How to Care for Low Porosity Hair: Top Tips + 3 Things to Avoid

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Have you ever noticed that your hair takes too long to get wet when you shower?

It might be because you have low-porosity hair.

What’s that? 

The back of a woman sitting in a chair with long frizzy curly hair.

Low porosity is a common condition for people with straight hair and those with type 4c hair.

For others, this hair type is the most difficult to manage. But for us, it’s really not that hard when you know how to care for low-porosity hair the right way.

And that’s what we’ll share with you. We’ll show you how to deal with low-porosity hair and what products you can use.

Plus, we’ll also give you an idea of what to avoid in your hair care regimen.

What Is Hair Porosity?

Understanding your hair porosity makes it easier to care for your locks.

The New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC) describes hair porosity as the extent that the hair strands can absorb and retain water and other hair products.

There are three hair porosity levels:

Furthermore, the hair’s porosity levels are based on the outermost layer of the hair, which is the cuticle. The cuticles look like the scales of a snake, and these cuticles protect the inner part of your hair strands.

In low-porosity hair, the cuticles lay flat and smooth across the strand, leading to hair that’s resistant to water and chemical treatments.

Medium porosity hair is the normal level of hair porosity, where hair can absorb and retain moisture reasonably well because the cuticles are slightly lifted.

This gives more gaps for water to pass through but not too many nor too lifted for moisture to escape.

The level that has too many gaps on the strand is high porosity. The cuticles are way too open. That means it’s easy for moisture to penetrate the hair but also easy to get out.

High-porosity hair can be caused by genes, as curly hair tends to be highly porous. It can also be caused by chemical treatments from grooming practices, as well as stress levels.

Characteristics of Low Porosity Hair

So how do you know if you may have low-porosity hair? Of course, we don’t expect you to have a microscope around to examine your hair strands.

To know if you have low-porosity hair, you can test hair porosity.

A black woman with curly hair is looking at her hair with disappointment

There are simple tests you can do at home:

  • Drop a strand of hair in a glass of water.
  • Slide your fingers upwards along a strand and feel its texture.
  • Spray water on some of your strands.

Choose either one of those or do all of them and observe the results. If you have low hair porosity, the strand will 

  • float on the glass of water;
  • feel smooth when you slide your fingers upwards along a strand; or
  • not easily get wet from the spray and form beads of water instead.

If you’re still not convinced, you can also check how your locks look and behave.

infographic about floating hair test on porosity hair

Low Porosity Hair Characteristics

Low porosity hair has tightly packed, flat cuticles. This means there’s little space for water or other treatments to come in or out of.

Because of that condition, less porous hair typically

  • is dull,
  • has dry ends,
  • blocks moisture,
  • is prone to frizz,
  • takes long to wet and dry, and
  • accumulates products outside the shaft.

Similar to other porosity levels, genes play a big part in having low porosity hair because the placement of cuticles can depend on the texture of the hair.

Chemical treatments like coloring, perming, bleaching, and others can’t be blamed as causes for low-porosity hair. Damage from these treatments can only make hair more porous, not less porous.

When you’ve finally determined if your hair is less porous, you can then learn how to fix low-porosity hair.

How to Care for Low-Porosity Hair

Now that you understand your hair’s porosity, you can do better in the way you give your locks some TLC.

In less porous hair, the goal is to get moisture and nourishing ingredients into the hair shaft. And we know that it’s hard to do, but it’s not impossible.

Allow us to show you low-porosity hair tips that will surely improve your hair condition and give you better, more beautiful tresses.

Tip #1: Use a Residue-Free Shampoo

We know that the purpose of shampoo is to clean your hair. It’s not supposed to leave anything behind.

Sadly, not every shampoo does that. Other products use fillers in their ingredients, while some have added conditioning agents.

Since you have low-porosity hair, these ingredients will sit on the hair instead of being absorbed. The residue will soon accumulate until it starts to build up and weigh down your locks.

Use shampoo only for cleaning your hair and scalp. Choose one that leaves no residue.

Because not all shampoos will write “residue-free” on their labels, you can look at the list of ingredients.

Shampoos that will leave residues contain

  • fragrance,
  • lubricants (silicones),
  • moisturizer (natural oils),
  • emollients (petrolatum, dimethicone),
  • humectants (glycerin, hyaluronic acid), and
  • any ingredient that begins with PEG or PPG.

Our favorite proven residue-free shampoo is Color Wow Color Security Shampoo.

Tip #2: Dilute Your Conditioner

Since dry hair is one of the problems of low porosity, you probably never fail to use a conditioner every time you wash in hopes that it will moisturize your hair.

What could finally answer your prayers is this tip.

Mix water with your conditioner before you apply it to your locks. This will make it easier for your locks to absorb the product.

And if you can’t be bothered with diluting the conditioner each time you use it, then you can get an already lightweight and water-based conditioner for your hair instead.

One of the best low-porosity hair products is Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Conditioner. Water is first on its ingredient list, so you can be sure it’s water-based and lightweight.

Aside from being water-based, you can also know if a conditioner is lightweight if it has a thin or watery consistency. Plus, you can check the ingredients.

A lightweight conditioner has:

  • no waxes,
  • no silicones,
  • few or no oils, and
  • no petroleum or mineral oil.

Tip #3: Use Water-Based Products

Since we’re already talking about water-based products, let’s further understand why these are better for low-porosity hair.

