Lippie Hippie is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

What is Hair Porosity and Why It’s Important to Know Yours?

aida turner

Published by Aida Turner

Have you ever felt frustrated in the shower, watching your hair repel water or take forever to dry? Or perhaps you’ve noticed your hair struggles to absorb or retain moisture, leaving it dry or unmanageable.

These symptoms could be a sign of your hair’s porosity level. Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture, and is primarily determined by the condition of your hair’s cuticle, the outermost layer of the hair shaft.

In this article, we will delve into the science of hair porosity, explain how it influences your hair’s health, and guide you on how to manage it effectively. Understanding this key attribute can revolutionize your hair care routine, whether your hair is low, medium, or high porosity.

What is hair porosity?

Hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture and chemicals such as hair dye or other hair treatments like perms and hair relaxers. In high porosity, hair enables moisture to permeate easily but escape quickly. In contrast, low porosity hair features tightly bound scales that resist moisture absorption, whereas medium porosity hair presents a balance between the two extremes. This difference can be likened to comparing a sponge (high porosity) to a piece of plastic (low porosity) – a sponge readily absorbs and holds onto water while plastic repels it.

The state of the cuticle layer can be open or lifted cuticles, tightly closed cuticles and healthy and flat cuticles.

Why is knowing your hair porosity important?

Knowing your hair’s porosity is important because it enables you to customize your hair care routine to meet your hair’s unique needs. Recognizing whether your hair is low, medium, or high porosity helps you select the most effective products and treatments for maintaining healthy, vibrant hair. Moreover, different porosity levels might respond differently to specific styles or treatments – for example, low porosity hair may take longer to process when coloring. In contrast, high porosity hair might be more prone to heat damage.

What determines hair porosity?

Hair porosity is determined by a combination of genetic factors like the natural structure and density of your hair cuticles, which are influenced by your racial/ethnic background and familial traits. External influences, such as exposure to harsh environmental conditions like extreme sun or cold, frequent use of heated styling tools, aggressive brushing or combing, and chemical treatments including coloring, perming, or straightening, can damage the cuticle layer and increase your hair’s porosity.

Lippie Hippie hair porosity

What are the types of hair porosity?

Hair porosity types are typically divided into three categories: low, medium (or normal), and high porosity. Each type has unique characteristics and requires different care methods.

What are the characteristics of low porosity hair?

The characteristics of low porosity hair are tightly packed cuticles that hinder moisture and product absorption, resulting in hair that feels dry despite its shiny appearance. This hair type is prone to product buildup and often takes longer to dry after washing. It is crucial to moisturize low porosity hair because it struggles to absorb and retain moisture, leading to dryness and breakage. Chemical processing can be challenging due to the hair shaft’s resistance to penetration. Find more in-depth information in our low porosity hair article.

What are the characteristics of medium porosity hair?

The characteristics of medium porosity hair are a balanced cuticle layer that allows for adequate moisture absorption and retention. Medium porosity hair responds well to styling and chemical processes but requires caution to avoid excessive porosity caused by frequent treatments.

What are the characteristics of high porosity hair?

The characteristics of high porosity hair are a cuticle structure with gaps and openings that make it difficult for the hair to retain moisture. High porosity hair type is more prone to UV exposure, heat styling, and chemical processing damage.

What is the ideal hair porosity?

The ideal hair porosity is often considered to be medium porosity because medium porosity hair balances moisture absorption and retention, making it easier to style and generally healthier. It responds well to various treatments and doesn’t require as extensive a care routine as high or low porosity hair types.

Is any hair porosity bad?

No hair porosity is inherently “bad.” Each hair porosity type – low, medium, and high – has unique characteristics and care needs. However, extremely low or high porosity may signal damage due to chemical treatments, heat styling, or environmental factors and require a more specific care routine.

How to test hair porosity?

Hair porosity test can involve three methods at home to define its levels: the float test, the slide test, or the spray bottle test.

