Understanding the Differences: High Porosity Hair vs Low Porosity Hair

by Brianna Thompson
Understanding your hair porosity will enhance your hair routine and give you a better understanding on what your hair needs! This is especially for curly hair as moisture retention is important for healthy and defined curls. In this article I will explain hair porosity and the difference between high and low porosity.  

What is Hair Porosity?

Hair porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Hair porosity is determined by the shape and size of the cuticles in your hair and how well the hair strands penetrate the cuticle layer of the hair structure. Understanding your hair porosity can help you determine what products to use and how to take care of your hair properly. The 3 types of hair porosity are low, medium, and high. We will discuss more about on low and high, porosity since medium porosity doesn’t require as much maintenance. 

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How to Determine Your Hair Porosity

To determine your hair porosity, make sure your hair is freshly clean and dry with NO product in the hair. Take a small strand of your hair and put it in a glass of water. Room temperature may give you more accurate results. 

After 3 minutes analyze what the strand of hair is doing in the water. If your hair is above the water, that means you have low porosity. If your hair is in the middle of the glass of water, you have medium to normal porosity. If the strand of hair has sunk to the bottom of the glass, you have high porosity hair! 

Now let's dive into what each form of porosity means and how it applies to your hair routine! 

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Low Porosity

ow porosity is when your hair is water-resistant, making it harder for moisture to be absorbed into your strands. The cuticle is tightly overlapped and creates a barrier that blocks moisture or penetration. Low porosity hair is typically a result of your genetic makeup and cannot be caused by any chemical or heat damage. Here are some traits of low porosity hair: 

  • Products sit on the surface of the hair, taking longer to absorb. 

  • Hair is more susceptible to buildup due to slow penetration.

  • Your hair is easily weighed down.

  • It takes longer for your hair to get completely wet. 

  • It takes longer for your hair to dry, and the hair holds in water more that took longer to be obtained. 

  • Your hair is resistant to color or chemical treatments. Sometimes the hair will take longer to process color or needs to be formulated differently to penetrate. 

low porosity hair

The Best Products & Tips for Low Porosity 

Lightweight products 

Search for lightweight products that contain ingredients that can easily be absorbed. This includes products like honey, glycerin, aloe vera, and vitamin b5.

Clarifying shampoo

Since low porosity hair is prone to buildup it’s key to use deep cleansing shampoo to remove buildup from the scalp. My favorite is the Sudzz Nirvana Purifying Shampoo. 

Leave in Conditioner:

Lighter or diluted conditioners won’t sit on your head and will absorb into your hair strands. Milk leave-in conditioners and spray leave-in conditioners are light and great for low porous hair. My favorite leave ins are the Milkshake Leave In, and Milkshake 12 Effects.

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Apply products on damp hair.

Low porosity hair should be damp while applying products to the hair, and not dripping wet. While your hair is damp the product has a better chance of absorbing better because it has less water to break through. Use a microfiber towel to wring out and remove excess water before applying your products. If your hair is thicker you may need to use multiple towels to wring out the hair better. 

High Porosity 

High porosity hair has a more open cuticle, creating a pathway for high absorption and resistance to moisture. High porosity has a love, hate relationship with water and can easily absorb water in the shower or when applying product, may not be able to last for long. This can result in damage and leave the hair feeling dull. Porous hair can happen if the hair is overprocessed with color or chemicals. The hair can naturally have a high porosity, but can also be caused by heat damage, overprocessed hair, or environmental damage. Tightly textured hair is naturally more porous. Here are some characteristics of high porosity hair:

  • Looks or feels dry.

  • Prone to frizz

  • Prone to breakage 

  • Tangles easily 

  • Hair easily and quickly becomes wet.

  • Absorbs product quickly.

  • Air dries very quickly

The Best Products for Highly Porous Hair

Hydrating Shampoos & Conditioner

A hydrating or moisturizing product will properly cleanse your hair without stripping the hair's natural oils. Conditioners containing essential oils or Shea butter will help to boost moisture retention.   My favorite hydration shampoos and conditioners are the Sudzz Cashmere Hydrate and the Verb Hydrate


Cream-based products

Using thicker products that are highly concentrated adds an additional barrier for less moisture resistance. My favorite moisture cream is the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture CC Cream.


High porosity hair is prone to dryness and breakage, a good deep treatment will help provide the essential moisture to avoid damage and lock in moisture. Play products to which treatments give your hair the nourishment and definition you want. Here are two types of treatments to try out: 

  • Protein treatment: For high porosity caused by damage or overprocessing, protein treatment will help repair and rebuild the strength of your hair, improve elasticity, and prevent breakage. My recommendation for needed keratin is the K18 hair mask. Use every 3-4 shampoos for the best results to prevent overuse of protein.

  • Hot oil treatment:  Hot oil treatments increase the strength of your strands, reduce frizz and split ends. Common oils to use on natural hair include coconut, olive, argan, avocado, olive and jojoba oil. These treatments are primarily for curly or thicker hair, as fine hair will be weighed down tremendously.

  • Hair Mask: A weekly deep mask is going to help lock in moisture and provide deep penetration to the hair structure. My favorite moisture hair mask is the Amika Soulfood Mask. This mask is filled with lots of nutrients and antioxidants to help keep hair super soft and hydrated, 

Porosity Changes Over Time 

Hair porosity is partly determined by DNA, but our age, hormone levels and our hair care can affect hair porosity. Chemically processing with relaxers or color treatments can open or close the cuticle of the hair, causing the porosity of our hair to alter. The environment also causes constant friction on our hair and heat damage can affect how hair retains moisture. As we age, our bodies and hair change with us and can change our hair's porosity over time. Experiencing the beauty of a pregnancy or the difficulty of a health complication, your hormone levels can impact your hair and its porosity, as well. Treating your hair with the proper care, products and techniques can help your hair stay healthy and hydrated.

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I hope you now have a better understanding that hair porosity is crucial in determining the best products and care routine for your hair. Whether you have low porosity or high porosity hair, there are specific techniques and products that can help you achieve healthy, moisturized and defined curls. Remember to test your hair porosity level and pay attention to the characteristics of your hair to determine if it is low or high porosity. 

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 If you're looking to enhance your hair routine and achieve the best version of your curls, come visit me at Studio 360 Salon in Chatham NJ and let me help you unlock the full potential of your hair. With the right knowledge and tools, you can unlock the full potential of your hair and achieve your hair goals. Happy hair care!

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Brianna Thompson

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