Hair Gurus Share Everything You Need To Know About Hair Porosity


how porous is your hair

There’s a lot of discussion on how to take care of your hair, including moisturizing, smoothing, priming, and cutting. Hair porosity, however, is a topic that often doesn’t get nearly enough talk time. The thing is, having a better understanding of what hair porosity is – and how porous your own hair is – can help answer so many questions.

What is Hair Porosity?

Basically, the porosity of your hair refers to how easy it is for things – like air moisture, water, and haircare products – to penetrate deep into your hair beyond its outer layers. We all have some level of porosity, and hair can be more or less porous depending on your hair type and whether your hair is treated and/or damaged. Generally speaking, there are three levels of porosity.

Medium: Consider this the goldilocks level of hair porosity. It’s a healthy balance between low and high, where products and moisture can penetrate at a nice rate and lock in with ease.

Low: Those with low hair porosity have hair that often appears healthy, but it might also lack vibrancy and fullness and struggle to absorb products, moisture, and even hair color. Caucasian and those with straight fine or thick hair types tend to be on the lower end of the hair porosity spectrum.

“The important factor with low porosity hair to understand is that if the cuticle of your hair is flat and tight, many products are unable to penetrate which leave products sitting on top of your hair further weighing it down,” explains Tracey Moss, a hairstylist for TV, film, and Broadway.

Usually, people with low porosity find success with lightweight texturizing and volumizing products versus heavy oils and ultra-rich conditioners. Regularly cleansing hair with an anti-residue shampoo to remove product buildup can help, as well.

High: This hair strand is the most porous hair, which means the cuticle layer is completely (or almost completely) open. When this happens, moisture, oils, chemicals, and color can flood in, but your hair struggles to retain it. Moss says this is why your hair can be saturated with water after a shower, but still feel and look brittle and parched once dry.

Hair that’s been heavily treated is often very porous since the cuticle has been damaged. This can occur from bleaching, dyeing, chemical treatments, and hot styling. (The ultra-bleached, “fried” blonde hair is a good example of high porosity hair.)

Textured and curly hair tends to be more porous for a handful of reasons, notes Maeva Heim, founder of Bread Beauty Supply. The first is that this hair type naturally starts off with fewer cuticle layers compared to straight Caucasian or those with straight fine or thick hair types. Also, the cuticle is likely to be lifted in the grooves of the hair where the hair strand curves.

“[Additionally], many people with textured hair have spent a lot of their life manipulating their hair for a variety of reasons, either with heat or chemical straightening. I’m guilty of this one. Damaging processes like this can cause damage to the strands that lead to porous hair,” explains Heim.

How to Treat Hair with High Porosity  

If you have highly porous hair, there are a few things you can do to help keep your hair nourished and looking and feeling its best.

“While you can’t grow cuticles back once they are damaged, you can use deep conditioning masks to improve the texture and elasticity of the hair, as well as repairing treatments to help fill in the gaps that damaged cuticles have left behind,” says Heim. “This will help to give the illusion that your cuticles are intact, which ultimately means shiny, plump, healthy-looking hair.”

The In Common Crystal Cashmere Treatment, $50, and Bread Hair Mask, $28, are two excellent options. You can also use leave-in conditioners on damp hair and finish your hair off with a serum or oil for a boost of shine. We like the Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner, $26; Kristin Ess Weightless Shine Working Serum, $14, and Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil Everyday Gloss, $24.

Another important step is to avoid chemical treatments and heat styling, advises Amber Maynard Bolt, a hairstylist at Nine Zero One salon in Hollywood, Calif. She says, “Give your hair a break and learn other methods to make your hair look nice. Relying on curling and flat irons can really take the pep out of your hair, as can over-dyeing.” Check out the Curl Doctor’s hair myths for curly hair to learn more ways to keep your crown feeling and looking gorgeous.

Finally, if your current strands are already porous from damage, the absolute best thing you can do moving forward is to focus on your newly growing hairs. Part of that is taking scalp health seriously.

“Give your new strands the absolute best chance emerging from your scalp strong and healthy by keeping your scalp skin healthy. Things like exfoliating treatments and scalp oil treatments are great for that,” says Heim. “It’s important to keep in mind that your hair strands can take years to fully grow, so daily healthy hair practices will pay off in the long run.”

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