High Porosity Hair: Characteristics and Care Tips

What you will learn about High Porosity Hair from this article:

If your hair is constantly dehydrated and frizzy and air dries super fast after showering, you probably have high porosity hair. But what does that mean exactly? 

Well, just like your hair type and texture impact things like stylability and how often you shampoo, porosity influences which products you should use in order to keep your hair optimally moisturized and healthy. 

Out of all the levels of porosity (low, medium, high), hair that’s highly porous requires the most effort. But that’s what we’re here for – to help you understand exactly what your hair needs to look and feel its best!

Check out our ultimate guide to high porosity hair below, from what it looks like to how to care for it.

First, what is hair porosity?

According to the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists, hair porosity is “the extent to which hair absorbs and retains water, products and treatments based on the integrity of the cuticle.” It’s mostly genetically-predetermined, but it is possible to increase or decrease your hair’s porosity based on how well you care (or don’t care) for it. 

Read our deep dive on what is hair porosity here. 

Here’s a quick recap on why this is important.

Hair Porosity: Cuticle

Hair is made up of three layers:

  1. Cuticle – the outermost protective layer
  2. Cortex – the middle layer that contains the majority of the hair's color and strength
  3. Medulla – the soft, innermost layer

    In order for your hair to maintain peak hair health, moisture must be able to pass through the cuticle layer to the cortex and your hair must be able to retain the moisture. In high porosity hair, retaining moisture is super difficult. Let us explain!


What is high porosity hair?

High porosity in hair means the cuticle layer is lifted, resulting in gaps (pores) in the surface layer. This means moisture can easily pass through the cuticle to the cortex, but your hair can’t retain it. 

Think of high porosity hair like a sponge. When placed in water, it immediately soaks up as much as it can hold. But it can’t retain this water for long, eventually drying out. 

High hair porosity is typically a result of your genes, especially if your hair is frizz-prone or curly, as both of these hair types naturally have a lifted cuticle. 

You can also make your hair more porous by damaging it. This is often done through excessive heat styling, frequent color / chemical processing, UV exposure and the like. The more damage you create, the more “pores” can develop not only on the surface of your hair but also within its internal structure (think: swiss cheese).

What are the signs of high porosity hair?

What are the signs of high porosity hair

If you have any of these high porosity hair characteristics, then this guide is a must for you!

  • Absorbs water and products quickly
  • Constantly feels dry and dehydrated
  • Experiences consistent frizz
  • Tangles and breaks easily
  • Air dries extremely fast
  • Tends to look dull and lacks shine
  • The effects of chemical treatments are accelerated and unpredictable, which can lead to damage

How to test if you have high porosity hair

There are two easy high porosity hair tests you can try at home:

The Float Test

Hair Porosity Test: Float Test

To start, shampoo your hair and let it air dry without products. Then, fill a glass with room temperature water, and place a single strand of hair in the water. If the strand sinks, it means you have high porosity hair.

If the strand floats, it means you have low porosity hair. If this is the case for you, check out our blog on low porosity hair for more info!

The Spray Test

High Porosity Hair


Mist dry hair with water and observe. If your hair absorbs the water quickly, you likely have high porosity hair. If the water beads up on your hair, you likely have low porosity hair.

How to care for high porosity hair

When it comes to high hair porosity, the goal is to lock in moisture, smooth the cuticle layer closed and keep damage to a minimum. Here are some tips for caring for high porosity hair:

  • Condition regularly – This is key to help restore and retain moisture. Use a deep conditioner or hair mask at least once a week, and leave it on for 15-20 minutes to allow it to penetrate the hair cuticles.
  • Finish your shower with cold water – Cold water helps to close the cuticle layer and lock in moisture from your conditioner or hair mask.
  • Apply a leave-in conditioner – When it comes to high porosity hair, there’s no such thing as too much moisture! A leave-in can help provide on-going moisture throughout the day.
  • Seal in moisture – After applying your leave-in conditioner, seal the cuticle closed with an oil or serum. This not only locks in critical moisture, but also leaves the hair smoother, shinier and easier to manage.
  • Avoid harsh treatments – Frequent color-processing, bleaching or chemical treatments all require lifting the cuticle, which in turns increases your hair’s porosity.
  • Reduce heat styling – This also causes further damage to the cuticle layer. If you are going to heat style, though, make sure you 1) always use heat protection and 2) never go above 350 degrees F to prevent further damage to your cuticle.

