In the world of curly hair, there are no two curl patterns exactly the same, and knowing the porosity level of your curls is fundamental for taking good care of your hair. Knowing about the porosity of your hair is the very first thing to do for managing your curls and developing the right hair care routine.

What is hair porosity?

Hair porosity reflects your hair’s ability to absorb and seal in moisture or chemicals into your hair’s cortex and cuticle layers. Mainly, porosity is in fact a form of hair damage. As your hair begins to age (well, it happens to it too), the hair’s cuticle is going to start cracking, lifting away and peeling. In a word, older hair presents higher porosity than newer hair.

The health of your hair cuticles informs you about the porosity level. Healthy cuticles are going to lay flat, able to hold on to moisture. On the other hand, unhealthy cuticles don’t stay flat and let the moisture escape, leading to frizz and high dryness of your hair.

how hair porosity affects moisturizing
Hair porosity affects moisturizing – Image via Black Naps

How do you know which kind of porosity your hair is?

There are actually 3 ways of finding out more about the porosity of your hair. here’s what you can do for finding out about the porosity of your curls:

  • The hair shedding test

You can drop your hair shed from combing into a glass of water. If your hair strand is going to float, then your hair is low porosity. If it’s going to sink slowly, it has normal porosity. When the hair is sinking right away, it’s definitely high porosity.

how to test hair porosity in the water glass
Image credits Hairlicious Inc.


  • The water test

You can also determine your hair porosity level using some water. You only need to spritz a small area of your curls with some water and see carefully how your hair is taking it. Does the water stay on the hair (this means it’s low porosity) or is your hair is absorbing it really fast (this is a high porosity hair)?

  • The strand test

For this test you’re going to have to stretch a small section of your curl strand, using a gentle move and going in several areas of your head (front line, crown, nape and temple as well). You should put the stretched curl between one of the fingers and your thumb, sliding it up the hair strand, from the tip and towards your scalp. In case your fingers move very easy up the strands, your hair is low porosity. A normal porosity hair is going to feel smooth, as opposed to the high porosity hair that feels dry and rough, breaking at some point.

What is low porosity hair?

As previously mentioned, low porosity hair (flat tight cuticles) isn’t going to absorb moisture as easy as high porosity hair is. Even if the cuticles may not be damaged, the hair is pretty dry, just as if the cuticles were damaged. You’re going to notice that your hair needs more time to absorb water. In addition, the hair conditioner may not give impressive results either. The hair cuticles are in fact tightly sealed which makes absorption a lot more difficult.

What are the characteristics of low porosity hair?

Low porosity hair isn’t that difficult to recognize. It presents a higher risk for build-up from deep conditioning products that are loaded with protein. The hair is commonly a bit stiff and straw-like. It’s better to go with protein-free daily conditioners that are formulated with other humectants (honey and glycerin are better choices). You should also try to use moderate heat with protein-free deep conditioning treatments as you do want the tightly sealed cuticle to eventually open up.

The tightly bound cuticle of low porosity hair is another characteristic and so are the overlapping scales that lay quite flat. Even if the low porosity hair is considered to be healthy as it looks quite shiny (especially if it’s a dark color hair), this type of hair does repel moisture when you’re trying to get it all wet. It resists to penetration of chemicals, so processing the low porosity hair is no easy job.

You’re going to need moisturizers formulated on jojoba oil, shea butter, mineral oil and coconut oil for improving the well-being of low porosity hair. get humectant products that attract and seal in moisture too. Try to start using liquid-based and light products that aren’t going to sit on your hair, leaving a greasy feel to it.

Which are the signs of low porosity hair?

Even if there are some ways to tell if your hair is low porosity or not, there are some specific signs that are quite the red flag when it comes to your hair’s porosity. Listing them is going to be a lot easier to remember and to understand so, without any farther ado, here are the signs letting you know that your hair is definitely low porosity:

  • It sure looks healthy enough, but does it have any elasticity?

Low porosity doesn’t look damaged from a distance and many out there really don’t get what’s wrong with you stressing so much about your hair. this type of hair looks rather dull and its low elasticity makes things even clearer. You should also try to make some changes in your hair care regimen to work on the problem.

  • Hair products tend to sit on your hair

We all like to try various hair care products that work wonders for our friends and end up being total disaster for our own hair. if that’s the case for you, it means your hair is low porosity. The hair products simply sit at the top of your strands, no matter how much you try make them work.

  • Your cuticles are closed and take no moisture whatsoever

Low porosity hair is pretty well known for its ability to resist moisture and that’s because the cuticles are closed. Not enough moisture can only lead to one thing: easier dryness and breakage of your hair strands.

