Hair porosity - helpful tips for your curly & wavy hair care routine

1. What does hair porosity actually mean?
2. How do I find out my hair porosity? (Quiz on hair porosity)
3. Why is hair porosity important?
4. Low porosity hair: the right hair care
5. High porosity hair: the right hair care

Finding the right hair care for your curls or waves seems like a science in itself. After all, there are several different factors to consider: density, thickness and curl type are probably the most common. But those who have heard of porosity may already know that many experts give this property the highest importance before all others. And indeed - knowing about hair porosity can change a small world for our waves and curls. Fortunately we were allowed to experience this ourselves! To be honest, we even misjudged ourselves a few years ago - I assumed I had low porosity hair while Krisy was assumed to be one of the highly porous ones. Today we know that I (wavy, thin hair) have highly porous hair, while Krisy (thicker corkscrew curls) has medium porous hair. Why did we get this originally wrong classification? I think because we automatically assumed, like so many others, that hair structures in the 4 a-c range always have highly porous hair, while straighter curls/wavy structures have lower porous hair - although very often (but not always!) it is just the other way round. As it can make a huge difference in curl and wave hair care, we want to help you to find out what porosity you have and how you can adjust your hair care routine.

1. What does porosity actually mean?

Porosity describes how well your hair can absorb and retain moisture. Porosity is practically the size of the gaps in your hair through which water and other substances can move - but also how quickly moisture moves through your hair. In low porosity hair, the cuticle is firmly attached to the hair (the gaps are smaller), making it harder for moisture to be absorbed. With highly porous hair it is the other way round, the cuticle layer is wider apart (larger gaps), through which more moisture can penetrate into and out of the hair. All hair is porous to a certain extent - only a distinction is made between low, medium and highly porous hair. Although hair porosity is mainly genetic, the latter is especially true for broken, very split and chemically treated hair. Hair can therefore generally become more porous due to external factors such as chemical treatments, heat or chlorine. It is also quite natural that different porosities occur in a person, because older hair (ends) is naturally more porous than new hair (roots).

2. How do I find out my hair porosity?

There are some tests to find out the degree of porosity, such as the water glass test. However, we do not recommend this test as it usually gives very "random " results. What can work are the following questions, which everyone can ask themselves based on their own experience and observations to get one step closer to the result. However, even these are only indications. Please take that into account, also when making the Quiz.

If you don't want to go through the questions with pen and paper, we have made a pretty cool test to help you find out your porosity. The Quiz is meant as a helper, not a definite terminator. 
If you're still unsure or can't answer some questions clearly on the first test run, take several weeks to observe your hair and then do the quiz again! If you do the quiz now: Don't forget to read the conclusion at the end of the blog post - it's important :)

Quiz about porosity

Alternatively to our test, you can of course go through some of the questions yourself and answer them one after the other, armed with a pencil. If you prefer to do the quiz, just skip this part.

- Take a strand between your fingers and move from the bottom to the top towards the scalp.
Does it feel smooth? Rather low porous.
Does it feel a little uneven? Rather porous.

- Are your waves/curls quite stable, (tear)-proof, thick (coarse)? Rather low porous.
Or rather thin, easy to manipulate, more unstable or prone to split? Rather high porous (porous hair is often rather thin, because 1-2 layers of hair are missing, which causes the porosity).
-Attention: This is only a tendency, because there are exceptions. Low porous hair can also be thin, just as high porous hair can be thick, too.-

- Do your waves/ curls take a long time to dry compared to someone with similar hair density? Rather low porosity.
Does your hair dry quickly? Rather high porosity.

- Are your waves/curls dull and knot very easily? Do you need a lot of conditioner to untangle them? Rather porous

- Do you have product build up quickly? Rather low porosity.

- Do products leave white deposits on the hair because not all of them can be completely absorbed? Rather low porosity.

- Do you prefer lighter, more fluid, water-based creams or leave-ins (which are easily absorbed by the hair) as styling products? Rather low porosity

- Do you prefer thicker, "stickier" styling products that give a lot of support? Rather highly porous

- Are your waves/ curls chemically treated or damaged by chlorine/heat? Rather highly porous.

- Does your hair need a lot of protein to look healthy? Rather highly porous
Does your hair need less protein (more moisture) or is even protein-sensitive? Rather low porosity

If you couldn't answer any questions with a clear yes or no because you feel that you are always in the middle, then it is possible that you have medium-porous hair. But you can also take several weeks to observe your hair!

It is equally important to be aware that when answering the porosity questions, to put yourself on a symbolic scale. Most of the times there is no definite YES or NO, meaning that you can stand at any point on this scale and that there are many intermediate levels. For example, you could be in the low-porosity range, but within that range you could be in the more normal range or in the extremely low-porosity range.

