Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moisturizing Low Porosity Hair

Updated January 2024

Science-y Hair Blog © 2011 by  Wendy M.S. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Low porosity hair is not difficult hair or problem hair. It is hair that is easily kept in a healthy condition, strong and elastic. It doesn't need a lot of help to keep its integrity, it needs gentle handling and a little personalized care. So why do people describe having a hard time moisturizing low porosity hair? What are we missing? Why does oil and conditioner seem to sit on top of your low porosity hair, but soak in for everybody else? 

We will cover: What low porosity hair is, how hydration with water and moisture-loving humectants is so important, why you might need some extra tricks to get your hair hydrated, and a bunch of other tips to address different goals for your low porosity hair. We'll address external issues like hard water and humidity, and unchangeable issues like individual hair-width and how those interact with low porosity hair.

Note: Healthy, low porosity hair may or may not have the cosmetic attributes you find desirable - that's different than hair-health. 

Truth: Well over than half of women in the US color or highlight their hair. Many people heat-style their hair. Hair color, highlighting, and heat-styling all increase porosity. Most hair products are designed for that majority of people - whose hair is not low-porosity. If your hair is low porosity and you have difficulty with too many products - this is why!

Difference between low porosity hair and normal porosity to porous hair: Low porosity hair has the cuticle-covering intact, as well as the lipid (oil)-based epicuticle intact - which protects hair from water and chemicals. Keeping water out - or at least slowing its uptake is good. Fibers tend to weaken when they're frequently given a thorough soaking.
Low porosity hair on left. Layer of Defense #1 is the golden-brown outer layer is the epicuticle. Tan middle circle represents the cuticles, hair's rigid Second Layer of Defense, and the dark brown represents the cortex. On right: Porous hair with epicuticle mostly missing, and some cuticles eroded.

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If your lower porosity hair feels dry, wiry, tangly or brittle - it's lacking hydration and flexibility. Hydrating lower porosity hair takes a different mindset - and a special bag of tricks. If your hair is coarse (individual strands are wide), it may also need additional help with softness and flexibility, something you get from conditioners and some oils. 

Don't confuse silky or slippery hair with low porosity hair. That's not necessarily low porosity although it's likely to be low porosity. Low porosity hair is usually more porous on the ends. Maybe just a little more, maybe a lot. Lower porosity hair often needs "porous hair care" on the ends, but a lot less of everything emollient-y than your all-porous-haired counterparts who can use handfuls of conditioner and oil with reckless abandon.

Wetting-speed: If your hair takes a long time to get wet - it's not necessarily low porosity. If your hair is very thick or very curly, it will take longer to get wet. Coarse hair (wider hairs) with a springy character may resist wetting too.

The cognitive process begins with the word "moisturize."

Moisturize: Moisture is water. Not conditioner, not oil. Oils add flexibility, and can help keep moisture in, but oils can't provide moisture. 

Hydrate: Provide and maintain adequate water. Ah, now this is what your lower porosity hair needs! Hair contains water - around 10% depending on the humidity. Well-hydrated hair is more flexible, and less frizzy or fluffy than dehydrated hair. Hydration is all about water in and around your hair. Here's a post with more information about how much water your hair holds within the fiber.

Low porosity hair is what we all have as it emerges from our scalps. But for some people, it tends to stay low porosity as it grows unless it is treated very aggressively with high heat or chemical processes. These people have very damage-resistant hair. It seems most common in Coarse hair, but I've seen it in Medium to Fine hair.

Not all hair that acts like it is low porosity is un-damaged. Some hair that is a little damaged still seems to reject oils and conditioner. Especially Coarse-width hair. These tips are for you too. Don't worry about labels, just focus on what works and trust your observations. ©Science-yHairBlog 2023

Porosity isn't always under your control: Low porosity hair and/or silky hair may run in families. It isn't always related to hair-care. Any texture of hair can tend to be lower porosity and any hair width can be low porosity. 

Low porosity hair is hydrophobic - it repels water from its surface. Low porosity hair has cuticle scales that lie tightly against the surface of the hair. It does not readily allow water in (when immersed in water), nor does it readily lose the water that is contained within the hair - it does not dehydrate as quickly as porous hair. That doesn't mean it won't get frizzy or limp in humidity or feel dry and tangly in dry weather. It also doesn't mean it feels soft and flexible - hydrophobic simply means that lower-porosity hair does not exchange water with the environment quickly. 

Dye resistance: Low porosity hair may be more resistant to hair dye and other chemicals as well, especially if you handle it gently. It's designed to keep everything out. If you do use hair color, especially at home, saving some hairs to do a test-strand (off your head, because you're going to patch-test that color in advance on your skin first anyway!) will help you gauge processing time. Hair that has already been dyed (your length) will probably process at a different speed than the hair that has never been dyed (your roots) because the roots still have that water (and dye) repellant epicuticle.

Interacting with conditioner - the Low Porosity Difference: Lower porosity hair does not have many chipped and broken cuticles sticking up, ready to be broken off with abrasion, so it tends to remain lower porosity. That also means there are fewer binding sites for cationic conditioning ingredients - for hair conditioner - which is one reason it can be difficult to choose a good conditioner for low porosity hair. It also has that epicuticle covering that may prevent conditioners from reaching their target.

Red "+" signs indicate (roughly) potential binding sites
for cationic hair conditioners in this low porosity, coily hair.

Red "+" signs on this porous hair, where cuticle
edges are broken indicate potential binding sites
for conditioners.

Lower porosity hair needs different terminology 
When we say want to moisturize our lower porosity hair - we're really trying to say something more complicated - but also very simple.©Science-yHairBlog 2023

We want it to feel soft. We want it to be flexible. We want it to not tangle excessively. We want it to hold the style we put it in. Whereas your porous-haired counterparts can get those benefits with creamy deep conditioners or oils, low-porosity hair may get a limp or greasy or tacky-feeling and unsatisfactory result.