  • No, water doesn’t work either

Unlike one may think, low porosity hair isn’t going to absorb water. By contrary, water is going to bead up on hair so getting this type of hair all wet is quite the mission impossible. And that’s quite an obvious sign.

  • One would think that hair conditioners may work, after all

Low porosity hair doesn’t work with hair conditioners either as the cuticles are closed. However, some other type of hair conditioners may work on low porosity hair (scroll down for the details!).

  • Heat and conditioners give great results, though

When your hair is low porosity, chances are you’re going to get results when using heat with your hair conditioner. it may even be the same conditioner that you tried first, without using the heat. That’s quite a turn in the whole story, right?

  • It does react better to humectants, though (thank God!)

Even if the low porosity hair doesn’t really go for the hair conditioners, it does give results to humectants. Even if they’re not really popular, you should be willing to compromise for the health and appearance of your hair.

  • Clarifying helps a lot too

Clarifying the low porosity hair is going to remove the buildup from the hair. you should do it as often as you can and once a month is enough for this kind of hair.

  • Hair color or treatments don’t absorb either- that’s not quite the shocker

If you’re coloring your hair from the comfort of your home, this may sound really familiar to you: getting a color that doesn’t look at all like in the picture. Low porosity hair does that as it’s unable to absorb well the color treatment. Make sure you’re letting your hair stylist before coloring it (even though he/she should be able to know on their own).

On the side note, low porosity hair isn’t going to absorb chemical treatments either, so take that under consideration when planning such thing for your hair.

  • Freshly washed? What’s with all the buildup and dirt then?

No matter how much you’re washing or cleaning your hair, this type of hair manages to feel dirty pretty fast. You may need to wash more often as you’re using too many hair products. chances are though that it’s the low porosity to blame once again.

  • It sure takes forever to dry

Now that you’ve managed to wet your hair somehow, there’s only one thing to do: style it. Well, one would think that but low porosity hair does need a lot of time to dry. Make sure you plan ahead when washing your hair so that you don’t run late on a meeting.

  • It sure is prone to dandruff

Dandruff is quite a common problem out there and one with low porosity hair isn’t making an exception. Having this kind of hair and no dandruff is quite an accomplishment, in fact.

  • The hair is too oily or to dry. It’s never in the middle.

It’s a struggle to find out how much moisture your low porosity hair really needs. You may end up drying it out or making it too oily so make sure you pay attention to your hair for best results.

Low porosity hair care and regimen

Due to its characteristics, low porosity hair requires some well-informed TLC. You want your hair to be able to absorb and seal in moisture for a healthy and beautiful appearance.

Here are some regards related to hair care and regimen for low porosity hair:

  • Try the deep conditioning treatments

You should deep condition at least once a month as it’s fundamental for the low porosity hair to infuse it with the moisture it really needs.

For best results, start by applying the conditioner on a clean and damp hair. in order for deep conditioning to work, you also need some mild heat. You can ease up the absorption of moisture with a steamer or a heated gel cap. If you’re going to use a hair steamer for 15-30 minutes, you’re going to determine the tightly closed cuticles (that low porosity hair has) open up, therefore the conditioning ingredients are going to go even deeper in the hair shaft, infusing the strands with the moisturizing nutrients.

In case you don’t have any of these tools, you may very well sit under a hooded dryer for 10-15 minutes (don’t forget to also use a plastic cap!). if you decide to use only your body heat and a plastic cap, you should wait for 2 hours for the conditioner to work.

  • Use water-based leave-in conditioners

Using a water-based leave-in conditioner after each shampooing is going to help your low porosity hair. a liquid-based, leave-in conditioner that doesn’t contain any protein is going to hydrate your hair and lubricate it at the same time. In addition, it’s not going to coat your hair with too much product either.

  • Clarifying

Buildup is one of the reasons for which the hair isn’t absorbing water as you’re trying to moisturize your hair. don’t hesitate and start using clarifying shampoo once or twice a month as you want to get rid of all lingering products from your hair. make sure you’re using a protein-free conditioner afterwards.

  • Start using bentonite clay

Bentonite clay is in fact an efficient natural deep cleanser that benefits the low porosity hair. it presents impressive absorptive abilities that suck in the impurities and eliminate all the excess product buildup. You want to use a bentonite clay hair mask as it’s going to soften your resistant hair, making it easier to handle and capable to receive various styling products.

  • Wash your hair with warm water

Keep in mind to wash your low porosity hair with warm and not cold water as you want the cuticle to open up a bit as it’s the only way for the moisturizing ingredients of the conditioner to get deep into the hair shaft. When you’re done with conditioning your hair, use cool water for rinsing your hair as this time you want the cuticle to close, sealing in the moisture.

