Low-Porosity Hair: Causes, Characteristics & Tips For 2023

Diana Zambrano

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

low porosity hair
Low porosity hair is not a sign of unhealthy hair.

Have you ever tried applying a moisturizing product to your hair and felt like it just sat there? Do you feel like your hair takes forever to get wet? Low porosity hair is a unique hair type that requires specific care and attention to maintain its health and appearance. Understanding the intricacies of hair porosity is crucial in developing a tailored hair care routine that enhances its vitality and beauty. But what exactly is hair porosity, and how can you know if you have low, medium, or high porosity hair? 

In simple terms, hair porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. It is determined by the condition of the hair’s cuticle, which is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. The hair cuticle plays a crucial role[1] in regulating the passage of moisture and nutrients in and out of the hair. 

Key Takeaways

  • Low-porosity hair does not readily absorb water or hair treatments of any kind.
  • Understanding and embracing your low-porosity hair is the key to beautiful, healthy strands.
  •  You can optimize its health and manageability by recognizing its unique characteristics, performing simple porosity tests, and applying tailored hydration techniques. 
  • Armed with the right knowledge and strategies, you can embrace your low-porosity hair and promote its natural beauty.

What Is Low Porosity Hair, And What Causes It?

Low-porosity hair is a type of hair characterized by tightly bound cuticles that resist moisture absorption. It is commonly seen in people with natural hair, curly hair texture, or over-processed hair, but people with straight hair can have it, too.  It is a characteristic[2] of damaged hair.

In low-porosity tresses, the outermost layer of the hair shaft, known as the cuticle, has tightly packed cells that make it difficult for water, oils, and hair care products to penetrate the hair shaft. There are a few reasons why a person might have low porosity hair. 

Genetics play a role, as certain hereditary traits can influence the hair’s porosity level. Environmental factors, such as excessive heat exposure from heat-styling tools, can cause damage to the cuticle. Additionally, chemical damage from overusing harsh treatments, such as bleaches or chemical relaxers, can harm the cuticles and reduce porosity. 

Low-porosity hair tends to have slower moisture absorption, resulting in longer drying times after washing or applying hair products. It is also prone to product buildup, making the hair appear dull and lifeless. Applying water to low-porosity hair often forms beads that sit on top of the hair instead of being absorbed. Furthermore, low-porosity hair can resist chemical treatments and require lower processing times and higher product concentration to achieve the desired results.

Low Porosity Hair Characteristics

Low porosity hair possesses several distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other hair types. Here are five signs of low-porosity hair:

Product Buildup

Since low-porosity hair has difficulty absorbing products, it is very prone to product buildup. Product residue can accumulate on the hair strands over time, leaving your locks feeling weighed down, greasy, or dull. It’s important to use lightweight, water-based low-porosity hair products that don’t further weigh down the hair and lower the likelihood of buildup. 

Water Beading

One of the most visible characteristics of low-porosity hair is water beading. When water is applied to this hair type, it tends to form beads or droplets on the hair’s surface rather than being readily absorbed. This happens because the closed-up cuticles create a hydroponic barrier, making it difficult for water molecules to penetrate the hair shaft. It is worth noting, however, that contrary to popular belief, water beading doesn’t necessarily indicate unhealthy hair; rather, it is a characteristic of low porosity.  

Chemical Treatment Resistance

Due to its inability to trap moisture, low-porosity hair can resist chemical treatments, such as coloring, relaxing, or perming. The close-together cuticles make it difficult for the chemicals to enter the hair shaft, requiring longer processing times and sometimes higher product concentrations to achieve the desired results. If you have low-porosity hair, it’s better to consult with a professional stylist to ensure proper processing and avoid potential damage. 

Heat Tolerance

Low-porosity hair can have a higher heat tolerance than high or medium-porosity hair. However, heat styling tools may increase hair porosity[3] and should only be used sporadically to avoid excessive damage. Applying heat protectant spray or serum before styling with heat can help minimize potential harm.  

Product Efficiency

Finally, here is some good news for low-hair porosity folks! While this hair type may have challenges absorbing and retaining moisture, once products penetrate the hair shaft, they are more effective and provide longer-lasting hydration. The closed cuticles help trap moisture within the hair strand, reducing moisture loss, promoting sustained hydration, reducing frizz, and improving manageability. 

How To Test Hair Porosity

If you are unsure about your hair’s porosity level, you can perform a simple test at home to determine it. Here are three commonly used methods:

The Float Test

  • Start with clean, dry hair free of hair care products. 
  • Pluck a few strands of hair from different areas of your head. 
  • Fill a clear bowl or glass with room-temperature water.
  • Gently drop the strands into the water and wait a minute or two. 
  • You may have low-porosity hair if the hair strands float on the water’s surface.  

