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5 Low Porosity Hair Care Tips You Will Want to Know

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Learning about your natural hair is one of those things that will naturally begin to happen the more you experiment with your hair.  Before I was natural I didn’t even realise that learning about your individual hair type and curl pattern was even a thing.

I thought that hair was hair and what works for one person would easily work for another.  No wonder my hair had stunted growth back then.  I had a lot of learning to do.


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Once I had committed to being natural the phrase hair porosity started popping up and I had no clue what that was all about.  All I knew was that some people had low porosity hair and others high porosity hair.

In actual fact, there is a lot more to it than that because knowing your hairs porosity will give you a lot of indication as to what will and will not work for your hair as well hair your hair’s ability to absorb moisture.

Low porosity hair care is completely different from high porosity hair care.

So we don’t end up with a dissertation on our hands today let’s take a look at low porosity hair care and why it should matter to you.


Low porosity hair care



What Is Low Porosity Hair?

Having low porosity hair means that your hair finds it difficult to gain moisture.

The cuticles of your hair are laid down tightly flat making it difficult for moisture to get in.

If you want an idea of what this looks like imagine trying to add water to a shingled roof.  It would be pretty difficult because the shingles are laid in such a way that it stops water from entering. Each shingle is overlapped to stop water from entering in.

Low porosity hair is the same. The hair cuticle is laid very much in the same way as a roof so when you try to add water to it it is very hard for the water to penetrate and your hair to absorb the water.

Depending on how tight the cuticles of your hair are will determine how much water can get in.

Those with low porosity hair have very tight cuticles and those with high porosity hair have very loose cuticles.

Thankfully if you do suffer from low porosity hair there are a few things that you can do about it which we will discuss in a moment so don’t feel too discouraged if you fall into this category.


Understanding The Hair Strand

Before we go any further it’s probably a good idea to try to understand the makeup of the hair strand.

The hair follicle is the structure from which the hair strand grows. The genetic information within the follicle cells determines various characteristics of the hair, such as its colour, thickness, texture, and growth pattern.

Various genes influence the characteristics of hair, such as the MC1R gene that plays a role in determining hair colour or the genes involved in hair structure and texture. Different combinations and variations of these genes contribute to the diversity of hair traits among individuals.

A strand of hair consists of three primary layers.  The first is the cuticle, then the cortex, and lastly the medulla. These layers work together to provide structure, strength, and protection to the hair strand. 

It’s important to note that the genetic makeup of a hair strand itself does not change once the hair has grown out of the follicle. However, external factors and environmental influences can affect the appearance and health of the hair strand.


1. The Cuticle

The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair strand and is composed of overlapping protective scales as explained above in the shingled roof example. These scales are formed by a layer of flattened, overlapping cells called cuticle cells. The cuticle plays an important role in protecting the inner layers of the hair by providing a barrier against external factors like heat and chemical damage.  It also helps to regulate the moisture balance of the hair.  The condition of the cuticle affects the hair’s appearance, shine, and smoothness.


2. The Cortex

The cortex is the middle layer of the hair and makes up the majority of its mass. It contains long protein structures called keratin fibres, which provide strength, elasticity, and resilience to the hair strand. The cortex determines the hair’s natural color, texture, and flexibility. 


3. The Medulla

The medulla is the innermost layer of the hair strand, situated at the core. It consists of loosely arranged cells and air spaces. In human hair, the medulla is often absent or less prominent, especially in fine or light-coloured hair.

It’s important to note that the structure and composition of the hair layers can vary among different individuals and hair types. Factors such as genetics, ethnicity, and overall hair health can influence the thickness, density, and characteristics of each layer. Understanding the different layers of hair can help in understanding its properties and how to care for it effectively.


How Do You Know If  You Have Low Porosity Hair?

There is a simple test that you can do to discover if you have low porosity hair or not. It’s called the float testƒƒ.  This is very easy to do if you are not sure about the porosity of your hair. 

The best time to do this test is on wash days when your hair is clean and free of product. This will give you a better idea of how porous your hair is.

Here’s how to do it.

Take a glass of water and a strand of your hair

Put your hair strand into the water.

If the strand floats at the top or takes a long while to sink further down the glass you have low porosity hair.

If your strand immediately sinks to the bottom you have high porosity hair meaning that your hair is absorbing too much water too quickly.

If your strand floats in the middle of the glass you have normal porosity hair.  This is where we all hope to be and is the best position for your hair.



What Are The Characteristics Of Low Porosity Hair?

Low porosity hair can be easy to identify.  There are certain characteristics that you can easily spot.