What do we want?!
Lasting hydration
Lubrication (slip) and detangling
Weight but not "heavy" and please, oh please no greasyness and no coated-feeling build-up!!! 
Definition (smooth straight hair, or a discernible wave and curl pattern, tolerable frizz and flyaway index).©Science-yHairBlog 2023

Dose - it's all about dose and application
It's easy to say, "I can't use oils or that conditioner or x, y and z." But sometimes our problem isn't the ingredient, it's the dose. Low porosity hair still needs oils and conditioners, it may need them in smaller doses.  Or to have them used before washing our hair instead of after. If you're using a thick, rich conditioner for it's slip (detangling) but it feels too heavy or greasy, look for a lighter-weight conditioner that is more fluid but still has good slip. See the "product list by category" tab on this page for product-ideas.©Science-yHairBlog 2023

Low Porosity Hair Hydration How-to 

1) Work at the surface of the hair with these tips (for Fine, Medium and Coarse hair): You can do a lot of hair-hydrating to soften, add flexibility and lubrication with products that never need do anything but stay on and around your hair shafts, helping prevent water loss and providing superficial effects.
  • Leaving in conditioner: For low porosity hair, leave-in conditioners are used to add lubrication, weight and flexibility and provide softness.  We're using it for a superficial effect, as a styling product - it probably won't feel like it soaks in. If you find that leave-in conditioners seem to sit atop your hair, try this trick:©Science-yHairBlog 2023

  • Leave-in conditioner trick for low porosity hair: Use leave-in conditioners on dripping wet hair, or apply them and then quickly move your head under and then back out of the shower spray (or pour some water over your hair) for good coverage and dilution. You may not need much leave-in conditioner, and diluting & distributing it with the shower spray can help the product act like a primer (like with painting) - to coat and smooth.  Not everybody needs a leave-in conditioner. If your hair needs help with flexibility and softness, or if your hair is coarse, you're more likely to need some.

  • Film-forming humectants: Here is a link to a post about these ingredients. Film-forming humectants really are the bee's knees for low porosity hair. Flaxseed gel (linseed) or okra gel, aloe vera gel, pectin, hydroxyethylcellulose, marshmallow root, slippery elm, panthenol, xanthan gum, Hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, glycine betaine (beet extract, sugar cane extract), seaweed extract or Irish moss extract; all these ingredients form clear, flexible films over your hair that trap water near your hair to keep it hydrated or moisturized - but without being creamy or oily. Protein also falls into this category, more on that below. These ingredients can keep hair hydrated extremely well and also have great styling benefits. Hydrated hair is flexible, well-defined and softer. Look in the "Product List by Ingredient Category" page to find products containing these ingredients. Film-forming humectants work in rinse-out and leave-on products. The Best Leave On / Styling Products For Low Porosity Hair contain a balance of film forming humectants, light conditioning ingredients and oils. More conditioner and oils if your hair is Coarse, less if it is Medium or Fine.

  • Protein: Hydrolyzed protein for lower porosity hair acts as a hydrating (moisturizing) agent. Protein slows water loss from hair. Depending on the hydrolyzed protein in a product, it can form hair-hugging, water-grabbing films over hairs that trap moisture near your hair, or settle in under and around the cuticles and keep the water in your hair longer. Proteins actively hold on to water so when your hair dries, it is better hydrated than without the protein.  ©Science-yHairBlog 2013

  • Fine and medium hair can usually tolerate more frequent protein than very coarse hair. Because protein adds some extra support to hair, it can make coarser hair feel rough and dry and abrasive if used too often. This is a link to a post with more about protein.

  • Oil choices and oils in products vs. choosing well-balanced products: Oils for leaving on low porosity hair? Sure! But your hair is probably picky about which oils you use. 
    • Oils may behave very differently in your hair when they are emulsified in a conditioner formula, if oils always seem to leave your hair looking or feeling greasy.
      • Like the difference between oil-and-vinegar salad dressing and creamy salad dressing, oil blended into a conditioner may be so much easier to benefit from and not over-apply.
    • A little oil on the ends of low-porosity hair can keep them flexible and reduce frizz. Unless your hair is high density or very tangly, use tiny drops. The size of drop you would get from dipping the end of a toothpick in the oil.
Lower build up potential products: Try a conditioner that does not contain cationic conditioning ingredients, or contains cationic conditioning ingredients that are shorter in carbon chain and less likely to build up. Examples are:
  • Curl Keeper Slip 
  • California Baby Conditioners
  • Giovanni Direct Leave-in (can use as a rinse-out also)
  • Giovanni Nutrafix Conditioner
  • Giovanni Smooth As Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner
  • Ovation Volume Conditioner
  • Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner
  • As I Am Naturally Leave-In Conditioner
  • Rainbow Research Kid's Conditioners

2) Work at and beneath the surface of your hair with these tips (especially good for Coarser/wider hairs):

  • Oil Pre-Shampoo / Pre-cleansing treatments: <-- Click this link for a post about how to make oil pre-shampoo treatments work with your hair. With low porosity hair - getting a benefit from oil sometimes means knowing some tricks for using it. Using a hair-penetrating oil on your hair like coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado or olive oil or my oil blend recipe for several hours before you wash your hair can add softness, lubrication and weight to your hair. Detangling power! Because you wash after this treatment, you won't have greasy feeling hair, but the softness and definition remains.  
    • Trick for using oils on low porosity hair: Use a light touch for an oil pre-wash treatment. Enough oil to add some shine, or maybe a little more to add some weight and make your hair feel a little "dirty." Use this only on the ends if your hair becomes greasy easily. Leave on for 1-6 hours or overnight.  Use a good shampoo to cleanse; if you're using a very mild shampoo, you might want to do a second wash with shampoo diluted with water if you used more oil than you needed. If you're a co-washer, be sure to work the conditioner thoroughly into your hair to remove excess oil.
    • Whose low porosity hair needs oil most?
      • Coarse hair (wide strands)
      • Very tangle-prone hair
      • Long hair (ends may be a little porous)
      • People who live in very dry climates
      • Curly hair (especially high-density hair)

