What is Hair Porosity?

Simply put Hair Porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.

If hair is ‘High Porosity’, it means that due to its raised cuticle layer it can absorb too much moisture and also leaks out moisture so its retention is hampered. In most cases this is normally damaged hair. One of the characteristics of high porosity hair, is it lacks shine, lustre.

‘Low Porosity’ on the other hand is hair that is resistant to absorbing moisture, and products just seem to ‘sit’ on the hair, this is because the cuticles in this case are extremely compact and overlapping, but once the moisture is in it does not leak out like it does with high porosity hair, so this hair type has good retention abilities. Low porosity hair often looks very healthy, but in a lot of cases it lacks elasticity.

Hair that has ‘Normal or Average Porosity’ is obviously the ultimate hair porosity to have, here the hair cuticles are compact but not to an extreme like in the case of low porosity hair, normal porosity hair absorbs and retains moisture adequately. The hair looks healthy and resilient and full of bounce, and has elasticity.





Why is it important?

Porosity is a critically important factor in determining one’s hair care. Moisture determines the health of our hair. This is more evident in wavy, curly, kinky or highly textured hair. This is because moisture defines and shapes the curls, the inability to absorb or keep moisture in the hair shaft will undermine even the most valiant efforts to maximise curl potential.

If you don’t know your hair’s porosity, you won’t be able to make the best product and maintenance routine choices to maximize the amount of moisture your hair retains, since lack of moisture is one of the biggest causes of frizzy, dry, dull hair.

The texture of your hair is not an indication of its porosity. Different degrees of porosity can be found in all hair textures. For example, although coarse hair normally has a low porosity and is resistant to chemical services, coarse hair can also have high porosity too, either naturally or as the result of damage or previous chemical services.


How does this affect treatments?

Hair with low porosity is considered “resistant” hair. Low porosity hair is much more difficult to process, it is resistant to chemical services, and has a tendency to repel products rather than absorb them. Chemical services performed on hair with low porosity require a more alkaline solution than those on hair with high porosity, this is needed in low porosity hair to raise the cuticle and permit uniform saturation and penetration.

Normal porosity hair,  allows for normal processing when a chemical service is performed – according to the texture – and will readily absorb and retain product properly formulated for this hair type.

Hair with high porosity is considered “overly porous” can occur naturally, but is usually the result of previous over processing. Other factors that can also affect porosity include heat damage, chlorine/hard water/mineral saturation, sun damage, or use of harsh ingredients. Overly porous hair is dry, and fragile. High porosity hair processes very quickly and can be easily damaged even further if extreme care is not taken when a chemical service is performed. Although overly porous hair absorbs product quickly, it is often dry as the open cuticle does not allow for product retention within the hair shaft. Chemical services performed on overly porous hair require more acidic solutions with a lower pH level, which will help to prevent further over processing.

Porous hair accepts hair colour faster and permits darker colour than less porous hair; however, although overly porous hair takes colour quickly, colour also fades quickly. While hair with low porosity is difficult for chemicals to penetrate and takes a longer processing time, the colour will last much longer.


How to assess hair Porosity:

In order to test accurately for porosity, use three different areas: front hairline, side hairline – in front of ears, and near the crown


You can check porosity on dry hair by taking a strand of several hairs from four different areas of the head (front hairline, in front of the ears, crown and nape). Slide the thumb and index finger of your other hand down each hair strand from end to scalp. If it is smooth, you have normal porosity. If your fingers move very fast up the hair strand and it feels exceptionally slick, dense and hard, you have low porosity. If your fingers “catch” going up the strand, feel like they are ruffling up the hair strand, or if the hair strand breaks, your hair is overly porous.


Assessment 1

For this assessment, you want to feel your hair while it is wet, and the technique is the same for all hair types.

After washing your hair, squeeze or blot excess moisture from your hair so that it is not dripping, but leave it as wet as possible.

If it feels rough or has a “straw-like” texture, your hair is not very porous.

If your hair simply feels wet, you have normal hair porosity.

If your hair has high porosity, it will feel sticky, almost as if you had not washed all products out of your hair.

Assessment 2

Wash and condition hair. Dry hair with a towel or t-shirt. Do not add any products to your hair.

Separate hair strands and gather one strand. Capture the hair strand with your index finger and thumb.

Run your index finger and thumb up the hair shaft. Start at the end of the hair and run down to the root.

Determine hair porosity. Overly porous hair catches down the hair shaft. Normal porous hair is smooth down the shaft, and low porous hair feels slick.

Assessment 3

After washing, conditioning and detangling your hair, take a single strand of hair from your detangling comb; make sure it is clean and free of any product. Place it into a bowl of water. Observe the hair for up to one minute to see if it floats. Hair should not sink. If it does, the hair is porous.

Assessment 4

Hold a section of your clean hair, ideally that you have washed the night before. Do not Blow Dry it, as this can cause damage to the hair.

Spray the section with a mist of water. Look to see if the hair absorbs the mist. The water should roll off the hair immediately, indicating a non-porous or resistant condition. If it absorbs and disappears, the hair is porous.


What can I do about my damaged porous hair?







Unfortunately, porosity issues stemming from irreparable hair damage cannot be permanently corrected, only time can truly mend damaged hair.

You can, however, create a temporary fix until the damaged part grows out by “reconstructing” the hair shaft with protein treatments. Protein fills in any holes within the cortex (inner layer of the hair) and also helps to fill in the gaps exposed by a raised cuticle.

