How To Test Your Hair Porosity – The Easy Way [Expert method]

Ever feel like your hair is unruly, dry, and won’t cooperate no matter what you do? Well, it might be time for you to take a hair porosity test.

Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry—we’re about to break it down for you. Let’s get into why this test is important for your hair health and how to go about taking one.

What is Hair Porosity?

Hair porosity refers to how quickly your hair absorbs and retains moisture.

This determines what kind of products work best on your hair type and the level of care required to keep it healthy. It can also help explain why certain products don’t work as well on your hair as they do on others.

Knowing your hair porosity will give you the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing a product or styling routine that works specifically for you.

What is your hair's porosity infographic.Closed cuticle
Moisture is hard to penetrate
Low porosity
Medium porosity
High porosity
Slightly opened cuticle
Moisture lasts longer in the hair
Open cuticle
Moisture absorbs and evaporates quickly

Watch and learn: Hair Porosity 101.

Here’s a great video that talks in more detail about what hair porosity is and the right products to use if you have high porosity hair or low porosity hair.

The three types of hair porosity 

There are three levels of porosity when it comes to caring for your tresses: low, normal and high.

Low porosity means that the cuticles are close together – moisture has trouble entering the cuticle layer, so deep conditioning treatments may be necessary.

Normal porosity means that the cuticles are slightly further apart – so moisture can enter and exit your hair cortex with ease, so regular conditioning should keep it looking healthy.

High porosity means there is a lot of space between cuticles – so too much moisture can easily enter the cuticle layer, leading to dryness, split ends or frizziness. Products with added oils or serums can help counteract this problem. 

To get an idea of what type of hair porosity you have, try out this simple test at home! 

How to test your hair porosity  

Testing your own hair porosity is actually pretty easy. All you need is a bowl of warm water and several strands of clean, dry hair.

Start by gathering three or four strands of clean, dry hair from around the crown of your head. Place them gently in the bowl of warm water and wait for two minutes.

After two minutes have passed, check to see what happens to each strand. Here are some possible outcomes: 

  • If the strands sink immediately and don’t float back up, then this means that you have high porosity hair. 
  • If they take a few moments to sink but eventually float back up after 10-15 seconds then this means that you have normal porosity hair. 
  • If they float on top of the water without sinking at all then this means that you low porosity hair.  

By testing your own strands in this way, you can easily determine whether or not you have low, normal or high porosity hair!

Once you know what kind of porosity your hair has, it’s much easier to find products tailored to those needs and will bring out the best in your mane.

Hair porosity test

HIGH POROSITY: Your hair strands sink in a glass of water and don’t float back up.

NORMAL POROSITY: Your hair will float back up after 10-15 seconds.

LOW POROSITY: They float on top of the water without sinking.  

What are signs of low porosity hair?

You know you have low porosity hair when your locks dry quickly after a shower or in the sun, seem to repel products such as conditioners and shampoos, and barely respond to deep conditioning treatments.

Other signs include having a harder time coloring your hair, tangling really easily and having an overall “plastic-y” appearance.

Frizzy and dry hair are signs of hair with low porosity. And curly hair or natural hair are types of hair that are genetically low in porosity.

Because of their natural protective barrier, many advise not over-washing low porosity hair so that it can retain more moisture rather than be stripped away due to frequent washing.

If this sounds like your kind of hair type, there’s no need to worry about being stuck in the same style for days on end – with proper maintenance and styling, your low porosity hair will look product-fresh all week!

What causes low porosity hair?

Here are some of the most common causes of low porosity hair: 

– Genetics

Genetics play a role in determining your hair type and porosity level.

If you were born with low porosity strands, chances are they’ll stay that way! 

– Heat Damage

Overuse of heat styling tools can damage the cuticles on your strands, making them lay flat and preventing moisture from entering the strand.

When using these tools (especially tools like flat irons), make sure to use a heat protectant spray or cream before applying heat to protect your strands from damage. 

