High Porosity Hair: What It Is and How to Care for It

Or: Why your hair really isn't retaining moisture. 

Many of us are quick to blame a product or weather conditions for the damaged look and feel of our hair. When it comes figuring out what is actually causing our hair to feel dry and brittle, we at All Things Hair try to get down to the root (pun intended). We go to great lengths to find out our hair type and curl types, and we’re also curious to know whether our hair falls under the low porosity or high porosity end of the hair porosity spectrum. Knowing these things helps us (and you) figure out the best products to use, and how to build the proper hair regimen—from wash to styling—for your hair type.

Read on as we discuss what it means to have high porosity hair:

high porosity hair washing
High porosity hair soaks up moisture but has trouble retaining it. Use products that claim to be great for moisture retention.

What is high porosity hair?

Unlike low porosity hair types, high porosity hair types can be compared to a leech or a paper towel on a puddle: It sucks everything up. When dipped into water, high porosity hair soaks it all in. Sounds relatively harmless, right? Think again: “High porosity absorbs water instantly and needs a high level of conditioning to protect and leave it manageable,” explains Unilever’s Research and Development Senior Manager of Hair Care, Leon Van Gorkom.

Just because hair soaks up moisture doesn’t mean said moisture will be retained. Here’s why: The hair strands on high porosity hair types are composed of raised and chipped cuticles (much like raised shingles on a roof), which have possibly become that way due to damage from heat styling, hair coloring or chemical treatments. Eventually, moisture leaks out from these raised cuticles and you’re left with dry, brittle, frizzy strands that are quite literally #thirsty for moisture.

So how do you treat high porosity hair?

According to Leon, “High porosity hair may benefit from weekly masks and leave-in conditioning creams.” Look for products that strengthen the hair. Enriched with concentrated protein, the Nexxus Keraphix system can help strengthen high porosity hair types.

For the uninitiated, hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and when damaged from the misuse of heat styling tools and chemical treatments, the cuticle is lifted and hair becomes more porous. This four-step system, which includes a shampoo, conditioner, reconstructing treatment and mask, helps restore the healthy look, feel and integrity of your hair.

In terms of leave-in conditioners, you have plenty of factors to consider. You can choose a leave-in that’s suitable for your hair type (fine, oily or color-treated hair); however, when it comes to finding a leave-in to treat high porosity, look for creams that help repair problem areas without contributing to the weigh down, which can make strands harder to manage. One great option is The Good Stuff Complete Repair Balm. Its lightweight, no-rinse formula is super fast-absorbing and strengthens and protects hair as it works its magic all day long. Pretty groovy, right?

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