Low vs. High porosity hair: what is hair porosity and the hair porosity test

Low vs high porosity hair: what is hair porosity and the hair porosity test

Purchasing a whole new collection of expensive hair products to get your dream hair status isn't going to suffice if you don't use them according to your hair porosity. Your crown might not be responding to products because you aren't introducing them into your strands the right way according to your hair porosity. Keep reading to learn how to determine your hair porosity and what your hair porosity needs to be constantly in check!

What is hair porosity?

Hair porosity is the pattern in which your hair absorbs and retains moisture. It is how our hair responds to moisture and hair products. To understand this more deeply let's talk about the structure of a hair strand. 

Scientific Structure of hair strand

Our hair is made up of three parts;

The cuticle: Imagine a roof made up of tiny overlapping cell singles. Our hair cuticle takes this exact form. It is the outer protective layer of our hair.

The cortex: This is the thickest part of the hair strand and houses your hair's pigment and protein.

The medulla: The medulla is the heart of your strand. It lies in the center and is the softest layer of your hair.

Our cuticles open and close to let moisture and products into our hair strands. The way our hair cuticles are structured play a large part in how our hair absorbs moisture and determines the type of porosity you have.

Why is hair porosity important?

Knowing your hair porosity is key to mastering your hair care routine because you have to work with the properties of your hair porosity to feed your hair strands with the needed nutrients to remain healthy and juicy. 

Your hair porosity also determines how you will moisturize your hair and the products that work for you. Do you need heat or a cold rinse? Should you consider lighter products like hair milk or heavy kinds of butter and creams? If you purchase random products that are curly hair specific or anti-frizz, you won't maximize them until you know how to make your hair absorb these products. They might not even be the right products for your hair since not all curly hair is high in porosity. Getting products specific to your hair porosity is the best step to getting healthy hair.

Hair porosity test

Hair porosity test red wavy hair
So how do you know your hair porosity? There are several simple tests you could do.
Simply run a strand of your hair in-between your fingers and observe its texture. If you feel bumps along the way, then you may have high porosity hair. If your hair slides smoothly against your fingers, then you may have low porosity hair. This method is quite inaccurate owing to the possible presence of fairy knots, tangles and a brittle texture when dry. 
Picture of results of hair porosity test float test
The best method you can use is the float test.
  • Get a clear container and fill it up with water
  • Take 2-3 strands of your hair and place them on top of the water surface.
  • And observe for a minute

Results of the Float test

Low porosity hair: Because the cuticles of low porosity hair are layered tightly upon each other, water gets in very slowly, so therefore low porosity hair remains floating on top of the water 

Medium porosity hair: If your hair sinks slowly after some time, then you have medium porosity hair. The hair cuticles of medium porosity hair are layered in such a way that moisture or water can get in adequately.

High porosity hair: High porosity hair sinks to the bottom almost immediately. This is because there are wide gaps between the hair cuticle cells which allow moisture to get in readily.

To ensure your float test results are accurate, make sure you:
  1. Do the float test after shampooing your hair. Dirt, dandruff, and products can weigh on your hair strand.
  2. Consider the test when your hair is free from treatments and heat or chemical styling - that is, if you want to determine the porosity of your original hair texture.  Chemical and heat styles have the potential to change the structure of your hair. Dyeing your hair, for instance, raises your hair cuticles to allow the hair dye to penetrate through and react with the pigment in your cortex. So your hair is left more porous.

Hair type quiz

If you want accurate results based on your experience with your hair and without having to do the float test, we have designed this hair porosity quiz just for you!

What is low porosity hair?

Pictures of low porosity hair

If you have low porosity hair, it means your hair cuticles are tightly layered upon each other. So moisture doesn't penetrate through your hair strands so easily and when it does it doesn't escape easily.

Low porosity hair characteristics

If you have low porosity hair you may notice that;

  • Water sits on top of your hair in beads when you wet it
  •  Hair products build on top of your hair. For instance, if you hydrate your strands with moisturizing hair oil, it sits on top of your hair and looks greasy.
  • Your hair may still be damp the day after your wash day. It doesn't air dry fast.

Tips on how to moisturize low porosity hair

Beware of protein overload.

 Using products with protein like leave-in-conditioners will only strengthen your cuticle layers and fill in the narrow gaps where moisture is meant to go in. 

Use a clarifying shampoo

Your hair is prone to product build-up because of the low absorption rate. Clarifying your hair of excess hair products is the right way to go.

Avoid thick butter and creams

Avoid thick butter and creams that won't be able to penetrate through your strand and will weigh them down. Instead, use lightweight products like hair milk.

Use heat when applying your moisturizers

Cold water contracts and hot water expands. With low porosity hair, the best way to introduce moisture into your strands is by expanding your hair cuticle gaps. Heat conditioning should be your best friend. Use warm water to wash and condition your hair and a heat cap when applying your hair moisturizers.

Don't use ingredients that seal or smoothen your cuticle

Your hair cuticles are already so tightly held together, sealing them further with hair oils like castor oil, coconut oil, or acid rinses like an apple cider rinse, would mean more time before moisture gets into your strands. Products with humectants are perfect to avoid hygral fatigue.