Products Just Don’t Sink In

As we already know moisture finds it difficult to penetrate into low porosity hair.  This also includes products.  If you start to notice that your hair is just not accepting products, that you have dry hair or that you are getting a lot of unusual product buildup on your hair there is a very good chance that it is because you have low porosity hair.


Little Or No Elasticity

If you have just washed your hair you might be expecting that your hair will have lots of elasticity and bounce. Unfortunately, if you do have low porosity hair you may find that there is not an awful lot of give when you stretch it, even after having freshly washed hair.


Lack of Definition and Curl Pattern

Low porosity hair can sometimes have a lack of defined curls or waves. The closed cuticles can prevent the hair from forming a well-defined curl pattern, resulting in your hair appearing straight or lacking volume.


Product Ineffectiveness

Certain hair care products may not work as effectively on low porosity hair.  This can be frustrating as you may have tried different products without getting the results that you wanted. Low porosity hair requires specific products and techniques that help open the cuticles and allow better product penetration.

We will touch on some products that you can use for low porosity hair a little further down.


If you would like to know more about the distinctive characteristics of low porosity hair you can read about it here.



How To Care For Low Porosity Hair (5 tips)

All is not lost if you have low porosity hair, as mentioned before there are things that you can do to help your hair get the moisture that it needs to help it grow.


1. Steam Your Hair

Steaming your hair every now and again is a good way to get your cuticles to open and for moisture to be absorbed.

A good way to do this is to use a hair steam cap like this one or a steaming cap like this. Both of these options are fairly inexpensive and will make the world of difference to how your hair grows in the future.

When you apply heat to your hair the cuticles will naturally lift making it easier for moisture to be absorbed into the hair strand.


2. Use The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is another great way to get your cuticles to lift.

You can moisturise your hair as you usually would then put on a shower cap over your hair.  You can do this overnight or during the daytime if you are not going out.

If you are a little creative you can do it even when you are going out by covering the shower cap with a headscarf.  I have done it many times in the past and no one had a clue what was going on under there.

You will notice that when you take off the shower cap there will be lots of steam and it will feel quite warm.  This is exactly what you want to happen. The heat that is trapped in the shower cap will help the cuticles of your hair to open up.

You can get yourself some really cheap disposable shower caps here

It’s a great and easy way to get some moisture into your hair if you don’t have a lot of time during your day to dedicate to it.


How to grow low porosity natural hair long


3. Clarify Your Hair

Clarifying your hair is a really important thing to do every couple of weeks or so.

If you don’t take the time to clarify your hair you will find that your strands of hair will carry a lot of product build-up making it even more difficult for your strands to get the moisture that it needs.

You can easily clarify your hair by using a clarifying shampoo like this one.  If you don’t like to shampoo your hair too often then make sure you are keeping your products light so you minimise product build-up.


4. Give Humectants A Try

Humectants help your hair because they take moisture out of the air and into your hair. They can be compared to magnets in this way, moisture magnets.

Glycerin is a good example of a humectant.

Just be sure to do some further research before trying to apply glycerin directly to your hair as you may need to dilute it. It also doesn’t work as well in some weather temperatures.


5. Deep Condition With Heat

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of deep conditioning your natural hair.

Deep conditioners are made to be much more penetrating than regular leave-in conditioners or a conditioner that you would use after shampooing your hair.

For extra attention, you should use a deep conditioner along with heat for added effect.

Deep conditioners usually require you to leave the conditioner on your hair for approximately 15 minutes before washing it off.  Use this and sit under your hooded dryer or use a heat cap to make sure the hair strands are well absorbed with moisture.


How To Moisturise Low Porosity Hair

It’s a good idea to have a low-porosity hair regimen in place if you know you have low porosity hair so that you make sure your hair is always at its best.

Here are a few tips for you:

1. Pre-poo

Make sure you pre-poo before washing your hair.  You can make your own pre-poo recipes by adding oils such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil and grapeseed oil along with other ingredients.

You can apply them to your hair using the greenhouse effect explained above.


2. Wash Your Hair Regularly

Washing your hair weekly or every 2 weeks will keep it free of product build-up and give it another opportunity to absorb some moisture. Remember to wash your hair with warm water to open up the cuticles and then cold water at the end to seal in the moisture.


3. Moisturise Your Hair Mid-Week

Midweek moisturising is very important for your hair. If you don’t do this you could find that by the end of the week your hair will feel very dry and brittle to the touch.  You don’t want that. Your aim is to have soft natural hair that is healthy.

Midweek moisturising doesn’t have to be too labour-intensive.  You can add a little leave-in conditioner to your spray bottle mixed with water to use as a moisturiser.  Make sure you give your hair a spray each time you redo your hairstyle.