You can find hair care products specifically formulated for the low porosity hair and you should try them asap.

How to moisturize and seal low porosity hair

Challenging yet so beautiful, low porosity hair is going to force you become quite the professional when it comes to low porosity hair care.

Once you get this type of hair absorb the moisture, you know it’s not going to get away anytime soon. But what’s the trick for moisturizing the hair? here are some things to keep in mind next time you’re determined to moisturize your low porosity hair:

  • Think about pre-poo treatment

You can use a combination of oils, or just one or get a conditioner formulated with oils or butter. The choice is entirely yours. Just make sure you remember that a prepoo treatment is going to add slip, softness and weight to your special hair. the penetrating oils (olive, avocado, sunflower, coconut or grapeseed) are always options to have in mind.

Some recommend to take this treatment hour before you actually wash your hair. most of us aren’t lucky enough to have that kind of time, so a thermal heat cap or a steamer are going to be enough. Only ½ an hour for the treatment and don’t forget to wash afterwards.

  • Try the deep conditioning

Deep conditioning is only going to be effective if used for at least ½ hours, but you can definitely adjust that time to your needs. Heat is going to improve the effect of deep conditioning so start using a hooded dryer/thermal cap/steamer for the best results. Even a plastic cap is going to work, along with your body heat so try this solution too.

  • Water is the way

Water is the best moisturizer and this case you need to use a lot of it for your entire head. 2 ounces of conditioner for 6 ounces of water are just about enough. Work in sections and apply the mixture throughout the hair. when you’re done, you can add the heat source.

  • Use an oil for sealing the moisture

Low porosity hair works best with liquid/leave-in conditioner(L), cream (C) and Oil (LCO), and not so much with the LOC method. Some recommend using oil last on this type of hair.

  • Satin is your next best friend

Whether you’re deciding to use a satin pillowcase or a satin cap, satin is going to be a lot gentler on your hair than cotton would. Throw away the cotton pillowcase and start using the satiny ones. As for the winter season, switching to a satin lined hat it’s not a bad idea at all.

Is the LOC method good for low porosity hair?

Layering products on your hair is going to give you better control on how much moisture is going to be absorbed and how fast it’s going to go away. You can style your hair both wet and damp, using light or heavy liquids, creams and oils.

For the low porosity hair, the LOC method is going to work a bit different. If it’s saturated with a liquid, this type of hair is going to absorb and seal the moisture it needs. After you’re applying the cream, the hair is going to attract the water from the product, allowing the rest to coat the strands. Once you’re applying the oils, the 2 outer layers are going to combine, resulting into a thick barrier that protects the strands. The amount of cream and oils, plus the porosity of your hair count for the level of greasiness and weight of your hair, in the end.

As you don’t want to have that in your hair, you should use a lightweight oil and not a thick one (coconut or olive oil aren’t good for low porosity hair). go with argan, sweet almond and jojoba oil instead as they’re going to coat the hair, but still allow your hair to breathe. Once the cream is applied, the hair is going to get all smooth and slick, with no greasy feel.

Low porosity hair tips

When it comes to hair care and regimen for the low porosity, the talk isn’t only about what you need to do, but also about what you shouldn’t do.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if your hair is low porosity:

  • Silicones

Try to stay away from the products formulated with water-insoluble silicones as your hair cuticle already has a layer. You don’t want to add more layers and the silicones products are going to do that to your hair. additionally, you may also have to use shampoos with sulfates in order to get rid of the silicones from your hair.

  • Proteins

Don’t fall into temptation of using protein –heavy and creamy conditioners as they’re going to add unnecessary weight to your hair. it’s better to go with a lightweight or even diluted rinse-out conditioner, for better slip.

Try your best not to use protein-rich leave-in products either as your hair cuticles don’t present tears or gaps that you need to fill in with a hair care product. Protein particles are actually going to block the already closed hair cuticles, making it even harder for the moisture to ever go into your hair.

  • Co-washing

Cleansing conditioner is also a big “no” for the low porosity hair as it may cause build-up in time. However, if you are a big fan of co-washing, it’s better to cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo at least once a month.

  • Heavy oils

Not only heavy oils are going to sit on your hair, but they’re not going to be absorbed either. You should use oils only in small doses, but go with the lighter ones. Argan, jojoba, sweet almond oils or baobab are good choices for the low porosity hair. nevertheless, heavier oils are better for the hot oil treatments as they’re easily absorbed when heated.