What is medium porosity hair?

Medium porosity hair structure illustration

Medium porosity hair has an even moisture balance – almost like it runs on autopilot. The hair cuticles are layered at an angle decent enough to absorb moisture and trap them for an appropriate time. A study says "medium porosity hair absorbs 75% of its maximum amount in 4 minutes".

Medium porosity hair characteristics

  •  Medium hair involves very little maintenance to look healthy and alive.
  • Usually looks glossy
  •  It holds styles very well and accepts hair products excellently.
  •  You don't have to wait a long time for it to air dry.

How to maintain medium porosity hair

With medium porosity hair, you're only focused on keeping your hair in medium porosity. This means that factors can cause gaps in your cuticle that increase your hair porosity. These factors include excessive heat styling, harmful treatments, and chemical styling. Dyeing your hair, if not done right, is one condition that can restructure your strands drastically. That is why we recommend replacing bleach and hair dyes with Curlfit temporary hair colors whenever you want to color your hair. Curlfit temporary hair colors moisturize, seal, and add color to your strands. It contains no harmful ingredients and is sure to give your hair a pop of cute colors irrespective of how dark your natural hair color is. 

What is high porosity hair?

High porosity hair cuticle structure illustration

High porosity hair sinks to the bottom of the jar because of how wide the gap between the hair cuticle layers are. The hair cuticles layer upon each other at an angle wide enough to accept moisture immediately. Yes, that's perfect! But then when the moisture gets in, it can also easily get out.

High porosity hair characteristics

  •   As we mentioned earlier, high hair porosity absorbs moisture well. If you wet your dry hair, it hydrates it almost immediately...
  •   ...but then because of its large gaps, it loses moisture equally as fast as it absorbs. It air dries fast. This makes it dry, brittle and frizzy if not constantly moisturized.
  •  High porosity hair is prone to hair breakage and does not hold styles well enough.

How to maintain high porosity hair

To take care of high porosity hair, you want to focus on maintaining the moisture inside to prevent dryness that can cause your hair to break.

Use sealing oils and products

Sealing oils, leave-in-conditioners and deep conditioning should be in your weekly hair routine. Sealing oils help trap existing moisture in your strands and leave-in-conditioners strengthen your hair's cuticle with protein.

Use heavy butter and creams

Dryness may steal elasticity from your crown. You can aid that by using heavy butter and creams.

Don't use hot water to wash hair

Using hot water to wash your hair can cause more harm than good. Just use lukewarm water and finish off with cold water to contract your strands.

Use products that have anti-humectants properties

Products that include anti-humectants are very good for high porosity hair since it actively prevents water from leaving your strands. Shampoos without sulfate are equally good because sulfate dries the hair.

Hair type and porosity

Hair porosity: hair type and porosity
There is a common assumption that curly hair is high porosity hair  - but there is some false to this. Although the NYSCC does mention that "curls and coils are characterized by twists that lead to cuticle lifting at various points in the fiber", this doesn't mean that all curly and coily naturalists have high porosity hair. Hair porosity is encrypted in your DNA and it differs from individual to individual. Curly hair A can have low porosity hair and her other Curly friend can have high porosity hair -  although most curly and coily hair experience high porosity (via Medical News). Your hair type does have a say in your hair routine but your hair porosity determines a whole lot more, especially in your choice of hair products and methods of moisturizing. 

Can you change your hair porosity?

 Hair porosity: bleaching hair

As we mentioned earlier, your hair porosity is encrypted in your DNA. Changing that might take a couple of scientists and medical geneticists to tackle. But screw that! We say embrace your hair as it is and see how beautiful your natural hair is. 

If you have medium porosity hair, you probably can relax on vigorous hair routines but don't relax too quickly. Chemical and heat treatments can create holes and gaps on your hair cuticle and in the long run, increase the porosity of your hair. That means your hair has a chance of being high in porosity. The same goes for low porosity hair but the chances are quite slim. You would have had heat or chemical styled excessively before that happens.

Because of the effects of chemical and heat styling, many hair studies suggest staying clear of excessive hair dye and bleach, especially if you have high porosity hair. The effects of chemicals accelerate high porosity hair causing it to lose its moisture quicker. Instead of using hair dyes, invest in Curlfit's array of non-damaging temporary hair colors to give your crown your desired burst of color whilst nourishing and hydrating it.  

UV rays from the sun also increase hair porosity, so protective hairstyles during the Summer is the best for your hair.

Is low porosity hair bad? Is high porosity hair damaged hair?

Hair porosity: is low porosity hair bad? Is high porosity damaged? Black girl in floral aesthetic

No type of hair porosity is bad or damaged. Calling low porosity hair bad is just like saying white clothes should be extinguished because they are more tasky to care of. Your hair is beautiful irrespective of your hair type or hair porosity. It's just that some types of hair require more attention than others - and that's normal. We know high porosity hair can be brittle and prone to breakage way more than others but that's probably because you have not been moisturizing it the right way. 

But now that you know your hair porosity and what your hair requires, you can work with your hair structure to optimize products and ensure your hair is moisturized to the fullest!

We hope this blog helped you a ton in doing so!