A very precise statement about the porosity state of your waves/curls could ultimately only be made by a scientific analysis,
so don't get mad if you are still in the dark after the tests :) With porosity, you also tend to focus on the extremes, but a one-sided hair care is not perfect here either.

3. Why is hair porosity important?

In general, for low-porosity hair it is difficult to absorb moisture and it takes longer to dry (because water escapes more slowly).
Porous hair absorbs moisture more easily, but also loses it just as quickly (because of the missing cuticle) and therefore dries faster, but unfortunately also dries faster out! Since sufficient moisture is what makes our curls and waves healthy, you can probably understand why hair porosity is so significant. 
Medium porous hair is the easiest to handle and does not have to be so critical about the right care, so we will now concentrate on low and high porous hair, as the right care is really crucial for these groups.

What is the best way to care of low and high porous hair?

Let's first look at low-porosity hair. All those who have classified themselves as highly porous can of course go straight to the 5th point :)

4. Low porosity hair: the right hair care

As mentioned above, the cuticle layer is very close together in low porosity hair. It therefore takes longer to become saturated with water and natural oils; products are absorbed more slowly. In extremely low porous hair, products often sit on the hair as a white deposit before they are either not absorbed at all or only after a long time. Low porosity hair therefore needs products that bind and hold moisture to the hair. Therefore here comes the most important question:

How do you get moisture into low porosity hair?

- Proteins and moisture:
Low porosity should focus more on moisture than on protein because the hair already has a higher protein content than high-porosity hair. However, thin low-porosity hair tolerates more protein (approximately weekly) than thick low-porosity hair. Very thick, low-porosity hair should use protein very rarely (1-2 x/month) and moisturize most of the time, otherwise the hair can become dry and dull (especially with 4C hair).

With low porous hair, more moisture can accumulate on the hair after washing, as the hair only absorbs as much water as it needs. The rest then remains practically on the surface (recognizable e.g. by water drops on the hair).
Simply remove the excess water with a microfibre towel before the styling routine so that the hair is no longer dripping wet. When styling, simply moisten the hair again with a spray bottle filled with water and dampen the hair as desired, because water is still the basis when styling low-porosity hair.

- Deep Conditioning:
Use Deep Conditioner with moisturizers such as aloe vera or honey to hydrate your hair from time to time. It is highly recommended to use a heat cap, as the heat opens the cuticle layer, which makes the conditioning product easier to absorb.

- The right ingredients:
Be careful with styling products that are too heavy, shampoos or conditioners that contain too heavy butters or oils (e.g. castor oil, olive oil, shea butter or tucuma butter). These can also easily accumulate on the hair and simply not be absorbed properly because of the thick consistency. Therefore, for low porosity hair the consistency and the right ingredients are significant. Lighter hair care and styling products that are liquid, water-based (thin consistencies) such as hair lotion/creams are more recommended, as they do not sit on the hair and won´t leave it oily and greasy. The first or second ingredient should therefore always be water. Very heavy, stickier products that cannot be absorbed due to their thick consistency should be avoided. Look therefore generally for moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, honey, aloe vera, ... These ingredients can be better absorbed by low porous hair, especially if you have warmed and moistened the hair a little before, which opens the cuticle layer (e.g. using a heat cap while deep conditioning)

- Pay attention to the right oils: The use of unsuitable oils can lead to a greasy film on the hair since they can´t be absorbed properly. The most suitable oils are light and do not weigh down, have the property of being absorbed very deeply, promote hair growth and provide nutrients. Therefore, the most popular oil among the low-porosity hair is probably sweet almond oil, as it combines practically all these properties. Argan oil, jojoba oil, baobab oil, grape seed oil, sunflower seed oil, pomegranate oil, apricot oil, sesame seed oil, rose hip oil, thistle oil or avocado oil are also very suitable. Caster oil, hemp seed oil or even olive oil could already be too heavy oils when not diluted. Either avoid these or use them in a mixture/diluted with other oils. Coconut oil may also be unsuitable for some people, as it acts like a protein in addition to its deep-penetrating effect (watch out if you are "protein-sensitive" ;)).

- Build-up --> Clarifying:
Low - porous hair is more sensitive to build-up as it has fewer negative charges to absorb conditioners. Therefore, lighter oils used as pre-poo (e.g. argan, avocado, grape seed oil etc.) can be a good way to bring moisture into the hair in addition to deep conditioner. The right oil for the hair has to be found over time, because not everyone can tolerate every oil equally well. However, with light oils it is almost never possible to go wrong with low porosity hair. With thin hair, wash/shampoo out the oil well so that it does not sit on the hair. Important: In general, use clarifying shampoos more often so that the entire build up comes down and does not settle on the hair.

