How To Figure Out Your Hair’s Porosity, And Treat It Accordingly

An expert's guide to understanding hair porosity.


by Emma Stoddart |
Updated on

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ routine when it comes to hair care. What works for some, may not work for others. And as with our skincare, it pays to use the products that cater to your specific hair type, whether that be a moisturising hair mask or a clarifying shampoo. One factor that is often misunderstood but plays a big role in determining what products will actually work on your hair is its porosity.

‘Porosity is your hair’s ability to soak up and hold in moisture and products,’ explains hair artist and founder of her eponymous haircare line, Charlotte Mensah. ‘Discovering your hair’s porosity and curl pattern will give you a better understanding of how to treat, manage and care for your hair,’ adds Abigail Butler, guest artist for L’Oréal Professionnel.

To find out exactly what your hair porosity is as well as the best products to use to care for your hair keep on scrolling.

What is hair porosity?

As explained by Charlotte above, hair porosity is a term used to understand how well your hair absorbs and retains oils and moisture through the cuticle. ‘For optimum hair condition it is vital to understand your hair’s porosity,’ says hairstylist and salon owner, Paul Edmonds. Why? ‘Because it affects how your hair responds to both products and styles,’ adds Edmonds, and thus it should be used to determine your haircare routine (and prevent us from wasting money on products that don’t work).

What are the different types of hair porosity?

There are three types of porosities, as explained by Butler:

Low porosity: ‘this is when the cuticles are closed which makes it hard for oils and moisture to penetrate.’

Medium porosity: ‘the cuticle tends to be looser which allows for the right amount of moisture to enter and escape.’

High porosity: ‘has cuticles that tend to be raised with more bumps and dents. This particular porosity can absorb a lot of moisture while at the same time losing the moisture quickly.’

‘If your hair falls into the below categories, it’s likely to be high porosity,’ adds Edmonds:

• Curly hair (particularly red, or types 2c to 3 curl pattern)

• Coily, afro hair and treated natural hair textures (type 4 curl pattern)

• Grey Hair

• Processed, coloured hair

There are, however, several ways to test your own hair porosity (keep reading).

Put your hair to the porosity test

There are two main methods you can use to determine your hair porosity type, as Butler explains below:

The float test: ‘With freshly clean hair, take a hair strand and place it in a glass of water. If your hair floats and sits on top,, you have low porosity. If it takes time to sink to the bottom of the glass, you have medium porosity. If your hair sinks, you have high porosity.’

The slide test: ‘Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers along the strand towards the scalp. If you feel bumps along the hair, this means the cuticle is raised and you have high porosity hair. If the hair feels smooth, you have low porosity hair.’

What products should you use for hair with low porosity?

Admittedly, finding the right products for low porosity can be challenging. Although this hair type easily takes in moisture, it struggles to retain it. Products 'need to be able to penetrate through the cuticle while avoiding product build up,’ says Butler. Top tip? ‘Liquid-based products such as hair milks are a great option,’ recommends Butler, who also suggests jojoba oil and coconut oil to help add moisture and hydrate this porosity type.


"You can also treat low porosity hair by using a very nurturing and rich treatment mask," says renowned hair stylist and owner of Fekkai Haircare, Frederic Fekkai .“Adding heat helps to open the hair's cuticles, so investing in a hooded dryer or steamer will produce the best results”, he adds. Try a cream-based mask like the Fekkai Brilliant Gloss Multi-tasking Perfecting Crème designed for dry, frizz-prone hair to infuse strands with moisture and serve up salon-worthy styling without leaving behind any residue. Rinse hair with cold water to close the cuticles afterwards.

What products should you use for hair with high porosity?

A damaged cuticle layer is what causes highly porous hair to struggle with dryness and frizz. ‘Leave-in conditioners, treatments and sealants such as shea butter and oils are all great for high porosity hair,’ says Butler. ‘Because they allow your hair to hold onto the moisture while sealing the cuticles to prevent excessive moisture loss that can occur from climate conditions and using heat styling tools.’ Edmonds highly recommends the Shu Uemura Essence Absolue, ‘it’s a great all-rounder for high porosity hair - rich camellia oil helps protect the hair fibre from dryness and UV damage, while providing intense nutrition and deep conditioning treatment.’

