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Hair Porosity Test: How Can I Determine and Why Does it Matter?

aida turner

Published by Aida Turner

Fact checked by Annie

So, you’ve probably heard the term “hair porosity” floating around lately, and you’re curious about what it means and how it affects your hair. Well, you’re in the right place!

how to test your hair porosity

In this article, we’ll deeply dive into hair porosity, its importance, and how to test your hair to understand its needs better. Trust me, once you know your hair’s porosity, you can give it the TLC it deserves.

What is Hair Porosity and Why Does it Matter?

In a nutshell, hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. It’s determined by the structure of your hair’s outer layer, the cuticle, which is made of keratin protein. Hair porosity is an essential aspect of understanding various hair types.

Think of it like this: if your hair is a sponge, porosity determines how much water it can hold. Knowing your hair’s porosity is crucial because it helps you choose the right products and routines to keep your locks looking and feeling their best.

The Science Behind Hair Strands and Cuticles

Hair strands are made up of three layers: the medulla (innermost), cortex (middle), and cuticle (outermost). The cuticle comprises overlapping, protective cells that control the passage of moisture in and out of the hair shaft.

Depending on how tightly these cells lay against each other, your hair can be classified as low, medium, or high porosity.

Cuticle structure and integrity affect hair porosity, which in turn impacts the hair’s strength, flexibility, and ability to retain moisture. Sebum, the natural oil produced by the scalp, also plays a role in hair porosity by coating the hair strands and providing a protective barrier.

The 3 Most Common Hair Porosity Test Methods

There are three popular methods for testing your hair’s porosity:

Float test

  1. Take a few clean, dry hair strands and drop them into a bowl of water.
  2. Wait for about 2-4 minutes. If they float, your hair is low porosity. If they sink slowly, it’s medium porosity; if they drop quickly, it’s high.
the float test determines the porosity of the hair through buoyancy

The float test is based on the principle of buoyancy. Hair strands with tightly closed cuticles (low porosity) have a higher resistance to water penetration. As a result, the air trapped within the hair strand remains intact, causing it to float on the water’s surface.

In contrast, hair strands with open or damaged cuticles (high porosity) allow water to penetrate quickly, leading to air displacement within the hair strand and causing it to sink.

Slip ‘n’ slide test

Gently slide your fingers up a single hair strand from the tip to the root. If it feels smooth, your hair is low porosity. If it feels rough or bumpy, it’s high porosity. A mix of soft and rough might indicate medium porosity.

the Slip 'n' slide test works based on the texture of the hair

The slip ‘n’ slide test relies on the hair strand’s texture to reveal the cuticles’ state. When the cuticles are tightly closed (low porosity), the hair strand feels smooth because the scale-like cells lie flat against the shaft.

Conversely, when the cuticles are open or damaged (high porosity), the hair strand feels rough or uneven because the scale-like cells are lifted, creating an irregular surface.

Water spray test

Spray some water on a small section of clean, dry hair. If the water beads and sits on the hair, it’s low porosity. If it absorbs quickly, it’s high porosity. Medium porosity hair will absorb the water at a moderate rate.

The water test shows the interaction between water and the hair cuticle.

The water spray test demonstrates the interaction between the hair’s cuticles and water. Low porosity hair has closed cuticles, which creates a barrier that prevents water from being absorbed easily.

As a result, water tends to bead up on the surface and takes longer to penetrate the hair shaft. On the other hand, high porosity hair has open cuticles that readily absorb water, allowing the hair to become saturated quickly.

Tips for Accurate Testing

To get the most accurate results, follow these tips:

  • Start with clean hair free from product buildup.
  • Try multiple tests to ensure consistency.
  • Perform the tests on different sections of your hair, as porosity may vary.

Interpreting the Test Results

Once you’ve completed the tests, you can use the results to determine your hair’s porosity level.