  • Heat: 1) Heat (used with hair treatments) may increase your hair's porosity slightly - but not in the more aggressive way of acids and alkaline solutions. See this post for more details. Heat gives your hair a greater surface for binding conditioners. 2) Heat liquefies ingredients, and more conditioner will adhere to your hair when you use heat. Use heat with deep conditioning treatments if your hair is feeling extra dry or tangling more than usual. Using heat can double the amount of conditioner that binds to your hair.©Science-yHairBlog 2023

  • Steam: Steam combines the beneficial effects of heat (listed above) with an abundance of moisture in the form of water vapor. In the presence of steam and a conditioner, your hair will be plumping up with water and with it will go some of the good things from the conditioner you have put in your hair. Heat increases conditioner binding to your hair, hydrates it to the maximum for even more softening and conditioning. Use a hood or bonnet type steamer or a handheld steamer made for use on hair. Steamers made for upholstery or clothing will produce a lot of steam that is much too hot to be safe for your scalp. Steamers for the face are safer for hair also.
    • Steam for deep conditioning treatments or steam in your leave-in conditioner or some oil to lock in the steamy goodness instead of rinsing it out.©Science-yHairBlog 2023
  • Deep conditioning: Lower porosity hair does not bond with as much conditioner as hair that is more porous. If your hair needs an intense burst of softness, detangling or hydration, use a deep conditioner, or your usual conditioner with a little oil and whatever else you like added. 
  •  Add heat or steam to the treatment, barely warmer than body temperature is all that is necessary.
  • Leave it on 3-5 minutes for hair that is easily over-conditioned or gets too soft, 10-30 minutes for the most intense effect.
  • See this post for more details about how to work with heat and timing for deep conditioning.

  • Alkaline solutions: You will find baking soda treatments online for moisturizing hair, or increasing porosity. These can temporarily (or permanently) alter your hair's porosity and may change surface texture. But there's more to baking soda than porosity...
  • The probable explanation for the positive result some people get with baking soda mixtures is related to surface chemistry as well as porosity. The alkaline baking soda solution likely disrupts or breaks down the "F layer" containing 18-MEA (the lipid-rich epicuticle - see the beginning of this post). Once this has happened, the hair is no longer as hydrophobic (water-repelling). Hair becomes more hydrophilic (water-attracting). It becomes wet more easily. There is a disrupted lipid barrier (the epicuticle was degraded or removed) that was slowing the movement of water in and out. As a result, the hair will bond with more of whichever cationic conditioner you apply. At least the first time you use conditioner after the alkaline treatment. This still isn't porosity, it's surface chemistry. You lose the natural lipid layer and replace it with commercial conditioner. Conditioners have different textural and aesthetic qualities from the oils that were on your hair before. ©Science-yHairBlog 2023
  • Mix your baking soda with conditioner to buffer the hair a little - this does protect the hair a little. 
  • Use shampoo bars or superfatted bar soap instead of liquid castile soap - the oils help protect your hair by adding lubrication. 
  • If you use liquid castile soap, dilute it with water.©Science-yHairBlog 2023

  • The potential problem with using baking soda and soap bars and acid to try to moisturize hair:
    You'll read online that alkaline solutions make cuticles open and acidic solutions make cuticles lie flat or "close down" too. That is semi-accurate - alkaline solutions force hair to swell. As it swells, the cuticles pop up and there is an exchange of solutes inside the hair and alkaline solution that you applied. Everybody's hair is just a little different - not just the fiber itself, but what we've done to it, where we live and what we've put on it. Is it really possible that everybody's hair will display the exact same behavior in acidic and alkaline solutions? Of course not. Some hair reacts violently to baking soda and some hair reacts (swells) very little. Some hair is in between. If your hair is low-porosity, it's probably not extremely reactive - though the ends might be. Please, please, please do a test strand first! 

    Please note : Baking soda will dissolve faster in a heated liquid with plenty of stirring. See more at the end about how baking soda changes your hair.
    ©Science-yHairBlog 2023
    In my experience with hair analyses, it is unpredictable whose hair will swell and thus become more porous in acids and bases (alkaline solutions). Some people's hair is very sensitive to vinegar solution, but not citric acid or vice versa. Some people's hair does not swell in baking soda solution, but does in the lather of a strongly alkaline soap bar. If your lower porosity hair is acid and alkaline-sensitive and you use an alkaline soap bar followed by a vinegar rinse because the soap is supposed to "open" the cuticles and the vinegar is supposed to "close" them, you may have just permanently damaged your hair without meaning to. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Only time will tell.  Only your hair "knows" whether it will respond badly to being subjected to acidic and alkaline solutions. If you use a treatment that works well for somebody else and get a undesirable result, don't assume there's something wrong with your hair - there's something wrong with how that treatment interacted with your hair.©Science-yHairBlog 2023

    Why would you want to increase porosity?: Porous hair tends to respond better to conditioners and oils and has more "grip" so that hairs cling to each other and group together. It tends to be easier to hold a style, volume may be easier to maintain. 

Flexibility is something that is inherent in your hair, in its curl pattern, and in its hydration level. Some people's hair is less flexible because it's internal structure is somewhat more rigid. Examples are very coarse (wide) hair, curly, coily Type 4 hair, some silver white hair. Some of us have areas of different curl patterns or hair-widths that are more "naturally inflexible" or else we have those hairs scattered over our heads. 
  • To help your lower-porosity hair be more flexible, keep the hydration levels optimal. That means using film-forming humectants, preventing water loss with balanced products which contain film-formers (i.e. plant-based gels), a little oil and/or some conditioning ingredients.
  • Meanwhile, give your hair some daily help (or whenever it feels less-flexible) with a hydration spray such as a mixture of distilled water and conditioner and anything else your hair appreciates that might improve hydration like aloe vera juice or a protein additive like Ion Protein Filer. Use this spray lightly to bring moisture and flexibility to your hair and get the water levels back up. Unless the air around you indoors and outdoors is humid all day (tropical or nearly so), your hair will tend to lose moisture to the air.
  • For added flexibility, when hair looks dull or begins to spread out and lose definition, feels inflexible, use a little oil (spread a couple drops on your palms and fingers and rub until they shine) on the ends and work your way up. Oil can be used alone for flexibility and definition, or it can go under or over a hydrating spray. 
  • Conditioner pomade. Rub a little conditioner between your palms and fingers until it's a bit dry and pasty feeling. Use that on any frizzy or inflexible areas - smooth it over sections as though making a ponytail(s), or as though you are pinching and sliding a ribbon between your fingers for smaller sections. The ingredients in conditioners have a very light "hold" and tack unlike oils. This can be done on damp or dry hair.

