High porosity hair has a unique struggle – the art of retention.
See, unlike low porosity hair, water has no problem entering high porosity hair strands. The strands are raised like an acorn or the shingles of a roof, making moisture penetration easy and effortless.
The problem? Making sure the water stays put.
Moisture retention can seem almost impossible with high porosity hair. But we got the keys to making sure your high porosity hair stays juicy, moisturized and healthy all year round.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Porosity?
Before we get into taking care of high porosity hair, it cannot be understated that hair porosity is the single most important characteristic you should know about your hair.
Natural Hair Porosity
Natural hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb water and/products.
Low porosity natural hair has a low absorption rate, because the cuticles are stubbornly closed. It is difficult for this hair porosity to absorb moisture.
High porosity natural hair has a high absorption rate, because the cuticles are always open. It is difficult for this hair porosity to retain moisture.
Leveraging your hair’s porosity is the key to truly moisturizing your curls. If you don’t work with your hair’s porosity, you may experience accelerated dryness and associated breakage. Not fun!
What is High Porosity Hair?
If you have high porosity hair, your hair cuticle is “open” – under a microscope, the hair cuticle is raised rather than laying flat.
This is sometimes due to genetics, but in other cases, your high porosity can be an indicator of damage, commonly from over-manipulation/mechanical damage, poor diet, dye, bleach or heat.
Regardless of origin, high porosity hair has trouble retaining moisture, as it loses water to the environment due to evaporation.
Furthermore, because high porosity strands are not lying flat, your strands can easily catch onto each other, causing single strand knots and split ends. A double-whammy!
How To Know If You Have High Porosity Hair
Some indicators of high porosity hair include:
- Extreme dryness
- Inability to retain a style
- Extreme tangles and,
- A dull-looking color.
To check your porosity, gently grasp a section of clean, freshly washed hair. Run your fingers along the length of the strand, from the tips to the ends. If you feel any uneven, bumpy parts in the strand, this means that your cuticles are open and you have high porosity natural hair.
Or, you can take our hair quiz to figure out your porosity.
Think of your high porosity hair like a leaky bucket: if the cuticle remains raised, any moisture you put into your hair is immediately lost.
Therefore, the goal is to retain as much moisture as you can!
How to Take Care of High Porosity Hair
There are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to high porosity hair.
Right now, your hair needs a little extra TLC. Everything you do to your hair needs to be nourishing, moisturizing, conditioning, strengthening and protective. This includes low manipulation styles, deep treatments consisting of proteins, using moisture and humectant-rich leave-ins and protective styling.
It is imperative that you follow these steps meticulously, as high porosity hair is fragile and prone to breakage. Thankfully the below steps are easy to integrate into any natural hair routine.
Here are the top 5 things you need to include in your high porosity hair routine!
Your New High Porosity Hair Wash Day Routine
Your wash day will look a lot different than a low porosity wash day. There are certain elements of high porosity hair you need to consider when building an effective high-po wash day routine.
Pre-pooing is the act of applying a protective product onto the hair prior to shampoo. This reduces the stripping effects of the shampoo, as detergents are quite drying, especially for high porosity hair.
Studies have shown that coconut oil is the most effective oil for providing a barrier against the shampoo, and also protecting the hair shaft from over-swelling from water, a trait inherent to high porosity hair.
Apply coconut oil to the hair overnight before your wash day to allow the oil to do its job, for at least 8 hours.
While low porosity hair benefits from deeply clarifying shampoos, you should opt for shampoos that are sulfate-free and contain moisturizing ingredients to reduce dryness. Ingredients to look out for include fatty acids, coconut-derived detergents, and butters for friction-reducing slip.
For Type 4 high porosity hair, you can use a cleansing conditioner in between shampoo days to cleanse yet moisturize the hair. Just be sure to use shampoo biweekly at the most.
Mielle Pomegranate & Honey Shampoo
Best for TYPE 4, high porosity
This shampoo is one of the most moisturizing shampoos on the market. Key ingredients such as honey and panthenol reduce friction between hair strands, providing additional slip and promoting moisture retention throughout the shampoo process. A must try for Type 4 naturals!