  1. Float Test: Drop a clean, dry strand of your hair into a glass of water. If it sinks quickly, it’s high porosity. If it floats, it’s low porosity.
  2. Slide Test: Slide your fingers up a strand of hair from the tip toward the root. If it feels smooth, it’s low porosity. If it feels bumpy, it’s high porosity.
  3. Spray Bottle Test: Spray some water onto a section of your hair. If the water beads up on the surface, it’s low porosity. If it absorbs quickly, it’s high porosity.
Lippie Hippie hair porosity test

Please note these tests are not 100% accurate and can vary based on other factors. Scientific methods, such as electron microscopy for assessing the cuticle layer’s condition, offer more precise results.

For more detailed information, check out our comprehensive hair porosity test guide.

Does hair porosity affect hair care product selection?

Yes, hair porosity significantly affects hair care product selection because it determines how your hair absorbs and holds moisture.

What kind of hair care products should you use for low porosity hair?

Use a lightweight, non-greasy, water-based product and residue&protein-free shampoos for low porosity hair. These types of products prevent buildup and help facilitate moisture absorption. In terms of oils, opt for lighter options like argan, jojoba, or grapeseed oils. Low porosity hair quickly absorbs these oils and provides moisture without weighing it down.

What kind of hair care products should you use for medium porosity hair?

For medium porosity hair, you should use products that maintain the right balance between moisture and protein are ideal. They should neither be too heavy nor too light. Regular conditioners and occasional protein-rich products work well with this hair type.

What kind of hair care products should you use for high porosity hair?

You should use moisture-retaining and damage-protecting products for your high porosity hair. Specifically, go for leave-in conditioners, deep moisturizers, and products with anti-humectants to help retain moisture. Heavier oils or butter, such as shea butter or castor oil, can be beneficial, too, as they seal the hair cuticles, preventing moisture loss. Ensure to avoid harsh chemical-based products or those requiring heat for application to minimize potential damage.

How should you care for different hair porosities?

You should care in unique ways tailored to each type’s needs for different hair porosities. Be it low, medium, or high porosity, each comes with specific care strategies that ensure optimal health and vitality for your hair.

How to care for low porosity hair?

Low porosity hair care involves using heat during conditioning to enhance moisture absorption. Warm your conditioner before applying it, and consider using a heated cap. Regular clarifying shampoo, preferably weekly or bi-weekly, keeps the hair free from product residue. When deep conditioning, apply the conditioner to warm, freshly washed hair and allow it to sit under a heated cap or towel for best results.

How to care for medium porosity hair?

Medium porosity hair care requires striking a balance. Moderate heat can be beneficial when styling or drying, allowing for effective product penetration without inducing damage. It’s advisable to keep up with regular conditioning routines to retain the hair’s health and shine. To support moisture and health, consider deep conditioning sessions once a month. Given this hair type responds well to protein, periodic protein treatments can amplify its strength.

How to care for high porosity hair?

High porosity hair care entails frequent moisturization to counteract the hair’s rapid moisture loss. Regular applications of leave-in conditioners or moisturizers, along with products containing anti-humectants, can help seal the cuticles and lock in moisture. Given its susceptibility to damage, try to limit the use of heat styling tools and harsh chemical treatments. Consistent deep conditioning and occasional protein treatments can fortify the hair, enhancing its moisture retention capabilities.

Can hair porosity change over time?

Yes, hair porosity can change over time. Several factors can alter your hair’s porosity, including aging, diet, hormonal changes, heat and chemical treatments, and environmental damage. These factors can lead to an increase in hair’s porosity, causing the hair to become more permeable.

Does aging influence hair porosity levels?

Yes, aging does influence hair porosity levels because as we age, the natural production of sebum (our hair’s own conditioner) decreases, leading to drier hair. This can make the hair’s cuticle lift, increasing the porosity of the hair. Aging often leads to higher porosity hair, meaning it can easily absorb moisture and quickly lose it. This is one of the reasons why older individuals might experience drier, more brittle hair.

Does your diet affect on your hair porosity?

Yes, your diet can affect your hair porosity because nutrient-rich foods play a crucial role in maintaining the health and integrity of your hair. For instance, a diet deficient in essential fatty acids, vitamins like A, C, D, E, and proteins can lead to damaged hair cuticles, thereby increasing your hair’s porosity. On the other hand, a balanced diet, complete with essential nutrients, can help maintain healthy hair and decrease its porosity. Omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and proteins are important for hair health. So, what you eat can directly impact your hair’s structure and porosity.