Avoid dehydration:
Your low porosity hair's ability to protect itself is what everybody else is trying to mimic with deep conditioners and hair repair agents. But still: Don't dry it out! Wear a hat or scarf in the sun and in cold, dry air. 
Avoid high-heat styling tools.
Protect your hair while swimming, and when out in the wind.
Use lower peroxide hair color or plant dyes to color hair - or get your hair as healthy as possible to let your natural color be it's most intense.
Wear a silk or silky, smooth scarf, bonnet or "buff" at night to reduce friction and create a little humid environment around your hair - the humidity comes from your skin.

Every day give your hair some hydration. If you aren't wetting your hair daily, mix up a spray bottle with distilled water, a small amount of conditioner, or boil the distilled water with marshmallow root or horsetail or nettles. Mist your hair with this to provide water, lubrication and ingredients with lasting hydration to keep your hair supple all day.

Oils can soften and lubricate hair in between washes if it gets that rough or stiff or lighter colored look on the ends. ©Science-yHairBlog 2023

Hard Water: (added May 2016)
If you have hard water in your shower, it can make the water-repelling behavior of your low porosity hair more pronounced. See this post for more details and how to manage hard water and your hair.  Minerals in hard water bond to hair just like conditioner does. So there are the hair-lubricating and softening cationic conditioners fighting it out with the hair-stiffening and friction-creating calcium and  magnesium carbonates and bicarbonates in your water. Hard water makes your low-porosity hair even less friendly towards oils and conditioners.

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  Reduction-Induces Surface Modification of Human Hair. Kamath and Ruetsch. Journal of Cosmetics Science, 2010. 61, 1-12

AARTI S. RELE and R. B. MOHILE, 2003

Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54, 175-192 

Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair 

Robbins, 1994. 3rd Ed. Springer-Verlag, New York

Gao T. Evaluation of hair humidity resistance/moisturization from hair elasticity. J Cosmet Sci. 2007 Jul-Aug;58(4):393-404. PMID: 17728940.

Journal of Cosmetic Science Vol. 4 No. 3, 259-273 September/October 1992

Assessment of the substantivity of cationic quaternary compounds to hair by potentiometric titration using the surfactant electrode.


Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemistry Vol. 4 No. 5, p. 85-94 1994

Adsorption to keratin surfaces A: continuum between a charge-driven and a hydrophobically driven process.


Journal of Cosmetic Science, 60, 85–95 March/April 2009

The effects of lipid penetration and removal from subsurface microcavities and cracks at the human cuticle sheath

2003 Current research on ethnic hair

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 48 No. 6

A. Franbourg, P. Hallegot,  F. Baltenneck, C. Toutain,and F. Leroy


Various sources from ingredient manufacturers and suppliers.

5+ Years of experience communicating with hair analysis clients about what works for their hair.


  1. Hi-- on another post you mentioned that hair butters increase friction vs. butters. Do you have a full article on that anywhere or can you explain a bit more?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hello London Girl,
      I don't yet have a blog post on butters increasing friction, but because they are solid at room temperature (in your hair, for example), the can create friction between hairs. Oils which are liquid at room temperature coat the hair lightly and provide lubrication because they are fluid - and slick. Butters also coat the hair lightly but that coating is not fluid and it can have a bit too much drag and tackiness between hairs. The friction from butters make them good in styling for adding volume or for helping a style stay in place. But if hair is already roughened from chemical treatments or lots of sun or salt water or chlorinated pools or high-heat styling, the excess friction between hairs might cause damaged cuticles to break off more readily, hastening higher porosity. That's why friction is a problem, the more hairs rub against each other, the more the vulnerable cuticles can be broken and then hair loses some of its protective coating and dehydrates more easily.
      I hope that helps. WS

  2. Yes, that makes sense. So would you say that those experiencing breakage might be making things worse by using butters, particularly on dry ends that (through age) have experienced more sun and styling damage than newer growth?

    1. It's possible - hair that is brittle on the ends or feels especially dry there with lots of elevated cuticles that are easy to break off could be rendered more vulnerable with butters in the hair. It is more likely to be a problem if there are knots in the hair, or styling products or conditioners that also create friction or other ingredients that, combined with a butter, increase friction. Sometimes breakage means hair needs some protein in addition to oils and conditioners - proteins like keratin or collagen are good for reducing breakage and tolerated by a wide range of hair widths and porosity levels.

  3. Thanks almost entirely to your blog, I think I know what kind of hair I have. Low P, but with few layers of keratin so processing damages it bad, and fast. It's naturally slippery, light ash blonde, and becomes a break-ey

  4. Thank you for this post. I'm at wits ends with my low porosity and resorted to the "baking soda conditioner", my hair felt hydrated the first time but by the 3rd use....dry dry dry....i think the soda is just too stripping or maybe it PRYs open the cuticle too much. so instead of yr hair getting and holding on to moisture, it leaks it out. So I'm going to print this and try the methods you've suggested and i will report back in about a month.
    Also i believe that using products that has low molecule weight ingredients will get into even the tightest cuticle, and with repeated use it will improve yr hydration levels. I'm no scientist here, it's just a theory i came up with from researching... am i correct? If it is correct then I'm now guessing that this is the least damaging way to hydrate yr hair...

