Low Porosity Hair Care: Best Products For Low Porosity Hair

The signs of low porosity hair are easy to miss, but very frustrating. You may feel like you have difficult hair, but it feels like nothing you do to it actually sticks. Moisturising shampoos, deep conditioning treatments, even hair color. It just feels like they aren’t really doing anything. Your hair feels dry and heavy, weighed down by all the products you are using.

What Is Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture and it can be low, normal or high. This affects people with curly hair more than those with straight strand. Hair porosity in curly hair can make oils and moisture unable to actually condition the hair, or can make hair really fragile.

The hair cuticle is the outermost part of the hair shaft. It is formed of overlapping layers of dead cells, shaped like scales, that protect the actual hair shaft. When those scales lay at the right angle against the hair shaft, they allow moisture in and keep it there. When the cuticles lay too flat water can’t enter or leave the hair.

However, in low porosity hair the cuticle is so tightly closed that moisture and nutrients can’t enter the hair shaft and are not effective. Since water can’t leave the hair either low porosity hair takes ages to dry, even with a blowdryer.

What Is Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair has very tight cuticles that close the hair shaft effectively. This means your hair is resistant to moisture and treatments. Low porosity hair is often natural or virgin hair, as bleach and other straightening treatments open up the cuticle.

Low porosity hair care usually involves using products with an alkaline base, or steaming treatments to allow the cuticle to open. On the bright side, low porosity hair is often much less frizzy than high porosity hair, and more resistant to breakage. It just needs the right kind of low porosity hair products to make it shine.

low porosity hair vs high porosity hair
Low porosity hair vs high porosity hair

Low Porosity Hair Characteristics

Low porosity hair has very tight cuticles that don’t let anything in. Some signs of low porosity hair are:

  • Dry hair that struggles to retain moisture
  • Conditioners seem ineffective
  • Heat activated treatments actually work
  • You have dandruff and your scalp always feels dirty
  • Blowdrying takes ages, but your hair feels oily soon afterwards
  • Curls take a long time to air-dry
  • Natural oils sit on top of your hair
  • Products don’t absorb and seem to sit on hair. Leave in conditioners make your hair feel dirty.

Hair Porosity Test

To get an idea of your hair porosity, a simple test is just feeling your hair. Gentle take a strand of hair and stretch it between your thumb and finger. Slide your thumb up the hair shaft towards the scalp. If your fingers seem to slide over your hair, you are likely to have low porosity hair. If the strand feels rough and breaks, you are likely to have high porosity hair.

There is another very simple hair porosity test that can be done at home and takes 3 minutes. All you need is a strand of your hair.

First of all, use a clarifying shampoo to clean your hair. Micellar shampoo works great too. Don’t apply any oil or product. Cut a small strand of hair.

Drop the strand of hair on a glass of distilled water. Ironing water works if it’s non-scented.

Look at the glass to see if the strand floats or sinks.

Is the hair floating at the top of the glass? You have Low Po Hair

Normal porosity hair will sink to the bottom, slowly, over 3 minutes. High porosity hair will sink very quickly, as the strands become soaked with water.

Low Porosity Hair Care

Unlike high porosity, which is often caused by chemical or heat abuse of hair, low porosity hair is often genetic. However, inadequate cleansing can make the matter worse as the cuticle will be covered in a residual film of leftover product.

Unlike normal porosity hair, low porosity hair needs alkaline products to avoid closing the cuticle even more. You want to use products that deeply hidrate your hair, attracting water into the cuticle. A clarifying shampoo once a week will help open those cuticles but the best tool to care for low porosity hair is heat.

Heat is how you make hair masks and deep conditioners work for low porosity hair. You can use a hair steamer, or just cover your hair with a shower cap while you have a treatment on, and blast it with the blowdryer. Steam opens the cuticles and allows hair to absorb water and nutrients. Coupled with the right products, you get all the benefits of low porosity hair minus the drawbacks.

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Best Products For Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair products focus on light textures, surfactants that will cleanse the hair cuticle and higher phH. After you are done nourishing your hair, you need to use products to seal the cuticle and keep the moisture in.

Best Shampoo For Low Porosity Hair

Clarifying Shampoo For Low Porosity Hair

Product buildup is the bane of low porosity hair, and a clarifying shampoo used once a week is a must. Micellar shampoos work well for low porosity hair as they clean without striping. However, if you are fond of silicone based products you may need something a bit stronger. Focus on protein free shampoos that won’t make your hair brittle.

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Shea Moisture Low Porosity Protein Free Shampoo, 13 Ounce
  • It gives smooth and sexy hair all day
  • Ideal for low porosity curls and coils that resist essential moisture
  • Deliver balanced, nourishing hydration
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Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo, 8.5 Fl Oz
  • hard ward deposits, and chlorine
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  • It's great for color-treated hair and helps to eliminate coarseness, restore manageability and shine

Daily Shampoo For Low Porosity Hair

If you wash your hair frequently, a deeply hydrating shampoo is a must have for low porosity hair. Choose one without silicones that won’t leave a residue on your hair. Thinner, lighter textures work with your hair instead of against it.

SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo & Conditioner | Set of 2 | 13 fl. Oz. each
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  • WASHES AWAY PRODUCT BUILDUP - Clarifying Shampoo & Conditioner Gently Cleanse & Remove Dulling Styling-Product...
  • NOURISHES & PROTECTS HAIR - Natural Ingredients Like Organic Shea Butter, Honey, Mafura & Baobab Nourish Hair...
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Mixed Chicks Gentle Clarifying Shampoo, 33 fl. oz.
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  • Penetrate the hair follicles to restore hair's natural luster and shine.
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Somang Liposomal Coenzyme Q10 Hair Treatment Shampoo 720ml
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As I Am Curl Clarity Shampoo, 8 Ounce
  • Gently removes product build up and environmental impurities from the hair and scalp
  • Leaves behind moisture, preventing hair from becoming dried out, roughlooking and unmanageable
  • Safe for color treated hair

Best Conditioner For Low Porosity Hair

SheaMoisture has a variety of protein-free conditioners designed to work with low porosity hair. However, there are other brands who also offer conditioners for low porosity hair. The Curl Assurance Smoothing Conditioner is great if you want your curls to pop, but don’t like the frizziness.

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Shea Moisture Baobab & Tea Tree Oils Low Porosity Protein-Free Conditioner for Unisex, 13 Ounce
  • Ideal for low porosity curls and coils
  • For all types of hair
  • It promote scalp health
SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo & Conditioner | Set of 2 | 13 fl. Oz. each
  • RENEWING & REVITALIZING SET - Complete Set Infuses Hair With Intense Moisture to Reduce Dry, Dull Appearance &...
  • WASHES AWAY PRODUCT BUILDUP - Clarifying Shampoo & Conditioner Gently Cleanse & Remove Dulling Styling-Product...
  • NOURISHES & PROTECTS HAIR - Natural Ingredients Like Organic Shea Butter, Honey, Mafura & Baobab Nourish Hair...
Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Smoothing Daily Hair Conditioner, 12 fl. oz.
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DevaCurl One Condition Original, Hair Conditioner
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  • Hydrating: A Dose Of Essential Moisture That Locks In Hydration Creating Soft Manageable Curls
  • Multi Use Product: Great For All Curl Types To Fight Frizz; Add Moisture And Increase Overall Hydration

Best Deep Conditioner For Low Porosity Hair

The best way to get low porosity hair to absorb products is by using a hair sauna or applying heat with a shower cap. Doing this with a deep conditioner once a week will give your curls moisture without weighing them down. If you have low porosity hair avoid coconut oil straight on your strands, and products that feel too heavy. Focus on hydration so your hair doesn’t dry off and break.

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Carol's Daughter Almond Milk Ultra-Nourishing Mask
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  • No Petrolatum, No Mineral Oil, No Artificial Colors
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Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment, Citrus Lavender, 8.0 Fluid Ounce
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Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment, 8.0 Ounce
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  • Restore moisture levels to that of healthy, undamaged hair and protect from future damage
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Best Oils For Low Porosity Hair

While heavy natural oils can be too much on low porosity hair, lighter ones can be used to smooth down flyaways and nourish hair. Try Argan oil, Avocado oil or Sweet Almond oil on their own or as a hot oil treatment once a week.

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  • Commonly paired with coconut and vitamin e oil for shampoo, bath, body and cuticle moisturizer
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Best Leave In Conditioner For Low Porosity Hair

Leave in conditioners are undeniably useful to detangle curly, low porosity hair. The key is choosing products that won’t leave a residue or make your hair crunchy. If you straighten your hair, always use a heat protectant leave-in conditioner for low porosity hair. Low po hair tends to be dry, and focusing on hydration is a must.

ApHogee Curlific Moisture Rich Leave-In 8oz "Pack of 2"
  • ApHogee Curlific Moisture Rich Leave-In 8oz "Pack of 2"
  • Enhances the looks and feel of your hair and helps eliminate styling challenges
  • Sprays on easily
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Camille Rose Naturals Curl Love Moisture Milk, 8 Ounce
  • Includes conditioner
  • Great for all hair types
  • Provides shine, protective anti-oxidants and long-lasting moisture
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EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Leave-In Conditioner, 8oz
  • Penetrates The Hair Shaft To Improve Elasticity
  • Restores Manageability And Smooth Cuticle
  • Lightweight, Creamy Styling Detangler For All Hair Types And Textures
Alikay Naturals - Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner 16 oz
  • Locks moisture in your hair without weighing it down.
  • Infused with essential oils to smooth your hair shaft and keeps it moisturized.
  • Refreshing lemon zest scent.

Low Porosity Hair Products To Avoid

As a general rule of thumb, low porosity hair should avoid low pH products and very thick products that are difficult to absorb/

Products with a low pH (acid) force the hair cuticles to shut, and are often used to enhance shine. However, in the case of low porosity hair they make the problem worse!

Very thick products, such as butters and natural oils are difficult to absorb to start with. So for low porosity hair they just become a thick layer on top of the hair and do more harm than good. This includes some co-wash products and cleansing conditioners.

Protein treatments can also have unintended consequences for low porosity hair. They will make the hair strong, but brittle, and that usually leads to damage. You want to use some protein but always mixed with moisturising treatments.

Yes, they are the bread and butter of most natural hair routines, and they work great for people with high or normal hair porosity. But unless your hair can soak them up they do more harm than good and they’ll weight down your strands and curls. If nothing in the natural hair care community seems to work for you, that’s usually another sign of low porosity hair.


  • A very interesting and informative read…and timely as I was about to resort to a chemical softener!! Instead I am off to the afro hair shop armed with sane advice – thank you xx

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