Can heat and chemical treatments alter hair porosity?

Yes, frequently using heat styling tools and chemical treatments like perms, relaxers, or hair coloring can raise the hair’s porosity over time. These processes can cause the cuticle layer to lift or even become damaged, increasing hair’s permeability and potentially leading to high porosity hair.

How to increase hair porosity?

To increase hair porosity, heat styling tools, undergo chemical treatments, or expose the hair to extensive sun exposure. However, it’s important to note that these actions can lead to damage and dryness, and increasing hair porosity is typically not the goal for healthy hair management. Instead, focus on properly caring for your hair’s current porosity level.

What environmental factors influence hair porosity?

Environmental factors like harsh sun rays, excessive humidity, or dry, cold weather can influence your hair’s porosity. These environmental factors increase your hair’s porosity. Therefore, adopting protective measures in extreme weather conditions, such as using UV-protective hair products or covering your hair, can help maintain your hair’s health and manage its porosity.


Does hair porosity contribute to common hair problems?

Yes, hair porosity can contribute to common hair problems, for instance, high porosity hair tends to absorb too much moisture, but also loses it quickly. This can lead to frizz, dryness, tangles, and increased breakage. Low porosity hair has tightly closed cuticles which resist moisture penetration, making it difficult for oils and moisturizing treatments to be absorbed. This can result in product build-up on the hair surface, making the hair look greasy and limp, and feel dry or stiff.

Are there any misconceptions about hair porosity?

Yes, one common misconception is that high porosity hair is always the result of damage or poor care. While damage can certainly increase your hair’s porosity, it’s important to note that hair porosity is also largely determined by genetics. So, even someone who takes excellent care of their hair can have naturally high porosity hair.
Another misconception is that low porosity hair doesn’t need as much moisture because it retains more. Low porosity hair can be harder to moisturize because its tightly closed cuticles prevent moisture from getting in. People with low porosity hair must use products that help the hair shaft open up to accept more moisture.

Does hair porosity vary with specific hair types?

Yes, hair porosity can vary with specific hair types, because hair porosity is determined by the hair’s cuticle’s structure- the hair shaft’s outer layer. Different hair types, such as curly, straight, or wavy, can have different cuticle structures, leading to varying levels of hair porosity. For example, people with curly or coily hair types tend to have higher porosity due to the curl structure that tends to lift the cuticle. In contrast, straight hair types often have lower porosity because the cuticle lays flat, creating a tighter seal.

Does hair porosity vary with ethnic hair variations?

No, hair porosity does not directly vary with ethnic hair variations, because it is largely determined by the hair’s cuticle structure, which can be influenced by factors such as genetics, environmental exposure, heat and chemical treatments. Therefore, individuals from any ethnic background can have low, medium, or high porosity hair. However, certain hair textures, which can be more common in certain ethnic groups, may have a higher likelihood of specific porosity levels. For example, naturally curly or coily hair (commonly found in African ethnicities) can often be more prone to dryness and thus have higher porosity, but this is not a hard rule and plenty of exceptions exist. It’s important to assess hair porosity on an individual basis rather than making assumptions based on ethnicity.


Hair porosity might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about hair care, but it’s crucial to understanding your hair’s unique needs. Remember, every curl, coil, and kink is unique, and getting to know your hair can help you keep it looking and feeling its best. So here’s to you and your journey toward hair enlightenment!

aida turner

Author of this article: Aida Turner

Founder & Hair Care Consultant

Aida is a cosmetologist and hair care consultant with over seven years of experience in the beauty industry. Aida has worked with various top salons and smaller hair care brands, offering her product development, formulation, and testing expertise.

Her extensive knowledge of hair care ingredients and their effects on hair health enables her to provide thorough, well-researched, and unbiased reviews on a wide range of shampoos and hair care products. In her spare time, Aida enjoys experimenting with new hair care routines, blogging about her experiences, and helping others achieve their hair goals.