  5. Hello JJes Jes! You are absolutely on the right track. Baking soda does pry open the cuticle a lot for some hair, usually the more porous the hair, the more it is altered by baking soda - but not always. That allows the alkaline solution into the hair, meanwhile the cuticles are standing up and in that condition they are easily broken off - leading to more rough, more porous hair.
    Smaller proteins (when your hair tolerates protein) like keratin and collagen can improve hydration levels and tend to agree with even very coarse hair if used at the right interval and amount. Panthenol and other "Film forming humectants" (there is a post on this blog about those) are great for low porosity hair. These things can squeeze past the tightest cuticles.

    If film formers aren't enough, combine them with emollients (oils, conditioners) for lasting moisture.

    This post is a good one for going through this process. If you keep notes about, "when I did this, that happened" for your hair, you will be able to create a routine and a response for whatever comes up.
    Good luck! WS

    1. Thank you, Yes anyone using baking soda, stop now please, damaging the hair to get moisture in is NOT a good idea. I didn't know that hair care was so simple until reading this and the other posts you suggested, i was doing all sorts of things, thinking it might help, now I only use 3 products and i eased up on the amount of oils and butters i was using to "seal", it really sealed, but instead of sealing in moisture (that I never had in the first place) it sealed moisture out as well on my low porosity hair. My hair is definitely more hydrated, 3/4 of the ends are clumping into curls that i never saw but the rest up the the roots is still frizzy with no curls but it is soft, so they are getting there.

      Regimen: Pre-shampoo (dry hair): Conditioner, not too thin, not too thick texture--Med-fine strands) (30 mins heat, my time reduced after my hair started getting more hydrated)-------Rinse well and wash: Shampoo----------Condition- to seal cuticles from negative charge of shampoo (5-10 mins no heat)--------Style and seal - styling cream/leave in conditioner, so following your instructions, my styling cream is ( Water, Aloe Vera juice, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearly Alcohol, Sorbitol, Murumuru butter, Sunflower oil, Olive oil, Candelilla wax, Lecithin, Glycerin, Sunscreen, Hydroxyethylcellulose and Preservative.) (I tried Flaxseed gel, but it reacted on my hair like a protein treatment.) So oils are in there to help to keep the hydration longer, my hair stays moisturized until wash day. Yes, the routine took several tries, I tried Oil pre-poo on dry hair and that left my hair feeling like straw, but i'm willing to try it again, but only on lightly damp hair, also, what helped when now starting off was to skip the pre-poo and shampoo well to get rid of the gunk, then air dry and apply conditioner the next day, on bone dry hair (very gentle - 30 mins - heat), and when my hair felt a little dry into the week, I lightly spritzed it with some water with Aloe Vera juice and glycerin and put a plastic cap for 1-3 hours, I no longer do this, because my hair is happy and hydrated.

      So a little advice for other low porosity women/men, don't give up and don 't resort to 'mad scientists' type experiments, it's just a matter of finding what your hair likes and what it can tolerate and stick to it, moisture can get into your hair with proper care and consistency.

    2. I did baking soda and ACV for a couple of months once - you are totally right. I still have photos - my hair was so damaged that I had to cut it all off. It was unbelieable. Baking soda for hair is the devil imo.

  6. Have you heard of new options hair care.
    utilize natural ingredients that soften and smooth curly hair textures of all ethnicities. Minerals are used to slightly raise the alkalinity or pH of the hair, which loosens the curl texture, and vitamins restore a healthy pH balance while straightening hair and improving its texture. Home of the chemical-less and natural hair relaxers. Would like to know your take on these products.

    1. Hello Ginah,

      I found this Beauty Brains archived post about New Options because I couldn't find an ingredient list (copy and paste the link to read the post):
      Beauty Brains had a big server crash a while back and some of their old posts are kind of detached like this one.

      They say the active ingredient is "soda ash" which is probably sodium carbonate, which may cause rapid hair swelling in some people's hair.

      It's not technically a relaxer because it won't break the disulfide (sulfur) bonds in your hair. Chemically, relaxer's active ingredient (sodium hydroxide is one example) is a "strong base" - it has a lot of alkali-activity and can do a lot of reacting. Sodium carbonate in New Options is not a "Strong base" but it's not as weak a base/alkali as a base like baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

      It probably softens hair through the process of swelling - but as far as it being a safer product for skin and eyes and nose than traditional relaxers, it is not. It is less reactive in the hair than relaxer, so has less capacity to damage. But it's still a very alkaline product to use in hair. It's not really more natural than relaxer, if that is something that is important to you.

      Swelling in hair may soften, but it also creates stress and pushes cuticles up, a condition in which they are more likely to break off. High pH (alkaline ingredients) tends to remove the chemical-resistant layers that reside on the outside of the cuticle, so long-term this could dry hair a little more though it won't have quite the structural impact as a relaxer.

      I think it's great that they provide a follow-up product to condition/hydrate hair and I can't find an ingredient list for that either. Hopefully it has some amino acids or small hydrolyzed proteins like keratin or collagen to hydrate and patch up any porous spots temporarily.

      I have seen relaxed hair in very good condition and in quite porous condition - so a lot of how well a person's hair tolerates a treatment like this depends on how well your hair tolerates everything else in life. Some people's hair is very resilient and little damaged no matter what they do to it and some people's hair is more easily damaged. If a person's hair was of the "easily damaged" variety, New Options would be a product to use with caution and take care to prepare the hair very well before using it.

      Whenever using any softening or relaxing product (or coloring or highlighting for that matter), one should prepare the hair with oil deep treatments and protein (as tolerated) to balance out porosity and protect the hair as much as possible - both right before using it and after.

      I don't think a product like this could be used over and over again on the entire length without being at least drying.
      I hope that helps!

  7. Hello! I have been searching a while for the right hair products for my hair. And I thought I would ask your help with something. I have been reading a lot about how the weather and dew points affect your hair (and humectants). On another website, it said that because there is no moisture in the air during cold weather, humectants pose a risk of the humectant actually removing moisture from the cortex of the hair itself, creating the problem it was intended to prevent. I am pretty sure I have low-porous hair and I know that humectants are suppose to work well, but I didn't know if using them in these colder months was damaging? What's your take on that? I want to help my hair, not hurt it!

