Hair Porosity

Each hair strand naturally contains water, how well it can absorb and retain moisture determines the porosity of the hair. The porosity of the hair is not static. It can change from one level to the next, depending on how you treat your hair, how well you moisturize and lock the moisture into your hair and other factors. It can also be reversed you can go from high to low or vice versa.

Additionally, you may have varying levels of porosity on different parts of your hair. You can sense this when you wet your hair, and it dries one part might feel as if it is more moisturized than another.

Spray Bottle Test

A simple way of testing if you have varying levels of porosity on your hair is to do the spray bottle test. Do this on clean hair!

Fill your spray bottle with water (only water) spritz your hair and watch how easily water absorbs in the different sections of hair.

The Floating test

To check for porosity on your hair strands in general you can do the popular float test. Get a few strands of your hair. Make sure it is clean hair. Products on the hair can change your results, so you need clean hair.

Place the strands in a full glass of water. You need to watch for 3 minutes to get the results.

  •  If your hair floats- you have low porosity hair.
  • If your hair stays in the middle- medium/normal porosity hair
  • If your hair sinks- you have high porosity hair


  •  Low porosity hair has a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat. This means that with such a tightly closed cuticle moisture does not enter the hair easily. This makes the hair very resistant to moisture, dyes, relaxers etc.
  •  Low porosity hair is prone to product build up, products just sit on the hair having nowhere to go.
  •  Low porosity hair doesn’t have much elasticity or volume.
  •  Feels dry to the touch even after ‘moisturizing’ it.

Please note low porosity hair is not necessarily a bad thing. It just needs specialized care to get that moisture in.


  • Use heat to open the cuticles to let the moisture in. Deep condition hair with heat, hot oil hair with heat, or heat up the conditioner and the oils before applying to hair.
  • Be stingy with protein treatments, once or twice per month is sufficient. However, you can deep condition with moisturizing treatments using heat at least once per week or overnight.
  • Apply natural dyes like henna with heat.
  • Remove build up on hair weekly, so that your hair can absorb the moisture when you apply it. Build up prevents the hair from absorbing moisture. Soap based products like Castile Soap, Clay Washes, work well for low porosity hair.
  • Lighter, liquid based products work better for this type of hair, also choose lighter oils like argan, grapeseed, sweet almond and avocado oil. Heavier oils will just sit on the hair leaving it greasy. However, you can do a hot oil treatment with heavier oils, once they are warmed up.


  •  Medium Porosity hair is often regarded as having just the right amount of moisture retention, the cuticle layer is neither frayed or tight. Moisture can enter the hair cuticle layer with ease and moisture retention is normal.
  •  Medium porosity hair can seem invincible; you can basically throw anything at it. However, a note of caution, it is not hard for your hair to move from medium to high if you put it through too many processes like relaxing it too often or color treating it with products that contain hydrogen peroxide and ammonium based products. These processes can leave the cuticle layer wide open. Which is why a completely normal head of hair can do crazy things after a chemical treatment.


  •  Stick to your regimen whatever it is. Stay away from excessive heat, do not relax and dye your hair too often.


  •  Highly porous hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle; it looks very furry under the microscope. This type of hair is usually regarded as damaged. However, it is not necessarily damaged, some persons have naturally highly porous hair.
  •  It absorbs too much moisture. Hence the reason it drops to the bottom of the glass in the floating test. However, it absorbs the moisture but is unable to retain it.
  •  The cuticles get caught on each other more readily, so the hair tangles easily.
  •  Hair dries quickly
  •  Tends to be frizzy and a nightmare to tame.


  •  Use very mild shampoos to wash hair. The less ingredients the better. Soaps or shampoos with sulfates and other harsh surfactants are not recommended. Stick to low pH shampoos.
  •  Heavy protein conditioners work well with this type of hair. However, do not go wild with the protein. A protein treatment every other week should do. Treatments with eggs are a good option. Always finish up with a moisturizing conditioner.
  •  Hot Oil Treatments are very beneficial for this type of hair. A weekly treatment is recommended.
  •  Use leave-in conditioners, moisturizers and oils like coconut, castor and other heavy oils to seal in moisture. Botanical gels like flaxseed and other natural gels and puddings with butters are also a good option for sealing in moisture.

It’s important to note that not all hair respond the same way to products or treatment. These are just general guidelines. It is very important that you know how porous your hair is before you consider new treatments, like dyes or relaxers or using recommended products.

As usual do your due diligence, check your porosity at least twice per month and treat your hair accordingly. Regular checks can stop hair damage in the tracks before it gets too bad.

Source: MiLady Standard Cosmetology(2012 edition), pg. 245

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