– Chemical Treatments and processing

As with heat styling tools, overuse of chemical treatments such as relaxers, hair bleach and color can damage the cuticle layer on your strands, resulting in low porosity hair.

When using these treatments, always follow directions carefully and consult with a professional if needed.  

– Age!

It’s no secret that as we age our hair tends to become more dry and brittle due to hormonal changes and other factors.

This can lead to low porosity levels in older clients who may have had high or normal porosities when they were younger. 

Low Porosity Hair is just one type among many different types of textured hair out there. Understanding what causes it can help you better equip yourself to care for this unique type of hair. 

Can I dye low porosity hair?

If you’ve got low porosity hair, don’t worry — yes, you can still dye it to make those fabulous color changes happen!

It’s more challenging, since the cuticles in your hair are closed and do not allow moisture or dyes to easily penetrate, but a few adjustments to your normal routine will make it possible.

Start by pre-treating your hair with protein and keratin treatments regularly to strengthen it and increase porosity.

When it comes time to dye, opt for an acid-based color or a semi-permanent dye that is deposited on the surface of the shafts rather than making any chemical changes.

And of course, rinse with cool water and finish up with deep conditioning treatments after each dye session.

So don’t fret — you can still be part of the vibrant hair scene even if you have low porosity locks!

Does low porosity hair mean it’s healthy?

Low porosity hair can be misleading – just because it’s “low” doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

But don’t assume the worst either; low-porosity hair has its positives too, like being less prone to product buildup and tangles.

Moisture is key – no matter what your level of porosity is – so make sure you’re keeping your mane hydrated with a good conditioner or deep conditioner.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with having low-porosity hair… it just means you gotta work a little harder to keep it feeling silky smooth!

What products should I use for my hair porosity? 

For low-porosity hair, look for products that are light and moisturizing—think leave-in conditioners or oil treatments applied before shampooing or conditioning.

For high-porosity strands, heavier products like deep conditioners are best since they can help keep moisture locked in longer.

And if your results come back as medium-porosity (lucky!), then both light/moisturizing products and heavy/hydrating ones should work well for you!

Just remember to experiment with different types until you find what works best for your tresses. 

Is low or high porosity hair better?

Look, the thing about hair porosity is that neither has an advantage over the other.

Low porosity hair can benefit from lighter products, while those with high porosity can really reap the rewards of deep conditioning treatments.

The key, then, isn’t about which one is ‘better’ – it’s about making sure you find the right combination of treatment and product for your individual hair texture and condition to keep you looking and feeling your best.

Everyone is different so what works for a friend might not be the same as what works for you, but regardless of low or high porosity, take some time to give yourself a little TLC and follow your routine – you’ll be glad you did!

How to care for low porosity hair.

Caring for beautiful, low porosity hair is easier than it seems — and no matter whether you have straight, curly or natural hair, these tips will keep your strands happy and healthy!

Start by using a clarifying shampoo to remove any product buildup that might be blocking moisture from getting in.

Deep condition with an oil-based moisturizer or serum at least once a month since low porosity hair needs intense hydration.

After you wash, gently blot your strands to dry them instead of rubbing them dry with a towel (which can cause frizz).

Always use a good heat protectant before reaching for those flat irons or blow dryer.

And last but not least, be kind to yourself. A good hair day is possible when you recognize the unique needs of your fabulous tendrils.

Parting words

Achieving great looking tresses can be tricky business sometimes!

But understanding why certain products work better than others can save you lots of frustration (and money) in trying to find something that works best with YOUR kind of locks.

Taking a quick and easy (not to mention free!) DIY hair porosity test can help unlock exactly what kind of care works best for you in terms of moisture retention and product selection—which means beautiful happy locks for everyone!

So go ahead—take that test today! Your mane will thank you tomorrow!

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Nicola Freeman

Creative Director & Owner

With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during Covid for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!