Aloe vera gel or juice can also be used to help you seal in moisture.  You can use a little bit of aloe vera in your spray bottle mixed with water.


4. Seal in Moisture

Always remember to seal in your moisture by using an effective oil for low porosity hair such as Baobab fractionated coconut oil.

You should be using the LOC method to do this


5. Cover Your Hair

Always make sure when you are going to bed to use a satin headscarf or a satin pillowcase.

Using satin makes sure that any moisture that you apply to your hair will not be absorbed away by cotton or any other material. Satin does not absorb moisture which makes it really good to use at bedtime or any other time that you want to lay down.


How To Grow Low Porosity Hair

With the right care and attention, you can get your low porosity hair to grow long and healthy just like everyone else.

As we already know low porosity hair struggles to get moisture into the cuticle layer. In order for your hair to grow long and healthy, you need to make sure that the hair shaft is properly hydrated. You can do this by getting the cuticles to open up during certain treatments such as deep conditioning and streaming your hair. This is will help to stimulate your hair’s natural oils. Once you are done you can rinse your hair off with cold or room temperature water in order for the cuticles to close again so that you are retaining moisture.

Another thing you should try to help with your hair growth is to do a rice water rinse. I know there has been a little scepticism around using rice water in your hair but honestly speaking it’s one of those things that you have to try before you can judge it.

The reason that rice water is great for growing low porosity hair is that it contains lots of vitamins and minerals that your hair can absorb.

You can make your own rice water by boiling rice on the fire and straining it with a sieve to get your rice water. You do not need to wash the rice beforehand because you want all the starch from the rice.

Once you have got your rice water you can mix it with a little bit of conditioner to help thicken it up then apply it to your hair.

You can read more about doing a rice water rinse here.



Low Porosity Hair Care Products


Best Oils For Low Porosity Hair

These oils are really good to use for low porosity hair care as they are light enough that they can be used without having a lot of product build-up and they won’t weigh down your hair. Take a look at these really great oils for natural hair.

Best Shampoos For Low Porosity Hair

There are also some really good shampoos on the market for low porosity hair care.  One of the most popular shampoos is Shea moisture low porosity protein-free shampoo.

Cantu shea butter sulfate-free cleansing shampoo and the As I Am curl clarity shampoo are also good options.


Best Conditioners For Low Porosity Hair

As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

Kinky-Curly, Knot Today, Natural Leave-in conditioner

Giovanni Hair Care leave-in conditioner


Low Porosity Hair Regimen


Part of the process of managing low porosity hair is making sure that you have a really good low porosity hair regimen.  That means including things like deep conditioning, steaming your hair and keeping your hair free of product build-up by regularly clarifying it and keeping an eye on moisture retention.

Once you begin to get into a routine of doing these things you will start to see the difference in your hair.



Does Low Porosity Hair Need Protein?

Low porosity hair does not need protein as it already carries a lot of its own natural protein called Keratin.

Low porosity hair is very protein sensitive so it’s best to stay away from products containing protein as it could make your hair feel very brittle and hard. This will only lead to breakage and damaged strands of hair.


Related post: Protein treatment for natural hair and why you might need it


Final Thoughts on Low Porosity Hair Care

Although having low porosity hair can feel like possibly the end of the world to begin with, it really is not.  Once you know how to deal with low porosity hair it actually puts you at an advantage as you now know exactly how to manage your curly hair. Learning how to take care of low porosity hair has to be at the top of your agenda if you want healthy hair.

As explained above there are little things that you can do to help improve your position without having the low porosity hair issue work against you.

If you have any other tips on low porosity hair care I would love to hear them.


Related posts:

Low porosity hair care tips



Monday 10th of April 2023

Hi Dela, thank you for the article. How do I cleanse/wash my hair to prevent product build-up when I have my hair in a protective style, specifically braids? (Actually have Fulani braids at the moment). Also, how do I protect my hair from the cold weather, braids only haven't been of much help over the years?

Silvia Wachuka

Friday 4th of February 2022

Av read the whole article on low porosity hair and i feel its very useful to me as i want to start off my natural hair journey


Monday 24th of January 2022

So I have bought Jamaican black castor oil mist with tea tree and I also have low porosity hair would it work for my hair?

Joy Nnenna

Friday 23rd of October 2020

Hello Dela. I have low porosity hair. i use fenugreek, JBCO, Avocado oil and peppermint oils but i use OGX biotin and collagen shampoo and conditioner. Is it a good combination for low porosity 4b/4c hair


Friday 23rd of October 2020

Please is fenugreek oil and Rosemary oil good for low porosity hair