How to Test and Care for High Porosity Hair

Published April 25th, 2022 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Erik Rivera

High porosity hair is a type of hair that is porous which means it will struggle to retain moisture.

The cuticles are raised and far apart, which allows moisture to escape and causes the hair to be dry and brittle.

If you have high porosity hair, it is important to use gentle products that will not further damage your hair.

In this article, we will discuss how to test for high porosity, how to care for high porosity hair, and what you can do to promote healthy, strong hair.

high porosity hair image

What is high porosity hair?

To understand what kind of hair you have it is important to know some basics about hair.

The hair cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. The cuticle is made up of overlapping cells that protect the middle layer of the hair, called the cortex.

The cortex makes up the majority of the hair shaft and contains melanin, which gives hair its color. The cortex also gives hair its strength and elasticity.

The innermost layer of the hair shaft is called the medulla. The medulla is not always present, such as in naturally blonde or fine hair, and is not necessary for the hair to be healthy.

When you have high porosity hair, it means that your hair cuticles are further apart which can cause your hair to be porous.

If your hair is porous, water and other liquids easily pass through your strands of hair but they also do not retain this moisture.

High porosity hair can happen for a variety of reasons, including overprocessing your hair with chemicals, heat damage, and physical trauma such as brushing too vigorously or using tight hairstyles, although it can also be genetic.

What are the characteristics of high porosity hair?

High porosity hair is often dry, frizzy, and tangles easily. It can appear dull and lifeless because it does not retain moisture well so it will not have a shiny sheen.

High porosity hair can also be susceptible to breakage while absorbing liquids or products quickly but also drying very fast.

How do I know what kind of hair I have?

Different hair types have different hair porosity and one way to find out your hair porosity level is the strand test.

To perform a strand test, you will need to gather a strand of clean, dry hair from your head or from the hair strands in your brush. Take the strand of hair and place it in a glass of water.

If your hair sinks, it has high porosity. If it floats for a little while and then sinks, you have medium porosity hair which is also called normal porosity hair.

And finally, if your hair floats on top of the water and then eventually sinks, you have low porosity hair.

How do I care for my high porosity hair?

Now that you know how to test for high porosity hair, you need to determine the best way to care for it. You will want your hair to shorten the gaps between the cuticles so it can retain moisture better and to have them smooth instead of raised, which causes frizz. The products that are generally used for high porosity hair usually contain oils, butter, or thicker substances.

Care for high porosity hair includes:

Using products that are specifically formulated for high porosity hair

These products will help to seal the cuticle and prevent moisture from escaping and are more suited for your hair than other products. When styling your hair, look for products that contain high levels of moisture, such as conditioners, leave-in conditioners, and hair masks.

Avoiding heat styling

Too much heat can further damage already porous hair. If you must use heat, make sure to use a heat protectant and keep the temperature of your heat styling tool on low.

Deep conditioning

Use a deep conditioner at least once or twice a week. A deep conditioning treatment will help to hydrate your hair and make it more manageable. Look for deep conditioners that are protein-based as protein treatments can help strengthen your hair.

Using a wide-tooth comb

Wide-tooth combs will help to avoid further damage to your hair and minimize hair breakage. Start from the bottom and work your way up when combing out knots. You can also run your fingers through your hair before shampooing to detangle it.

Be gentle with your hair

Avoid brushing it too vigorously or using tight hairstyles as this can cause physical damage to your hair. Hairstyles that follow the natural pattern or curl patterns of your hair are best.

Using a leave-in conditioner

Applying a leave-in conditioner before styling your hair can help hair with high porosity retain moisture which will help to protect your hair from heat damage and keep it hydrated throughout the day.

Using oils or serums

Oils and serums can help to seal the cuticle of your hair and keep moisture from escaping. Use a few drops of oil or serum on damp or dry hair before styling it.

Using cream-based products

Cream-based products can also help to seal the cuticle of your hair and keep moisture from escaping. Look for styling cream or curl-defining creams that are specifically designed for high porosity hair.

Try the LCO method

You may want to use a leave-in liquid conditioner, then use a cream followed by oil, in that order which is called the LCO method and it will help to seal in moisture and keep your hair hydrated. Please note that some people swear by the LOC method which uses leave-in conditioner first, oil second, and cream last; however, there is no evidence one method is better than the other.

Products to avoid

You will want to avoid products that contain alcohol as this can dry out your hair. Avoid harsh chemical treatments such as bleach or color treatments.

If you do use these products, be sure to deep condition your hair afterward.

Lastly, avoid using any products in your hair that contain sulfates, parabens, silicones, and sodium laureth sulfates as these can strip the natural oil from your hair causing it to lose moisture.

Using cool or lukewarm water to wash your hair

When washing your hair, be cognizant to wash it with cool water or lukewarm water instead of hot water as hot water can strip away natural oils from your hair, making it more dry and brittle.

Sleep with a satin bonnet or satin pillowcase

Sleeping with a satin bonnet or satin pillowcase can help to keep your hair from tangling and minimize the amount of friction on your hair which can lead to breakage.

Using a cotton t-shirt to dry your hair

After washing your hair, instead of using a towel to dry it, try using an old cotton t-shirt. Cotton is softer on your hair than a towel and can help to minimize frizz and breakage.

Wearing protective styles

When you wear your hair in protective styles, it can help to minimize the amount of manipulation which can lead to breakage.

Protective styles can also help your hair to retain moisture. Examples of protective styles include braids, twists, wigs, or hair extensions.

When using braids or twists, make sure your hair is not pulled tight as it can damage your hair.


High porosity hair is more susceptible to damage and breakage than other types of hair; however, there are some things you can do to care for your high porosity hair and make it more manageable.

Some of these include using deep conditioners that are protein-based, using products that are specifically designed for high porosity hair, and avoiding those that contain alcohol or sulfates as these can strip away natural oils from your hair among many other tips.

Also try the LCO method of leave-in conditioner, cream, and oil to help seal in moisture.

Finally, be sure to sleep with a satin bonnet or pillowcase to minimize friction and wear protective styles when possible. Following these tips will help you to have healthy, strong high porosity hair.

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