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Low Porosity Hair: What is it? How to Identify? & Care tips

aida turner

Published by Aida Turner

Hair porosity is one of the most influential factors determining the effectiveness of treatments, styling practices, and product applications. Hair’s ability — or lack thereof — to absorb and retain moisture can dramatically influence its health, shine, and resilience. Understanding the nuances of low porosity hair is paramount for hair specialists, as it demands a unique approach to care. If you’ve encountered your hair defies hydration, remains saturated for extended periods post-wash, or seems impenetrable to treatments, you’re likely dealing with low porosity locks. Delving deep into this hair type we uncover its inherent challenges and the myriad of opportunities it presents for tailored treatments and specialized care.

woman with low porosity hair

What is low porosity hair ?

Low porosity hair is characterized by tightly sealed cuticles, which layer one atop the other like shingles on a roof. This compact configuration of the cuticles acts as a robust barrier, limiting the hair’s ability to absorb moisture, hydration, and even specific treatments. On a microscopic level, the hair shaft’s outermost layer — the cuticle — remains flat and closed, preventing water and other nutrients from quickly entering the cortex, which is the inner structure of the hair strand. This impacts the hair’s capacity to retain moisture and presents challenges in product application, absorption, and overall hair manageability.

Is low porosity hair good or bad?

Neither, low porosity hair is simply a type of hair structure. It has tightly bound cuticles that lay flat, making it less prone to damage from environmental factors. However, this structure can also make it challenging for the hair to absorb and retain moisture. While it might require specific care routines to ensure it stays moisturized and healthy, low porosity hair is not inherently “bad” or “good.” It’s just a unique characteristic, and with the right care, it can be as healthy and vibrant as any other hair type.

What causes low porosity hair?

Low porosity hair is caused primarily by genetics, meaning it’s a trait passed down from one’s parents. Additionally, the natural structure of hair, where the cuticles are tightly layered and overlap, contributes to its low porosity. External factors, such as prolonged exposure to harsh chemicals from hair dyes or relaxers, and environmental stressors like extreme cold or dry climates, can further influence hair’s porosity. Overuse of protein treatments can also make hair behave like low porosity by filling in gaps in the hair cuticle, making it harder for moisture to enter.

How to identify low porosity hair?

The best way to identify your hair porosity is through the water test. Take a clean strand of your hair and place it in a glass of water. If it floats, you have low porosity hair; if it sinks, your hair is of high porosity.

While the water test is commonly used to identify hair porosity, there are several other methods that you can use for more accurate results.

What are the characteristics of low porosity hair?

The characteristics of low porosity hair are listed below:

  • Hair takes a long time to dry.
  • Products tend to sit on your hair rather than being absorbed.
  • Hair is resistant to color and chemical treatments.
  • Hair lacks elasticity and is prone to breakage.
  • Hair often feels stiff or straw-like due to lack of moisture.
  • Hair is resistant to heat, making heat styling less effective.
  • Hair has a smooth texture due to the tightly packed cuticles.

What low porosity hair look like?

Low porosity hair often looks shiny, especially clean and well-cared-for. However, despite its heaflthy appearance, it can be difficult to process and style because of its inability to absorb products effectively.

What does low porosity hair feel like?

Low porosity hair typically feels smooth to the touch. Since the cuticles lay flat and overlap, you can often feel a sense of resistance when you try to slide your fingers up a strand of hair from tip to root.

Does low porosity hair dry fast?

No, low porosity hair does not dry fast. Due to its tightly packed cuticles, it takes longer for water and products to evaporate from the hair shaft, causing it to retain moisture for longer. This can result in extended drying times compared to hair with higher porosity.

Is low porosity hair dry?

No, low porosity hair is not dry because it has tightly bound cuticles that lay flat. This structure makes it challenging for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. While the hair isn’t inherently dry, this characteristic can make it more prone to dryness since it’s harder to get and keep moisture inside the hair strands. So, people with low porosity hair might often experience dryness if they aren’t using the proper moisturizing techniques or products.

Is low porosity hair frizzy?

