How to Care For Low Porosity Hair, According to Experts

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Moisture is key to keeping hair healthy and strong. But it takes more than just looking for the right ingredients that will keep your strands hydrated; you have to pay attention to your hair’s porosity as well — especially if you happen to have low porosity hair. 

What is hair porosity? Different from your hair type, porosity just means how much moisture your hair can retain. Some people have high porosity hair, some have medium, and others have low. This doesn’t make one better than the other; it just means there are certain things you have to keep in mind when curating the hair regimen that works best for you. 

To break it all down for you, we turned to the experts. How to tell if you have low porosity hair? What products should (and shouldn’t) you be using? How to take care of low porosity hair? Below is your definitive guide.

Related:A Complete Guide To Discovering Your Natural Hair Type — and How to Take Care of Each Texture

What is low porosity hair?

According to Philip Kingsley brand president and consultant trichologist Anabel Kingsley, low porosity hair means that it has low levels of absorption. Kingsley goes on to explain that moisture and hair treatments can take longer to penetrate the hair cuticle because the cuticle scales (which form the outer layer of the hair) tend to overlap each other and are tightly packed together. Since there is limited space between the scales, moisture and other ingredients have a harder time making their way to the hair shaft. 

“Low porosity hair acts like it’s waterproof,” adds Afro-textured hair educator and Curlsmith global brand ambassador Jennie Roberts. “High porosity acts like a sponge and can hold onto lots of moisture/water.”  

Having either low porosity or high porosity hair, which by comparison means that it has high levels of absorption, isn’t a good or bad thing. It’s just important to know what type you have so you know what hair products to use to keep it healthy.

How to tell if you have low porosity hair:

Roberts says that low porosity hair is a natural genetic trait that can be found most often in Afro-textured hair and coarser hair types, such as those found in Asian hair. It can also present itself as very dry hair. Kingsley agrees and says that coarse and coiled hair textures tend to be more porous than fine to medium hair. 

One of the most common ways to test your hair’s porosity at home is through the float test. Kingsley says that you can pop a strand of hair into a cup of water for a few minutes to see if it sinks or floats. “If it sinks, it has high porosity,” she says. “If it floats, it has low porosity.”

Roberts adds that simply seeing how wet your hair gets when you shower is a good way to test its porosity. “If it takes ages to get it wet and feels like it repels water [and] hydration, then it’s low porosity (i.e. your hair is not good at absorbing water),” she says. “If your hair gets wet very quickly and holds onto water, then it’s high porosity (i.e. your hair soaks everything up like a sponge and holds onto it).”

Common concerns for people with low porosity hair:

Low porosity hair isn’t a problem; Roberts says this is something you don’t need to be overly concerned about and that knowing your hair type just helps when picking the right products for your routine. “Just remember the more waterproof your hair feels, the more water [and] moisture will be needed to keep the hair flexible and hydrated,” she says. “Products aimed to deliver lots of moisture starting from cleansing and conditioning down to styling should be considered to keep hair supple and moisturized.”  

Kingsley agrees and adds that those with low porosity hair should just know that it may take longer for their hair to get fully wet and products and treatments will take longer to absorb.

How to treat low porosity hair:

With low porosity hair, Roberts says that it will need a good cleanse to soften the cuticle and make it more receptive to receiving moisture and other ingredients from your hair products. She recommends hair products that attract and hold moisture, such as the Curlsmith Essential Moisture Cleanser. With ingredients like andiroba seed oil, shea butter, and coconut oil, she says it helps deliver a great amount of hydration and flexibility. She advises against co-washing if you have low porosity hair and says to be diligent with a regular cleansing and conditioning routine at least every five days. 

Kingsley recommends opting for something that is lightweight so that product doesn’t just sit on top of the hair, which will cause buildup. She says to look for something water-based, like Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer Deep Conditioning Treatment which will penetrate the hair shaft easily to deliver moisture. 

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