Attaining shiny, gorgeous hair requires a certain level of diligence, consistency, and knowledge. And while you may be well-acquainted with your hair’s natural texture and color, you may be less certain on the topic of hair porosity—a term you may have seen pop up with increasing regularity on your searches for haircare products.
You may be wondering, what is hair porosity? In a nutshell, hair porosity is shorthand for the amount of moisture your hair can absorb and retain.1 Knowing your hair porosity can be your guiding force when it comes to the way you treat your strands and the products you select.
To give your natural hair the routine it needs, you’ll first want to discover if you fall into the high porosity hair camp—and how to work with it if you do.
What Does High Porosity Mean?
To answer the question, what is high porosity hair? We’ll first need to dig into a little haircare science.
The strands of your natural hair may seem like a single unit. But if you put those strands under a powerful microscope, you’d see that they’re actually composed of three separate layers:2
- Cuticle – The external, outermost layer of your hair
- Cortex – The center of your hair and its thickest part, shaping everything from your hair’s strength to its color
- Medulla – The soft, innermost layer
With high porosity hair, the pockets between the microscopic cuticles that make up your external layer tend towards the spacious side.1 This allows water, hair oil, and products to enter your hair with ease, which makes saturating your cortex a cinch.
Getting your hair to hold on to this moisture, however, is another matter. The wider the gap between your cuticles, the greater the possibility of that same moisture getting out. As a result, your hair may be prone to dryness and hair breakage.
Fortunately, there are savvy ways to work in harmony with your hair’s high porosity.
Causes of High Porosity Hair
Like curls and freckles, the porosity of your hair is largely inherited.1 It can also be affected by aging.
Excessive brushing, bleaching, and the unsafe use of heating tools—such as using a flat iron without first applying a protecting product—can have a hand in your hair porosity as well, causing the cuticle layer to open and allowing moisture to seep out.
Signs of High Porosity Hair
The internet abounds with DIY tests to establish your hair’s porosity, but simply observing your mane’s average behavior can help you determine your hair type. You might have high porosity hair if your mane:
Do you keep a wide-toothed comb within reach, or often find yourself waking up with knots in your hair? High porosity hair is distinguished by the open cuticles on your hair strands, which may make you vulnerable to more tangles (and naturally gives you that coveted and alluring bedhead look).1
Lacks the Shine You Desire
Even if your bathroom shelves overflow with products, high porosity hair struggles to preserve any products you feed it. This can cause your healthy hair to look dull, a side effect that can be exacerbated by abundant sun exposure.3
Becomes Dry and Frizzy Easily
Because the cuticles in high porosity hair are open to the elements (so to speak), your strands clutch onto moisture in the air and easily frizz.1 At the same time, you may notice signs of damaged hair if it feels dry to the touch. This is because all that moisture can escape just as quickly.
Is Vulnerable to Breakage
The combination of dryness and tangle potential can mean that high porosity hair is often characterized by weak, brittle strands. You might have high porosity hair if you notice a lot of split ends or hair breakage.1
Dries Super Fast
You might see this one as more of a blessing than a curse—especially when you’re rushing to get out the door. Because highly porous hair doesn’t hold onto moisture, it may also air dry much faster than low porosity and medium porosity hair. Although this can be a boon to your morning routine, it can have detrimental effects on the overall health and hydration of your hair.1
How to Determine High Porosity Hair
Do any of the above signs sound familiar? You can take your hair diagnosis a step further with the hair porosity float test:1
- Wash and dry your hair, fully rinsing out all shampoo and conditioner since both ingredients may reduce the water’s surface tension and skew results.
- Remove a hair strand or two from your head.
- Place the strands in a cup of room temperature or cold water.
- If your hair sinks to the bottom of the cup right away, it’s a telltale sign you have highly porous hair.
If you’ve determined you don’t have highly porous hair, consider learning how to treat low porosity hair.
High Porosity Haircare Tips
The beauty of high-porosity hair is its organic capacity to absorb products. The products you choose, though, are of utmost importance.
Here’s how to identify the hair products that can help, not hurt:
- Shampoos – Search for shampoos that help you lock in moisture and are devoid of drying ingredients like sulfates.4 Our Restore Shampoo is a rich but gentle formula that fortifies the health of your strands and may result in 70% less breakage.
- Soothing – Consider using a hair repair treatment like the Healthy Hair Perfector to help seal your hair’s cuticle layer, promote manageability like brushing and styling, reduce the appearance of split ends, and enhance overall smoothness.
- Prevention – Protecting the open cuticles in your hair’s external layer should be one of your top haircare priorities. Avoid overwashing your porous hair, which may deplete your fragile strands of what moisture it has been able to retain, and be cautious about overusing hot tools. For an extra dose of protection, reach for a hair strengthener that works to keep your strands strong. This leave-in treatment doesn’t just minimize the signs of breakage—it can make your hair eight times stronger and more resistant to future damage and grooming damage, all while adding softness, smoothness, and shine.
Care for Your High Porosity Hair with Living Proof
Discovering what your hair type needs to be healthy can empower you to choose hair products with an even more powerful impact. But where can you find those haircare essentials?
Living Proof is your go-to source for hair products online and in store that work with your hair’s porosity. Built with integrity and designed according to the science behind your strands, our shampoos, conditioners, protective masks, heat styling products, and more, give you strong, movable, and stunning hair.
Take our hair quiz today to discover which products may work best for you.
- New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists. An Overview on Hair Porosity. https://nyscc.org/blog/an-overview-on-hair-porosity/
- International Journal of Trichology. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview. Hair cosmetics: An overview Gavazzoni Dias MR – Int J Trichol (ijtrichology.com)
- Journal of Cosmetic Science, True porosity measurement of hair: a new way to study hair damage mechanisms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18818850/
- Refinery 29. Does the porosity of your hair really matter? https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/hair-porosity-guide