what is hair porosity
By Tamim Hamid Updated on 04/04/2024

What is Hair Porosity? What It Means For Your Hair

If you've ever wondered what the word ""hair porosity"" means, you're not alone! Many terms and categories are used to describe hair health, texture, and type, and hair porosity is one of them. It relates to the hair strand's overall ability to absorb and retain moisture.

Generally, hair types fall into one of three categories of porosity: low, medium, or high. This blog will talk about the factors affecting hair porosity and provide practical test tips on accurately testing it. We'll discuss the factors that affect hair porosity, including genetics, hormones, environmental damage, etc. Let's dive into it...

What is Hair Porosity?

Hair porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Hair porosity is a critical aspect of understanding your hair’s characteristics and needs. Unlike simply assessing whether your hair is dry or oily, porosity dives deeper into how well your hair absorbs moisture.

Identifying your hair’s porosity involves several methods. Different levels of hair porosity tests, such as the water test and hair strand tests, or seeking professional advice to help determine whether your hair has low, normal, or high porosity. Low porosity hair has tightly sealed cuticles, making it resistant to moisture penetration. Normal porosity hair strikes a balance, allowing an ideal amount of moisture in and out. High porosity hair has overly porous cuticles, quickly absorbing moisture but struggling to retain it.

What Causes Low or High Hair Porosity?

Several factors can influence hair porosity. Here are some of them:

Genetics: The natural structure of your hair, determined by genetics, plays a significant role. Some people naturally have higher or lower porosity hair.

Find out how your genetics influence hair loss.

Environmental Damage: Ultraviolet exposure can also affect the porosity of your hair. Exposure to environmental factors such as sun, wind, pollutants, and harsh weather conditions can affect the hair cuticle, leading to changes in porosity.

Chemical Processing: Treatments like bleaching, dyeing, perming, and relaxing can alter the hair’s porosity by affecting the cuticle’s integrity.

Heat Styling: Excessive use of heat tools like straighteners, curling irons, and blow dryers can damage the cuticle, potentially increasing hair porosity.

Mechanical Damage: Rough handling, vigorous brushing, and using harsh hair accessories can cause damage to the cuticle, impacting porosity.

Age: Hair tends to become more porous as it ages due to natural wear and tear on the cuticle over time.

3 Types of Hair Porosity

There are three different types of hair porosities. They are:

Low Porosity Hair

Hair with low porosity has a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat. This type of hair repels moisture, making it challenging for water or products to penetrate. It often takes longer to get wet and longer to dry. Characteristics include:

  • Products may sit on the hair rather than absorb.
  • Requires heat or steam treatments to open up the cuticle for better product absorption.
  • Prone to product buildup due to difficulty of absorption.

Normal/Medium Porosity Hair

Hair with medium porosity usually has a looser cuticle layer, allowing it to absorb and retain moisture easily. It’s the most balanced type of porosity, with characteristics like:

  • Holds styles well.
  • Easily absorbs and retains moisture without becoming overly dry or frizzy.
  • Requires moderate maintenance.

High Porosity Hair

Hair with high porosity has gaps and holes in the cuticle layer, making it highly porous and prone to quickly absorbing too much moisture and losing it rapidly. Characteristics include:

  • Tends to frizz easily, especially in humid conditions.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Absorbs products easily but may require frequent application due to rapid loss of moisture.

How to Test Hair Porosity in Water?

You're not the only one confused about your hair's porosity level. Thankfully, a high or low porosity hair test in water makes figuring out yourself at home quite simple. This is how you do it:

There is a simple way to test hair porosity. You only need two things to test your hair porosity: a clear glass of water and a strand of hair. It is suggested that you practice the following product cleaning and build-up from your strands to get the most accurate reading. Tart your hair to release strands that fall out, and then take those strands and drop them into your glass of water. A hair with 'normal' porosity will float and then slowly sink. Hair with high porosity tends to fall out quickly.