    1. It is possible that a simple (small molecule) humectant like glycerin, propylene glycol or sorbitol could pull moisture from your hair if the air is very dry and there is more moisture in your hair than in the air around it. BUT if you use styling products with emollients (oils, conditioning ingredients) or leave-in conditioners, that can offset the chance of this happening because those ingredients slow water loss, keep hair flexible. Sometimes the dryness that comes with glycerin-containing products in dry winter weather is cosmetic only and sometimes it is more a result of the product interacting with the dry air than your hair drying out. I wouldn't encourage anybody to avoid glycerin based on this possibility alone - it rules out a lot of products. Some people use glycerin-containing products in dry climates with no problem at all. Be aware of how your hair responds as the seasons change. If you notice a problem (frizzing, a rough feel, dullness, a candy-coated feeling) that is not altered by using a leave-in conditoner or oils or whatever you use for softness/conditioning, then you may need to avoid glycerin in winter.

  8. Hi, I apologise if I seem rude, but can I be nosey and ask your opinion on the use of baking soda and vinegar as a wash method and not as a method of moisturisation? Purely hypothetically and on the basis that the hair is only washed weekly, is on the oily side, of medium porosity and not showing any outward signs of damage from this method. Thanks

    1. Hello Anna,

      Vinegar rinses at a concentration of 1 tablespoon per cup of water (15 ml in 230 ml) are often okay to use in hair that is otherwise strong and healthy and not easily damaged. It can help remove excess oil. The pH is lower than what is considered safe for hair, skin and eyes so one should be careful using acids for this reason. Porous hair and dyed hair or highlighted hair or sun-damaged, pool-damaged hair tends not to fare as well - so more- porous ends tend to be stressed by low pH because it causes swelling.

      Baking soda is far more unpredictable. A solution of 1 tablespoon per cup of water has a pH which is too high for hair. Some people un-dyed, un-damaged, lower porosity hair tolerates it fairly well. Or tolerates it for a while. But some hair which is lower porosity will swell rapidly in baking soda solution, causing it to become temporarily porous and later on, feel dry and rough. Normal porosity to porous hair usually fares worst in baking soda, lower porosity hair is difficult to guess about.

      My feeling is that if you want to avoid commercial shampoo, there are plenty of hair-friendly options other than baking soda. Baking soda is not a detergent, it has no surfactant qualities. It may be able to strip off some things from the hair thanks to its high pH - but at what cost to your hair's health is difficult to guess. High pH can be very irritating to the skin and eyes. Baking soda tends to cause aggressive swelling in hair - it opens the cuticle but it also allows in the alkaline solution. Vinegar does not close the cuticle - for some people it opens it again, allowing acid into the hair. So there's no reason to use both and using both could do more harm than good.

      Vinegar rinses can work well and so can citric acid rinses (see this post for ratios:

      Aloe vera can be mildly cleansing and various types of clay work well to remove excess oils too - oily hair probably benefits more from rhassoul or bentonite and drier or sensitive skin should stick with kaolin. Herbal teas can be a good hair wash too.

      My recommendation - even for weekly cleansing - is to use diluted vinegar or diluted lemon juice or citric acid (diluted appropriately) or herbal teas, aloe vera juice, clay or yucca root or soap nuts to clean your hair. Recipes for everything but soap nuts here:

      Most people's hair I examine does not respond well to baking soda. But most of these things mentioned above are okay or even great for hair. Use acids with caution - if your hair begins to feel dry or look dry, you are using too much acid and need to cut the amount in half or fourth.
      Good luck!

  9. Quick question, what are your thoughts on grapseed oil, compared to other hair oils?

    1. My thoughts on grapeseed oil? It's one of my favorite oils for my hair! It's drier feeling thanks to a high linoleic acid content and not as heavy as something like coconut oil or olive oil.
      It's more a "lubricating" oil than a "soaking in" oil which is great for low porosity hair - or porous hair for that matter. Sometimes we need or want oils to stay on and near the surface to lubricate our hairs so they slide past each other and line up neatly.

      I like it best under styling products on wet or dry hair, on dry hair as a pomade, on hair before setting it for a soft, smooth end result.

  10. Hi :-)

    I have low porosity curly hair. Therefore, I have read several articles about hair care rutines for low porosity hair and I got the impression that aloe vera is a no go ingredient because it closes the cuticle due to its low pH. To moisture low porosity hair the challenge is to open the cuticle and this is opposite of what the aloe vera does. However, several curly hair products (for low porosity hair) contain aloe vera as a main ingredient. Also after reading your article I realise that aloe vera is a good sealing humectant. Conclusion of my research is that I am confused :-) should I consider aloe vera to be a good humectant or should I avoid it not to close my hair cuticles further and prevent uptake of other good ingredients in my hair products?

    PS: my hair doesn't seem to like aloe vera based products. What could the reason for that be? Is there someting specific about aloe vera which makes it a no go for some hair types? Sometimes when I read product reviews I see that some people express that they avoid alie vera or they give low points due to aloe vera content.

    PPs: I discovered your blog today and I have to say that it is one of the best I have ever come across :-)

    Thank u for ur response in advance!

    BR Salli

    1. Aloe can cause a build-up sort of situation in some people's hair that makes it dull or rough or darker-looking or makes it "flash dry" in which sections of hair dry almost immediately after wetting. And that happens to people with lower porosity hair and higher porosity hair, finer hair and coarser hair - so it's very individual.
      Aloe only has a low pH if you're using aloe vera juice or thick aloe vera gel (not many added ingredients) or if it is ingredient #1 or 2 in a product. Low pH actually *opens* some people's hair cuticle, so the prediction that "acids close the cuticle" is not a reliable reaction and may not be true. Hair biology reality is more like, "an appropriate pH between 5 and 7 prevents hair from swelling rapidly, which would pop 'open' the cuticle." The former has been repeated often enough, but from my observation of hair it has proven to be inaccurate. Aloe can help hair (and skin) hold on to moisture, but it's not right for everybody's hair.
      Or some hair can tolerate a little bit of aloe now and then - just not every day.
      Film-forming humectants like flax or marshmallow or okra are great for low porosity hair and seem to get along with more people's hair and don't have the same pH or build-up problems. On the page "Product List By Category" there are products based on film-forming humectants - flax or marshmallow etc. are listed next to the product.

