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Low, Medium or High? Breaking Down Your Hair’s Porosity

glass of water for hair porosity test

For decades, the biggest buzz in the haircare industry has revolved and evolved around hair types. However, in recent years, there has been ever-increasing attention on your hair’s porosity and the "science" behind it. In fact, if your best understanding of porosity to date is that it sounds vaguely familiar, probably a morsel of a memory from your high school science classes, you are not alone. While porosity may seem like just another health, beauty and grooming industry trend, the concept itself, especially when it comes to hair care, is actually not new. So, what is it, and why is it important to you? Read on, and we'll break it down. Your hair will thank you later.

What Is Hair Porosity?

The ability of hair to absorb and retain water is referred to as “porosity”. There are three basic types of hair porosity, and your genetics will generally determine which one you have -- we will explore this later. For now, know that understanding your hair porosity is crucial to your hair care routine, and to best understand the concept of it, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of your hair's three-layered structure. These layers are as follows:

Cuticle

The cuticle is your hair's thick, protective outer layer, made up of tiny cuticles that overlay one another like shingles on a roof. Think of cuticles as little scales that cover the outside layer of your hair's surface and regulate the amount of moisture that can enter the hair shaft. Variables, including hair damage, heredity, and environmental agents, can cause these scales to be more open or closed.

Cortex

The cortex is the outermost layer of your hair, and it is the thickest. In addition to the fibrous proteins, the cortex provides the pigment that gives your hair its color.

Medulla

The medulla is the hair shaft's soft, middle section.

Water, oils, and other moisturizing ingredients must be able to flow through the cuticle to reach the cortex for your hair to stay healthy and hydrated. However, water and oils have difficulty penetrating the hair if the cuticles are too close together. This may make it more difficult for your hair to absorb the moisture it requires. Your hair will also have a difficult time absorbing moisture and keeping moisturized if the cuticles are too widely spaced.

Imagine a hair fiber's cuticle to be a filter. Porosity is the ability of a filter to let water pass through it without holding onto it. There will still be water loss if there are fewer holes or the filter is less porous, but it will be much slower and hold onto water for much longer. But, if there are more holes or the filter is more porous, the filter will lose water much faster. Consider the holes in the filter to be the gaps between our cuticles.

Types Of Hair Porosity

To further understand hair porosity, you should also know that it is measured on a spectrum. And, while one person’s exact hair porosity may be different than another’s, there are three general porosity categories that all hair will fall under: high porosity, low porosity and medium porosity.

Low Porosity

The cuticles of low porosity hair, for example, are firmly packed and very close together. Consequently, moisture has a harder time being absorbed into the hair shaft. You might have low porosity hair, then, if hair products have a tendency to stick to your hair and are difficult to absorb. Or, when washing your hair, it's difficult to get enough water to soak it, and air drying takes a long time.

Medium Porosity

Hair with a medium porosity, on the other hand, occurs when the cuticles of the hair aren't too close together, but they're also not excessively open. This permits moisture to quickly penetrate while also allowing moisture to be retained for a more extended amount of time. If you have medium porosity hair, your hair is easy to style and holds styles for a long time. It also most likely dries quickly, takes color well, and seems healthy or lustrous. However, medium porosity hair can change due to heat damage and other chemical activities.

High Porosity

High porosity hair, whether due to genetics or hair damage, allows moisture to easily seep into the hair shaft, but it cannot hold moisture for long. This is because the cuticles have gaps or spaces between them. Water and other moisturizing treatments are quickly absorbed into your hair if you have high porosity hair. Your hair is also prone to breaking, dries quickly, and can be frizzy and dry.

Tests To Determine The Porosity Of Your Hair

Hair porosity can be determined using a variety of simple tests:

  1. Glass Of Water Test - The glass of water test can be done by simply placing a strand of clean, product-free, loose hair in a glass of water. If your hair floats to the top, then it is low porosity. If it settles in the middle or sinks slowly, it is medium porosity. And, if it sinks immediately to the bottom, then it is high porosity.
  2. Touch Test - Another method is to run your fingers down a strand of hair to feel its texture. Lower porosity hair will feel smooth, whereas higher porosity hair feels rough or bumpy.
  3. Spray Test - The spray test is, without a doubt, the most effective test for hair porosity. Always begin with clean, product-free hair. That means no leave-in products (conditioners, creams, etc.), can be in your hair when you use this method! Spray a strand of hair with water and see what happens:
    • Low Porosity - You have low porosity hair if water produces a lot of little droplets on the hair surface instead of sinking in.
    • Medium Porosity - You have medium porosity hair if tiny water droplets form but then sinks in readily.
    • High Porosity You have high porosity hair if the water rapidly sinks into it.

How To Care For Your Hair’s Porosity Type

There are several steps that you can take to make your hair healthier and easier to manage, based on your hair porosity type --

Low Porosity

For hair with low porosity... 

  • Use conditioners that aren't high in protein. These are easier to soak into your hair and are less likely to build-up product.
  • Conditioner should be applied on wet hair. It's possible that diluting the conditioner will make it simpler to absorb into your hair.
  • In shampoos and conditioners, look for components like glycerin and honey. Oil-based products should be avoided because they have difficulty reaching the cuticle.
  • When conditioning your hair, use heat. Use a heat cap, hooded dryer, or steamer to dry your hair. If you don't have any, cover your hair with a shower cap after applying conditioner.

High Porosity

For hair with high porosity...

  • In shampoos and conditioners, look for ingredients like butters and oils. These ingredients will help to keep your hair moisturized.
  • Use leave-in conditioners that stay on after you wash your hair. These products aid in the retention of keeping moisture in your hair.
  • Before you blow-dry or use other heat styling techniques, apply a heat protectant to your hair to prevent heat damage.
  • When shampooing and conditioning, avoid using hot water. Instead, use lukewarm water.

Summary

It's no secret that strong, healthy hair directly results from your grooming routine and how you respond to your respective porosity type. Knowing your hair’s porosity type is a key element; but, using that knowledge and integrating these learnings into your day-to-day can be a game changer! So, do us a favor...carve some time out to test your hair porosity type, jot down any observations and browse our collection of men's grooming products to take your routine to the next level! Trust us, your hair will thank you.