This hair porosity test will reveal if you have high, medium or low porosity hair – and which products you need

30th March 2021 | Author: Phee Waterfield

For many of us, our hair is a mysterious beast — why is it always frizzy? Why doesn’t hairspray last? Why won’t curls hold? We’ve turned to hair product after hair product without change, spending hundreds of pounds without the desired end result. The problem may not lie in the products themselves, though. It could be that you’re buying products for the wrong type of hair porosity.

What is hair porosity?

Hair porosity refers to how our individual hair strands hold oil and moisture. From this, it can also mean how long our hair stays wet after a swim or a wash, how long it takes to dry, and whether it frizzes up at the first sign of air moisture.

“There are three main types of hair porosity and your type is often dictated by your genetics,” according to hair brand, Curlsmith. The curl experts explain that determining how “porous” your hair depends on your hair cuticles and how open and closed they are.

This is why understanding your hair’s porosity is essential to getting the most out of your hair care routine.

FURTHER READING: L’Oreal Elvive Wonder Water review: Does the 8-second Wonder Water *really* transform damaged hair?

However, while your hair porosity is dependent on genetics, it can also change over time due to external factors. For example, you could be born with naturally high porosity hair — curlier hair — but end up with low porosity hair – straight hair —as you age.

We should point out that while we’ve linked low porosity hair with being straight, and high porosity hair with being curly, this is not always the case. This is a general rule but it’s not exclusive.

Things such as excessive exposure to the sun, UVA and UVB rays, air pollution, how you dry your hair, how often you use heated hair styling products, as well as hair dye and bleach can all change your hair’s structure. The more damaged the hair is, the higher porosity it will be.

On the other hand, a change in porosity cannot be caused just by using dull or damaged scissors. Still, it doesn’t mean that investing in the best hairdressing scissors to buy wouldn’t have a positive effect on the way your hair looks.

Low porosity hair vs medium vs high porosity hair

There are three types — low porosity hair, medium, and high. Within each of these types are categories of hair graded from one to five as below:

  • Grade 1 Low Porosity: This refers to so-called “virgin hair” that has been exposed to little or no environmental damage and is low porosity. The cuticles on this somewhat rare hair type are extremely tight and don’t allow moisture in or out. Hair is smooth to the touch and looks very shiny without any product on.
  • Grade 2 Low Porosity: This also refers to low-porosity hair that has been exposed to some type of environmental damage. The hair is still healthy and easy to manage as it doesn’t tangle and looks smooth.
  • Grade 3 Medium Porosity: This describes medium porosity hair that has been altered and coloured up to five shades lighter. Due to the chemicals placed on the hair, there is some level of damage and the cuticles are halfway open. This means they allow moisture in but also lose it more easily.
  • Grade 4 High Porosity: This is high porosity hair that’s been bleached and lightened up to seven shades lighter and thus needs additional care and attention. The cuticles here are open, so it needs lots of moisture because it also loses it very easily.
  • Grade 5 High Porosity: Unfortunately this describes high porosity hair that is beyond saving. The strands on this type of hair have no cuticles left and you only see the inner part of the hair (called medulla). Because there is no structure left, the hair will feel gummy to the touch and break whenever you run your fingers through it. The only way to fix level five, high porosity hair is by cutting it.

Grades 1 to 2 are part of the low porosity type, grade 3 is medium and grades 4 to 5 are high porosity. According to Curlsmith, the higher your hair porosity the more protein you need to put on it—this is to strengthen the cuticle and lock in moisture.

FURTHER READING: Best clarifying shampoo UK: What is clarifying shampoo and why do you need to detox your hair?

Hair porosity test

Take-this-hair-porosity-test-to-find-out-if-you-have-low-hair-porosity-or-high-hair-porosityGetty Images/iStockphoto

There are several methods to test your hair porosity, but Curlsmith believes the “spray test” is the most effective. Below we’ve explained this particular hair porosity test, and listed a couple of others.

Hair porosity test 1: Spray test

Spray water on a strand of clean, product-free hair and see how the strand reacts.

  • If the water forms lots of little droplets on the hair surface, without sinking in, this means you have low porosity hair
  • If the water forms some droplets but sinks in easily afterward, this means your hair has medium porosity
  • If the water just sinks in, you have high porosity hair and should probably visit a hairdresser pronto

Hair porosity test 2: Float test

Pull a couple of strands of hair from your comb or brush and drop them into a bowl of water. Let them sit for 2-4 minutes.

  • If the strands float, you have low porosity hair
  • If they sink, you have high porosity hair

Hair porosity test 3: Touch test

Run your fingers up a hair strand to feel its texture. Place the strand in your fingers, holding onto the end, and pull it slowly through your fingers towards the root.

  • If it’s smooth, you have low porosity hair
  • If it’s rough or bumpy you have high porosity hair

Bear in mind that you need to have a full-length strand of hair, if possible. This is because hair towards the end of the strand may feel bumpier because it’s older and has been subjected to more environmental damage.

