Porosity is the term used in the science of hair care to describe how easily water and other matter can diffuse back and forth through the cuticle layer and into or out of the cortex. Hair is much like a sponge, capable of absorbing water and other substances from the environment, and also susceptible to losing precious moisture and lipids to the environment. Maintaining an optimal balance of moisture in your hair preserves its suppleness, strength, and shine. This is especially important for those of us with curly hair, as it greatly influences the health and beauty of our tresses.
The individual scales of the cuticle overlap one another like the feathers of a bird or scales on a fish. This amazing system of flexible and responsive scales allows diffusion of oils and moisture into and out of the hair as needed. Porosity is determined by how tightly the cuticle scales adhere to the surface of the hair shaft and also by how thoroughly adjacent scales overlap one another.
Low Porosity: Hair described as having low porosity is characterized by a very tightly bound cuticle layer, where the individual cuticle scales lie flat and overlap one another. Low porosity hair is often quite shiny, especially if it is a darker color. Overall this type of hair is considered to be quite healthy. If your hair repels water when you attempt to wet it, that is a good indication that it has low porosity. It can be quite difficult to process, because it resists penetration of the chemicals being used.
Low porosity hair is more prone to an excessive accumulation of protein if deep conditioning products are used and will feel very stiff and straw-like. It requires products rich in moisture and emollients and also benefits most from products that contain humectants, which attract moisture to the hair and hold it there. If hair with very few or very small openings becomes dry for some reason, it can be more difficult to restore proper moisture balance to it. In this case, a deep conditioning treatment with moderate heat would be a good way to ensure the cuticle is sufficiently opened up to allow moisture to enter into the cortex.