Or, if the amount of choice is overwhelming and you're not sure where to begin, try a brand like the Curls Club, a subscription service founded by owner Chloe Simpson that aims to take the guesswork out of caring for high porosity and curly hair by sending a bespoke box of hair products recommended by experts, and curated for your happiest, healthy hair.


SHOP: The Best Hair Masks for High Porosity and Type 3 and 4 Curls

Living Proof Restore Repair Mask1 of 13

Living Proof Restore Repair Mask

Ideal for thick, bleached or stressed-out strands - Living Proof's new scientifically-proven mask restores moisture and boosts elasticity with the brand's patented Healthy Hair Molecule.

Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask2 of 13

Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask

Replenish damaged, chemically-treated hair with this moisturising mask packed full of nourishing argan and rosehip oil as well as strengthening biotin.

Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector3 of 13

Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector

If you've ever experienced the Olaplex treatment in the salon - you'll be all too familiar with its magical benefits. It restores bond structure, strengthening hair from the inside out. Simply apply on to damp hair for 10 minutes before rinsing off with shampoo.

Christophe Robin Color Shield Mask4 of 13

Christophe Robin Color Shield Mask

If your hair colour tends to fade with time, try this Color Shield Mask from Christophe Robin, pronto. It works to protect and preserve colour intensity with antioxidants and macadamia oil.

Omorovicza Revitalising Scalp Mask5 of 13

Omorovicza Revitalising Scalp Mask

Our scalp is the secret to healthy hair. Treat it accordingly with this detoxifying, revitalising pre-shampoo mud mask. Cooling menthol relieves any irritation whilst salicylic acid gently exfoliates away dead skin cells to promote growth.

Bouclème Intensive Moisture Treatment6 of 13

Bouclème Intensive Moisture Treatment

This raved about hair mask is specifically formulated for curly hair types to reduce tangling and define curls with maurla oil, camellia oil, sea buckthorn oil and wheat bran.

Kérastase Genesis Masque Reconstituant Hair Mask7 of 13

Kérastase Genesis Masque Reconstituant Hair Mask

For those of us experiencing significant hair fall-out, this savvy formula helps anchor the hair to the roots with powerful antioxidants.

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Deep-Conditioning Treatment8 of 13

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Deep-Conditioning Treatment

Originally formulated for Audrey Hepburn, this wondrous hair treatment is designed for all hair types to lock in moisture, strengthen strands and increase elasticity. It's a real mane-changer.

Redken Color Extend Blondage Express Anti-Brass Mask9 of 13

Redken Color Extend Blondage Express Anti-Brass Mask

Banish unwanted brassy tones with this ultra-pigmented purple mask. The violet pigments neutralise yellow tones so blonde hair looks cooler and brighter in just five minutes.

Monpure Nourish and Stimulate Scalp Mask10 of 13

Monpure Nourish and Stimulate Scalp Mask

Consider this your scalp saviour - a weekly deep treatment to hydrate, soothe and relieve irritation with aloe vera and vitamin-rich camellia tea oil.

Grow Gorgeous Intense Thickening Hair & Scalp Mask11 of 13

Grow Gorgeous Intense Thickening Hair & Scalp Mask

Ideal for fine, flat hair in need of some oomph - this nourishing mask visibly increases thickness with pea peptides, amino acids, hyaluronic acid and caffeine.

Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask12 of 13

Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask

Specifically formulated for kinks, curls and coils 3A through to 4C - this moisturising mask contains coconut and shea to hydrate and strengthen curls.

Holy Curls, Deep Conditioning Hair Mask13 of 13

Holy Curls, Deep Conditioning Hair Mask

Shea butter, Boabab, and essential oils mean this deep conditioner not only smells good, but does good. Designed to revive hair that's stressed from over-styling, heated tools, colouring, pollution, and UV damage, it absorbs quickly to leave hair soft and replenished.

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