Getting your hair wet and observing how long it takes to dry is another method for determining its porousness. You might expect your hair to be more porous the faster it dries.

hair porosity test

Low Porosity Vs. High Porosity Hair

Low-porosity hair has a tightly bound cuticle layer that resists moisture absorption, whereas high-porosity hair has a raised, lifted cuticle layer, which allows moisture and products to easily enter and exit the hair fiber. Let's learn the differences between low vs. high porosity hair in detail:

Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair exhibits several signs that distinguish it from other hair types. Here are some common signs of low porosity hair:

  • Cuticle scales lay flat and tightly bound, making it hard for moisture to penetrate.
  • Resistant to absorbing water or products.
  • Takes a longer time to get wet and dry.
  • Product buildup can occur due to limited absorption.
  • Hair tends to float for a while before sinking due to its inability to absorb water quickly.
  • Oils and other products tend to sit on the hair rather than being absorbed, leading to a feeling of residue or buildup.

How to take care of low-porosity hair?

Caring for low-porosity hair involves strategies to encourage moisture absorption and retention since this hair type has difficulty absorbing products. Here are some tips for caring for low-porosity hair:

  • Use heat or steam to open up the cuticle for better absorption (like warm water rinses, steaming, or using a heated cap).
  • Lighter products that won’t sit heavily on the hair and cause buildup are preferable.
  • Clarifying shampoos can help in removing buildup.
  • Avoid heavy oils or products that may weigh down the hair.
  • Apply your leave-in conditioner or styling products on damp hair, as this can help with better absorption compared to applying on dry hair.
  • Style hair that protects the ends of your hair, such as braids or twists, can help retain moisture by minimizing environmental exposure.
  • Trim hair regularly to remove split ends and prevent further damage, which can affect moisture retention.

High Porosity Hair

High porosity hair tends to show specific characteristics that distinguish it from other types. Here are some common signs of high porosity hair:

  • The cuticle layer has gaps, holes, or lifted scales, allowing moisture to enter easily but escape quickly.
  • Tends to frizz easily, especially in humid conditions.
  • Absorbs water and products rapidly but loses moisture just as fast.
  • Prone to dryness and breakage due to rapid moisture loss.
  • Hair appears dull or lackluster because the raised cuticles reflect less light.
  • In the water test, high porosity hair sinks quickly because it absorbs water fast.
  • Highly susceptible to damage from chemical treatments.
  • Hairstyles might not hold since the hair struggles to retain moisture and structure.

How to take care of high-porosity hair?

High porosity hair requires a care routine that focuses on retaining moisture and strengthening the hair cuticles to prevent excessive moisture loss. Here are some tips for caring for high porosity hair:

  • Deep conditioning treatments to help retain moisture.
  • Leave-in conditioners and heavier products to seal moisture into the hair.
  • Avoid heat styling and harsh chemical treatments that can further damage the cuticle.
  • Regular trims to remove split ends and prevent further damage.
  • Use protein treatments occasionally to strengthen and repair the hair shaft.
  • Be gentle when detangling and styling your hair to avoid breakage.
  • Use silk or satin pillowcases or wrap your hair in a silk or satin scarf or bonnet at night to prevent moisture loss due to friction.

FAQs

Do I have high or low porosity hair?

Determining hair porosity involves understanding how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. Take a strand of clean hair and drop it into a bowl of water. If it sinks quickly, your hair likely has high porosity because it absorbs water fast. If it floats for a while before sinking, it’s probably low porosity as it’s not absorbing water readily.

How long does it take low porosity hair to dry?

Low porosity hair tends to take longer to dry compared to other hair types due to its resistance to water absorption. The exact drying time can vary based on various factors like hair thickness, length, density, and the environment. Generally, low porosity hair can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to air-dry fully, and in some cases, it might even take longer.

Can I have different porosity levels on different parts of my head?

Yes, it is possible to have various levels of porosity in different parts of your hair, which can occur due to factors like heat damage, environmental exposure, and chemical treatments.

How can I increase my hair porosity?

Yes, you can increase your hair porosity. Here are a few tips to implement:

  • Diet
  • Natural oils
  • Protein treatment
  • Reduce heat exposure and avoid chemicals.

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Tamim Hamid

Tamim Hamid

Inventor and CEO of Theradome

Sayyid Tamim Hamid, Ph.D, is the inventor of the world’s first FDA-cleared, wearable phototherapy device to prevent hair loss and thicken and regrow hair. Tamim, a former biomedical engineer at NASA and the inventor of Theradome, brings with him more than 38 years of expertise in product development, laser technology, and biomedical science. Tamim used his laser knowledge, fine-tuned at NASA, and combined it with his driving passion for helping others pursue a lifelong mission in hair loss and restoration. He is now one of the world’s leading experts.