the long run, so warm temperatures are best. Warm temperatures will help open those tight cuticles for moisture to seep through. Try using steamers to help open those cuticles up! Lightweight, liquid-based products are recommended for low porosity hair. Products like hair milks or mists/sprays are for you. Because of build-up proneness, these lightweight products will help combat that and they can be absorbed easier. Be careful when using oils because they tend to sit on your hair and not absorb well. On wash days, sulfate free shampoo will help clean your hair of the dirt and product buildup. Try an apple cider vinegar or baking soda treatment as well to cleanse your hair. Stay away from regular use of protein treatments because your hair already has enough! Too much protein can make your hair hard and stiff.

Medium Porosity

Medium porosity hair has a balanced amount of absorbing and retaining moisture. Your cuticles are set in a looser way that open and close in alignment. This allows you to apply daily moisture to your hair and it usually has a constant shine. There isn’t much information out there about medium porosity hair sadly because it requires the least amount of management.

Recommendations: With your hair being in the middle, it’s a game of back and forth figuring out which methods work best for your hair. It’s recommended to wash your hair with warm water and to dry with cool air. Be careful with the heat temperature you use to avoid damage, frizz and drying your hair out. Product recommendations are nourishing styler milk, cream, leave in or gel. I suggest playing around with a combination of these products to see what work best for you. Personally, I do a hair milk and cream combo for my medium porosity hair. Every wash day you should be co-washing your hair. This allows you to clean your hair without wiping it clean of moisture. Bi-weekly use of protein treatments will help you keep up a healthy amount of protein in your hair.

As you can see, knowing your hair porosity is very important in determining how to care for your natural. I want to make it known that no porosity is better or healthier than the other! All of our natural is made up differently and requires unique care to the individual. Please take the time to learn about the scientific makeup of your hair, starting with porosity!

I hope this blog article was helpful in your hair journey! 

Please leave comments and questions below!

Loving your natural is hard work but rewarding.


Beverly Coleman