Dry or Oily? Where your hair sits on the porosity scale

Read Time: 2 mins

Have you done it? You know, checked the health of your hair with a bowl of water and a strand of your most prized piece of hair?

Where the strand falls strictly determines the life your hair is currently living. 

Sinks to the bottom? (low porosity)
You’re one dry vessel away from frying your hair, buddy. You’re on the dryer side.

Floats in the middle? (medium porosity) You, my friend, enjoy a well-balanced pursuit in life. Your hair is healthy.

Stays on the surface? (high porosity) Just drizzle that extra oil on a salad, your scalp needs to breathe. Your hair is on the oilier side. 

Porosity really just means how well your hair maintains and retains moisture. The porosity of your hair affects how well oils and moisture pass in and out of the outermost layer of your hair, known as the cuticle. Because whether you like it or not, those follicles are expanding and contracting in ways you will never be able to see – however – it’s definitely something you can feel. When you walk out that door, your scalp is navigating the air, moisture and density surrounding it. Why do you often hear people say, “I hate humidity, ruins my hair”.

What do you think they mean? By now, we already know that the environment certainly affects the way our hair is going to sit. Minor transitions in weather can make your salon-styled do-up a pile of mess within a few hours. We’ve all been through it, and we’re not a fan.

It’s difficult to get your scalp
 pH balanced enough to have a well scaled porosity level. Ideally, it’s where we want to see you at the end of the road – but let’s start small, and be realistic here. If you do the test and your pendulum swings on either end, let’s talk about how we can best bring it full-swing in the middle.

Image source: giphy.com

To get your hair to a porosity level that is well-balanced, one must look at ways in which to nurture and listen to what your scalp needs. That’s why the porosity check is important in determining how you’re going to tackle the situation.

Your hair consists of three layers. To best understand the concept of hair porosity, get acquainted with how these layers work and what they are:

  • The cuticle: This is the tough, protective outer layer of your hair that’s made up of smaller cuticles that overlap each other.
  • The cortex: This is the thickest layer of your hair. It contains fibrous proteins and the pigment that gives your hair its colour.
  • The medulla: This is the soft, central part of the hair shaft.

Water, oils, and other moisturising products need to be able to pass through the cuticle to get to the cortex (this is if you want your hair to stay hydrated and healthy – basically, the middle porosity level). 

To break it down, your cuticles come into play for two reasons. As we mentioned before, your low sinking strand of hair means that the cuticles are too close together, which means that it’s difficult for water and oils to seep into your hair. Your never-sinking strand, however, indicates that your cuticles are too spaced out, which means that your hair will have a hard time retaining moisture or staying hydrated.

Image source: giphy.com

Ok, now with this newfound knowledge, what can you do to make sure your hair is being treated correctly? Before we go on, hold up. Although porosity levels can change for some, others may not have the luxury of doing so due to genetics – but this doesn’t mean that you can’t make your hair more manageable…and easy to deal with.

Once you’ve done the water bowl test, circle back and see the ways in which you can either manage your hair or swing it back to the middle ground.

Low porosity (dry):

  • Use protein-free conditioners. 
  • Apply conditioner to hair that’s already wet. 
  • Ingredients like glycerin and honey in shampoos and conditioners are good. 
  • Apply heat when you treat your hair with a cuticle cream. Use a steamer, heat cap,or blow dry with the treatment massaged in.

High porosity (oily):

  • Moisturise your hair by looking for ingredients like butters and oils in shampoos and conditioners. 
  • Use leave-in conditioners and creams. 
  • Protect your hair from heat damage. Use a heat protectant product on your hair pre-blow dry.
  • Use lukewarm water instead when you’re washing your hair.

At the end of the day, it’s always beneficial to be aware of where your hair sits on the porosity scale. This way, no matter what condition your hair is in – you’ll know what to do.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Site.


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