Why Do A Hair Porosity Test?

Doing a hair porosity test and knowing your hair’s level can be very useful

Let’s have a quick look at the following

  • the different porosity levels and characteristics
  • which products you should be using
  • how to deep condition for every type
  • how to do a hair porosity test

Porosity is how easily your hair absorbs and holds moisture. 

Jump to the Hair Porosity Quiz ⬇️

The level of porosity is determined by the condition of the hair’s cuticle.

This is the outer layer of the hair shaft. This layer resembles tiles on a roof and is made up of overlapping scales which can either lie flat or raised. 

hair porosity test to see if it is high or low - diagram

Hair is either low, medium (or ‘normal’), or high porosity.

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Low Porosity Hair

When hair has low porosity the scales are lying pretty flat.

In doing this they make a secure outer layer which you could almost call a barrier. It is difficult for hair to absorb moisture through this barrier.

These tightly packed scales can also act as an obstacle to chemical processes such as colour.

Processes which might work well on medium or high porosity hair may have a lessened effect on low porosity strands

How to solve the issues

In order to take on moisture effectively the cuticle scales must open up.

Heat is the best way to do this.

Apply a deep conditioning treatment and then use steam or a hooded dryer to open the cuticle so that your hair can take on the moisture.

Characteristics of low porosity hair

Low porosity hair tends to be shiny but it can lack in volume and lie close to the scalp.

It may have a tendency to be greasy as products don’t absorb into the strands easily and instead build up on the hair.

Medium Porosity Hair

The cuticle scales are slightly raised on medium porosity hair.

This means that the hair is able to absorb moisture and to retain it too. Moisture treatments will work well on medium porosity hair and chemical processes such as colouring should not pose a problem. 

Characteristics of medium porosity hair

Medium porosity hair tends to have both shine and volume

High Porosity Hair

When hair is highly porous the cuticle scales are sitting in a raised position.

This ‘openness’ means that that moisture is easily absorbed into the strands but that this same moisture is easily lost, too.

Highly porous hair tends to be receptive to processes such as colouring.

It can be genetic but it is often the result of cuticles being damaged by chemical processes such as colouring or heat damage. 

How to solve the issues

As moisture is lost easily, layering sealing products over penetrating moisturising products will enable the hair to retain moisture for longer.

An example would be a leave-in conditioner followed by a natural oil such as argan oil followed by a layer of gel.

Protein can also help to repair the damaged cuticles and strengthen hair by ‘plugging’ the gaps in the cuticle and making it less porous. This in turn can help to prevent further damage to the cuticle.

Characteristics of high porosity hair

High porosity hair tends to be dry and dull-looking. It may also be prone to frizz and breakage.

This is my high porosity hair – very prone to frizz if I don’t tame it!

high porosity frizzy hair

Hair Porosity Tests

There are a few physical tests that you can do on your hair to assess porosity.

Method 1

Take a single strand of hair and run your fingers up it from bottom to top. If you feel bumps as you do this this means that the cuticle is raised and your hair is likely to be porous. 

Method 2

Assessing how quickly hair absorbs moisture is a good way to see how porous your hair is.

Take a fine section of clean hair and spray a fine mist of water onto it from a distance of about 6 inches.

High porosity hair will absorb the water straight away, whereas low porosity hair will almost repel it. The water will form into beads or will roll off the strand.

(There is also the float test which involves placing a strand of hair into a glass of water but it is frequently discredited so I’m not going to recommend this test.)

Product Recommendations

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All of the products below are Curly Girl Method approved 👍

Once you know the results of your hair porosity test you can work out the best products for your hair

Low Porosity Hair

  • a low-poo shampoo. It is likely that a co-wash will be too heavy for low porosity curls. The conditioning ingredients may build up. 
  • Try to use styling products that contain little or no heavy oils or butters
  • Products which contain protein should only be used infrequently

Boucleme Hydrating Hair Cleanser

A light sulphate-free shampoo which doesn’t contain protein

Giovanni 50 50 Balanced Hydrating Conditioner

A balanced everyday conditioner. Perfectly PH balanced and protein-free

Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Banana Conditioner / Hair Mask / Leave-in-Conditioner

Free from some of the heavier deep conditioning ingredients but still a moisturising mask or leave-in treatment. Protein free

Curlsmith Hold Me Softly Style Balm

Protein free lightweight curl cream which defines with soft hold

Medium Porosity Hair

  • Some build up may occur from heavier oils in products
  • Aim for balanced products containing both protein and moisture
  • Use a low-poo shampoo and co-wash occasionally if it suits your hair

Faith In Nature Natural Coconut Shampoo

Sulphate free shampoo with a balance of moisture and protein

Sukin Oil Balancing Conditioner

Silicone free conditioner with a balance of moisture and protein

AS I AM Coconut Co-wash Cleansing Conditioner

Moisturising gentle cream cleanser which removes residue from the hair and scalp

Boucleme Super Hold Styler

Firm hold gel to define curls. Made with plant extracts

High Porosity Hair

  • Use products which are rich in protein on a semi-regular basis but not every wash day as it is possible to use too much
  • Co-washing may suit your hair as it can handle heavier products without experiencing build up.
  • Deep condition regularly – products containing heavy oil or butters such as shea butter should work well

AS I AM Coconut Co-wash Cleansing Conditioner

Moisturising gentle cream cleanser which removes residue from the hair and scalp

Giovanni Nutra Fix Reconstructor

Protein rich treatment for damaged hair which encourages thickness

Noughty To The Rescue Intense Moisture Treatment

Intense moisture treatment containing shea butter and coconut oil to hydrate and repair

Noughty Wave Hello Curl Taming Cream

Defines curls and moisturises hair. Contains mango butter to soften and tame frizz

Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Scrunching Jelly

A cult favourite which defines curls, fights frizz and adds shine

Deep Conditioning For Different Porosity Types

All curly hair types should deep condition regularly, but the method should be different. Once you’ve done a hair porosity test and chosen your treatment it’s time to figure out how to use it.

In practice this means how long you leave it on for and whether you should apply heat.

Low Porosity Deep Conditioning

As we talked about earlier, low porosity hiar will benefit hugely from heat during deep conditoning. This is to open up the cuticle and allow the moisture to penetrate the hair. 

Apply deep conditioner to wet hair, then apply heat for around 30 minutes. A great way to do this is with a heat cap – one that you pop in the microwave. These retain heat and will keep your hair warm for the duration of the treatment.

Medium Porosity Deep Conditioning

Either with or without heat, either should work well. It will just affect the amount of time you leave the treatment on for. With heat just 10-15 minutes or without heat for 30 minutes.

High Porosity Deep Conditioning

Since the cuticle is already open, you should be ok to do deep conditioning treatments without any heat. Apply the treatment and leave it for around 15 minutes before rinsing.


3 porosity levels, each with their own characteristics and needs. I hope that this has helped explain the reasons why it is important to know yours.

Each porosity level will respond to products in their own way. It is important to experiment with the products and use the tips to find ones that will suit your hair.

Happy testing!

Lauren xx

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