Regardless of your hair’s porosity, there’s one thing that rings true for all hair types. You need to keep your hair moisturized to keep your hair soft, pliable and in good condition. Yet, even though we all need moisture, how you moisturize your hair based on your porosity level will determine if it’s most effective. In this blog post guide, let’s take a look at moisturizing low porosity hair.
This guide was updated for 2023 providing more details
About Low Porosity Hair
Before getting into strategies that effectively moisturize low porosity hair, let’s define what this hair type actually is, along with the defining characteristics of low porosity hair.
Firstly, low porosity hair is the polar opposite of high porosity hair. How the hair strands react with water are very different.
When someone has highly porous hair, it can absorb moisture quite easily but that water escapes just as quickly.
For those with low-porosity hair, it is hair that’s classified as having a cuticle layer that’s very tightly closed. Low porosity hair takes a long time to get moisture into this hair type because of tight cuticles and its resistance to attracting moisture.
On the flip side, moisture retention is much easier for those with low porosity hair. So, in essence some would say that having hair that’s not very porous is a good thing.
Another characteristic of low porosity hair is it’s prone to getting product buildup. This is one reason why if you have low porosity hair, your best hair care products for use are water-based products and natural oils (example: argan oil) versus using heavier oils. Coincidentally, these are the best types of products to use for fine curly hair as well.
Testing Hair Porosity
There’s varying advice on how to test your hair’s porosity. Most will say to grab a glass of water and do what’s called a float test. You basically put a few strands of hair into a glass and after about 15 to 20 minutes, you see if your hair floats or sinks.
If your hair floats, you supposedly have low porosity hair
If your hair sinks, well you guessed it. You supposedly have high porosity hair.
Do you happen to notice how flawed this method for testing hair porosity is?
This is actually an inaccurate way of testing your hair’s porosity level. The number one reason this method is flawed is because it is entirely possible to have more than one porosity type on your head.
Suppose you grabbed a few of the low porosity hairs but your hair is mostly high porosity or normal porosity?
The best way to really determine your hair’s porosity is to carefully observe how it reacts to water when being washed or made wet all over.
Signs You Have Low Porosity Hair
Do you feel like you have dry hair after spraying it with water?
Does it take your hair a ridiculous amount of time to “feel” wet?
Do water droplets seem to just sit on your hair shaft without actually penetrating your hair?
These are tell tale signs of low porosity tresses!
Oh and newsflash, you can have a low hair porosity regardless of your type of hair.
Once you know if your porosity hair level is low, you can start putting together an effective hair care regimen for the care of low porosity hair.
If you find your hair’s characteristics are the polar opposite of what you’ve read above, then no need to finish this article. Check out Moisturizing High Porosity Hair.
Moisturizing Low Porosity Hair: Moisture Tips
The good news is those with low porosity hair, typically have very healthy hair. Once moisturized, low-po hair tends to retain moisture much longer than higher porosity hair.
You just have to be very diligent with getting moisture into your hair shaft and in the right manner.
Since the cuticles on a low porosity strand of hair are very tight, it stands to reason that you need to get the hair cuticle open (if even temporarily) so that you can get much needed moisture into the strands.
When you have fine hair, you need to moisturize while also taking into consideration the delicateness of fine hair.
Below are some simple tips for moisturizing fine low porosity hair as well.
Go deeper than topical applications of moisture
This is exactly what you’re doing when you deep condition your hair with a heat cap on wash day. Sometimes you’ll find that you need an extra shot of moisture mid-week.
In this case, you don’t want to use a heavy moisturizer or heavy butters to seal in that moisture. Not only will these types of products weigh the hair down, they are virtually useless at getting moisture into the hair shaft when the cuticles are closed so tightly.
Instead, consider working in sections. Lightly steam your hair so that the cuticles begin to lift. Then, apply a light moisturizer spray or other creams made with lightweight formulas.
The Q-Redew handheld hair steamer is great for light steaming sessions.
