Hair Porosity: What you need to know

You likely have heard of people talking about hair porosity on social media and wondered if it is something you even need to know about. I mean, is it getting into the weeds about what the average person needs to know to keep their hair healthy or is it something you really should consider when planning your hair care routine? Easy should absolutely consider your hair's porosity when choosing products.

Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. It affects how well moisture and oils pass in and out of the external layer of your hair, called the cuticle. Your hair's porosity can affect how your hair holds on to color, absorbs hair treatments, conditioners, etc., as well as how it feels (dry and brittle with frizz vs. soft, shiny, elastic and smooth).

It is typically classified into three categories:

1. Low porosity: Cuticles that are very close together (aka, it is difficult for treatments, oils, water, and hair color to penetrate the hair shaft).

2. Medium (or "normal") porosity: Cuticles that are less tightly connected. This is healthy hair that can absorb moisture, color, etc and retain the benefits of them.

3. High porosity: Widely spaced cuticles. All of the above go in really fast and leave even faster (aka, hair color grabs really dark and fades really fast, hair feels dry, damaged, experiences breakage, as it cannot hold on to the moisture from treatments, oils, serum, etc that give the hair strength and health.)

When you think of your hair's condition in respect to porosity, you see why understanding it is so important to your hair's overall health. For instance, if you're looking at high vs. low porosity hair, what hair oil you choose has everything to do with that oil's ability to penetrate the hair shaft. The best oils for low porosity hair, like jojoba, marula, Kalahari melon seed and sweet almond oil, are lighter and have the ability to be more easily absorbed.

Whereas the best oils for high porosity hair are heavier oils, rich in Omega-6 acids, like like grape seed oil, sunflower seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, soy oil, corn oil, and wheat germ oil.

Why spend money on products that are all wrong for your hair? The goal of any beauty regimen is to improve the health and appearance of your skin, hair, etc., so it is always in your and your wallet's best interest to consider the most important factors. When it comes to your hair, these are:

Hair Texture - Curly, Wavy, Coily, Straight

Hair Type - Fine, Medium or Thick

Hair Porosity - Low, Medium or High

how to tell hair porosity

It is quick and easy to test your hair porosity at home. You need a glass of water (use a clear glass) and a strand of your hair. It is recommended that you try this after washing the product and build-up from your hair to get the most accurate reading.

1. Start by combing your hair to release strands that are shedding.

2. Take those strands and drop them into your glass of water

Low Porosity Hair: Will float.

Medium (aka Normal) Porosity Hair: Will float then begin to sink slowly.

High Porosity Hair: will sink immediately.

Once you determine your hair's porosity, you can choose your products and hair oil specifically geared toward optimum health and manageability.

low porosity hair characteristics and plan of action

• Hair takes longer to dry

• Products tend to build up on the hair rather than absorb

• Natural oils don't readily penetrate, but rather sit on your hair

• Hair takes longer to get fully saturated when you wet it

• Hair can feel dry or brittle as moisture struggles to enter the highly compact cuticle.

Hair Care Tips for Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair has very compact cuticles, so it’s hard to inject moisture and color into the hair shaft, although it does retain moisture and color once it absorbs.  Use an ultra-rich treatment at least once a week and to raise the cuticle which will help it retain moisture and color, follow these steps:

1. Use heat. That's right, heat. Use a deep conditioning treatment, like our Innersense Hydrating Hair Masque or Naturally Drenched Rebalance Pre-Conditioner Treatment under a heat cap, like Hot Heat Microwaveable Heat Cap, hooded drier, or even warm towel, to help products better absorb and bind with the hair. Grab one of our Aquis towels, heat it up and wrap your hair for 25 minutes!

2. Always apply products to damp, not drenched hair.

3. The best shampoo for low porosity hair is sulfate-free and includes moisture-rich, easily absorbable oils.

4. Use a clarifying shampoo, like O&M’s Original Detox Shampoo, before applying any hair mask for hair treatment to ensure the hair shaft is free of any build up and can benefit from all the goodness of that treatment. They're also recommended before a color service to ensure your hair is ready to absorb maximum color.

5. The best oils for low porosity hair will seal in the moisture by absorbing into the hair shaft. The hair structure is left protected, without weighing it down. These include grapeseed, argan, marula, jojoba, apricot, pomegranate, Kalahari melon seed and sweet almond oil. The fatty acids in these oils make it a great choice for low porosity hair.

Low Porosity Hair Care routine


Clarify your hair once per week to remove build up. Use Solu Shampoo with Sea Salt Scrub to exfoliate the scalp and hair.

