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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.



Porosity Classifications

low porosity hair

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.

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What if your hair both protein sensitive and has high porosity? What else can you do to help repair some of the damage besides using products with protein... beyond the use of moisturizing products?
What deep conditioning treatment products, which contains proteins, would you recommend?
I think I have low porosity hair...is there any way to help increase its ability to absorb water? I am fine in the shower - my hair gets very wet, but it's hard to refresh styles by water spritzing because the beads just sit on my hair...
I think this article just saved my hair! I definitely have high porosity with my 3c curls, and being that I have bleached blond hair, I have not been taking the necessary steps to protect my hair from damage. Thank you a million!
i love this site and its articles! i reccomend it to all of my curly girl friends as much as i can. i have beautiful 3a ringlets.... however i am still trying to find the right shampoo, conditioner, product,etc.i guess next time i take a visit to the hairdressers i'll ask the advice of my favorite curl experts!
Again, what defines a "soap"?
Retia McMullen: I'm a fairly new member to this forum and site, but I've been studying up A LOT and I've gathered that just because you have fine hair, doesn't mean protein is a must. It's very subjective. I have fine 3a Botticelli curls, and I'm pretty certain I'm low to normal porosity. My hair seems to like proteins, but at this early in my CG transition, I don't want to overdo it, so I'm using a moisturizer too. Figuring out your hair's protein/moisture balance seems to be something you just have to keep playing with until you find something that works. It's best to start with more moisture than more protein because your hair can recover from too much moisture faster than it can from too much protein. Hope this helps!
I love your article. I have low porosity hair. But, my hair is very fine, but thick corkscrew curls. It states that humectants and emollients are good for low porosity hair and proteins are not. I've tried humectant based conditioners and they just sit on my hair. I've heard people say that protein is a must for fine hair. Is there some type of balance that could be used to maintain the protein/moisture in my hair? I don't want to use to much humectants or too much protein.
You need to use a shampoo that's sulfate free. Examples: Original Sprout Baby shampoo and Children's Natural Shampoo; Mia Simone's Boutique Shampoo; Circle of Friends Shampoo; and Deva Curl makes some sulfate free shampoos as well.
Can you reccomend products that are SLS,SLES, etc free?
if your not suppose to use soap on your hair than what are you to use to clean your hair?
Awesome article! This has really helped my understanding of porosity. Thanks for the great information!

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