You may have heard the term “hair porosity” and wondered what it means. Essentially, hair porosity is about your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.
The porosity of your hair affects how well oils and moisture pass in and out of the outermost layer of your hair, known as the cuticle. The porosity of hair determines how your hair adopts the hair color.
Hair porosity is further divided into three main categories:
Low porosity: In low porosity, Cuticles that are close together.
Medium porosity: In medium porosity, Cuticles are less tightly bound.
High porosity: In high porosity, Cuticles are more widely spaced.
This article will take a closer look at what affects the porosity of your hair, how you can figure out the type of porosity you have, and, depending on the hair porosity you have, how best you treat your hair
What does hair porosity mean?
To understand the concept of hair porosity, it helps to know a bit about the structure of your hair, which consists of three layers.
Three layers of hair
The cuticle: This is the tough, protective outer layer of your hair that’s made up of smaller cuticles that overlap each other, similar to shingles on a roof.
The cortex: cortex is the thickest layer of your hair. It contains fibrous proteins and the pigment that gives your hair its color.
The medulla: This is the soft, central part of the hair shaft.
For your hair to stay healthy and hydrated, water, oils, and other moisturizing products need to be able to pass through the cuticle to get to the cortex.
But, if the cuticles are too close together, it’s not easy for water and oils to penetrate the hair. This can make it harder for your hair to get the moisture it needs.
Also, if the cuticles are too widely spaced, your hair will have a harder time retaining moisture and staying hydrated.
Is there an easy way to test your hair porosity?
One of the easiest ways to test your hair’s sponginess is by using a glass of water. Here’s how to do it:
- Shampoo and rinse your hair to remove any product buildup.
- Fill a glass with water.
- Once your hair is clean and dry, drop a single strand of your hair into the glass of water.
- Watch the strand to see if it sinks to the bottom of the glass or floats at the top.
Low porosity: If the strand floats at the top before sinking, you likely have low sponginess hair.
Normal porosity: If the strand floats somewhere in the middle of the glass, you probably have medium or normal sponginess hair.
High porosity: If the strand quickly sinks to the bottom of the glass, you likely have high sponginess hair.
You can also test your sponginess level by running a finger down a strand of your hair. Low sponginess hair will feel smooth, whereas high sponginess hair will feel rough and bumpy because the cuticles are open.
The characteristics of low porosity hair
With low sponginess hair, the cuticles are tightly packed and very close together. This makes it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft.
You may have low porosity hair if:
- hair products tend to sit on your hair and don’t absorb easily
- it’s hard for water to saturate your hair when washing
- it takes a long time for your hair to air dry
- The characteristics of medium sponginess hair
With medium or normal spongy hair, the cuticles aren’t too close together but aren’t too open either. This allows moisture to penetrate easily, and it also makes it easier to retain moisture for a longer period.
You may have medium porosity hair if:
- your hair is easy to style and can hold styles for a good length of time
- your hair takes color well
- your hair tends to look healthy, shiny, or glossy
- it doesn’t take too long for your hair to air dry
Heat damage and other chemical processes can cause the normal sponginess of hair to change over time.
The characteristics of higher porosity hair
Whether due to genetics or hair damage, high sponginess hair allows moisture to be absorbed into the hair shaft quickly, yet it isn’t able to retain moisture for long. This is because the cuticles tend to have gaps or spaces between them.
You may have high porosity hair if:
- water and other moisturizing products are quickly absorbed into your hair
- your hair tends to break easily
- your hair tends to be frizzy and dry
- it doesn’t take much time for your hair to air dry
Can you change your hair porosity?
If you have high or low hair sponginess due to genetics, you may not be able to change it. However, according to hair care experts, there are things you can do to make your hair healthier, more manageable, and easier to style.
For low porosity hair:
Use protein-free conditioners. These tend to be more easily absorbed into your hair and may be less likely to cause product buildup.
Apply conditioner to hair that’s already wet. Diluting the conditioner may make it easier to be absorbed into your hair.
Look for ingredients like glycerin and honey in shampoos and conditioners. Avoid products with oils, as these tend to have a harder time penetrating the cuticle.
Apply heat when you condition your hair. Use a steamer, heat cap, or hooded dryer. Or, if you don’t have those, put a shower cap over your hair once you’ve added a conditioner.
For high porosity hair:
Look for ingredients like butter and oils in shampoos and conditioners. These ingredients will help moisturize your hair.
Use leave-in conditioners and sealers. These products help your hair hold on to moisture.
Use a heat protectant product on your hair. Apply this product before you blow dry or use other heat styling treatments. This can protect your hair from heat damage.
Avoid hot water when shampooing and conditioning. Use lukewarm water instead.
Hair sponginess may not be a term you hear often. But knowing what type of hair sponginess you have can help you better understand how to manage, treat, and care for your hair. And that can lead to hair that’s stronger and healthier.