No, low porosity hair isn’t inherently frizzy. However, its structure, with tightly bound cuticles that lay flat, makes it challenging for moisture to penetrate. If low porosity hair doesn’t receive adequate moisture or is exposed to unsuitable products or environments, it can dry and subsequently frizzy. Proper care and moisturization are crucial to preventing frizz in low porosity hair

Does low porosity hair break easily?

No, low porosity hair does not inherently break easily. Its tight cuticles actually provide a strong protective layer. However, because it struggles with moisture absorption, if it becomes too dry or if there’s a buildup of products, it can become brittle and more prone to breakage. Proper moisturization and care are key to preventing this.

Does low porosity hair get greasy fast?

No, low porosity hair doesn’t typically get greasy fast. Because of its tight cuticles, it can resist both moisture and oils. However, product buildup can occur on the hair’s surface, which might give it a weighed-down or greasy appearance if not properly cleansed. It’s essential to avoid heavy products and ensure thorough washing to prevent this buildup.

Does low porosity hair grow slower?

No, hair porosity doesn’t directly affect the rate of hair growth. Hair growth is influenced by factors like genetics, nutrition, health, and scalp health. However, improper care of low porosity hair, like not getting enough moisture or experiencing product buildup, can lead to breakage, which might give the appearance of slower growth. Proper care and maintenance are crucial for retaining length.

Does low porosity hair tangle easily?

No, low porosity hair doesn’t inherently tangle easily. However, if it lacks moisture or experiences product buildup, it can become more prone to tangling. Regular moisturization and detangling, using wide-tooth combs or fingers, can help prevent excessive tangling in low porosity hair.

How to care for low porosity hair?

low porosity hair routine

Here are the most effective caring tips for low porosity hair that you can incorporate into your daily hair care routine:

  1. Utilize heat during conditioning: Gentle heat can open up the hair cuticles of low porosity hair, enhancing the absorption of conditioning treatments.
  2. Clarify regularly: Regular clarifying can remove product buildup, which is common in low porosity hair, and improve product absorption.
  3. Use lukewarm water for washing: Lukewarm water can help open up the cuticles of low porosity hair, improving the effectiveness of your shampoo.
  4. Incorporate leave-in conditioners: Leave-in conditioners can provide ongoing moisture for low porosity hair. Look for lightweight, hydrating options.
  5. Embrace the LOC or LCO method: These methods can help seal moisture into low porosity hair. However, be mindful of the types of oils and creams used, as low porosity hair can easily be weighed down by heavy products.
  6. Use a satin or silk pillowcase: These materials can reduce moisture loss and friction, helping to preserve hydration and minimize breakage in low porosity hair.
  7. Patience is key: Low porosity hair might take longer to show results, but with consistent care and patience, you can help improve its health and appearance.

Remember, the goal is to ensure that your hair receives the necessary hydration while preventing product buildup that can make it appear dull and lifeless.

How to moisturize low porosity hair?

To moisturize low porosity hair, use lightweight, hydrating products and apply heat to open the cuticles for better absorption. Deep conditioning with a hooded dryer or steamer and clarifying shampoos to remove build-up can also help in effective moisture penetration. Check out our detailed article here for a comprehensive guide on moisturizing low porosity hair.

How to condition low porosity hair?

To condition low porosity hair:

  1. Apply a lightweight conditioner after shampooing, ensuring complete coverage.
  2. Use heat, like a warm towel or hooded dryer, to help the conditioner penetrate the hair shaft.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with cool water to seal the cuticle.

Conditioning nourishes and eases detangling, while moisturization adds explicitly and retains moisture in the hair.

How to wash low porosity hair?

For low porosity hair, start with a pre-poo treatment using a lightweight oil or conditioner to protect and detangle. Wash with warm water to open the cuticles, and choose a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo. Occasionally clarify to remove product buildup. After shampooing, generously apply a moisturizing conditioner and consider deep conditioning with heat every few weeks. Finish by rinsing with cool water to seal the cuticles, and use a lightweight leave-in conditioner on damp hair to maintain moisture.

