When I went natural two and a half years ago, all I heard people talk about was hair typing and what products are good for each category. Then I spent months trying to figure out if I am a 4a, 4b, 4c and whatever other number category was thrown at me. I thought, knowing my hair type will help me to understand how to moisturize and care for my hair properly. However my hair was straw-like and wetting my hair literally took minutes before it was sopping wet.
Then I heard of natural hair porosity and the different levels. This is when I decided to re-learn my hair. I did a lot of research on hair porosity to see how it applies to my hair and it has been a hair blessing knowing exactly how my hair responds to moisture.
What is hair porosity?
Hair porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. This is very important to know so that you can choose products and moisturizing methods that are right for your hair.
Hair porosity is broken down into three levels: low porosity, medium (normal) porosity and high porosity. The lower the porosity of your hair, the harder it is to get moisture deep into the hair’s cortex. Knowing where you fall on the porosity scale is very important in your healthy hair journey.
The challenges of low porosity hair and how they affect your hair journey
If you have low porosity hair have you noticed that when you wet your hair it takes forever to get it soaking wet? Or, do you realize that products only seem to sit on top of your hair and do not penetrate your strands very well? These are some of the first signs that you have low porosity hair.
Low porosity hair is normally a little more difficult to moisturize than other hair types. This is due to how the cuticles are structured in the hair. Basically, the cuticles tend to be more flat, smooth and tightly overlap each other; so moisture getting in can be challenging.
Think of the hair as a house with a roof being its cuticle. If the shingles of the roof of the house are tightly laid down with no cracks or lifted shingle, then water will never enter the house. This is how we have to picture the structure of our hair.
On a very good note, once the moisture gets under the hair cuticle and inside of the hair, it STAYS in for much longer than in other hair types. That is the beauty of having low porosity hair – it retains moisture very well once it gets inside.
To find out what your hair porosity is; you should try the hair porosity test. This is where you take a strand of clean hair – with no product – and place in a glass of water. If it floats on top, then you have low porosity hair. If it sinks, then you have high porosity hair. If it stays in the middle, then you have normal porosity hair.
Why knowing your hair porosity matters
I know often we talk about moisturizing our hair and how important it is. Yet, we rarely ever mention hair porosity and without knowing how porous our natural hair is, we cannot effectively moisturize it.
As mentioned above, the cuticles of low porosity hair are flat and tightly overlap like the shingles on a roof. If you do not know how to lift the cuticle slightly so moisture can get in, then you will just be piling products on top of your hair with no benefit. This is why knowing your hair porosity level is very important.
Low porosity hair is very prone to product build-up. This is very important to note. So, shampooing or cleansing absolutely needs to be in your regimen. I know natural hair sistas are quick to tell you that you should co-wash and not shampoo because you will wash your natural oils away. This is typically true for some girls but it does not apply to all hair types.
Some natural hair women need shampoo to maintain healthy hair – like those with low porosity hair – so co-washing is not always enough and may even be detrimental in some cases. This is why it is very important to ‘learn your own hair’. Everybody hair is different and what might work for one might not work for the other.
THE KEY: use sulfate-free shampoos or shampoo bars that will effectively clean the hair of all product build-up and provide us with a clean slate to start the conditioning and moisturizing process without stripping our hair and leaving it feeling straw like.
How to condition low porosity hair
Choose conditioners that are lightweight and that can penetrate the hair. Those with low porosity hair should stay away from protein rich conditioners because it cannot effectively penetrate the hair and so, you’re left with your hair feeling straw like and brittle.
Humectants such as honey and glycerin are great for your hair. Choosing products with these ingredients are great. Actually, I do honey treatments all the time and my hair loves it! You should try it.
Heat is your best friend. To get your hair cuticle to be slightly lifted so moisture can get in, you need to use heat when conditioning. Use a steamer or sit under a hooded dryer* with a plastic cap over your hair. Steaming your hair is the best way to deep condition low porosity hair. The cuticles will get raised and moisture will get in. Rinse with warm water.
How to moisturize low porosity hair
Before you start moisturizing your hair, squeeze out as much water as possible so that you have room for your products. Your hair will only take as much moisture as it can physically hold; this is why we must squeeze out some of the water out of our hair first.
Choose lightweight moisturizers – these will be easier to penetrate the hair. Moisturizers rich in penetrating oils like coconut* and olive oil* are great for low porosity hair. I highly recommend the LOC method for moisturizing the hair. Liquid first, then oil, then a cream.
BONUS TIP: Heat your spray bottle. Remember I said that heat is your friend? I wasn’t kidding. Run your spray water bottle under running hot water before spritzing your hair throughout the week. Trust me, it raises the cuticles slightly so you can get some moisture inside then seal with an oil.
Sealing low porosity hair
Seal your hair with light oils that will be easily penetrated into the hair. Light oils that are great for sealing low porosity hair are coconut oil*, olive oil*, avocado oil* and jojoba oil*.
Styling low porosity hair
Low porosity hair can handle heat styling better than hair of higher porosity. However, I suggest against it because using heat incorrectly can damage any hair type and erase all of your hard work. Use heat only if necessary or during special occasions.
Do you care for your hair based its porosity?