As I Am Coconut Cowash
Best for TYPE 4, high porosity
This conditioning creme is formulated with fortifying and strengthening ingredients such as coconut oil, saw palmetto and castor oil. The rich creamy formula will also reduce friction between your strands, making detangling a breeze. A great co-washing option for 4b coils in between shampoo days. A must try!
Deep conditioning is a sacred practice for all naturals, but is especially important for high porosity hair. This is an excellent opportunity to use deep conditioners that target damaged cuticles but also encourages moisture retention.
Ingredients to look out for in your deep conditioners include proteins (of varying sizes), henna, cassia, and other strengthening plant-based ingredients. Moisture is still important, so alternate between a moisturizing deep conditioner and a strengthening deep conditioner.
Mielle Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner
Best for TYPE 3c-4, high porosity
One of Mielle’s most popular products, the active ingredient in this mask is babassu seed oil, a significant source of Vitamin E and fatty lipids. Other rockstar ingredients like acai, rosemary leaf oil and amino acids will strengthen your coils from the inside out. A staple deep conditioner for high porosity hair!
TGIN Honey Miracle Hair Mask
Best for TYPE 3c-4, high porosity
One of the most superior ingredient list of any deep conditioner on the market. Honey is the SECOND ingredient, meaning that you’ll truly feel the softening effects from the honey after rinsing. Jojoba oil and aloe vera, the third and fourth ingredients respectively, are incredibly beneficial for moisturizing natural hair. A must have for coilier textures!
Moisturize and Seal
Once you wash out your deep conditioner, it’s time to lock in all that moisture with a water-based leave-in conditioner. This is your hair’s first line of moisture defence and is 100% imperative to keep your hair hydrated until next wash day.
Look for ingredients such as proteins that will fill the gaps in your cuticle layer, and film-forming humectants that will create a moisture barrier around your hair – examples include aloe vera gel, slippery elm, marshmallow root and flaxseeds.
Next, using an oil-based product (normally a cream styler or gel) will lock in the water-based product and provide an additional moisture barrier. Look for a product that contain film-forming humectants and light to medium oils such as JBCO, jojoba oil and avocado oil.
Mielle Moisturizing Avocado Hair Milk
Best for TYPE 3c-4, high porosity
A Mielle cult classic, this moisturizing hair milk is formulated with film-forming, moisturizing humectants ingredients such as aloe vera, nettle and horsetail extract. It also includes various strengthening ingredients such as rice and wheat protein. A perfect product for high porosity strands in need of some TLC.
Camille Rose Curl Love Moisture Milk
Best for TYPE 4, high porosity
This product is well-loved by low porosity naturals but the film-forming humectants such aloe vera and slippery elm will form a tight seal around your strands, protecting your hair’s moisture from evaporation for days. The plethora of conditioning ingredients will also make your high porosity hair feel supple and soft. A must try for high porosity naturals!
Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strenghten & Restore Leave-in Conditioner
Best for TYPE 3 – 4a, high porosity
A fan favourite amongst high porosity and protein-loving naturals. The proteins in this formulation are small enough to fit into your cuticles, reducing frizz and increasing moisture absorption. A win-win!
TGIN Buttercream Daily Moisturizer
Best for TYPE 3c-4, all porosities
No other moisturizer exists on the market quite like this one – not only does it have amazing slip, but it’s rich formula with shea butter, vitamin E and proteins will help flatten your cuticles and promote hydration all week long.
Keep Up With Protein
High porosity hair LOVES protein!
Natural hair is made from protein, called keratin. When your hair is highly porous, there are chips and breaks and cracks in these keratin bonds that keep your curls intact.
To combat this, you need to manually add protein into your hair, as protein can temporarily fill in these gaps. Protein are also water-soluble, meaning that they can provide a barrier around your hair to help promote moisture retention.
Using a light to medium protein treatment every 3 weeks will ensure your protein levels are balanced and help moisture train your hair.
Aphogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor
Best for TYPE 3-4, all porosities
This protein treatment is amazing for a protein up-keep, reversing mild heat damage and strenghtening high-porosity hair. Your hair will be defined and bouncy immediately after washing it out. For best results, use for 10-15 minutes in the shower for Type 4 hair, and wash out with cool water. Follow up immediately with a moisturizing leave-in conditioner.
Product Application – the LOC Method
Generally speaking, high porosity natural hair benefits best from the LOC (leave-in conditioner, cream, then oil) method.
Remember: water/products will evaporate out of hair QUICK. So once you apply your leave-in conditioner, you must seal it in with an oil-based product.
The oils won’t evaporate, plus it protects all the moisture from your leave-in conditioner from evaporating too.
It doesn’t exactly have to be the LOC method, but as long as you start with a water-based leave-in and finish with an oil-based product, you’re set.
Apple Cider Vinegar
We need to thank whoever discovered the use of vinegar on their hair because GIRL, it’s a game changer!
There are numerous health benefits for apple cider vinegar, but did you know that it can close those porous cuticles? The acidic nature of ACV lowers the pH of your hair which helps to flatten the cuticles, preventing moisture loss.
Look For Film-Forming Humectants
Film-forming humectants are the cosmetic industry’s best kept secret.
Humectants are agents that pull moisture from the environment and into your hair. Film-forming humectants take it one step further – not only do they pull moisture from around you, they create a barrier to keep it locked in.
Many of our known film-forming humectants are from desert plants (succulents) that do not have a steady supply of water. As such, they have developed an ability to create jelly-like insides that preserve the water.
When you apply products that include these film-forming humectants, your hair will instantly become soft and supple, but the best part is that it will stay that way for longer.
Look for these film-forming humectants in your products:
♥ Aloe vera;
♥ Slippery elm;
♥ Marshmallow root;
♥ Okra gel;
Protective styling is mandatory for all hair types and textures. We need to give our hair a break from both manipulation and the environment.
We also want to make sure we’re giving our hair the space to grow and strengthen without it getting caught on our fingers.
The key here is to use low manipulative protective styles. Jumbo braids that have been left in for 3 months is no longer protective because your hair most likely is dirty AF, with ample amounts of buildup and grime.
This will block your hair follicles and will stunt hair growth. Keep doing that and you will agitate your follicles to a point where hair will refuse to grow out of it anymore.
Low manipulative protective styles:
- Don’t hurt when installed
- Can be easily taken down,
- Do not pull/are not tight on any parts of the hair, and
- Completely seal your ends from the outside world.
If any of these apply to your protective style, it’s time for a change!
Common styles include braids, wigs and weaves. Braids should be medium sized and not tight so that there is no damage to the cuticles. Weaves must be installed correctly. Wigs are great styles as long as your hair underneath is moisturized and braided prior to installing.
This is an obvious one. When you have high porosity hair, not only are your cuticles raised but in many cases, the keratin bonds in your hair are either chipped or broken. This is why it’s so hard for high porosity natural hair to retain moisture!
Both heat and chemicals will further accelerate rates of breakage, shedding and overall damage if continued to be used. Do your ends and edges a favor and lay off the heat and chemicals!
Oil Treatments (Coconut Oil!)
Oil treatments are a high porosity natural’s best friend.
For starters, many oils will both act as a barrier to protect your moisture, but it will treat your strands by penetrating into the hair shaft. This is only true for plant-based, simple structured, natural oils. Stay away from synethetic or petroleum-based oils!
Coconut oil has been known to fill in broken cuticles, temporarily closing decreasing your porosity. It’s one of the only oils out there that can do this. Look for coconut oil in your products!
The Bottom Line
High porosity natural hair can be a challenge. Retaining moisture is a struggle for all naturals but this is especially pronounced in high porosity natural hair.
The trick is to find a balance between adding in the correct amount of protein, balancing this out with moisturizing deep conditioners, protective styling and regular trims.