When you’re shopping for haircare products like shampoo and conditioner, you probably seek out those made for your hair “type,” such as curly, thick, straight, or fine. And while that’s certainly valid there’s so much more to our hair than its outward appearance. Hair porosity—essentially, how porous or absorbent your hair is—is just as important to keep in mind. Low porosity hair, for example, is difficult to penetrate, so giving it adequate hydration can be challenging if you’re not using the right products.
To further explain how to determine if you have low porosity hair (and what that means), we chatted with Pureology Educator Shon Washington. Ahead, Washington reveals a few ways to identify your hair’s porosity, plus tips, tricks, and advice on caring for low porosity hair.
What is low porosity hair?
You can’t see it with the naked eye, but each strand of hair is made up of thousands (if not more) of overlapping cells. Your hair’s porosity, Washington explains, is a measure of how much open space there is between those cells. The more space, the more porous your hair is. High porosity hair has the most space, and is, therefore, the most absorbent, followed by medium porosity hair. But in low porosity hair, Washington explains, “the cuticle scales (dead cells overlapping in layers) are smooth and flat with few gaps, so less water can penetrate to the deeper layers or escape.” The lack of open spaces between these cells makes low porosity hair less absorbent, she adds, which can make it “difficult to moisturize and style.”
How can I tell if I have low porosity hair?
According to Washington, straight hair is more likely to be low porosity than curly or wavy strands. If you think you have low porosity hair, there are a few things you can do to make a determination. One test she shares is what we’ll call the spray bottle test. Basically: mist your hair with a spray bottle and look closely at what happens with the little beads of water. Low porosity hair, Washington says, “takes a while” to get fully wet. So if the little beads of water linger a bit before saturating your hair, chances are good you have low porosity strands.
You can also test your hair’s porosity by plucking out a strand and placing it in a glass of water. If it floats, rather than sinks, it’s not very absorbent and is, therefore, a good indication that you have low porosity hair.
How do you fix low porosity hair?
According to Washington, your hair’s porosity is “usually genetic,” though it may change throughout your life in response to factors like chemical processing and environmental damage. That being said, it’s not something you can easily change (nor do you have to). Creating a haircare routine with your mane’s unique needs in mind can help “make your hair healthier, more manageable, and easier to style.” One of the most important things to keep in mind is that low porosity hair won’t absorb products readily and therefore can be prone to build-up. To help hydrate the hair without excessive buildup, Washington recommends using products with natural oils that can penetrate the cuticle more easily. You may also want to consider steaming your hair: the steam, Washington explains, softens and relaxes the hair cuticle, which may make it easier for your hydrating products to penetrate the hair strands.
What should low porosity hair avoid?
As we mentioned, low porosity hair can be prone to build-up. As such, you’ll want to avoid smoothing treatments, particularly those that contain protein (like keratin). As Washington explains, this is because low porosity hair cuticles are “already smooth, and protein smoothing treatments may cause a buildup of protein on the surface of the strand.”
You’ll also want to avoid silicones and products with heavy butters. This is because most silicones are not water soluble, and some butters may repel water, which is the opposite of what you want when you have low porosity strands.
What are the best products for low porosity hair?
The best products for low porosity hair are those that add moisture without weighing your strands down. For shampoo, Washington recommends
Once a week, give your hair some extra TLC with the avocado and coconut oil-infused Purelogy Hydrate Superfood Treatment, a deep conditioner that provides intense moisture for soft, hydrated strands. Have color-treated hair? Try Pureology Color Fanatic Deep Treatment Mask instead: it’s specifically formulated to help protect your color from fading. (You can also use the Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-in Spray to help keep your hue vibrant between salon visits).
Finally, if you do experience build-up, Washington recommends swapping out your usual shampoo for Pureology Pure Volume Shampoo and Conditioner as needed. The system “clarifies, enhances volume, and restores movement in finer hair,” leaving it bouncy and healthy-looking.
Want more advice on getting your best hair ever? Check out our article Is Your Hair Damaged? Here’s How to Identify, Manage, and Prevent Damage.
Book an appointment with an expert who knows how to properly care for your low porosity hair and other mane needs using our salon locator.