What Is High Porosity Hair and How to Care For It Step-By-Step

A cute African American female with highly porous hair strands on color-treated hair that won't absorb moisture.

The concept of porosity can be incredibly confusing, especially for those new to caring for their natural hair.

Still, it’s essential to know all you can about the topic, as it can be the difference between healthy hair that resists breakage and problem hair that falls out in clumps.

If you’re in need of a crash course on high-porosity hair, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you absolutely everything you need to know.

What Is High Porosity Hair?

Hair porosity is a measure of how well your hair accepts and retains moisture. There are three main degrees of hair porosity: high, medium, and low. Here’s a quick explanation of all the hair porosity levels:

  • High-porosity hair readily accepts moisture but has trouble retaining it. This is because high-porosity hair has hair cuticles that are spaced far apart – cuticles make up the outermost layer of the hair).
  • Low-porosity hair has cuticles that are very close together. Therefore, the hair is very difficult to moisturize. But if you manage to get moisture into the hair shaft, it will be retained for a long time.
  • Medium-porosity hair lies somewhere between high and low-porosity hair. It’s able to accept a healthy amount of moisture and holds onto that moisture without significant difficulty.
A beautiful young black girl with normal porosity hair styled with a wide-tooth comb, argan oil, and jojoba oil.

What Causes High-Porosity Hair?

We’ll begin by stressing that you can be born with high-porosity hair. It could just be in your genes. But here are some other culprits that could be at play:

  • Excessive hair straightening – Every time you straighten your hair, you could increase your hair’s porosity. The heat from the flat iron, curling wand, or other heat styling tool wears away your hair cuticle, making it more porous.
  • Hair color and bleach sessions – Both hair color and bleach can potentially change your hair’s structure. But the most problematic issue it causes is a loss of protein. This protein loss leads to microscopic holes and imperfections in the hair shaft. These gaps and holes allow moisture to seep into and out of the hair, increasing its porosity.
  • Blow drying the hair – If you blow dry your hair on high heat, the heat can alter your hair’s structure and prompt an increase in porosity. The chances of this occurring are higher if you use a concentrator nozzle or brush attachment.
  • Perms and relaxers – Texture-altering hair treatments carry a lot of the same risks as hair color and bleach. They alter the structure of the hair and can leave the hair depleted of protein, thus increasing the hair’s porosity. The effects can be immediate, but it could also take several treatments to see a real difference in porosity.
African American female with chemically-treated dark brown damaged hair strands from tight hairstyles.

How to Know if You Have High-Porosity Hair

You may have clicked on this article to learn how to care for high-porosity hair, but you should take a few minutes to determine if you have this hair type before switching up your hair care routine.

Here are a few high-porosity hair characteristics you should look for:

  • You have perpetually dry hair – High-porosity hair doesn’t hold onto moisture for long. If you have this hair type, it may always seem like your hair is dry, no matter how much you moisturize it.
  • You’ve got frizz that won’t quit – High-porosity hair is notoriously frizzy, and the reason behind this is that high-porosity hair tends to be rough to the touch. That roughness is from the lifted-up cuticles. What happens is the uplifted cuticles from one strand latch onto the lifted-up cuticles of another strand. This keeps the strands from flowing together in harmony.
  • Your hair tangles easily – For the same reason high-porosity hair frizzes up, it can also tangle up easily. You might find that as soon as you detangle your hair, it’s already tangling up again. This is a promising sign that you have high-porosity hair.
  • Your hair breaks off easily – Because high-porosity hair is prone to dryness, it has a high probability of breakage than lower-porosity hair. Dry hair doesn’t have the elasticity necessary to resist breakage from everyday hair care and styling.
  • Your hair gets drenched easily in the shower and drinks up products. Because your hair cuticle is receptive to moisture, the hair from your shower won’t sit on top of your strands like beads of dew. It’ll instantly be absorbed.
A beautiful black woman with brittle hair breakage caused by not keeping her hair hydrated with deep conditioners.

The Hair Test for Porosity

Aside from looking at your hair and evaluating how it reacts to daily hair care and styling, you can use a water test. The water test requires you to fill a cup with water and place a clean strand of hair into it.

After about five minutes, look at the cup and see where your hair sits.

If your hair has sunk to the bottom of the cup, you can conclude that you have high-porosity hair. If it floats at all, you have low to medium-porosity hair.

Note: The water test is pseudoscience (i.e., it’s not accurate), although it’s often commonly accepted even though it’s not a scientifically sound methodology. Watch the video above to learn more about alternative methods you can consider.

How to Care for High-Porosity Hair

If you’ve determined that you have high-porosity hair, you’ll have to alter your hair care routine accordingly. Your routine should focus on helping your hair retain moisture.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Heavy products tend to be better at moisturizing high-porosity hair than lighter products. Heavier products can coat the hair and trap moisture inside better than lightweight products can.

These “high porosity hair products” are usually formulated with heavier butters, oils, humectants, and sometimes silicones. Using products like these, you’ll be able to get moisture to stay within your hair shaft.

Layer on hair products for lasting moisture. Layering products can drastically increase the effectiveness of your moisturizing technique.

One of the most effective product layering techniques is the LOC method. It’s an acronym for liquid, oil, and cream and can help you remember the order in which to layer products for maximum hydration. 

In just a little time, you’ll see a difference in how long your hair is able to retain moisture. And as a result, you’ll enjoy a plethora of benefits, including a reduction in shedding, more shine, and more manageability.

A black girl with silky light brown skin has an outer-layer hair strand and cuticle layer damaged from heat styling tools.

Slow damage with protective products and habits. By this point, you’re likely aware that high-porosity hair is prone to damage, so it’s important to combat the damage risk at every turn. To do so, you should:

  • Limit the amount of heat you apply to your hair.
  • Always use a heat protectant whenever you do use heat on your hair.
  • Use a deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner after every shampoo session to inject your hair with moisture.
  • Use lukewarm to cool water whenever you wash it. Hot water will compound the negative effects of porous hair by lifting the hair’s cuticles further.

Related Articles

So there you have it – the basics of high-porosity hair! We hope you found all the information you need to support and improve the health of your hair. Good luck!

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