Determine your curls’ porosity to know what products are best for you

Choosing the right products for your curls is probably the most difficult part of being a curly! Once you’ve gotten your hands on the right products you’ll be able to tell from the look and feel of your curls. Knowing your curls’ porosity is one of the crucial steps on the way to frizz-free curls.

What porosity is and why you should determine it

Porosity describes how easily your curls are penetrated by moisture, and also how easily they let moisture leave your curls. We all know what happens if our curls don’t get enough moisture: they’ll get frizzy! In order to get frizz-free curls it’s important to not only know your curls’ texture and curl pattern, but also their porosity when buying new products. Usually, your curls’ porosity is something that stays the same, however “chemical” events like coloring your curls or straightening them with a lot of heat can change your curls’ porosity. So if all the sudden your holy grail products don’t work anymore, I suggest you to again determine your porosity to see if it has changed!

How to determine your curls’ porosity

You’ll need:

  • a small bowl filled with water
  • 2-3 single hair strands

Put the single hair strands into the bowl filled with water and let them in there for about 5 minutes. Then check to see where your hair strands are:

determine your curls' porosity

My curls were in the middle of the water – I have medium porosity. When I first embraced my curls I had high porosity due to too much heat (from straightening).

  • on top of the water – you have low porosity curls
  • some on top, some in the middle of the water and some on the bottom of the bowl – you have medium porosity curls
  • on the bottom of the bowl – you have high porosity curls

Low porosity

If your curls have a low porosity it means they can’t easily absorb moisture. Once they have, they’ll hold on to it, which also causes low porosity hair to take a very long time (several hours) to air dry! Try to stay away from proteins, as they might cause product-buildup leading to straw-like curls. To make sure your curls get enough moisture, you should use products with humectants in them.

Medium porosity

Your curls are in between low and high porosity and therefore may take a while to air-dry, but it’ll certainly take only a few hours. Make sure you give your curls the moisture they need and occasionally give them a protein-treatment. Your curls aren’t too sensitive, just make sure their moisture-protein-balance is right.

High porosity

High porosity means your curls can quickly absorb moisture, but unfortunately they’ll also release it easily. High porosity hair usually also air-dries pretty quickly (especially when compared to low porosity curls). If you’ve just started to embrace your curls it’s possible your curls’ porosity will get to medium after a while (mine changed to medium after about one year). Curlies with high porosity hair need to make sure to keep the moisture in the curls for as long as possible to keep them from getting frizzy. Therefore, use rich conditioners, leave-ins with proteins and also try to seal the moisture by using oils.

 

I didn't come up with this all by myself - check out these readings to get more information on porosity: 
http://www.naturallycurly.com/texture-typing/hair-porosity 
http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curl-products/curlchemist-porosity-and-curly-hair/ 
http://livecurlylivefree.com/curly-hair-basics/
23 Comments
  • Ty
    March 31, 2015

    WOW! I’m totally trying this!

    • Sandra
      March 31, 2015

      You should 🙂 It only takes 5 minutes and is a great help getting to know your curls better!

    • Lindsey
      September 22, 2016

      Thank you SO much! I’ve been struggling with my natural curl routine more than I can express. I adore my curls and never struggled using main stream products. I simply decided it would be worth it in the long run if I switched to natural. Was I wrong! My curls used to look like yours and as much as I’ve read up on different methods/products etc. I still struggle! You have very clear and easy to understand explanations. 1) figured out via your explanations, I have LOW porosity but coarse hair and 2) I’m most definitely way over conditioning. I’m not giving up on natural but what can I do to correct my over conditioned hair? I’d hate to cause more issues. Also, love some suggestions on best products to use for low porosity in general. Thank you!!!!!

  • Angelina
    March 31, 2015

    Thanks for sharing such a simple method to test our curls. Everyone talks about porosity/moisture/protein, but you’re the first person to demystify it for me. 🙂 Also, I have protein sensitive hair and it has been really hard to find actual product suggestions, so thank you for addressing that on your blog too.

    • Sandra
      April 1, 2015

      I’m happy to hear my post helped you better understand porosity and its links to moisture and protein! Being a curly can be quite complicated when it comes to ones curls’ structure…

  • Bev
    April 1, 2015

    Low porosity. They didn’t sink at all.

    • Sandra
      April 1, 2015

      I’m glad to hear you’ve tried my tip – I hope it helps you with finding the right products for your curls!

  • Meredith
    June 3, 2015

    Awesome! I can do this before my shower tonight. I just picked up some SheaMoisture products today (shampoo, conditioner, and style milk) and can’t wait to try them out. Turns out the products I’d been using had several sulfates and silicones that I’d missed! 🙁

    • Sandra
      June 4, 2015

      I hope your newly bought products give you beautiful frizz-free curls 🙂

  • nour
    June 4, 2015

    Low porosity as i predicted coz my hair takes along time to air dry and also it didn’t sink at all
    Thank you for sharing this easy method it really helps.
    I checked the ingredients of all hair product i have.. I found protein in my gel only.. Should i stop using it?
    And if i did what are the alternatives? as my hair will not hold the shape without it..
    Thanks for your effort 🙂

  • Cindy
    July 8, 2015

    I am 2c with low porosity. How do I balance my need for moisture and avoid weigh down? Thanks!