  • Low porosity: Your hair struggles to absorb moisture but retains it well once it’s in. It may take longer to dry and is prone to product buildup.
    Learn more about low porosity hair!
  • Medium porosity: Your hair absorbs and retains moisture relatively easily. This is considered the “ideal” porosity level, as it strikes a good balance.
    Get to know more about medium porosity hair!
  • High porosity: Your hair absorbs moisture quickly but has a hard time retaining it. It may feel dry, damaged, or frizzy and more vulnerable to environmental factors. Expand your knowledge on hair with high porosity!

If you want to know more about hair porosity, read our article!

What Affects Your Hair Porosity?

Several factors can influence your hair’s porosity, including:

  • Genetics: You can thank (or blame) your parents for your hair’s natural porosity.
  • Chemical treatments: Coloring, perming, and relaxing can alter the cuticle structure, leading to higher porosity.
  • Heat styling: Frequent use of hot tools can damage the cuticle, affecting porosity.
  • Environmental factors: Sun exposure, pollution, and even water quality can impact your hair’s porosity over time.

Tailoring Your Hair Care Routine Based on Porosity

Now that you know your hair’s porosity, you can make better-informed decisions about your hair care routine and products:

  • Low porosity: Opt for lightweight, water-based products, use heat to help open the cuticles during deep conditioning treatments, and regularly clarify to remove buildup.
  • Medium porosity: Keep up with regular trims, use a balanced blend of moisture and protein, and protect your hair from environmental damage.
  • High porosity: Focus on moisturizing and sealing the cuticle with leave-in conditioners, use protein treatments to strengthen the hair, and avoid harsh chemicals and heat styling.
hair care routine customization based on porosity

Improving Hair Porosity and Overall Hair Health

While you can’t change your hair’s natural porosity, you can take steps to maintain or improve its health:

  • Deep condition regularly to keep your hair nourished and hydrated.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and opt for gentler hair care products.
  • Use heat protectants when styling to minimize damage.
  • Protect your hair from the sun and other environmental factors.

In Conclusion: The Power of Hair Porosity Tests

Understanding your hair’s porosity through testing can make a world of difference in your hair care routine. So go ahead, try those tests, and unlock the secrets to your best hair yet! You’ll be on the path to healthier, happier locks by tailoring your regimen to your hair’s unique needs.


Q: Can my hair porosity change over time?

A: Yes, hair porosity can change due to factors such as hair treatments, heat styling, and environmental damage. Regular hair care and maintenance can help you manage these changes and keep your hair healthy.

Q: How often should I test my hair porosity?

A: It’s a good idea to test your hair porosity every few months or after significant changes to your hair care routine, such as chemical treatments or transitioning to natural hair. This will help you adjust your hair care regimen accordingly.

Q: Can I have different porosity levels on different parts of my hair?

A: Yes, it’s possible to have varying porosity levels on different sections of your hair. This can be due to uneven exposure to heat, chemicals, or other factors that affect porosity. Be sure to test multiple sections of your hair for a more accurate assessment.

Q: How do I choose the right products for my hair porosity?

A: Selecting the right products for your hair porosity involves understanding the specific needs of your hair type.

  • For low porosity hair, look for lightweight, water-based products that won’t weigh your hair down or cause buildup.
  • For medium porosity hair, focus on maintaining a healthy balance of moisture and protein.
  • For high porosity hair, prioritize moisturizing and sealing the cuticle with nourishing leave-in conditioners and use protein treatments to strengthen the hair.

Q: Can I repair high porosity hair?

A: While you may not be able to reverse the damage entirely, you can take steps to improve the health and appearance of high porosity hair. Regular deep conditioning treatments, using protein treatments, and avoiding harsh chemicals and heat styling can help restore some of the hair’s strength and vitality.

Q: Is there a “best” porosity for hair?

A: There is no one “best” porosity for hair. It all depends on individual factors like genetics, hair care routine, and environment. Both low and high porosity hair can have their own unique challenges and benefits, and what matters most is understanding your hair type and how to care for it properly.

Remember that embracing and caring for your hair’s unique porosity is key to achieving healthy, beautiful locks. By understanding your hair’s specific needs, you can create a tailored hair care routine that promotes optimal hair health and brings out your hair’s natural beauty. Happy hair journey!

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.