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What does hair porosity in curly hair?

So, you’re all clued up on curl types and you’ve got your wash day routine down to a T – but your curls are still feeling dry. Well, it turns out that curly hair is naturally drier than other hair types (sorry babe, it’s just one of those things!)

This is all down to the actual structure of curly hair. The twists and turns of the strands makes it a whole lot harder for the natural oils to travel down from your scalp to lubricate through to the ends. And the tighter your curls, the higher the risk of dehydration. 


But curl type isn’t the only thing that affects the dryness of your hair. You might have come across the term hair porosity on your quest for curl care information. Knowing and understanding the porosity of your hair is a total game changer in caring for your curls. It will help you choose the best products to properly moisturise and strengthen your hair, and to keep your curls poppin’ like pink champagne. And don’t worry babe, it’s not all that complicated. We’ll break it down for you.


What is hair porosity?


Before we get into the knitty-gritty of hair porosity, let’s take a closer look at the structure of your hair. Each strand of hair on your head is made up of three layers:


  • The cuticles: These are tiny scales that overlap each other to form a protective outer layer around the hair shaft. They look a little like fish scales or roof tiles. A healthy head of hair will have cuticles that lay dead flat against the hair shaft to lock in moisture and protect it from harsh heat and chemicals.

  • The cortex: This is the thickest and middle layer of the hair. It contains the fibrous proteins that give your hair its elasticity and the pigment that gives its natural colour. When you have your hair chemically coloured or styled, this is the part of the hair that gets manipulated.
  • The medulla: This is the soft, innermost layer of the hair. Now we’ve got that straight, hair porosity is going to make a lot more sense. Essentially, hair porosity is all about how well your hair can absorb and hold onto moisture. It affects how water and oils pass in and out of the cuticles. Let’s take a look at the three types of hair porosity in more detail…  

Low porosity hair – what is it and how do you care for it?

If you have low porosity hair, you’ll probably find that it takes ages to air dry. Water and hair products tend to sit on top of your hair instead of absorbing easily, causing you to have product buildup. This is because the cuticles are so tightly bound together that it’s a lot harder for oils and moisture to penetrate into the hair shaft. This might give your hair the appearance of being shiny on the surface (because the cuticles form a smooth outer layer), but stops it from getting the moisture it really needs. 

Low porosity hair likes lighter, liquid-based products that won’t sit on the surface of your hair and make it look greasy. To make sure your hair is getting enough moisture, look for products that are rich in emollients – like coconut oil, shea butter and cupuaçu butter (aka one of nature’s most powerful moisturisers). You’ll also want to have plenty of humectants in there to keep that moisture on lock.  We’d recommend using our curl gel, our most light weight product that encourages definition without weighing your curls down.

Hot tip for low porosity hair: Drizzle water onto your hair as your apply conditioner to make it easier for it to be absorbed into your hair.

Medium porosity hair – what is it and how do you care for it?

You’ll know you have medium porosity hair if it’s easy to style and colour, doesn’t take too long to dry and generally looks healthy and shiny. The cuticle layer is looser, not too close together but also not wide open. This allows moisture to penetrate the hair shaft while keeping it locked in for longer. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Before you get too comfortable, it is possible for medium porosity hair to increase if you don’t look after it properly. Chemical styling, heat, hard water, and overexposure to UV rays can damage the cuticles and cause them to break apart, making it harder for your hair to hold onto that precious moisture. Although fairly low maintenance, medium porosity hair will still benefit from regular deep conditioning treatments to keep your strands strong, soft and supple.  

High porosity hair – what is it and how do you care for it?

With high porosity hair, the cuticles are widely spaced with gaps and holes in between. This allows moisture into the hair shaft too easily (which equals frizz in humid weather) and lets it escape easily, too (which makes it harder for the hair to stay hydrated). Frizz, dryness and breakage are all tell-tale signs that your hair has a high porosity. It will probably also absorb water and products quickly and air-dry in no time.

Sometimes, having high porosity hair is down to genetics. But you can also make your hair more porous from too much damage. Chemical processing, environmental damage and rubbing your hair dry with a rough towel will raise and open the cuticles even more, making it harder for the hair to retain moisture.

To keep frizz at bay and to keep moisture on lock, you’ll need to seal your damaged cuticles with anti-humectants in hot and humid climates. Load up on moisture with leave-in conditioners and deep-conditioning masks with heavy butters and nourishing oils to help strengthen the cuticles.

Hot tip for high porosity hair: Try to avoid washing your hair with steaming hot water. Lukewarm or cold water will help seal the cuticles and give your curls a smooth shine.

So, now you know all about the porosity of your hair, you’ll be able to make better choices when it comes to buying products and caring for your curls. 

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