Angela Williams says
I care for it based on my Low Porosity & 3C Texture/Width(fine hair). As for having Low Porosity hair, I’ve learned that I need to pre-poo with Extra Virgin Coconut Oil using heat(makes my tangles melt away to the point that I don’t have to finger detangle prior to shampooing). I use sulfate-free SheaMoisture Shampoo’s. I apply Deep Conditioners using Heat. I’ve tried using different LOC, LOCO, LCO, LCOS methods, but they all have left my hair either hard or too greasy & stringy looking. For my hair texture/width I’ve stopped using oils at all & use one (1)product that does it all(For instance, I’ll apply Camille Rose Naturals Almond Jai Twisting Butter, Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Butter Gel, or SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk by themselves & nothing else….all help keep my hair moisturized for days & have enough oil already in them that I don’t need to apply any additional oils anyway).
Shelly Ann Cameron says
This is why it is important to learn your hair and know what work for you. I am happy that you have tried different methods of moisturizing your hair and chose what is great for you. You also hit the nail on the head with less is more. If one product does the job then you do not need to add extra stuff to your hair. With low porosity hair, product build-up is the worse but you wont have that problem because you keep it to a minimum. Good for you!!!!! Also, thanks for sharing.
Jesslyn H says
A bout of chemotherapy had me saying goodbye to my waist length locs and I decided to go natural again, but without locs this time. Dealing with locs has it’s own issues, but thinking I could treat my hair with the same casualness had me doing a few chops over the last couple of years. I think part of my problem is (was) not dealing with the low porosity factor, I was too hung up on hair typing. I gave up on typing my hair. I found Zs, coils, the grey is doing it’s own thing and from front to back I have at least 3 different types of hair. But I think all of it is low porosity.
I ended up having to make my own oil mixture. After shampooing, I use a combo of the following oils – jojoba, coconut, aloe vera, olive, castor – mixed with shea butter as a thickener. My water bottle has a mixture of water, aloe vera juice and dab of apple cider vinegar. I then twist remembering to dip my fingers into a mix of argan, rosemary, grapseed and jojoba oil as I go.
I found that if I use a cream moisturizer, conditioner or whatever, my hair is sticky and doesn’t feel good at all. Sticking to the straight oil mixtures with a light booster every other day, leaves me soft and shiny for at least two weeks–longer if I don’t have any lazy days.
I have literally tried everything, lol! My sister who has low maintenance hair has thanked me for every product that I’ve handed down following my epic failures.
dionne armstrong says
Warm water is my best friend. I dont use oil to seal in my moisture because it leaves my hair oily. I also do my final conditioner rinse with warm water. I never put alot of product in my hairjust when I deep concondition
I’ve done the porosity test and supposedly I have low porosity hair. I’m not convinced. I don’t have the characteristics that are common for low porosity hair.
OMG…this was so me. It would literally take minutes in the shower for my strands to feel wet as water would just bounce off. My saving graces: (1) nightly deep conditioning via GHE (the green house effect) which is applying watered-down conditioner and covering w/a plastic cap overnight; natural steam lifts the cuticles thereby allowing moisture in; this resulted in more defined curls, softer hair, and going from plain old fro (described as “brillo”) to curly fro; (2) two wks after doing nightly GHE, I started the MHM (http://maxhydrationmethod.com/about/) which utilizes GHE; as defined by its website: a 5-step regimen that systematically increases moisture levels in the hair until Max Hydration is reached. It is the most ideal regimen for low porosity type 4 and 4c hair as these hair types have the most difficulty absorbing moisture. Once Max Hydration is reached, many of the issues that effect type 4 hair in terms of moisture, styling, knots, and length retention don’t occur. Lastly, Max hydration allows even the moist tightly coiled 4c hair to curl from root to tip with no product.
Felicia Hamilton says
I did myself a glycerin treatment and I havent had too many issues since…. best decision ever!
Charlene Jeffers says
Theresa Marie Bryant says
I’m not even sure what porosity means. I’ve heard it explained but I’m still not sure
Michelle Morris says
Porosity is about the hair’s ability to gain and also maintain moisture thus leading to less dryness and breakage which in turn leads to less length retention, knowing your hair ability to accept and maintain moisture helps with how and what products are best used on your hair and leading to less dryness or that straw like feelibg, this is sorta it in a nutshell however researching the porosity of natural hair or even relaxed will help you so much in your healthy hair journey, to me this out weighs what your texture might be. Hope that helps a little!
Kashmere Noel says
If it wasn’t for curl typing I wouldn’t have found porosity typing so quickly and also wouldn’t understand it as well in conjunction with curl types. Throughout my journey the majority of fellow 3c4a naturals I’ve encountered tend to share similar traits with me: Low porosity; high density; strands on the finer side. While this obviously is not the rule for 3c4a girls, in my personal experience it does seem common and this is why curl typing helped me, because if not for interacting with curl-cousins I wouldn’t know and understand other traits of my hair so well.
Tip for low porosity girls who don’t like shampoo, though — use fewer products and try to keep them as organic as possible. Never thought I’d be a purely co-wash kinda girl, but my bottle of sulphate-free has been sat in the corner for months now thanks to minimalism and mother nature. My hair thrives on water, oil & flaxseed gel for product and my conditioner is 97% natural. My low porosity strands are thanking me for it!