      If aloe is no good in your hair, there might still be some other plant gel-y things that are really great in your hair.
      Good luck!

  11. Hi. Do you have any suggestions for what I should use to wash my low porosity, fine, fairly thin hair? I've been trying to go 'no poo' for 6 months now and can't find anything natural to shift the sebum which my body is still happily over-producing. I'm using castile soap twice a week at the moment, but it doesn't really shift the grease and nothing else I have tried seems to either. My hair HATES baking soda and oil of any sort. Thanks, x

    1. Hello Georgie,

      There is a tab at the top of the blog page which says, "More Recipes." There are some scalp and hair wash recipes there.
      But first things first. If you are using castile soap to wash your scalp and hair, that is probably much too high a pH for skin and hair and you may be creating some irritation which can cause oiliness. Castile soap actually does remove excess oil, so it is also stripping away the natural oils and that may cause your scalp to be oilier than you like. Castile soap certainly can leave soap scum if you have hard water.

      If you want to use strictly natural products, the clay wash recipe is good for removing excess oil from hair. I find clay difficult to rinse out, but some people don't have that problem. A tiny bit of clay left in your hair can actually be volumizing or cause tangles. A little clay left on the scalp can be itchy.

      Aloe vera juice (diluted) is a mild hair wash. Yucca root makes a lightly sudsy and very mild and nice cleanser (recipes on the More Recipes page). Some people make a hair wash from soap nuts too.

      Herbal teas, especially yarrow or sage or rosemary, can be nice for an oily scalp used as a rinse - massage scalp under water to remove dust etc., apply herbal tea to hair and scalp, leave on for a short while, then rinse.

      Some scalps are oilier than others thanks to skin conditions - and if this is you, then be careful to watch for signs of irritation with any new product - natural or not - lots of things can irritate a sensitive scalp. Irritation tends to cause oiliness or itch.

      If none of these work and you're not strictly committed to using only natural products, try a mild shampoo or dilute any shampoo (about 1/2 teaspoon in a cup of water) so it is milder and use that to cleanse your hair. There is a list of milder shampoos in the tab "Products by Ingredient Category."
      Good luck!

    2. I love this so much. The science of everything helped me understand. Thank you so much!
      and question... I thought protein didn't work on low porosity hair? I used Shea Moisture's Reconstructing Conditioner and it made my hair so brittle and hard.

  12. What regimen do you recommend for low porosity hair. I have tried ORS creamy aloe shampoo and the first couple of uses left my hair feeling hydrated and curls relaxed but not so much this last try. I think I got rhat "flash dry" effect you described above. I sought out aloe Vera for its hydrating properties but now understand that it also smoothes the cuticle which is what I dont need (until styling). Any ideas?

    1. Antoinette,
      These are the ingredients I found on Sally's Beauty Supply for OHS creamy aloe shampoo: "Water Aqua, Cocamidopropyldimethylamine Propionate, Trideceth-7 Carboxylic Acid, PPG-5-Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Lauramide Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Polyquaternium-10, Cocoglucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Disodiium EDTA, Olive Oil Olea Europaea, Cetrimonium Carboxydecyl, PEG-8 Dimethicone, Cetrimonium Chloride, Sulfated Castor Oil, Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, PEG-12 Oleate, Silicone Quaternium-2, Panthenol Succinate, Fragrance Parfum, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Propylene Glycol, Polyquaternium-7, Cocamide MEA, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Triethanolamine, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Propyl Paraben, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Green No. 3 Cl 42053 , Yellow No. 5 Cl 19140"
      Aloe gel is pretty far down the list so there shouldn't be too much aloe in the product. If they had made it with dehydrated aloe powder, they could end up with an aloe concentration similar to aloe straight from the plant and it would probably say "aloe" in the first few ingredients. But it says "Aloe Barbadensis gel" so far towards the end of the list where ingredients present in small quantities are listed, it's probably present at low concentration. That is my best guess , anyhow.
      The detergents themselves could be giving you that flash-drying effect if not the aloe.
      Sometimes a shampoo works very well if we use it once in a while, but if we keep repeating it, our hair gets overly clean ("stripped") and flash-dries.
      Or your hair could be reacting to some of the conditioning ingredients in the shampoo.

  13. Hi hi I am desperately looking for help! After year of suffering, trying endless products, asking stylists whom could not give me an answer, I have come across your blog! I have low porous hair. I do not bleach or use much heat styling at all. My hair is beyond dry, is so brittle you can just snap pieces off. There are split ends, but it goes way further than that, as it will have split ends way up my hair shaft,mor little dots where it will just break off at any given point. My hair looks and feels really dry and unhealthy no matter what I do. I am wondering if you can help me find a regime from beginning to end, to hopefully correct this issue. I am willing to try any types of oils ext that you recommend..I can see from reading your blog, that you have really done your homework, and understand the chemist of low porosity hair, as well as why to use certain products. If you could help me, I would be forever grateful...I will keep you updated on the results as we'll! Thank you!

    1. Hello Jolene,

      It sounds like your hair might be dehydrated if it's feeling dry and brittle. I don't know whether your hair is coarse or medium, so I can't be too specific.

