How to care for low, medium, and high porosity hair (Plus three porosity tests you can do today!)


HEY! What’s your hair type??????

what's your hair type or curl pattern?

How many times have you been asked this, or wondered it for yourself? Let’s be honest, we’ve all obsessed at least a little bit about our hair type or curl pattern. Maybe it’s somewhere in-between 3c and 4a, or maybe you have 4a, 4b, AND 4c in different parts of your hair! As one of the most visible characteristics of natural hair, it can seem all-important, and many people think knowing their hair type will ultimately determine how to care for their hair.

But contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about hair type. In fact, your hair has other characteristics that are even more important to know in your natural hair journey.

The truth is, people with the same exact curl pattern may have hair that behaves extremely differently. This is often due to another important but less visible characteristic of hair, called porosity.

SO… WHAT IS POROSITY?

Porosity is a measurement of your hair’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. You can also think of it as indicating how easily moisture can penetrate your hair. Porosity is determined by the structure of your cuticle- the outer layer of your hair. Low porosity hair has a tightly bound cuticle layer, making it difficult for moisture to penetrate (but also difficult for moisture to escape, once it’s in your hair.) On the other hand, high porosity hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle, allowing moisture to easily pass in and out. Porosity is determined by genetics, but can be altered by external factors like heat and chemical processing.

natural hair porosity diagram

HOW TO DETERMINE POROSITY

Porosity is very simple to determine: there are three tests you can do right now!

natural hair porosity float test

  1. The Float Test: Take some strands of hair from your brush or comb (note: use clean hair! Hair products can alter your results), and drop them in a bowl of water. Let them sit for a few minutes. If your hair floats after the time is up, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity. (It may float somewhere in the middle of the bowl if you have medium porosity.)
  1. The Slip ‘n Slide Test: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up it, toward your scalp. If you feel small bumps along the way, you have high porosity. If the shaft is smooth, your cuticle is bound tight and you have low porosity hair.
  1. The Spray Bottle Test: Take a small section of your hair and mist it with a spray bottle. Watch closely: if the water beads up on your hair, it is low porosity. If it absorbs quickly, your hair is high porosity. If you notice the water sitting on your hair for a couple minutes before absorbing in, you have medium porosity hair.

Take a couple minutes now and determine your hair porosity. Then, read on to find out how to take care of your hair!

I FOUND OUT MY HAIR POROSITY. NOW WHAT?

Low Porosity Hair is moisture resistant- this means that it may be hard to get moisture into your hair, but once you do, you don’t need to worry as much about your hair drying out. Your curls can also be prone to product buildup, especially from protein-rich products. What to use:

  • Protein-free daily conditioners with humectants (products that attract moisture) like honey or glycerin.
  • Moisture-rich products such as jojoba oil, Shea butter, coconut oil, or mineral oil.
  • Lighter or liquid-based products will help avoid product build up.
  • The Dull Solution of NaturAll Club’s Avocado Deep Conditioner is rich in moisture to penetrate your low porosity hair, but also is less concentrated with oils, which will help you avoid product buildup.

beautiful natural hair types

Medium Porosity Hair has a looser cuticle layer, allowing for a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of your hair. Medium porosity stands up well to styling, coloring, and chemicals- which means you should be careful! Frequent treatment can slowly increase the porosity of your hair, making it more difficult over time to maintain such styles and treatments. How to care for medium porosity hair:

  • Avoid protein in your daily regimen.
  • Deep condition periodically with a product that does include protein.
  • Use any solution of NaturAll Club’s Avocado Deep Conditioner to keep your hair moisturized and nourished.

natural hair and hair porosity

High Porosity Hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle layer, which allow moisture to pass quickly in and out. This can lead to frizz and tangling in humid weather, and extreme dryness in dry weather. You’ll need to be careful with activities like swimming or bathing that involve a lot of moisture getting into your hair, since this can cause breakage. What to use:

  • Anti-humectants, especially when it’s humid, will seal your cuticles and prevent them from absorbing too much moisture. (Ex: raw shea butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil)
  • Leave-in conditioners and moisturizers will provide your hair with moisture through the day, but use a sealer such as Avocado Oil to retain moisture and prevent dryness.
  • The Damaged Solution of NaturAll Club’s Avocado Deep Conditioner, which is highly concentrated with the moisture your hair needs, but also contains beneficial natural oils that will keep your hair moisturized.

natural hair porosity and diversity

Remember, there are no "good" or "bad" hair types- it's all about knowing how to care for the hair that you have. Two people with the same curl patterns may have different porosity, and therefore need to use very different products.

However, there is one product you should use regardless of hair porosity: deep conditioners. A deep conditioning treatment is important for all curly hair types, since it provides nutrients that all hair needs to grow and remain strong. Check out our all-natural Avocado Deep Conditioners here.