The Spray Bottle Test

  • Start with clean, dry hair. 
  • Fill a spray bottle with water.
  • Spritz a small section of hair with water, thoroughly dampening it. 
  • Observe how the water interacts with your hair; if it beads up or rolls off your hair without it being absorbed, you may have low-porosity hair. 

The Slip’ N Slide Test

  • Take a strand of clean, dry hair.
  • Hold the strand between your thumb and index finger.
  • Starting from the ends, slide your fingers up the strand towards the scalp. 
  • Observe how the hair feels as you slide your fingers. Pay attention to any resistance or roughness.  
  • You may have low-porosity hair if your fingers slide smoothly along the hair strand with minimal friction.
  • You may have higher porosity hair if your fingers encounter resistance or roughness. A rougher texture suggests that the cuticles are more open or damaged. 

Tips To Care For Low-Porosity Hair

Caring for low-porosity hair requires a specific approach to maintain its health and enhance its natural beauty. Here are five top tips to incorporate into your healthy hair care routine:

  • Use clarifying shampoo once a month to remove product buildup.
  • Apply low-porosity hair deep conditioning[4] or hot oil treatment, such as Argan oil or coconut-based hair oils,[5] before shampooing to open the hair cuticles and improve product absorption. 
  • Opt for lightweight, water-based products that won’t weigh down your hair or cause buildup. 
  • Apply a heat protectant before using heat-styling tools. 
  • Avoid silicone products. Silicones form a hydrophobic coating that prevents water from penetrating the hair strands. 
  • Decrease the use of dyes and bleaching[6] as this increases hair porosity.

Final Thoughts

Low porosity hair requires specialized care to maintain its health and natural beauty. By understanding how porosity works, what causes it, and how to care for low-porosity hair, you can develop an effective hair care routine tailored to your specific hair type. Remember to choose products that promote product absorption and minimize heat to avoid further damage. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change my hair’s porosity level?

No, it is not possible to change your hair’s porosity level. Genetic factors and your inherent hair structure largely determine porosity. However, certain habits, such as excessive heat styling or chemical processing, can further weaken your hair, causing increased porosity.

How do you fix low hair porosity?

Hair porosity is not something you need to fix. You can take care of your low-porosity hair by using lightweight, low-porosity hair oils, applying low heat during deep conditioning, and avoiding heavy products that weigh down your hair.

Is heat beneficial for low-porosity hair?

Yes, heat can be beneficial for low-porosity hair. Applying heat during deep conditioning treatments helps open the cuticles, allowing better product penetration. However, using heat responsibly and incorporating heat protectants is critical to prevent excessive damage.

How to moisturize low-porosity hair?

– Try the “baggy method” by moisturizing and covering your hair with a plastic cap.
– Clarify the hair periodically with low-porosity hair shampoo, avoiding those that contain sulfates.
– Take a biotin supplement to help your hair from the inside out. 


+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Maria Inês Dias (2015). Hair cosmetics: An overview. [online] 7(1), pp.2–2. doi:https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.153450.
  2. Hill, V., Elvan Loni, Cairns, T., Sommer, J. and Schaffer, M. (2014). Identification and analysis of damaged or porous hair. [online] 6(S1), pp.42–54. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.1652.
  3. Sedik, Hadeer M, Gheida, Shereen F, Ibrahim, W.M. and Doghaim, Noha N (2020). Effect of Hair Straightening Treatment on Porosity and Cysteic Acid Content of Hair – Lib Research Guardians. Researchguardians.com. [online] doi:http://lib.researchguardians.com/id/eprint/244/1/Sedik32182020JAMMR61992.pdf.
  4. Feigenbaum, H. (n.d.). The Use of Cationizing Reagents in the Preparation of Conditioning Polymers for Hair and Skin Care The Conditioning Mechanism. [online] Available at: https://quab.com/files/Personal_Care_Article.pdf
  5. Kaushik, V., Kumar, A., Nitya Nand Gosvami, Gode, V., Sudhakar Mhaskar and Kamath, Y.K. (2022). Benefit of coconut‐based hair oil via hair porosity quantification. [online] 44(3), pp.289–298. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12774.
  6. Guerra-Tapia, A. and E. Gonzalez-Guerra (2014). Hair Cosmetics: Dyes. [online] 105(9), pp.833–839. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adengl.2014.02.003.
Diana Zambrano

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Diana Zambrano is a health and wellness copywriter with over 7 years of experience writing evidence-based content. She has a passion for combining well-researched information with creative writing to craft stories that inspire, uplift, and encourage people to make better health choices. When she's not writing, she can be found admiring sharks 80 feet below the surface or planning her next scuba diving adventure.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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