Individuals with coarse hair, however, must be cautious: putting additional protein on coarse hair can dry it out even more. For those with a coarse texture, acidic treatments such as apple cider vinegar rinses help to close the cuticle and are likely a better alternative.

So really, what does this mean to me?






It means you need to determine your hair texture and your hair porosity, and then think about what types of products are best suited to your particular hair type. Other factors will come into play, but these two hair properties are the most important properties to know.


9 comments for this page

  • I love your research and the information! You can also CLICK HERE for another great article on why YOU should know YOUR hair’s porosity

  • criolinha says:

    hi..i just discover your page and i like it.. well i need your help.. i’m looking for a moisturizer deep conditioner but i don’t know what to use and where to find one.. i recently discover that i have low porosity hair and i’m trying to find a good deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner Silicone free (i co wash). can you help me please??? P.S : I’m from UK

    • c2k says:

      Hi Criolinha,

      Thank you I am glad you liked my page! 😉

      Well done, for establishing the porosity of your hair, that is half the battle in good hair care!

      I have low porosity hair too, and I have to say that the main issue with low porosity hair is to find a conditioner that has penetrative properties, as well as conditioning properties for the outer layers of the hair strands.

      I have a few conditioners that I have found to work for me, my favourite is CurlJunkie Moisture Rehab, unfortunately I used to buy this from British Curlies and they no longer stock it. I have not been able to find any stockists of CurlJunkie in the UK so far.

      Since then I have been making a few concoctions of my own that have worked brilliantly for my low porosity hair. I do an equal mix of Body Shop Banana Conditioner and Crown Pride Tucuma Curl Moisture Mask or Crown Pride Avocado Detangling Conditioner (This Conditioner is amazing!). All of these conditioners can be got on the ground here in the UK, the Crown Pride Conditioners can be got at British Curlies, or if you live in London you can try Beauty by Zara (Elephant and Castle), while the Banana conditioner is available from all Body Shop shops.

      Or I turn to my kitchen cupboard and make a Conditioning Protein Mask, which is very moisturising as well as a good protein boost, see how to do it in my Kitchen’s section under Hair Masques and Treatments – http://curly2kinky.com/kitchen/hair-masques-treatments/

      Also for more conditioners to check out try my Products page, under List of Silicone Free Conditioners UK – http://curly2kinky.com/products/silicone-free-conditioners-u-k/

      As a tip try conditioning with heat – steamer, or shower cap under a hooded dryer.

      I hope this helps. :-)


  • c2k says:

    Thank you for your comment Evelyn! Congratulations on being newly natural. I am glad that this post was of use to you, and please do not hesitate to ask me any questions which may help you figure out what to do with your hair or solve any hair issues you may have. I am not an expert, but I have done a lot of research and also have my own experience with natural hair which may all be of some help to you.
    Please keep me posted on how you get on with the ACV rinses, this will not only help lay down your cuticles, but balance the pH of your hair, which is needed in a hard water area… Another good thing with the ACV rinses is that it helps remove build up caused by hard water, which if not checked can lead to breakage. Every six weeks or so try using a Chelating Shampoo, to make sure you are riding your hair of mineral and metal build up on your hair caused by the hard water.
    Happy hair journey!
    c2k. :-)

  • Caz says:

    I’m going to have to do all those porosity tests carefully before I go CG, as I don’t know if I have low or high porous hair. But if it leads me to finally be able to tame this frizzy candyfloss mop I’ve had all my life, then bring it on!! :-) Watch this space.
    Caz xx

    • c2k says:

      Hi Caz,

      You go girl! Let me know how you got on with the tests. Good luck! ;-). Even if you are not sure of your porosity, I strongly recommend you try the CG method, for your curls you will be amazed with the results, try it for four weeks and see how you feel. c2k

  • BrownSuga says:

    So thought you might be interested in hearing how am getting on.

    In general its clear that you need to invest time researching what maintenance
    care and styles work for you as everyone’s hair and lifestyle issues are
    different. It is certainly not, as I mistakenly believed, one size fits all or
    something you can just work out in 10 mins! A month since going totally natural
    (i.e. sans braid extensions of any kind) I am still learning what works for my
    hair type, lifestyle, tastes and face! One woman’s fab fro is another’s bad

    So here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

    – that its insane that I have no real knowledge of how to care for my God-given
    hair and after 40+ years am only just learning how to care for it!

    – that we (or should I say I) have spent more time and money caring for “fake
    hair” than my own;

    – that as a result it has taken me a month to realise that I actually look
    better with my own hair and to stop having what I call “Extension Envy (EE)”;

    And that’s just the psychological part of my learnings so far!

    Practically, as any hair I wear must not require more than 15mins of maintenance
    from me on a daily basis (even though for reasons that now escape me I was
    willing though not happy to sit for more than 8 hours to put in braids) I have
    narrowed my hair styles to the following bearing in mind I have a TWA (yes am
    learning the lingo – its a whole new world!:):

    – “the Zonke” – basically a wash and go;

    – “the Lira” – which are finger curls or curls with varying degrees of success;

    – “the Zonke or Lira with hair band” ( with or without adornment such as

    – and my personal favourite – “the TWA Fro-Hawk” – achieved with hair slides,
    mini claw-clips, hair pins or just a plain old “brush” back.

    • c2k says:

      Thanks for the update on your progress, you seem to have a healthy handle on things and your
      just going on the ‘journey’ and not letting it stress or overwhelm you… the best way to go!

      Reading your account just took me back and reminded me of a lot of things I discovered, when I decided
      to embrace my natural curl pattern

      I am loving the names: “The Zonke”…. love it…

      Keep it up, you’ve got the power! 😀


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