Moisturizing Low Porosity Hair: Don’t skip the Pre-poo
Pre-pooing your hair with a penetrating oil like coconut oil will help to get moisture deeper into your strands. When it’s time to wash, applying your pre-poo followed by putting on a plastic cap will make it more effective. Add to that plastic cap some moist heat and you’ve taken the first step (also the next tip) to help you moisturize your low porosity hair.
Related article: Why & How to Pre-Poo
Carefully embrace heat
The key to working with heat on fine hair is to more so embrace moist heat/warmth while carefully manipulating your hair (smaller sections, etc) so you don’t cause breakage.
Heat is your friend if you have low porosity hair. Again, for fine hair that’s also low porosity, handle with care. I’m not talking about heat styling.
– Washing hair in sections with very warm water
– Deep conditioning your hair with heat using a deep conditioner that has lots of slip. Do it with a plastic cap on under a heat source for 15-30 minutes
– Applying warm conditioners (this includes your leave in conditioner)
– Steaming your hair with a hair steamer working in small sections a couple times a month (more often in the warmer months)
Moisturizing Low Porosity Hair: Sealing Moisture
Once you’ve successfully infused moisture into your strands, you can use light oils to seal in the moisture. However, it’s actually more effective to close the hair’s cuticle as quickly as possible once getting the moisture into your hair.
You’ll want to seal moisture and all the goodness your hair will receive from the natural ingredients found in your leave-in conditioner.
A Sealing Hair Care Routine for Low Porosity Hair
To ensure that the pH level of your hair is balanced after your hair is moisturized, there are a few steps you can take. These include:
- After doing a pre-poo treatment, cleansing, deep conditioning and protein treatment (if your hair needs it*) try a final rinse with apple cider vinegar: 2 parts water, 1 part apple cider vinegar or an aloe vera juice rinse. This will re-close the cuticle.
- Low porosity hair does have a closed cuticle already but when you wash your hair with warm/hot water, you open the cuticles. Low porosity hair cuticles will shut down once dry but you can accelerate the process to seal in moisture with the rinse.
- Smooth your hair with your fingers. Repetitively smoothing the hair in a downward fashion.
- Use the cool air shot on your blow dryer to blow your hair in a downward fashion to lock the water molecules into your hair strands (unless you are air drying).
Moisturizing low porosity hair may take a few more steps than for someone with normal porosity hair but once you’ve accomplished it, your hair will retain moisture for a significant period of time.
Coincidentally, ensuring that your hair’s cuticle is closed also helps add shine to your hair.
*While those with low porosity hair don’t typically need to do a protein treatment as those with high porosity hair, protein is still needed. Plus, if you have fine, low porosity hair you’ll find using protein in your fine strands to be quite beneficial. It’s all about the type of protein.
Check out: Why Fine Hair Needs Protein to discover the various types of protein
The Right Products for Low Porosity Hair
While this guide is about moisturizing low porosity hair, I’d be remise in pointing out the best products to use on low porosity hair.
From your hair follicles down to your ends, you want to make sure the products you use don’t create product build-up. This will make it even more difficult for moisture to get into your hair. What you don’t want is a hard time getting moisture into your hair. Well, an even harder time because it’s definitely not easy naturally.
So, here are the hair products you should always have handy if you have low porosity hair:
- A clarifying shampoo (because product build up can happen regardless of porosity – especially if you use a lot of styling products)
- Lightweight products, including stylers
- Lightweight oils like grapeseed oil and jojoba oil. These light oils make for doing excellent hot oil treatments as well.
- Hair products containing natural extracts that won’t sit on the hair shaft
Heavier oils like castor oil can be used on the ends of the hair to keep them smooth but overall, the best low-porosity hair products will be much lighter in weight.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth explanation on low porosity hair, The Science-y Hair Blog has written an excellent article here. It’s a bit technical and wordy but the article has some solid information.
Also, check out The Best Essential Oils for Low Porosity Hair.