Water molecules are smaller than oil molecules. That said, the more water there is in a product, the easier it is absorbed by the hair.

A water-based product should have water or aqua in its list of ingredients. And better yet, it should be the first one listed.

So when styling low-porosity hair, choose water-based low-porosity hair gels, hair sprays, or leave-in conditioner.

What we’d most recommend for styling your hair is Mielle Moisture Hawaiian Ginger Moisturizing Styling Gel.

Tip #4: Remove Buildup

Low-porosity hair is prone to product buildup.

If you don’t cleanse your locks properly, they will eventually look cakey and dull. Worse, you can have dandruff. Yikes!

For this reason, a clarifying shampoo is a type 4c curly girl’s best friend.

This product isn’t like regular shampoo. It has a stronger cleansing property that works well in breaking down the toughest dirt and the thickest pile of products left on your hair.

However, because of its clarifying power, your hair may feel dry after using this product. Good thing there are gentle clarifying shampoos you can use.

Our favorite is Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo. It cleanses and resets your hair without stripping too many natural oils.

But if you think gentle clarifying shampoos are still harsh on your hair and scalp, you can try something natural, like an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Here’s how to do it:

Tip #5: Use Heat When Deep Conditioning

Studies show that hair strands exposed to heat, whether from hot water or heat styling tools, have relatively more lifted cuticles and are more porous than virgin hair.

This leads trichologists (hair doctors) to conclude that heat can open hair cuticles, just like how heat opens up your skin’s pores.

Now let’s talk about how to deep condition low porosity hair. With less porous hair, a deep conditioner won’t work effectively if it can’t get into your hair shaft. 

That’s where the heat comes in. To help your deep conditioning product get into your hair, you can lift your cuticles a bit using heat.

Here are three different ways to apply heat on low-porous hair when deep conditioning:

  • Use warm water to wet your hair before using the hair treatment.
  • After applying your deep conditioning product, wrap your hair in a towel, then use a hair dryer on your covered hair for 2 to 3 minutes.

You can do either or both of those methods to open up your hair cuticles and let the nourishing ingredients of your conditioner into the hair shaft.

Our favorite deep conditioner is Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Moisturizing Masque.

Tip #6: Steam Your Hair

One other way to open up your hair shaft or hydrate it is steaming.

Steam is unlike other forms of water and heat. Because the water from the steam is in vapor form, it moves more quickly and can penetrate your hair more easily.

You can use this method to hydrate your hair. Or you can also use a steamer when you deep condition.

Can you steam at home?

Yes, with a portable hair steamer like EZBasics Hair and Facial Steamer, it’s easy to do this method without going to the salon.

Tip #7: Do the Maximum Hydration Method

The maximum hydration method is a natural hair care routine that’s created for Afro-textured low-porosity hair.

Its purpose is to make the hair strands reach the maximum level of moisture they can absorb.

It’s a six-step method of mostly clarifying, opening, and moisturizing the strands. We’ve written a detailed guide for maximum hydration method that you can use to make sure your hair gets super hydrated. Check it out!

What to Avoid in Your Low Porosity Hair Regimen

Heavy Products

We mentioned using lightweight products because they’re perfect for low-porosity hair. So what are heavy products and why shouldn’t you use them?

Products that are considered heavy are those that contain emollients (barrier cream) and have a thick consistency.

Since they’re thick, they won’t get through the cuticles of low-porosity hair easily. They can also leave a coating on your hair, which you wouldn’t want if your cuticles are already closed.

Silicones

Now it’s time to look at the list of your hair products’ ingredients. If you have low-porosity hair, it’s best to avoid using products that have silicones in them.

Since silicones are used to smoothen the cuticle, you won’t want that. Remember, the cuticles of low-porosity hair are already smooth, so the goal is to open them slightly to let hair care products in.

Using a hair care product with silicone will give you the opposite of what you’re going for.

Protein

We know that protein is good for the hair because our strands are filled with it.

But for less porous hair, it can cause problems.

You see, the protein inside low-porosity hair can’t get out. That means, there’s no protein loss. So if you use a protein-rich treatment on your hair, you’re adding something that’s not needed at all.

And when you do, there can be protein overload in your hair. Your locks will end up stiff and will lose their elasticity, causing brittleness, tangles, and dryness.

That said, refrain from using shampoos, conditioners, or hair masks that are packed with protein.

a woman with brown low porosity hair watching the ocean waves peacefully

FAQs About How to Take Care of Low Porosity Hair

How Often Should I Wash Low Porosity Hair?

Once a week is how often you should wash low-porosity hair. This way, you will keep your scalp free of product buildup but also give your hair time to absorb some moisture.

Is LOC Method Good for Low Porosity Hair?

The LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method is designed for high-porosity hair because it aims to seal the moisture in using heavy products. You wouldn’t want that with less porous hair.

What you can use instead is the LCO (liquid, cream, oil) method but this time with lightweight products. In this order, the products are absorbed much easier.

What Your Low Porosity Hair Needs

Since low-porosity hair has few pores, it’s hard for moisture and other hair care products to penetrate the hair shaft. That’s why this type of hair is prone to dryness and frizz.

Caring for low-porosity hair shouldn’t cause much trouble if you know the best hair care tips and the right hair care products.

To make low-porosity hair better, open the cuticles of your hair and help your hair to absorb moisture. Plus, follow the other low-porosity hair care tips we shared above to make sure you have healthy hair.

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Author

  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

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