5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
You see that frizz halo? Yep.
Does your hair seem like it's always dry, difficult to moisturize, and always frizzy? Then you've come to the right place. You just might be low porosity, and in need of some help with increasing moisture in your natural hair.

After my second transition (from color damage) back to healthy, natural hair I noticed something that hadn't happened the first time around. My disrespectful front/center and crown reached peak levels of rudeness.

Like, to the point where nothing seemed to be able to tame and define the curl that I knew existed. Multiple coats of Eco Styler later, I had a realization while observing my hair in the shower. For some reason, water wasn't penetrating the front like it used to. And once I managed to saturate the sections, the second I moved them away from the water, they frizzed and went poof!

It was then that I understood what was going on - my curls in this section were not only a different pattern/texture, but a whole 'nother porosity.

My front/center and crown went low porosity on ya girl.

What is low porosity hair, exactly?
Imagine if you will, a strand of hair. Magnified a bajillion times, you'll notice that the outer layer of the strand is actually a bunch of pieces arranged together, kinda like shingles on a roof. Those shingles are the cuticles of your hair, and the outer protective layer responsible for your  hair's strength, ability to absorb and retain moisture, elasticity, shine, and overall health.

With low porosity hair, those cuticles are tightly compacted, creating a near impenetrable layer that makes it difficult for water, products, and pretty much anything to penetrate and reach the cortex (inside). The benefit of low porosity hair is that although it is initially difficult to hydrate/moisturize, once water gets in there, it remains trapped inside the hair for longer periods of time (aka the hair stays hydrated for longer).

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
Working a few hacks and lots of gel later...
How can I tell if my hair is low porosity?
First things first - please don't take a strand of your hair and float it in some water. I don't know why your favorite gurus insist on telling you otherwise, but POROSITY TESTS WITH A GLASS OF WATER ARE JUNK SCIENCE. I don't know where it began or who perpetuated it, but putting your hair in a strand of water to understand water uptake is like telling someone to bake a chicken by just throwing the chicken in the oven on 375. Sure, the chicken will bake. But is it any good? Probably not. Just like haphazard chicken bakery, float porosity tests are grossly oversimplified and will almost always lead to useless results. Sorry if it seems like I'm popping off, but it grinds my gears when I see bloggers promoting this test as though it will revolutionize your haircare regimen. Jc of The Natural Haven has my favorite article on why the water glass test is hella unscientifc, but let it just suffice to say that sitting your strands in a glass of water is a lightweight waste of time.

So how do you test for porosity? Unless you know how to do nitrogen sorption tests, you can't. But what you can do is study your hair on your next wash day. If it feels like water just runs off your hair before actually absorbing, your conditioners have difficulty penetrating, and you notice that your moisturizers require extra elbow-grease to work them in (or they just sit on top of your hair altogether), then it is highly likely that you have low porosity hair.

On the contrary, highly porous hair tends to always be dry, is more prone to breaking and splitting, and feels rough on the way up or down the shaft (remember point number 2), because the cuticles are cracked, weathered, or damaged. Medium porosity hair sits right in the middle, allowing penetration of ingredients and retaining moisture fairly well. It is entirely possible to have varying porosity across your hair, so don't freak out if you discover some areas of your hair take more work than others.

Okay, I'm low porosity. Now what?
I'm glad you asked! Here are 4 tips and 1 cautionary option (gotta keep it real) for increasing moisture in low porosity natural hair:

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
Shampoo is the magical ingredient that most regimens could use more of. 
1. Shampoo More Often
This probably seems like counter intuitive, bad advice. I promise, it's not. I've spent a lot of time in the company of haircare professionals, and the hands down, number one recommendation they all make is to shampoo. Like them, I'm fairly confident that 75% of all hair related issues can be solved with a good sudsing.