♥︎ Low porosity hair products

Despite the fact it may seem like having low porosity hair is the ideal, it does come with some downsides. This means you can’t just use any products for low porosity hair.

For instance, low porosity hair repels moisture. This means that hair masks and treatments have a harder time trying to penetrate the shaft. Low porosity hair is also prone to build-up, especially from protein-rich deep conditioning products. In fact, these can leave the hair feeling stiff and straw-like.

If you have low porosity hair look for lightweight hair milk, protein-free, daily conditioners that contain glycerin or honey. These ingredients are what’s known as humectants and they attract and hold moisture.

FURTHER READING: Best shampoo for every hair type, from dry to curly, natural and fine

Cantu Beauty Shea Butter for Natural Hair Coil Calm Detangler

£6.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Cantu Beauty specialises in products for natural and afro hair, and it’s these hair types that tend to have low porosity. As the name suggests, this detangler contains shea butter and glycerin to condition the hair before styling.

To use, simply spray it on damp hair and comb through. You can do this before styling or when you’re leaving your hair to dry naturally. We’ve listed the Cantu Beauty detangler because it’s the most versatile product, and it’s super affordable, but anything from the Cantu Beauty range will help low porosity hair.

Buy now from Amazon

Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Conditioner

£10 | Buy now from Feelunique

This daily, rinse-out conditioner contains shea butter and coconut oil to soften and detangle hair. It also features coconut milk and Acacia Senegal, two lightweight ingredients that penetrate the hair shaft and reduce frizz. Not to mention all this coconut makes your hair smell incredible!

FURTHER READING: What does shampoo and conditioner actually do to your hair?

Buy now from Feelunique

Camille Rose’s Curl Love Moisture Milk

£11.99 | Buy now from Beauty Bay

Camille Rose’s Curl Love Moisture Milk is incredibly popular and sells out really quickly every time it comes back in stock. And if you can get hold of it, you’ll see why. It contains organic avocado, castor, and macadamia oil, plus rosehip oil, aloe vera, and green tea to soothe and hydrate low porosity hair.

FURTHER READING: Best conditioner for all hair types and budgets

Buy now from Beauty Bay

♥︎ High porosity hair products

High porosity hair loses moisture easily so it’s important to use leave-in conditioners, moisturisers, and products that seal and protect the hair. High porosity hair will benefit from thick hair butters and rich creams.

If you have high porosity hair you should look out for anti-humectants, or products that promise to protect your hair from humidity. They effectively block moisture from getting into the hair, seals your damaged cuticles, and prevent them from absorbing excess moisture in the air, all while retaining the goodness of your hair products.

OGX Bonding Plex Shampoo

£7.99 | Buy now from Boots

Bonding Plex ShampooOGX

OGX makes great hair care products without charging a fortune. They’re little hidden gems in supermarkets that often perform better than the higher-end products.

This Bonding Plex shampoo cleanses the hair featuring cystine, a cross-linking polymer, as well as vegetable proteins. These help smooth the hair cuticle and prevent future damage.

FURTHER READING: Hairstory New Wash review: Can this £44 sulphate-free shampoo alternative transform our hair?

Buy now from Beauty Bay

Olaplex Treatment No.3 Hair Perfector

£26 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Olaplex is a little on the pricey side but it’s worth it. The entire hair repair treatment range is fantastic and really makes a difference to hair after just a single use.

It contains a patented active ingredient that works on a molecular level to seek out broken bonds in the hair before repairing them. The No.3 treatment is used as a pre-shampoo treatment.

FURTHER READING: Best hair dryer 2021: Get salon-worthy locks with these best dryers from GHD, Revlon, Remington and Panasonic

Buy now from Cult Beauty

The Body Shop Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask

£12 | Buy now from Body Shop

This hair mask is the Bargain Buy in our best hair mask list and it’s an absolute classic. Like the Camille Rose Moisture Milk, this sells out a *lot* because the Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask will instantly ramp up the gloss leaving your hair looking and feeling less frizzy while smelling amazing.

Priced at £12, this vegan-friendly mask is particularly great for anyone with dry, brittle, high porosity hair.

FURTHER READING: The best hair masks for dry, fine, curly and natural hair types

Buy now from Body Shop

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Deep-Conditioning Treatment

£19 | Buy now from Boots

The entire Philip Kingsley Elasticizer range, but especially this Deep-Conditioning Treatment helps make the hair more elastic, strong and hydrated. This is a pre-shampoo treatment that reduces the likelihood of breakage. It leaves hair silky, shiny, and manageable without weighing hair down.

It can also be used as a styling cream on natural, coiled hair.

This can be worn overnight, to get an even deeper treatment. If you have fine, high porosity hair then make sure you double shampoo to remove any residue.

Buy now from Body Shop

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