Hair Care

Hair Color and Porosity: Everything You Need to Know Before Your Next Salon Visit

When it comes to hair coloring, understanding your hair’s porosity can make all the difference between a vibrant, long-lasting color and a dull, quickly fading hue. Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, and it plays a crucial role in how your hair absorbs and holds color. Whether you’re a hair color newbie or a seasoned dye enthusiast, this guide will help you decode the relationship between hair porosity and hair color to ensure you achieve the best results at your next salon visit.

What is Hair Porosity?

Hair porosity is determined by the condition of your hair’s cuticle, the outermost layer that protects the hair shaft. There are three main types of hair porosity:

  1. Low Porosity: The cuticles are tightly packed and lay flat, making it difficult for moisture and color to penetrate.
  2. Medium Porosity: The cuticles are slightly raised, allowing for a balanced absorption and retention of moisture and color.
  3. High Porosity: The cuticles are lifted or damaged, making it easy for moisture and color to enter but also to escape quickly.

How to Determine Your Hair Porosity

Before diving into the world of hair color, it’s essential to know your hair porosity. Here are a few DIY tests you can do at home:

The Float Test

  1. Take a strand of clean hair (free of product) and drop it into a glass of water.
  2. Wait 2-4 minutes.
  3. Observe the strand:
    • Floats on top: Low porosity.
    • Sinks slowly: Medium porosity.
    • Sinks quickly: High porosity.

The Slip ‘n’ Slide Test

  1. Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft towards the scalp.
  2. If it feels smooth, you likely have low porosity hair.
  3. If it feels slightly bumpy, you have medium porosity hair.
  4. If it feels very bumpy, you have high porosity hair.

The Spray Bottle Test

  1. Spray a section of your hair with water.
  2. Observe how the water behaves:
    • Beads up on the surface: Low porosity.
    • Absorbs into the hair after a few seconds: Medium porosity.
    • Absorbs quickly: High porosity.

How Hair Porosity Affects Hair Color

Low Porosity Hair

Challenges: Low porosity hair can be resistant to color because the tightly packed cuticles prevent the dye from penetrating the hair shaft effectively.

Tips for Coloring Low Porosity Hair:

  • Use a higher developer or longer processing time: This helps to open the cuticles and allow the color to penetrate.
  • Apply heat: Using a heat cap or a hooded dryer can help lift the cuticles and improve color absorption.
  • Clarify and deep condition: Before coloring, use a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup and a deep conditioner to soften the hair.

Expert Insight: “Low porosity hair can be resistant to color, so it may require a higher developer or longer processing time to achieve the desired shade.” – Rickey Zito, Aveda Global Artistic Director for Hair Color (Source: Aveda)

Medium Porosity Hair

Advantages: Medium porosity hair is the easiest to color. It absorbs and retains moisture and color well, providing a balanced environment for hair coloring.

Tips for Coloring Medium Porosity Hair:

  • Use a balanced formula: Medium porosity hair typically does not require any special adjustments in the coloring process.
  • Regular maintenance: Maintain your hair’s health with regular conditioning and protein treatments to keep it in optimal condition for coloring.

Expert Insight: “Medium porosity hair is the happy medium. It can benefit from a balance of humectants and emollients to maintain healthy moisture levels.” – Gail Federici, Co-founder of Color Wow Hair

High Porosity Hair

Challenges: High porosity hair absorbs color quickly due to its lifted cuticles but also tends to lose color just as fast.

Tips for Coloring High Porosity Hair:

  • Use a lower developer and shorter processing time: This prevents over-processing and color fading.
  • Seal the cuticle: After coloring, use products that help seal the cuticle and lock in moisture.
  • Deep condition regularly: High porosity hair benefits from frequent deep conditioning treatments to maintain moisture balance.

Expert Insight: “High porosity hair can grab color quickly, but it can also fade faster. Using a lower developer and a shorter processing time can help prevent over-processing and color fading.” – Kristin Ess, Celebrity Hairstylist and Founder of Kristin Ess Hair (Source: Kristin Ess Hair)

Preparing Your Hair for Coloring


Using a clarifying shampoo before coloring can help remove product buildup that might interfere with color absorption. Make sure to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner to prevent your hair from becoming too dry.

Deep Condition

Deep conditioning treatments help prepare your hair for the coloring process by ensuring it’s well-hydrated and strong. This is especially important for high porosity hair, which can be more prone to damage.

Expert Insight: “Before coloring your hair, it’s important to prepare it by deep conditioning and using a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup that could interfere with color absorption.” – Aura Friedman, Colorist at Sally Hershberger Salon (Source: Harper’s Bazaar)

Post-Color Care for Different Porosity Levels

Low Porosity Hair

  • Avoid heavy products: Opt for lightweight, water-based leave-in conditioners and oils.
  • Use heat occasionally: Moderate heat helps products penetrate better.
  • Clarify monthly: Remove any buildup to keep your hair receptive to moisture and color.

Medium Porosity Hair

  • Balanced products: Use a mix of moisture and protein treatments to keep your hair in top condition.
  • Regular trims: Prevent split ends and maintain healthy hair.
  • Protect from heat: Always use a heat protectant when styling with heat tools.

High Porosity Hair

  • Seal the cuticle: Use products that contain butters and oils to lock in moisture.
  • Protein treatments: Incorporate protein treatments to strengthen the hair shaft.
  • Minimize heat styling: Avoid excessive heat to prevent further damage.

Personal Experience: I have medium porosity hair and found that alternating between moisture and protein treatments has kept my hair strong and vibrant. Using a silk pillowcase also helped reduce friction and breakage, keeping my color fresher for longer.

The Impact of Porosity on Hair Color Fading

Low Porosity

Low porosity hair tends to retain color longer due to its tightly packed cuticles. However, it can also be more resistant to initial color application.

Medium Porosity

Medium porosity hair maintains color well and offers a balanced absorption and retention of dye. Regular maintenance ensures vibrant and long-lasting color.

High Porosity

High porosity hair can absorb color quickly but tends to fade faster due to its open cuticles. Using color-safe products and minimizing heat exposure can help prolong color retention.

Expert Insight: “Porosity plays a crucial role in how your hair absorbs and holds color. Understanding your hair’s porosity can help you choose the right color and developer for optimal results.” – Guy Tang, Celebrity Hair Colorist and Founder of #mydentity


Understanding your hair’s porosity is essential for achieving and maintaining your desired hair color. By knowing whether you have low, medium, or high porosity hair, you can tailor your hair care and coloring routines to ensure vibrant, long-lasting results.

Personal Tip: Embrace your hair’s unique needs and remember that healthy hair is beautiful hair. With the right knowledge and products, you can enjoy stunning color and healthy, happy strands.

Nyla Rose

Nyla Rose stands at the intersection of beauty and fashion as both a seasoned hairstylist and an influential blogger. Starting her journey in the bustling salons of the city, Nyla honed her skills, specializing in creating transformative hairstyles that not only fit her clients' personalities but also set the pace for emerging trends. But her passion didn't stop at the salon chair.

Eager to share her insights with a broader audience, Nyla embarked on a blogging journey, shedding light on the ever-evolving worlds of beauty and fashion.

Through her blog, she provides a unique blend of practical style advice, in-depth product reviews, and trendspotting, all conveyed with a personal touch that her readers have come to love. Her dedication to the craft and her ability to weave together the realms of hairstyling and fashion writing have cemented her reputation as a trusted voice in both fields.

Contact: LinkedIn | E-Mail

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