Best products for high porosity hair

Best Products for High Porosity Hair: Color Security Conditioner

Color Security Conditioner – Weightless hydration and easy detangling made with color-safe ingredients and built-in heat protection; available in fine-to-medium and medium-to-thick. 

 

 

 

 

Best Products for High Porosity Hair: Money Masque

Money Masque – Made with natural humectants that instantly penetrate and hold moisture deep in hair’s core. Works in as little as 5 minutes. 

 

 

 

 

Best Products for High Porosity Hair: Coconut Cocktail Hair Treatment

Coconut Cocktail – Ultra-hydrating leave-in conditioner (with built-in heat protection) turns straw-like hair to silk in just ONE blow dry. 




 



Best Products for High Porosity Hair: Extra Strength Dream Coat

Extra Strength Dream Coat – Ultra-powerful humidity-blocking, anti-frizz treatment for extremely dry/dehydrated porous hair and curly/coily hair. Super light spray treatment infuses hair with moisture and seals outer cuticle tightly to make hair humidity-proof. Delivers glassy-smooth, frizz-free results that last 3-4 shampoos.


 


Best Products for High Porosity Hair: Pop & Lock Hair Serum

Pop + Lock – Combines the conditioning benefits of an oil with the shine power of a serum; smooths the cuticle closed to help lock in moisture.

Heat Protectants – All Color Wow treatments and stylers – from our hydrators to volumizers to frizz busters – come with powerful built-in heat protection, so you can style without compromising the integrity of your hair.




Tips for high porosity hair 

Wondering what are some tips on how to treat high porosity hair? Try making these changes in your daily routine.

Tips for High Porosity Hair: Wash Hair in Warm Water

Wash your hair in warm (not hot!) water. We know hot showers can be super soothing, but they have the complete opposite effect on your hair. Hot water zaps moisture, keeping the cuticle layer lifted and your hair dry and brittle. 

 

Tips for High Porosity Hair: Use a Microfiber Towel

Swap your regular towel for a microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt. This gentler surface is better for fragile, high porosity hair because it doesn’t further rough up the cuticle, resulting in more damage. 

  

 

Tips for High Porosity Hair: Detangle Gently

Detangle gently before getting in the shower to avoid breakage. Because high porosity hair has a lifted cuticle, your strands tend to get snagged and “tied up” with each other. Use a pre-shampoo to add slip to your hair to ease your detangling efforts. We recommend Snag-Free Pre-Shampoo Detangler for this! 


Tips for High Porosity Hair: Opt for Heatless Hairstyles

 

Opt for more heatless styles in your routine. Excessive heat styling, especially without heat protection, only layers on more damage and keeps the cuticle layer open. 

 

Can I change my hair porosity?

Yes, it’s possible to change your hair’s porosity. If your hair is highly porous due to damage or over-processing, you may be able to improve its porosity by using hair care products that nourish and repair the hair. Using deep conditioning treatments and avoiding harsh chemical treatments can help to repair and strengthen damaged hair, which can lead to a decrease in hair porosity over time. 

On the flip side, you can also increase your hair’s porosity by causing damage or over-processing. 

If your hair’s porosity is due to genetics, there’s not much you can do to change it.

What does high porosity hair look like?

High Porosity: Raised Cuticle


If you looked under a microscope, you would see the hair cuticle, which is the hair's outermost layer that protects the hair shaft. In high porosity hair, the cuticle appears open and spread apart, versus in low porosity hair where the cuticle looks closed and tight together. 

 

Low Porosity Hair: Closed Cuticle


To the naked eye, this translates into hair that looks super dry and dehydrated, frizzy, dull, lacking shine, gets tangled and breaks easily.

 

 

Is frizzy hair low or high porosity?

Frizzy hair is highly porous hair. An open cuticle is the main characteristic of both frizzy hair and high porosity hair. When the cuticle is lifted, it results in moisture loss, which causes the hair to become dry, brittle, rough and frizzy.

Does high porosity hair mean it's damaged?

Not necessarily. Some people are born with high porosity, which just means their cuticle layers are raised, therefore their hair absorbs water easily but can’t retain it. If you aren’t born with high porosity hair, you can increase your hair’s porosity by damaging it with excessive heat styling, coloring, bleaching or chemical processing. 

Next Blog in the series: 

  • Read our Porosity guide for curly hair here
  • Other Hair Health Tests to check for overall hair health
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