Introduction to Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture (i.e. water). Retaining moisture is the key to healthy hair. In order to properly care for your hair, understanding your hair’s porosity is a pre-requisite.

There are three types of porosity: low, high and normal. Porosity is determined by the position of the cuticle, which is the outermost part of our hair made up of a layer of overlapping dead cells. It provides the hair with strength by protecting it from harsh elements and by protecting the inner structures of the hair. It also controls the water content.

hair porosity diagram

Normal porosity

If you have normal porosity, consider yourself lucky. Normal porosity hair requires the least amount of maintenance. It easily draws in water, however does not allow too much water to enter the cortex. This type of hair tends to be shiny, hold styles well and is easy to process (e.g. color, highlight, perm). A occassional deep conditioner and light protein benefits this type of hair.

High porosity

Think of your hair as a sponge. It can absorb its weight in water and easily allow all the water to escape. Cuticles of high porosity hair are too open and allow too much water to enter the cortex. However, just as easily as the water enters, it also escapes rapidly, making it a challenge to keep moisture. This type of hair may be damaged, because of chemical processing. High porosity hair benefits from heavy creams, thick oils or emollients and butters, to seal in moisture. It also benefits from routine protein treatments, which may help to fill in some of the gaps in the cuticle. Additionally, cold water rinses, low PH products such as diluted vinegar or aloe vera, help to seal the cuticle.

Low porosity (lo-po)

The focus of this blog will be on low porosity. Despite the plethora of information on the web about porosity, there are not enough sites that thoroughly discuss caring for low porous hair. This type of hair has flat, shingled cuticles. Picture the shingles on the roof of a house, when it rains the water simply glides off the structure. As you can imagine, it’s challenging for water  to enter the hair shaft. This type of hair often takes a while to wet in the shower and it takes forever to dry. Product buildup is a common complaint, as products just seem to sit on top of the hair. Chemical processing is long and difficult.

The trick with low porosity hair is getting the moisture in the hair shaft. Once it’s in, the hair retains moisture quite well and is lustrous and shiny. One of the most helpful methods is deep conditioning with heat or steam to open up the cuticle and help the hair absorb moisture. Additionally, washing and rinsing the hair with warm water helps loosen up debris and open up the cuticles.

If you’re low porosity and looking for some useful tips and advice, well, you’ve come to the right place. This blog will be dedicated to lo-po hair and more methods for caring for lo-po hair will be discussed in detail on this blog. I’ll also include my experimentation with my lo-po hair and what works and does not work for me.

In the meantime, to find out the porosity of your hair. You could take a clean, freshly washed (without products) strand of hair and place it in a cup of water:

If the hair stays afloat for a long time (more than 1 hour), without ever sinking, you’re likely lo-po

If the hair immediately sinks to the bottom of the glass,  you’re likely high porosity

Keep in mind, this is not a glass half empty or half full matter. Whether high, low or normal, the important is figuring out how to properly care for your hair. What’s your hair porosity?

14 thoughts on “Introduction to Hair Porosity

  1. I have been scouring the internet for tips in lo-po hair. There is an abundance of information on hair typing which doesn’t help at all. I was wondering why I can’t use butters without my hair feeling greasy, why cold water and acv rinses make my hair more frizzy, protein makes my hair feel like straw and gels look nice until my hair dries. Then when I found out I had low porosity hair, I couldn’t find any good info on how to take care of it. Thank You for this blog. I will be spending the next couple of hours here lol.

      • I do use one shampoo that cleans my scalp without it feeling stripped and that is the Giovanni Smooth as Silk Deep Moisture shampoo. The new and improved version is even more moisturizing than the old version. I swear by it. I also like the J.R. Liggetts shampoo bars but they don’t always clean my scalp the way I would like it to.

    • Hi Miriam, thank you for stopping by! Happy you’re enjoying the blog. I do still live in Europe, Switzerland to be exact and that has made going natural and caring for my low porosity hair all the more interesting. =)

  2. Pingback: Follow-up: My Mom’s Porosity | lowporosityhaircare

  3. Today, I accepted the fact that I have low porosity hair. My hair has changed greatly: lots of shedding, breaking, way less elasticity, dryness, brittle, loss of length, huge growth in gray hairs. I’m about to get serious about this hair care so that I can reverse some of this damage. So glad I found your blog. Thank you.

  4. I never knew this was an issue that people have with their hair – natural or otherwise! I seriously learned something new today and I will keep reading. I think I fall in the middle between normal and high po if there’s such a category! I have thick, very coarse 4c hair and a scalp that drinks up any and all oils. I have found during my natural hair journey (I’m a year and 4 months in) that not all of the oil staples work well alone on my hair, but when mixed with shea butter or other oils they work much better. My hair definitely responds better to the butters and thick creams than light oils.

    • Isn’t it interesting how every head of hair is so unique. You could always use this blog as a guideline. Sort of a “do the complete opposite” guideline that is. Probably many things that don’t work for me, would work nicely on your hair. How do you like aloe for a sealant? I want to badly for my hair to love aloe in its pure form. LOL! Congratulations on the one year mark!

  5. Thank you for your blog this has helped me so much I am lo po natural. I have just reached being 1 year natural and realised I was lo po, but the things I was doing to my hair was all wrong. I did the strand test on cold water and my hair was sitting on top then I decided to do it on hot water and my hair began to sink. Heat I most definitely my friend and also baking soda. I am still learning so much about my hair. Thanks again for this blog it has really helped.

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