How to oil low porosity hair?

To oil low porosity hair:

  1. Cleanse Hair: Ensure no product buildup.
  2. Warm the Oil: Helps with penetration.
  3. Apply on Damp Hair: For better absorption.
  4. Choose Lightweight Oils: Such as grapeseed or argan oil.
  5. Use Heat: A warm towel or heat cap for 30 minutes can enhance absorption.
  6. Finish with a Leave-in Conditioner: To seal in moisture.

How to grow low porosity hair?

Growing low porosity hair involves enhancing its ability to absorb moisture.

  1. Apply heat during deep conditioning for better moisture intake.
  2. Choose lightweight oils, such as argan oil or grapeseed oil, to lock in hydration.
  3. Regularly clarify to reduce product buildup.
  4. Minimize protein treatments to avoid hair rigidity.
  5. Use protective hairstyles to lessen potential damage.
  6. Ensure a nutritious diet and drink ample water.

How to dry low porosity hair?

Drying low porosity hair involves gentle techniques to maintain its health. After washing, it’s best to gently blot the hair using a microfiber towel or an old cotton T-shirt, both of which reduce frizz and breakage. While air drying is the most recommended method due to its gentle nature, it can take longer for low porosity hair because of its tight cuticle structure. If you’re in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer with a diffuser on a low heat setting. The diffuser helps spread the airflow, minimizing potential heat damage. It’s also important to avoid applying too much product before drying, as it can weigh the hair down and prolong drying time. If using heat tools like flat irons, ensure the hair is completely dry first and always use a heat protectant.

How to style low porosity hair?

For low porosity hair, consider hairstyles like twist outs, braid outs, updos, and wash-and-gos to showcase your natural texture. When styling, it’s often beneficial to work with damp hair for manageability. However, finding the right balance between damp and dry can vary person to person. Additionally, using lightweight products and avoiding high heat can help maintain hair health while achieving the desired look. Experiment to find the techniques and styles that best suit your hair’s unique needs.

What should low porosity hair avoid?

Avoid the following practices and ingredients if you have low porosity hair:

  • Heavy oils and butter that can cause build-up (shea butter or castor oil)
  • Silicones that are difficult to wash out and can lead to buildup
  • High heat styling tools that can damage the cuticle layer
  • Over-shampooing which can strip natural oils from the hair
  • Alcohol-based products can further dry out your hair, making it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft.
  • Skipping regular clarifying washes can lead to more buildup, which makes it even harder for moisture to penetrate the hair.

What products are good for low porosity hair?

styling low porosity hair with liquid, cream or oil

Low porosity hair benefits from lightweight, hydrating products that can penetrate its tightly bound cuticles. Here are some products that are typically good for low porosity hair:

  1. Lightweight Oils: These include oils like argan, grapeseed, sweet almond, and jojoba oil. They provide necessary nourishment without sitting on top of the hair and causing buildup.
  2. Water-Based Leave-in Conditioners: These moisturizers can provide necessary hydration without weighing the hair down. Look for leave-in conditioners that are lightweight and have water as one of the first ingredients.
  3. Humectant-Rich Products: Humectants, such as glycerin and honey, draw moisture into the hair shaft, helping to hydrate low porosity hair. Look for shampoos for low porosity hair with these ingredients.
  4. Deep Conditioners: Use a deep conditioner with heat to help open up the hair cuticles and allow for better penetration of moisturizing ingredients.
  5. Clarifying Shampoos: Since low porosity hair is prone to product buildup, a clarifying shampoo can be used once a week or a couple of times a month to remove any residue on the hair and scalp.
  6. Heat Caps or Hair Steamers: While not a product you apply, these tools can be useful for opening up the cuticles of low porosity hair during deep conditioning treatments, helping the product to penetrate more effectively.
  7. In this list, we have collected the 10 best products for low porosity hair for you

By focusing on the right products and knowing how to use them effectively, you can significantly enhance the health and appearance of your low porosity hair.

Does low porosity hair need protein?

