are your curls highly porous because they’re damaged?

In today’s article I’d like to focus on curlies with high porosity hair, because it could be a sign of unhealthy curls. But don’t get me wrong: not every curly with highly porous hair has damaged curls. It could as well just be a characteristic of your curls. But how can you figure out whether or not your curls the high porosity is caused by damage?

If you already know your curls’ porosity, head straight down to where I wrote about why your hair might be highly porous and how you can fight it.

What is porous hair?

I guess many of you have never heard of different levels of porosity hair can have. That’s probably the case because you can’t determine your curls’ porosity by just looking at it. However, knowing how porous your hair is, is essential for choosing the right products.

Ok, so low porosity means that the cuticle of your hair is “smooth” – meaning your hair can’t easily absorb moisture, but once it has, it holds on to it. So it’s for hard to get in, and hard to get out.

On the opposite, highly porous hair has an “open” cuticle – meaning your hair can easily absorb moisture, but also releases it fairly quickly. So it’s easy to get in, but also easy to get out.

If you’re lucky enough your hair has medium porosity – meaning you don’t really need to worry about your curls not absorbing moisture or releasing it too quickly.

How to determine your curls’ porosity

determine your curls' porosity

It’s best to do this test without any product in your hair.

Method 1: The most widely spread method to determine your curls’ porosity is to fill a bowl (or a glass) with water and then place one hair into it. To get the most accurate result, do this when you have no product in your hair. Otherwise the product might close the cuticle.

High porosity: your hair sinks to the bottom, because the water gets into the hair and weighs it down.

Low porosity: your hair stays on top of the water, because the water can’t get into the hair.

Medium porosity: your hair is somewhere in the middle, because the water can partly get into the hair, but not as much as with high porosity.

Method 2: Some curlies don’t believe the water test to be accurate, which is why they determine their porosity by measuring the time their curls need to air-dry completely. If you’d like to try this method, also do it with no product in your curls! Because high porosity hair releases moisture quickly, your curls won’t take long to be completely dry. However, if your curls have low porosity they will take a long time (several hours) until they’re completely dry. Please be aware, that these results may vary greatly depending on the length of your curls…

Please keep on reading, if your curls are highly porous. However, if you’re looking for information about low and medium porosity, please read this previous article.

Why your curls might be highly porous – and how to fight it

As mentioned before, your curls might be highly porous because that’s just the way they are. But many curlies actually have high porosity hair because it’s previously been damaged. There are some reasons why your curls might be highly porous, but actually wouldn’t be if they were healthy:

Heat damage

This is probably the number one cause for curls becoming highly porous. If your curls are exposed to too much heat (e.g. straightening iron, a too hot blow-dryer or the sun), it destroys the cuticle thus making it highly porous. So if you’re curls are highly porous due to the exposure to heat, consider alternatives because you’re really damaging your curls. While the good news is that this is reversible, the bad new is that you can’t change your curls’ porosity overnight, but the damaged parts actually need to grow out. Depending on how long your curls are this might take a while.

High Porosity Curls

Just by tossing my straightening iron, my curls changed from high to medium porosity

Coloring your curls

Coloring your curls is a chemical process which always leads to some kind of damage. Because some curls can deal with it better than others, some will end up with highly porous hair, while others don’t. So if your curls are highly porous and you’re coloring your hair, you might want to reconsider coloring it. As with the heat damage, your curls won’t just change porosity overnight, but they will with the color growing out.

hairdresser for curly hair

Even though I know it’s not good for my curls, I color them..

What to do if your curls just are highly porous

If your curls aren’t exposed to too much heat or to coloring, your curls most likely are highly porous because that’s their characteristic. This means you need to figure out which products work best for your curls:

  • if you use a shampoo use a ph-balancing-shampoo, but you might get by with co-washing and not using any shampoo at all
  • use rich conditioners, apply leave-ins and deep condition regularly
  • apply hair butters
  • use oils to seal the cuticles
  • make sure to keep your curls as healthy as possible, e.g. get regular haircuts

What are your tips for curlies dealing with highly porous curls? What products to you like?


  • DC2C (and 3a)
    May 11, 2017

    You may just be my curl twin from the blogosphere.

    I am transitioning — deliberately since February or March, and partially for about a year — but I have the same 2c/3a hair that curls at the ends and barely waves at the roots, which I, too, always thought was 2a perpetual bedhead because I brushed it dry and used the wrong products. I will definitely have to follow this blog closely. I also won’t give up coloring because I, at age 28, have been graying for three years (though for me, the target color is darkest brown with a little bit of off-black)

    Anyway, I use almost exclusively SheaMoisture products in my hair, either from the Coconut and Hibiscus line or the High Porosity line. I need to find a way to retain more moisture when using the gels, but otherwise, my hair feels much thicker, healthier, and more manageable with all that protein. I am considering exploring the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line as well, since the High Porosity line doesn’t have the full range of products that I use.

    • Sandra
      May 19, 2017

      hi there, it’s great to hear from you! I definitely know the problem of not all the curls curling the way I’d like them to… Sometimes they just do that and we should try to accept those funny curls, at least I’m still trying to do so 😉

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