There are many different things to take into consideration when thinking about how to best care for and treat your hair, like how healthy your strands are, whether they’re dry or dehydrated (or both), and so much more. Because behind all of the things we all love about curly hair (the bounce, the shine, the volume) is a lot of…science. Yes, really!
One thing in particular that can really dictate the way you handle your curls is hair porosity. Knowing whether you’re working with high-, low- or medium-porosity hair can affect the products you choose, your preferred washing and styling methods and more. Not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to learn all about how to tell your hair porosity—and which products you should reach for to best care for and complement your curls.
Let’s dive in!
What is hair porosity, anyway?
Whenever you think of hair porosity, it helps to think about a sponge soaking up water. This is because porosity refers to an object’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.
So while items like sponges are extremely porous and will absorb a lot of water quite easily, something impermeable like plastic or glass won't soak up any. What does this have to do with your curls? People have different hair porosity types, and your curls can soak up and retain more or less water depending on how porous they are.
Curly girls can either have low-, medium-, or high-porosity hair. The major difference between all three has to do with the structure and health of your hair.
If you took a microscope and examined your curls, you would actually be able to see the outermost layer—aka the cuticle—and the way the layers of your hair are packed together kind of like fish scales. Cool, right?!
If you have low-porosity curls, then these cuticles are packed together very tightly. That’s why low-porosity hair can be a little tricky. It naturally repels water, oil, and products, so you have to work extra hard to get those products to penetrate the hair shaft. However, when you finally do get products into low-porosity hair, they aren’t going anywhere! The tightly packed cuticles will help to seal everything in.
Curly girls with medium porosity curls have hair that is easy to penetrate with water and products. Their cuticle layer is slightly open, which allows their curls to retain moisture pretty well, too, resulting in sleek and manageable kinks, curls or waves.
Of all of the hair types, high-porosity hair soaks up moisture and products the quickest. Amazing, right? It is! However, it also loses everything it drinks up just as easily, because high-porosity hair has several gaps in the cuticles, which are likely due to damage from different stressors like heat styling and overuse of chemicals and dyes. So unfortunately all of the work you do to get moisture into the hair shaft will quickly be undone, resulting in curls that can look dry and damaged.
How to tell your hair’s porosity
Depending on your hair’s porosity, each curly girl will have to take care of her hair a little differently in order to keep it healthy and moisturized.
Wondering how to tell what your hair’s porosity is? There are two easy methods that can help you do just that.
The Float Test: Many curlies swear by the float test. All you need to do is grab a clear glass, fill it with water, and place it on your bathroom counter. Then pluck a strand of hair, drop it in the glass, and watch what happens.
If it sinks all the way to the bottom, you’ve got high-porosity hair! If the strand only drops to the middle of the glass, you’ve got medium-porosity hair. If it floats to the top, then you’ve got a head full of low-porosity curls!
The Mist Test: At LUS, we are huge fans of the mist test! In order for this method to work, you’ll need to start with clean, dry, product-free curls. You’ll also need a spray bottle that sprays a light mist, such as our Infinity Spray Bottle.
Now, grab a section of your curls, hold the spray bottle about 6 to 8 inches from your hair and spray the section. Then, all you need to do is watch what happens to your curls once they’re sprayed. If the water beads up on top of the hair without being absorbed and/or starts to drip and roll off the hair immediately, you have low-porosity hair. If at first there are small beads of water that are absorbed shortly after, you have medium-porosity hair. If the water is immediately absorbed, you have high-porosity hair.
Curly Hair Tips For Each Porosity Type
LOW-POROSITY HAIR TIPS
Be Mindful of Product Distribution: If you’re dealing with low-porosity hair, it’s important to carefully section out your hair so that you can ensure that every strand is evenly covered with your product. While doing this, make sure that you’re not using too much product, which can weigh down hair, particularly since with low-porosity hair, much of that excess product won’t be absorbed. A few pumps of our All-in-One applied to wet hair will give you the results you desire.
MEDIUM-POROSITY HAIR TIPS
Deep Condition: Curls are not naturally highly porous, so there’s a good chance you are dealing with some dryness and frizz due to damage. And just because your medium-porosity curls drink up moisture does not mean you should skip the deep conditioner! Deep conditioning at least once a month with our Deep Condition & Repair will add strength and balance to your kinks and curls.
HIGH-POROSITY HAIR TIPS
Avoid Heat: High-porosity curls are fragile. It’s important to avoid heat as much as possible so you don’t suck out any more moisture. When you do want to reach for a blow dryer, the LUS Dryer & Diffuser is a safe bet, thanks to its airflow of negatively charged ions which dry hair in less time and with less heat than traditional blow dryers.
Deep Condition Regularly: Deep conditioning will help to infuse moisture into your curls, lock that moisture in, and strengthen the hair cuticle by filling in the gaps caused by damage.
Always Rinse with Cold Water: We know a cold shower can feel like torture, but it’s great for high-porosity hair because it actually encourages the hair cuticle to close and will help lock in much-needed moisture. So after deep conditioning, be sure you blast your curls with a shot of cold water! It’s worth the pain!