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Shampoo & Condition

Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner that can penetrate the cuticle, like Oway Moisturizing Hair Bath and Hair Mask.

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Use a weekly deep conditioning treatment, like Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask, and don't forget to apply heat!

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daily hydration

Use a hair oil that contains highly absorbable oils to penetrate the closed cuticle, like Naturally Drenched Watermelon Dreams Oil.

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medium porosity hair characteristics and plan of action

• Hair has bounce and elasticity
• Requires very little maintenance
• Easily accepts and retains color and moisture inside of the cuticle
• Holds styles well

Hair Care Tips for Medium Porosity Hair

Medium porosity does not necessarily mean perfectly healthy and easy maintenance. It has a looser cuticle layer, allowing for a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of your hair; however, it still needs hydration, moisture and nourishment to be healthy, shiny and youthful.

Choose oils that regulate sebum secretion, condition, moisturize, soften and improve hair elasticity like Macadamia, Sunflower, Wheat, Linseed and Pumpkin Seed Oils.

Continue to do regular deep conditioning treatments to maintain good product absorption.

kavella teasing powder

Keep your hair volumized with this root powder.

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Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave-In Conditioner

This lightweight leave-in makes it the perfect prep product for medium porosity hair.

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Davines Minu Shampoo

Illuminate your color and add shine with this gentle cleansing shapmoo.

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High Porosity Hair characteristics and plan of action

• Hair easily absorbs water, however, it requires more products
• Hair looks and feels dry
• Hair often looks frizzy
• Hair dries quickly
• Hair loses color or toner quickly
• Hair takes longer to get fully saturated when you wet it
• Hair could feel like cotton or experience breakage

Hair Care Tips for High Porosity Hair

Parched, thirsty hair needs products to help it retain as much moisture and color as possible, so follow these tips to increase hydration and strength.

1. Use minimal heat. It’s best to air dry your hair, if possible.  We know this is difficult, so at a minimum turn down the temperature on your styling products. We love our Babyliss curling irons! Heat makes the cuticle open and color escape so monitor how much you use.

2. Incorporate regular deep conditioning or strenghtening treatments into your hair care routine. Once per week, use Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask and use Naturally Drenched Rebalance Pre-Conditioner Treatment every other week to begin to repair the strength and porosity of your hair

3. Rinse with cold water to seal the cuticle and prevent color from sliding out.  Hot, hot showers aren’t good for your skin or hair. They are drying and open the cuticle to let the color escape.  Can’t take a cold shower? No problem. Wash your hair with cold or tepid water, then bag it in a shower cap and crank up the heat.

4. Detangle gently with a wide-tooth comb or our Tangle Teezer Detangling Brush to prevent hair loss and reduce hair breakage.  Use a detangling spray like Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Damage Defense Leave in Conditioning Spray when combing through.

5. Avoid tight ponytails and top buns.  The hair can get stress fractures from over pulling and tugging causing your hair to break and come highly porous in those areas. Try doing a low bun or even wearing a French braid.  Change it up. When you do a pony or bun, use a anti-breakage hair tie like one of our Goomee Hair ties.

6. The best oils for high porosity hair include omega-6 acids, like grape seed oil, sunflower seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, soy oil, corn oil, wheat germ oil, etc. You should also try oils rich in omega-3 acids, e.g. linseed oil, strawberry seed oil, raspberry seed oil, blackberry seed oil, etc.

7. Finally, add a heat protection styling product like Evolvh Polishing Balm (thick hair), Cult & King Style (medium hair), or Reverie Milk Anti-Frizz Leave In (fine hair) to help seal moisture and combat thirsty porosity

High Porosity Hair Care Routine

Shampoo & Conditioner

Use a reparative protein-based shampoo and conditioner that adds hydration, like Davines Melu Shampoo and Conditioner.

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Balance your hair's pH with a bi-weekly treatment, like Naturally Drenched Rebalance Pre-Conditioner Treatment.

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Use a weekly hydrating and reparative treatment like Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask.

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Protect your hair from heat and uv rays with a reparative leave-in conditioner, like Rahua Hydration Detangler and UV Barrier.

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Texture, elasticity, density and porosity are all indicators of your hair’s personality and what you can achieve color-wise.  Now that you understand what yours is, North Authentic can tailor-make a winning at-home haircare routine, so you always enjoy gorgeous, vibrant color and shine.

Interested in learning how to care for your hair? Take our Hair Quiz for personalized expert recommendations.

North Authentic

Natalie Palomino
written by natalie palomino

Natalie is Master Stylist, Hair Care Expert and Founder of North Authentic.

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