21 comments


  • Alondraa

    I am so freaking confused!
    Ok so I did the water test and my hair didn’t sink.
    I have post chemo hair, my hair fell out in 2006 and I’ve tried growing it out sine and i’ve been stuck at shoulder length for over 10 years my hair gets to dry and it breaks so I have to keep cutting it. My hair is now thin, and wavy for the most part. I use oil and leave in conditioners but my hair sucks it all up and still looks dry! If I use oil it looks greasy. HELPPPPP


  • Aaliyah Montaque

    @Michelle don’t i have hair that shrinks a lot and I’ve been for five years all you need to do is establish a hair routine. I have high porosity hair so i use watered down conditioners on my hair. I have very bad shrinkage, all you have to do is moisturize you hair after you get out the shower and braid your have in small braids and let it air dry. I’ve been doing this method for years and have found amazing results with keeping my hair stretched


  • Sam

    To all my low-porosity folks— this is long, my bad. TL;DR down below!

    After doing some research I’ve finally created a regimen + arsenal that keep my coils juicy and strong. I’ve been following this regimen and using these products for a little over a year now and my hair continues to flourish. I have low porosity 4C hair that I am now able to comfortably wear in a wash and go!!!! (Well really, a wet and go but I’ll get into that later…)

    1. Shea Moisture low porosity shampoo + conditioner has been a game changer for me. The shampoo clarifies without giving my hair that squeeky, straw like feel. I also notice definition upon washing. The conditioner is a god send and it can be liberally applied to your scalp as well. It’s great for nourishing and detangling but I still follow up with a d/c every other week.

    2. Warm/hot water is not our enemy. Wash day occurs in my shower so I let the hot water run over my hair for a bit to open the cuticles before applying the low-po shampoo. I then rinse with warm water before apply conditioner. After detangling w/ conditioner I rinse the conditioner with lukewarm water and then apply a bit of Knot Today + teeeeeeny bit of coconut oil to my wet hair, avoiding the scalp. Slap and shower cap and finish shower/chill for 15 min. The key is to have all moisturizing products applied to warmed/wet hair aka in the shower. Sealants/ heavy oils are applied post shower.

    3. Post shower/after chilling, I apply a bit more Knot Today, a dime sized amount of the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie and finger detangle or sectioning + detangle if I’m doing a twist out etc. I then apply the As I Am Curling Jelly and then let it air-dry or style.

    4. Wash and go’s: I call them wet and go’s because after my hair has dried, I refresh it in the following days with warm/hot water and a bit of Knot Today depending on how long my fro’ has been out and about. I’ll run my hands under hot (not scalding obv.) water and then massage my scalp with the drips of water until my hair feels damp. Ur basically re-opening the cuticle to allow and product on top to get back in. I will do this every morning post wash day and on the 3rd day post washing, I’ll re-touch my fro’ with Knot Today and the Curling Jelly after getting my hair damp.

    TL;DR—— Shea Moisture Low Porosity Shampoo + Conditioner is a staple. Knot Today, SM Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, & As I Am Curling Jelly are hydrating and low porosity friendly.

    Wash and condition with warm/hot water. Rinse products with cool water. Refresh your hair with warm/hot water. Product buildup is no joke. I shampoo + condition every week if I’m wearing a fro and every 2-3 weeks if I’m protective styling. Use shampoos & conditioners that clean & nourish your scalp.

    HEAT HELPS PRODUCTS ABSORB FOR LOW-PO HAIR!!!!


  • Raya

    @roxannerawlins sounds like my hair! It doesnt sink and it dries out quickly.. I’m not sure what the porosity of my hair is, the roots of my hair are silky but the ends of my hair are more dry. I’m not sure if its because I damaged my hair somehow or what. My fiance says I have alien hair lol


  • Michelle

    NEED ADVICE! I’ve been natural almost 3 years now. I’m getting fed up with whats going on with my hair and am thinking about using relaxers again. After I wash my hair it shrinks so bad. Even when I use leave in conditioners its still extremely dry and I have little hair balls that form on the ends of my hair strands. when I come thru my hair, the little balls come out of my hair. I’ve used coconut oil and other types of oils but nothing helps. I trimmed my ends thinking that would help and it didn’t. I keep a small water bottle mixed with coconut oil and mist my hair periodically just to keep from being so dry. My hair is almost shoulder length by its always very tight and it looks like the afro Florida Evans has from Good Times. Can anyone give me advice on what I an do to help my hair? How can I get my hair to stretch out and not become so tight and dry? I’m seriously thinking about relaxers again. I wanted looser free flowing natural hair and its not that at all.


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