    • Sandra
      July 8, 2015

      Hi Cindy, I really recommend you to stay away from proteins. Having 2c hair mostly means you don’t need to condition your curls too much, Which is why I suggest you to only deep condition whenever you feel like your curls need more moisture (e.g. in case they’re getting frizzy).

  • Jess
    July 13, 2015

    This is probably the best description of porosity I have come across so far. I’m still quite confused though: My hair dries quickly…within half an hour. Once it has dried its generally quite frizzy and a little rough. So I guessed highly porous….however, when I did the test you suggested above, my hair floated completely.

    A bit of background on my hair:

    My hair was straight/wavy my entire life and went wavy/curly within a year, recently. Its a 2b curl/wave. Because if its sudden tendency to curl I have never had to deal with this type of hair before and I’m really struggling.

    As for my routine, I dont brush or comb my hair at all as it doesnt tangle. I use organic coconut oil as a mask (for an hour or so) before every wash, and I use macadamia oil mixed with some leave in conditioner and water (all in a spray bottle) after every wash. I wash once a week. Twice at most. Is there something missing in my hair routine?

    When it comes to washing my hair I only use about a teaspoon of shampoo on my roots and thats it. I use L’oreal Oleotherapy Sulfate free system. (the shampoo and conditioner). All of my products are sulfate and paraben free. I tried going shampoo free for about 2 months and my hair became healthy looking at first, but after a few days it was very tangled and unmanageable (mostly when wet). I couldnt even finger comb it

    Any ideas for me? I’d appreciate any info/experience you have to offer

    • Sandra
      July 13, 2015

      Hi Jess! Sometimes the test and your curls’ drying time aren’t consistent like it’s the case with you. I recommend you to rely on your curls’ drying time as this often is a more reliable method to test porosity. So I think your curls are most likely highly porous (a drying time of only half an hours is really fast!).

      Since your hair hasn’t always been curly I was wondering if you’ve straightened your curls for a while (after discovering the curls) as this might cause your hair to be porous. If so your curls’ porosity might chance after some time.

      Generally I suggest you to use products with proteins in them (to fill the small holes in porous hair), as this should be able to reduce frizz.

      It’s great you’re using sulfate-free products, but are you sure they’re also silicone-free? Hopefully my answer can help a bit with the frizz!

  • Tashina
    August 10, 2015

    What about fine hair with low porosity? Low porosity call for fewer proteins, while fine hair calls for more. Ack!

    • Sandra
      August 11, 2015

      Hi Tashina, I think for you this means you might have to try different products to find the right protein-moisture-balance. I suggest you to use different products at the same time (e.g. a conditioner with and then the next time you wash your curls one without protein). Finding the right products is an annoying journey, but I’m sure you’ll get there!

  • Terri Ann
    January 28, 2016

    I’m going to have to try this when I get home. I’ve read about protein enriched products before but had no idea if they were for me or not. Now I have a better way to see if it’s worth trying in my hair!

    Maybe it’s a silly question but should the two strands be untreated or at least with minimal product on them? I imagine that would be the most accurate.

    • Sandra
      January 29, 2016

      Yes, I also think that using hair strands with almost no product in them will give you the most accurate results!

  • Katelyn Severin
    July 31, 2016

    Should the testing strands be clean or does it not matter? Thanks! Also, I’ve seen you and other commenters mention “2C” and other classifications…how do I figure out my hairs classification?

  • Fatena
    September 30, 2016

    I have low-porosity 3b curls, and your description is spot-on. Products full of protein make my hair feel like straw and it will not air-dry – I have to use a hair dryer with a diffuser. It took several years of experimenting, but I’m pretty happy with my current routine: Sulfate-free shampoo (OGX, Kinky Curly Come Clean, or Miss Jessie’s Super Slip Sudsy Shampoo), Kinky Curly Knot Today Detangler/Leave-In Condutioner to detangle/condition in the shower, add a little more KCNT before I step out of the shower, brush through and part my hair, add a quarter-size amount of Loma Organics Oil, sometimes add 2 quarters worth of AG Re:Coil Curl Activator from mid-shaft to the ends, generously add Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper Gel throughout my hair, gently rake my fingers through my hair, carefully scrunch all over with a t-shirt to remove extra moisture, then dry my hair with a diffuser….for about 30 minutes. It takes my hair a long time to dry. I would like to add a little more moisture to my hair, but I’m afraid to try any leave-in treatment because of past protein experiences. Do you have any recommendations?

  • Windi
    February 17, 2017

    I know this is an old post, but what if your hair has different porosities from heat damage? Short story is the hair on my crown seems to be medium or high porosity and the rest of may hair is low porosity. I did the porosity test about a month ago, and came up with low porosity. I’ve repeated the test several times and come up with that, but the hair on my crown is drier and feels coarser than the rest. I really don’t want to pull hair right off my head to test it, so I resort to testing hairs that come out in the shower. I’m also starting to notice the hair that I focused on the most when flat ironing is the straightest or had a really damaged curl pattern. I want to try a protein treatment but I’m afraid I’ll damage the hair that doesn’t need it. What would be a mild protein treatment? Adding an egg to a conditioner or oil blend?

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