The Expert Hair Care Guide For Low, Medium And High Porosity Hair

All Your Hair Questions, Answered

The Expert Hair Care Guide For Low, Medium, And High Porosity Hair

25 September 2018
photo of woman with curly hair hair porosity
Jelani Addams Rosa

Jelani Addams Rosa

Associate Editor, Hair.com

As an employee of L'Oréal, Jelani brings her knowledge and passion for hair care to Hair.com. Before joining the Hair.com team, she spent time at Celebuzz, Seventeen, and Cosmo for Latinas.

If you take your hair care as seriously as we do, you can never know too much about your strands. Before you head to the store to buy new hair care products to address your hair type, texture, and needs, have you thought about your hair’s porosity? If you’ve never heard of the term, you’ve come to the right place.

Tiffinie Morton, Matrix brand ambassador, and stylist, is breaking down everything you need to know about hair porosity and how to properly care for your hair no matter how porous.

What is hair porosity?

Simply put, porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. There are a few factors that determine your hair’s porosity, including things you have no control over such as your hair type and texture. However, Morton says how we treat our hair can also affect its porosity. 

The outer layer of each hair strand lays smooth when the hair is strong—think of it like scales on a snake. When we do things like excessive coloring procedures, expose our hair to environmental stressors like hard water and chlorine, and overuse thermal tools, we start to notice that the porosity of our hair can be compromised and the ‘scales’ can begin to lift,” the stylist explains.

How do you determine hair porosity?

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to determine your hair’s porosity. 

If your hair looks and feels very strong and smooth, with almost a glass-like appearance, chances are good you have hair with low porosity.

Hair with low porosity has an outer layer—also called the cuticle—that is very strong, and the ‘scales’ lay tightly against one another...Because the cuticle is tightly bound, it may be difficult for moisture to penetrate, but once it does, it is also difficult for the moisture to escape.

Hair with low porosity may look and feel very strong, but it comes with its own set of drawbacks. Because the hair cuticle is so smooth and tightly bound, Morton says it can have difficulty holding styles and is often resistance to chemical services such as hair dye.

If your hair looks slightly dull and rough hair but responds well to hair products, chances are good you have medium or regular hair porosity.

“Medium porosity hair stands up well to coloring, styling, and chemical services, but needs to be cared for with a daily routine to preserve the strength of the hair to withstand these processes in the future,” Morton says.

If your hair looks and feels damaged, dry, rough, and broken, chances are good you have high porosity hair.

“High porosity hair is likely difficult to comb through and can even become matted at times. It soaks up moisture almost instantly yet dries very quickly. It is common to have ends that are highly porous when the rest of the hair strand appears stronger,” Morton explains.

High porosity hair doesn’t just look and feel damaged. It can be more prone to breakage than low and medium porosity hair, making it difficult to retain length.

If you are still unsure how porous your hair is, a professional hair stylist will be able to determine your strands accurately.

Now that you know how porous your hair is, you need to know how to care for it properly. Continue reading to find out Morton’s hair care recommendations for each level of porosity.

How To Care For Low Porosity Hair

Caring for low porosity hair is deceptively tricky. The majority of the time your hair may look and feel strong, but you’ll have to stock your bathroom cabinet with just the right products to make sure your strands truly reap all of the benefits. 


“Hair with low porosity has a tightly packed cuticle, making it hard for products to penetrate the strand and get the nutrients from them, but once the product is in the hair strand, it is less likely to dry out. Low porosity hair often works well with protein-free products formulated with humectants, which help attract moisture. This hair type is more prone to product buildup, so using light, liquid-based products is ideal,” Morton says.

The stylist recommends anyone with low porosity hair pick up the Matrix Biolage R.A.W. Nourish Shampoo and Conditioner system, formulated with quinoa husk and honey for healthy, softer looking hair. If you feel like your strands need a little extra TLC, Morton recommends the Matrix Biolage Fiberstrong Shampoo and Conditioner system formulated with Intra Cylane plus bamboo and ceramide to strengthen damaged, fragile hair. For a styling product that will make your hair look as smooth as it feels without weighing it down, Morton suggests Matrix Biolage R.A.W. Smoothing Styling Milk.

How To Care For Medium Porosity Hair

If you have medium porosity hair, you’re in luck—it’s the easiest porosity level to manage, in Morton’s opinion. 

“You don’t have to work overly hard to protect medium porosity hair, but making good choices throughout the week will help keep your hair healthy-looking....Try to moderate stressors such as heat styling and UV exposure,” Morton explains.

Morton recommends the Matrix Biolage R.A.W. Recover System for anyone with medium porosity hair. The shampoo and conditioner system is formulated with coriander oil and kaolin clay to help restore stressed, sensitized hair for improved strength, shine, and bounce.

How To Care For High Porosity Hair

High porosity can look and feel damaged, but not all hope is lost. The key to caring for high porosity hair is finding the perfect balance of moisture.

“Too much moisture in high porosity hair can cause the hair to swell and break. However, using products with anti-humectants will help seal the cuticle and prevent it from absorbing too much moisture,” the stylist explains.

If you have highly porous hair, Morton recommends swapping out all of your old hair care products for those in the Matrix Biolage Advanced Oil Renew System. The system is specially formulated for highly dry and porous hair.

Porous hair often benefits from a protein treatment, and oils like soybean oil found in Biolage Advanced Oil Renew System will help the cuticle lay down so that it can retain the moisture it needs. After just one use, the Oil Renew System strengthens hair with 2 times less breakage, replenishes strands with 24-hour moisture, shields hair from the daily stress that causes cuticle damage, reduces porosity and frizz, and increases manageability and softness.

Now you’re equipped with all of the knowledge you need to properly care for your hair—no matter what porosity you’re working with.

Interested in personalized advice about hair porosity? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.

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