I explained it a wee bit in this Instagram post, but let's take it a step further on the sciency level. Our hair typically carries a slightly negative charge. Most shampoos are formulated with anionic (negatively charged) surfactants (cleansers) that boost this negative charge and gently lift the cuticle of the hair. Raised cuticles allow more water into the strand, improving internal hydration. This is why "moisturizing shampoo" seems like an oxymoron, but is really a thing.

Just to complete the lesson, conditioners have a positive charge (cationic). Within seconds of coming into contact with the negatively charged hair, it closes the cuticles and effectively "seals" that water in.

If you've been heavy in the co-wash game, but it seems like your hair is drier than normal - it's probably time to shampoo.

Looking for a good selection of shampoos for natural hair? Check these out:
3 Shampoos with Super Slip for Natural Hair
Christina's Choice 2016 Best Shampoos for Natural Hair

2. Turn Up the Heat
It's a well documented fact that indirect heat boosts the effectiveness of deep conditioning. This is especially so for my lo-po sistren. Basically, heat lifts the hair cuticle, allowing for deeper penetration of ingredients. Heat also facilitates increased adsorption of ingredients (aka sticking to) to the hair. Heat around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) so as to not burn the skin or scalp is found to be most effective. You can achieve this by placing your conditioner in a hot water bath, sitting under a hooded dryer (or hooded attachment), or using something like a Hot Head.

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
Bentonite clay makes me emotional. In a good way.
3. Play with Clay
For the longest time, I've been trying to figure out why clays work like they do. And more importantly, why certain hair types seem to benefit from clays like bentonite and rhassoul more than others. While more research is needed (because Google is my friend), I'm seeing a few reputable-esque sources report bentonite clay sitting somewhere on the pH scale between 8.5 and 10.5. I couldn't find any solid info on the pH of rhassoul - but I'll report back if that changes.

Knowing that hair is a 4.5-5.5 on the pH scale (acidic), one could stand to reason that using an alkaline clay like bentonite would have a positive benefit on low porosity hair. Because cuticles are impacted by pH as well, solutions with a low pH (like Apple Cider Vinegar) tighten or compact the cuticles, while higher pH solutions (like bentonite clay) lift the cuticle and again, allow moisture to penetrate.

This could explain why after rinsing away bentonite, my curls are super defined, defrizzed, and soft.

Of course, I've got you covered on the clay front, too:
My DIY Mud Rinse Recipe
Blackstrap Boosted Mud Rinse
My DIY Mud Masque Recipe
Femme Noire Dirty Curl
Soultanicals Master Cleanse
Soultanicals Pumpkin Kaolin Clay

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
The sections of my hair clipped up are still super saturated, thanks to tip #4
4. Water, Water, and More Water
This one isn't particularly a new hack, but it's pretty much how I do my hair every time I'm in the shower. Warning - extreme wetness ahead!

I've shared on several occasions that I always apply my leave-in in the shower (unless I'm on camera). But instead of applying it and moving on, I take a few extra steps. After my hair is sufficiently covered in my leave-in of choice, I dodge my hair back under the shower water for 1.5 seconds (literally), just enough to get the product all soppy and moving. Using my hands, I lightly move the excess water and product down the shaft of my hair. Instead of wringing it from the ends of my hair and down the drain, I pull the ends of my hair up (like I'm about to do a bun), and squish them into the roots of my hair.

It sounds weird, I know. But it works.

Yes, my hair is hella wet when I come out of the shower. But I find that a few minutes into styling my wash & go, the dripping subsides and the sections of hair that I'm not working on at the time retain moisture infinitely better. With this method, I don't have use for a spray bottle of water to re-wet/reactivate product in my hair.

I'm not sure what this has to do with porosity, I just know it works for my hair every single time.

5. Play with pH (and proceed with caution)
If you've tried the above 4 methods and low porosity hair is still frustrating you, then it may be worth considering doing something to alter the pH of your hair. HOWEVER - proceed with EXTREME caution. I'm not a licensed professional, cosmetology student, chemist, or even a hair guru. So take what I'm about to tell you with a grain of salt and a heaping helping of CAUTION.

