Hair porosity is the term for the hair’s ability to absorb moisture, styling products or chemical treatments. There are three degrees of hair porosity: high, medium (normal) and low.
Overly porous hair has raised cuticles that lost their tightness because of excessive heat usage or frequent chemical processing. Highly porous hair can absorb excessive amounts of water but is not able to retain it due to damaged hair cuticles.
Low porosity hair, also called resistant hair, refers to cuticle scales that are tightly sealed, not allowing moisture or chemicals to easily enter or leave the hair shaft. Low porosity hair generally looks healthy and has lots of sheen because of the smooth cuticle layer. Another advantage of having low porosity hair is that color doesn’t tend to fade quickly.
The cuticle of normal porosity hair is loose, allowing some moisture to pass into the cortex. Hair that has medium porosity falls in the middle of the spectrum and is considered ideal as it responds well to styling products and chemical treatments.
If your hair doesn’t soak water up easily in the shower, that is a good indication that it has low porosity. A simple strand float test can be performed to determine your hair porosity, but the products you use can lead to inconsistent results. It is best to do the strand float test after using a clarifying shampoo when your hair is freshly clean. Some experts recommend having your hair examined by a professional to get more reliable results. It is useful to know your hair’s porosity level to be able to adjust your hair care regimen and select products that are compatible with the condition of your hair.
Why is Lower Porosity Frustrating?
Although considered a healthier level of porosity than high porous hair, low porosity hair is not ideal when it comes to moisture and product absorption. When deprived of moisture, the hair can become inelastic and fragile.
If your low porosity hair becomes dehydrated for some reason, you need to put in additional effort to infuse your strands with moisture.
Low porosity hair is more susceptible to product build up, because hair products don’t pass the cuticle layer, but rather sit on the hair shaft making your locks feel greasy.
Hair with low porosity is more resistant to chemical processing, such as perming or coloring than hair with normal or high porosity. If you are dealing with resistant hair, keep in mind that it will take longer for chemicals to penetrate the cuticle to work.
Good Regimen for Low Porosity Hair
Lower porosity hair requires different care than the hair of medium or high porosity. You need to learn some tips on how to get moisture absorbed into the hair shaft and how to keep your strands healthy and beautiful.
Deep conditioning treatments: Deep conditioning, at least once a month, is crucial for infusing low porosity hair with necessary moisture. To get the most benefit, apply your conditioner to clean, damp hair. Apply mild heat to make deep treatment more effective. The best way to help moisture enter the hair shaft is to incorporate a steamer or with a heated gel cap into your hair care regimen. Using a hair steamer for 15-30 minutes helps loosen up tightly closed cuticles, allowing the conditioning ingredients to penetrate the hair shaft and infuse your strands with moisturizing nutrients. If you don’t have either of those tools, sit under a hooded dryer with a plastic cap on for 10-15 minutes. Wait for about two hours if you are using a plastic cap and your own body heat.
Clarifying: Buildup can prevent hair from absorbing water when a moisturizing treatment is applied. Use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month to remove old, lingering products from your strands. Follow with a protein-free rinse out conditioner.
Bentonite clay is a great natural deep cleanser for low porosity hair. It has strong absorptive properties that attract the impurities and remove excess product buildup. A bentonite clay hair mask softens resistant hair, making it more manageable and receptive to styling products.
Wash your low porosity hair with warm instead of cold water to help the cuticle open a bit, allowing moisturizing ingredients from the conditioner to enter the hair shaft. After conditioning, rinse with cool water to close the cuticle and seal the moisture inside the hair.
Use a water-based, leave-in conditioner on damp hair after every shampooing. Liquid-based leave-in conditioner, that contains little to no protein, will infuse your non-porous hair with hydration and lubricate the hair shaft, without coating the hair with too much product.
To meet the requirements for low porosity natural hair, Shea Moisture has created a new, porosity-based product line. Shea Moisture Low Porosity Hair Line includes Low Porosity, Protein-Free Shampoo and Conditioner, and Leave-In Detangler.
Products to Avoid
There are some products that your non-porous hair won’t like:
Silicones: Avoid using products containing water-insoluble silicones because you already have a compact hair cuticle layer and don’t need anything that can coat the hair shaft. The silicones that are not water soluble require the use of shampoos that contain sulfates to remove them.
Protein-filled conditioners: Avoid protein-heavy and creamy, thick conditioners which can weigh down your hair. Use a lightweight or diluted rinse-out conditioner to provide good lubrication.
Protein-enriched styling products: Protein-rich leave-in products may not be beneficial for low porous strands because there are not many tears or gaps in the cuticle layer that need to be filled. Protein particles that bind to the hair can block already tightly closed cuticles preventing moisture from getting in.
Heavy oils: Also avoid using heavy hair oils for styling purposes, as these can’t be absorbed and will sit on the hair’s surface. Use hair oils in smaller doses and choose lightweight moisturizing oils such as jojoba, argan, baobab and sweet almond oils, which can easily penetrate the hair shaft. However, heavier oils work well for hot oil treatments because they can be absorbed when warmed up.
Co-washing: Washing your hair with a cleansing conditioner will lead to build-up over time. If you stick with the co-washing method, you need to regularly cleanse your non-porous hair with a clarifying shampoo.
How to Apply Chemical Treatments to Low-Porous Hair
A disadvantage of lower porosity hair is that the compact cuticle layer doesn’t allow the chemical treatments to enter the hair shaft. Chemical services such as coloring or permanent waving can be difficult to perform or processing time may take longer than normal. A clarifying treatment prior to processing will make the hair more receptive to the perm service.
Low porosity hair absorbs color at a slower rate than high porous hair because the hair shaft repels chemicals. Since such hair resists chemical services, color absorption may take longer than stated on the box.
Make sure to apply hair dye to perfectly clean hair because dirty hair is more resistant to chemicals that clean hair. Crystal Clarifying Treatment by Ion is designed to remove hard water and product build-up to prepare hair for chemical services.
Dying low porosity hair may be beneficial, because chemical processing makes hair porous and more acceptable to ingredients in styling products.