Low porosity hair does not frequently need protein, as it can lead to protein buildup making the hair stiff and brittle. However, occasional protein treatments can be beneficial, especially if the hair shows signs of damage. Always monitor the hair’s response to determine the best frequency for protein treatments.

Can low porosity hair use rice water?

Yes, low porosity hair can use rice water. Rice water contains proteins and vitamins that can strengthen the hair. However, because low porosity hair is less receptive to absorbing products, it’s essential to use rice water sparingly to avoid protein overload. Always observe how your hair responds and adjust usage based on your hair’s needs.

Is henna suitable for low porosity hair?

Yes, henna is suitable for low porosity hair. Henna acts as a natural dye and can provide a reddish tint to the hair. Henna can also offer conditioning benefits for low porosity hair, making hair feel smoother and softer. However, conducting a strand test first is essential to see how your hair reacts to henna, especially regarding color outcome, and to ensure that the hair doesn’t become overly protein-sensitive or dry. Proper hydration and moisturization are crucial after using henna treatments.

Is keratin treatment suitable for low porosity hair?

Yes, keratin treatments can be used on low porosity hair. They can help smooth the hair’s cuticle and reduce frizz. However, since low porosity hair is already tightly sealed, it’s essential to ensure the hair doesn’t get overloaded with protein, which can make it stiff or brittle. Balancing keratin treatments with moisturizing care is crucial to maintain hair health.

Is glycerin good for low porosity hair?

Yes, glycerin can be beneficial for low porosity hair. Glycerin is a humectant, which draws moisture from the environment into the hair. For low porosity hair, which can have difficulty retaining moisture, glycerin can help maintain hydration. However, it’s crucial to use it in the right conditions. In very humid environments, too much glycerin can cause hair to become overly swollen with moisture, while in very dry conditions, it might draw moisture out of the hair. Always pay attention to how your hair reacts and adjust usage accordingly.

Can I use gel on low porosity hair?

Yes, you can use gel on low porosity hair. However, it’s essential to choose a lightweight gel that won’t cause buildup. Ensure you cleanse and moisturize your hair regularly to prevent any product residue and maintain hair health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has low porosity hair?

Low porosity is often more common in those with straight hair and those without much chemical or heat damage. Many people of African descent with coily or kinky hair types might have low porosity hair. This doesn’t mean everyone with this hair type will have low porosity, but it’s more common. However, hair porosity can vary among individuals due to genetics and environmental stressors.

Olaplex on low porosity hair – Is it good?

Yes, Olaplex can be beneficial for low porosity hair. Olaplex repairs broken disulfide bonds in the hair, which can improve hair’s overall health and manageability. For low porosity hair, which can struggle with moisture absorption, Olaplex can help enhance the hair’s receptiveness to other products. However, always monitor how your hair reacts and adjust usage accordingly.

Low porosity vs. high porosity hair: What’s the difference?

Low and high porosity hair types have unique characteristics and care requirements. Low porosity hair has tightly bound cuticles, making it difficult for moisture and products to penetrate the hair shaft. As a result, it tends to struggle with moisture retention. On the other hand, high porosity hair has more open cuticles, allowing it to absorb moisture quickly but lose it just as fast, leading to dryness and damage.

Can I change my hair from low porosity to high porosity?

No, intentionally trying to change your hair from low porosity to high porosity is not recommended. While it’s true that certain factors such as heat styling, chemical treatments, or environmental damage can increase hair’s porosity, these changes are often linked to hair damage. It’s healthier and more beneficial to focus on understanding and caring for your hair in its current state.


And there you have it – your ultimate guide to mastering low porosity hair! By understanding the unique characteristics of this hair type and implementing the suggested care techniques, you’re well on your way to unlocking the secrets of healthy, lustrous locks. So, embrace your low porosity hair and embark on a journey filled with self-love and stunning tresses. After all, your hair is your crowning glory, and it deserves the royal treatment!

aida turner

Author of this article: Aida Turner

Founder & Hair Care Consultant

Aida is a cosmetologist and hair care consultant with over 7 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.