As a matter of fact, don't even look at this as a tip or recommendation. I'm simply presenting information based on my understanding - and it is totally up to you to dismiss it or act upon it - of your own volition. Let me put it plainly - Christina Patrice and The Mane Objective are not liable for anything that happens to your hair as a result of the information shared. Should you act upon any of the information contained here, you are solely, wholly, and completely responsible for the outcome.

There. I said it. 😂

5 Ways to Increase Moisture in Low Porosity Natural Hair
Since we're talking pH, here's a picture of my Max Hydration Method curls. Vastly different.
I could not in good conscience go further in this article without making that disclaimer. pH in and of itself ain't nothin' to play with when it comes to your hair. One wrong move, and you're headed for a long, irksome road of recovery.

Now, there's a few ways to go about this. One, is essentially to go the Max Hydration Method route, incorporating baking soda (high pH) into your wash day to force the cuticles open into receiving moisture. Now, I'm not sure how many people are still on the MHM train in 2017. And I've heard some thangs about the long-term effects of regular baking soda use on hair (it ain't pretty). So proceed with caution. 

Again, I'm just presenting information.

The second route is something I personally experienced after this most recent bout of flat ironing my hair. After reverting my hair back curly, I noticed that my typically disrespectful sections seemed slightly more accommodating in the moisture department. No curl loosening, no texture change. Those sections just didn't fight me gloves on like they used to. I don't have all the answers, but direct heat does have an effect on the cuticles of the hair (it raises them). It could be that flat ironing my hair raised my porosity slightly - just enough to allow more moisture in without causing damage.

I googled my findings extensively, looking to see if anyone had talked about this before. I found like, one message board where somebody reported a similar experience. 😂 Basically, this is at best theory territory - proceed with extreme caution.

The last route is likely the most effective, but also has the most potential for damage. We're talking about hair color. All hair dyes (demi, permanent, etc.) use a developer to lift the cuticle and allow the pigments to penetrate. This does have some impact on the health of the hair and ultimately, the porosity. Low level developers (10 and some ammonia free varieties) have no ability to remove melanin, and simply serve to lift the cuticles of the hair. Higher level developers will do both - lift the cuticle and lighten.

For my red hair color, bleach was used - which gave me high porosity hair (and therefore no lo-po issues). For the record, I later developed damage to my curls and spent the past nearly 2 years rehabbing them.

So there's that.

In theory - I'm just hypothesizing based on my hair looks after a bout with boxed dye at home - ammonia-free dye should gently lift the cuticles to allow more moisture in on a longer term basis. If you're not looking for color (or even just a lil' grey coverage and to enhance your natural color), this could be the route that kills a few birds with one stone.


Again, use your judgment. 

Got a low porosity hair hack not mentioned in this post? Share in the comments below!


  1. What lovely curls. Your hair is beautiful. Although for sure you have to spend a lot of time on their care but the efforts are worth the result. Thank you for your useful blog!

  2. Hands down the best explanation of hair porosity in my lifetime. I appreciate your noting how these methods worked for you, all disclaimers present. Your sincerity in these experiences make me feel confident to try your suggestions. However, my hair is my hair, so we’ll see, and it definitely won’t be from misinformation given by you. Thanks for doing your research, and being so relatable. Look forward to following more suggestions.

  3. Moisture in the hair is a very important effect. Let's say my hair is always very dry and it annoys me. It is necessary to use various means. Now you can try your way.

  4. Your hair looks gorgeous. It is noticable you take a good care of it. I would rather visit beauty salon and take care of my skin and hair if only someone could write a synopsis for me. Yet, I keep working on it by myself.

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  6. Moisture in the hair has a significant impact. Let's suppose my hair is constantly really dry, which irritates me. It is vital to employ a variety of methods. You can now go your own way.

  7. Hi, I'm Olivia. Interesting article, I will try some of the tips at home. I once even rented a car and went to another city to buy a hair mask. I once bought the same mask in Hawaii, and then I found out on the Internet that someone was selling the same mask.

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