- Use the correct butter/softener:
Lighter butter such as mango butter, murumuru butter or avocado butter is better suited for this porosity type than heavy butter such as shea butter. Richer butters can also be used in smaller doses or diluted with a little water, and of course they also work very well from time to time in the form of conditioning agents.

- pH level:
Products with a lower pH value are more acidic, which causes the cuticle to close. However, as we are aiming for an opening of the cuticle in low porous hair, it is more advisable to use conditioners with a balanced pH value of 7. As the pH is more alkaline than that of the hair (which is between 4.5-5.5 pH), the cuticle layer loosens and lifts, allowing moisture to pass through.

- LOC Method: 
Leave-in (Liquid) - Oil - Cream is the secret application order of most low-porosity hair. After washing, wrap the hair in a microfibre towel to remove excess water. Then, sufficiently moisten and section the hair with a spraying bottle. Depending on hair thickness and density, apply more or less penetrating oil (as described above e.g. sweet almond oil); then leave-in conditioner and if necessary finish with a gel/custard styler.

5. High porosity hair: the right hair care

How does moisture stay in highly porous hair?
Porous hair often struggles with a "swollen" inner hair layer because the water penetrates all the way to the inside. Therefore, pre-poo oil treatments can help. Oils do not hydrate, as many think, but make the hair more water-repellent and thus reduce porosity (reason: less "bloated" hair is the result and therefore less falling off cuticle layers, which leads to lower porosity). As a result, less water gets in and out of the hair = the hair remains more hydrated. Coconut oil is best suited for this purpose, but also babassu oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil etc. Lighter oils like avocado, jojoba or argan oil can work well on thin hair.

- Prevent loss of moisture:
use proteins, linseed or honey at the end to "close" the hair surface and prevent the moisture from escaping into the air. Oils are also an option for this purpose (very little is enough for thin hair and it should always be considered individually whether oils do your hair good or leave it too greasy).

- Prioritize proteins:
High porosity should focus on both moisture and protein, as the hair's protein deficiency makes it difficult for the hair to retain moisture and therefore simply dries out. More proteins bind water. Besides moisture, protein treatments (1 x/week) are the best helper.

Use Deep Conditioner regularly for more elasticity and softness.

- The right oil:
One of the best oils for highly porous hair is jojoba oil, as it comes closest to the oils that the scalp produces naturally. Colorless oils with unsaturated fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6 have large molecules that work well with the gaps in the cuticle layer, such as cotton seed oil, avocado oil and primrose oil. Jamaican black castor oil, olive oil and hemp seed oil can act as fillers of the keratin gaps.

- pH balance:
With porous hair it is even more important to maintain a good pH balance of 4.5/5.5 to keep the cuticle closed. You could, for example, occasionally spray some of a DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Spray or Aloe Vera Spray into the hair after shampooing or special pH-neutralizing sprays (of which you will surely find one in the box ;)).

- Cut the ends often enough
, because they are most porous the longer the hair gets.

6. Conclusion

Ultimately, porosity and all the products that are used are all about the right dose and application. One sometimes says too quickly "I cannot use oils, deep conditioners, proteins or xy". But sometimes the problem is not the ingredient, but the dose, balance or order of application. Low porosity hair will also needs conditioners and oils in most cases, but often in smaller or diluted doses, as the hair will simply absorb less and the rest would accumulate as build up.

- Not one method will do justice to all. -

Sometimes it makes sense to use products diluted in water before washing or to use the conditioner before shampooing instead of after.

And again: No one curly hair regime fits all!

Sometimes you forget to make your own rules or invent your own method because of all the existing rules that others have told you to follow.
And making up your own rules is exactly what you should do if you want to care for your hair in a way that suits you best - it's much more about following your own observations and acting on your feeling. How does this product feel with this ingredient and this application? Does it give me the desired result after the effort, i.e. beautiful, healthy waves/curls? Or should I rather not stick with this product after many repeated failures, but experiment with something new - even though other people told me that it HAS TO work for me? Developing this feeling is especially important when dealing with moisture and proteins, so that you can find your individual balance, because everyone needs both, protein and moisture, only in different proportions. Even extremely low porosity hair that is sensitive to too much protein shouldn´t avoid the occasional rice water treatment - even if in your case it is only once a month.

Each hair is individual.

Don't just follow methods and ingredients that work for others, be inspired by them and then adapt everything to your needs - even if you just reinvent the 1x1 of the product application or existing methods a little bit so that they suit you best. :)

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published