We all want healthy and shiny hair, but sometimes the path to get there is not a simple one. You try to practice healthy hair care habits and invest in different products, but it is sometimes a trial and error process to determine what works best for your hair. It can be both time consuming and expensive. On your own journey to great looking hair, there is perhaps one thing you may not have considered—your hair’s porosity level.
What Is Hair Porosity and Why Should I Care?
Your hair porosity is simply your hair’s ability to absorb and maintain moisture. This is determined based on the condition of the hair’s cuticle layer (the outer layer of the hair shaft), which resembles shingles on a roof. Understanding the porosity of your hair can help you better care for your hair and improve your product selection process.
Determining Your Hair Porosity Level
The way your hair looks and behaves can pinpoint your hair porosity level. Consider the following signs that determine your porosity level.
When You Have Highly Porous Hair
When the hair is highly porous the scales of the cuticle layer are raised; moisture is easily absorbed and easily lost, resulting in hair that feels dry, rough and frizzy. Often too, hair that is highly porous has a damaged cuticle layer due to overuse of color or chemicals, heat styling abuse or even environmental abuse. Highly porous hair absorbs and processes color and chemical treatments much quicker and extra care must be given during either of these procedures. In general, lighter hair often tends to be of higher porosity. In total, these are the obvious signs of highly porous hair. Do some apply to you?
- It becomes wet almost immediately after contact with water
- Feels spongy or rubbery when wet
- Air dries fast
- It feels or looks dry, rough or straw-like
- Tends to lack shine
- Is frizz-prone
- Develops knots and tangles easily
When Your Hair has Low Porosity
In contrast, hair that has low porosity has a cuticle layer whose scales are tightly overlapped; the hair looks shinier and less frizzy, yet conditioners and other styling products don’t absorb easily and the hair is harder to moisturize. In general, darker hair often tends to be of low porosity. In total, these are the signs your hair has low porosity. Do some of them describe your hair?
- Takes longer to become fully wet when in contact with water
- Takes forever to air dry
- Has a nice shine
- Is not prone to frizzing
- Products sit on top/don’t absorb into hair
- Products easily weigh hair down; buildup is an issue
- Is resistant to taking color and/or chemical processes
When Your Hair has Normal Porosity
Lastly, if your hair is somewhere in the middle it is considered to be of normal porosity. The cuticle layer well regulates the moisture level in the hair, allowing for some penetration of moisture. In total, these are signs your hair has normal porosity. Do they describe your hair?
- Maintains moisture levels/easy to moisturize
- Dries in a fair amount of time
- Easy to style and care for
- Responds well to color/chemical treatments
- Is not frizz-prone
Other Ways of Determining Hair Porosity
In addition to evaluating your hair based on the above descriptors, some hair care experts suggest two simplistic at-home tests. Although neither of these methods are exactly scientific, they can help you to better understand your hair:
The Spritz Test
Spritz water from a spray bottle on a section of clean, dry hair (without product in it), holding the bottle 5 or 6 inches or so from the hair. If the water is quickly absorbed, then your hair is probably porous. If the water beads up or stays on top, then your hair most likely has low porosity.
The Strand Test
Take a couple of clean hair strands (without product) and drop them into a glass of water. If the hair floats after several minutes, this indicates your hair probably has low porosity and does not easily absorb water. Conversely, if you find the hair quickly drops to the bottom of the glass, then your hair likely has high porosity. Lastly, if your hair slowly begins to sink, then it is considered to be of normal porosity.
Hair Care Based on Hair Porosity
Now that you have an idea how porous your hair is, here are some helpful tips on how to better care for your hair based on your hair’s porosity level:
Care For Highly Porous Hair
You need to use products that add moisture and help the hair retain moisture.
-Deep conditioning treatments are a must for you. Try to deep condition every week or so, depending on how often you wash your hair.
-Use products that contain protein a couple of times per week. Protein helps to strengthen the damaged hair cuticles.
-Protect your hair from moisture loss with a natural oil like argan oil or an oil-based hair serum, applied to damp hair.
-Avoid overuse of heat styling appliances.
-Always rinse you hair with cool water post shower to close the hair cuticle and help prevent frizz.
-Never rub your hair with a bath towel; it just lifts the cuticle and causes frizz. Instead, use a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt.
Care For Low Porosity Hair
Overall, you’ll want to encourage your hair to absorb moisture.
-When you deep condition your hair, cover it with a shower cap to encourage absorption while you let the conditioner sit on your hair for 30 minutes. In addition, heat helps with absorption, so also try blow drying your strands as the conditioner sits on your hair or wrap your hair in a warm towel.
-Avoid products with protein—experts say protein can make low porosity hair brittle.
-Since products tend to just sit on top of your hair, product buildup can be a problem for you. Try not to use too much product in any one application and incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your cleansing routine every couple of weeks. Just don’t over do it---these shampoos can be drying.
-Choose lighter vs. heavier products to prevent your hair from looking greasy or weighed down.
Care For Normal Porosity Hair
Lucky you, you hair is easy to work worth! Apply the basics of good hair care and your hair will look great.
-Don’t over wash your hair and regularly deep condition.
-Avoid heat styling and environmental abuse.
-If a product seems to stop working, move on. It is probably creating issues with buildup.
For the most part, how porous your hair is has a lot to do with the make up of your hair. However, if your hair is highly porous it is likely due to damage. Therefore, by better caring for your hair you can reverse the signs of damage and reduce the porosity. Healthy hair is happy hair!
For help in how to better care for and style your hair, check out our new app, HAIR