      Oil pre-wash (oil deep treatments) are good even for hair that is or acts like it is low porosity. The trick is not using more oil than your hair can tolerate. Start out with enough to add a little weight and shine. Try using a hair-penetrating oil or a mixture of more and less penetrating oils. Leave the oil on for 6 to 8 hours. Oils need time to work their way into the hair shaft and that cannot be rushed. Coconut oil is popular for this, but some people find their hair feels rough and dry or brittle with coconut oil. In that case, sunflower oil or olive oil would be a better choice. (At the right you'll see a link to a blog post about oils that penetrate or not). After this time has passed, wash your hair and condition, etc. This step will soften your hair, lubricate it, help it be flexible so it doesn't break, and prevent dehydration that may occur during washing. Getting hair wet is pretty stressful and even low porosity hair can use a little protection sometimes.

      Deep conditioning your hair with conditioner to which you've added a little oil and maybe a little honey or aloe vera juice - leaving the conditioner on for anywhere from a few minutes to a half an hour with some heat can give your hair lots of softness and flexibility.

      If your hair is not very coarse, you can use protein-containing products to provide more hydration. Hydrolyzed proteins slow water loss from hair. Good proteins to try if you're not sure your hair tolerates protein are keratin and collagen. There is a list of products which contain various proteins on the "Product by Ingredient Category" page - see the tab at the top of this page. If hair becomes too soft or stiff, then it's not getting along well with a particular protein or product.

      Many hair widths - from fine to coarse do well with film-forming humectants in conditioners or styling products. There is a blog post here describing those ingredients which you can find with the search feature. Panthenol, aloe vera, marshmallow root, flax seed are examples.

      If you are not moisturizing or applying something to your hair daily (if you don't wash daily), you might consider doing that. For people who have straight, wavy or curly hair a mixture of distilled water and conditioner (one with film-forming humectants would be great) and maybe a little oil if your hair can handle it, can be sprayed on the hair at night or in the morning to bring moisture, softness, flexibility and lubrication. If your hair is tightly coiled with lots of shrinkage when dry, or you don't want to get it damp, rub a little oil on your palms and fingers and smooth that over the top and over sections of your hair to soften it.

      For all treatments - protein, oil treatments, deep conditioning - if your hair benefits, repeat the treatment again when the benefit begins to fade. If you get the same good result, the timing was right. If not - it may have been too soon, you your hair may have needed a milder or stronger treatment.
      Good luck!

  14. Hello,

    I just recently discovered your blog and I am so happy because of the wealth of information it has. My hair is low porosity and is very dry. I am very excited to try some of the many methods (and products) you suggested. I do have one quick questions pertaining to the aloe vera gel: Is it possible to substitute Aloe Vera extract for the gel? Or would that not be a good idea because, although they are from the same plant, they are two different forms?

    1. Hello S,
      This is difficult to answer because I don't know what aloe vera extract you have in mind nor what you plan to do with it. Can you be more specific?

    2. Yes, of course. I meant in making a daily spritz to keep hair hydrated. Similar to what you mentioned at the very end of this article.

    3. Okay! If it is a powder or a liquid made for cosmetics, there should be some mention of how much to add to water to get full aloe vera juice concentration - you want to use *half that much* so it's not too concentrated. If there is no mention of that and it's a liquid, start with a teaspoon or 2 per cup of water and see how much more (or less) you need. If it's a powder, you probably need very little per cup of water.

    4. Great. Thanks for the info!

  15. Excellent article!! My low-po hair is looking more and more fuzzy vs smooth and I've been using baking soda for months. Is this irreversible damage or can it become smooth again. Aloe Vera seems to help but I'm not quite sure if it's dring my hair out. Will need to pay closer attention.

    1. Hello AlliP,
      If you're not sure about the aloe - try using it in a few weeks from now. Baking soda use may damage hair in a way that cannot be reversed. But there are things you can do to make your hair feel smooth again. Protein is usually helpful for damaged hair. The wider your strands, the less protein your hair will tolerated. More-coarse hair needs protein less often, but porous hair usually can benefit from *some* protein. Hydrolyzed keratin and hydrolyzed collagen are good ingredients to try in conditioners (check out the product list by ingredient tab on this blog to find products with these proteins). There are other posts on the blog about when to use protein. Also, look at the post (currently in the "popular posts" list at the right of the page) for how to use oil pre-shampoo treatments. Especially if you use some hair-penetrating oils, these treatments can help protect your hair during washing and restore a smooth feel.

  16. I pretty much do the exact opposite of what most naturals who have high porosity hair. For me, baking soda has been a life saver. I use about 1 tsp to 2 tsp in my dilluted conditioner...always in a moist warm environment. BS with just water will be too harsh. You need a buffer to still get the gentle lift without causing damage. When I use BS with my diluted conditioner I literally see and feel that it is penetrating my hair strands. Curls spring up and clump almost immediately and the weight of the water pulls my hair down instead of poofy and out as if no water entered my hair which is what would happen if I didn't use the BS. I rinse it out as now my hair is primed for deep conditioning. I do wash my hair with clay which is also alkaline and again promotes uber curl definition and allows water to enter my hair strands. I wash that out and proceed to my leave-in that is diluted with warm water and a botanical gel to seal the moisture and set the curl. This regimen has changed my hair dramatically. Detangling takes less than 5 minutes because my curls are clumped and the gel helps to keep each strand in its own lane so to speak cutting down on knots, tangles, and eventually breakage. I have had no issue with weak hair or breakage. Very little hair loss at all. When I was using glycerine, coconut oil, shea butter or hair was perpetually dry and breakage was so bad I was starting to lose length. The glycerine in the curl activator I was using in the warm weather made my hair feel hydrated but, eventually it was eroding my ends..especially the propylene glycol.
    The key for low-po hair is that heat alone is not going to cut it. You have to watch the ingredients in your conditioner and styler(s) etc. Stay away from aloe vera, glycerine, silicons, parapens, coconut oil, and drying alchohols. Heavy butters and oils will occlude moisture...may be able to use as a sealant after the moisture is in the hair, but still these products tend to produce too much build-up on strands causing dryness.
    Protein...well my hair can tolerate it...but, again it has a tendency to build up in low po hair and cause it be dry brittle and hard. Now if your hair seems mushy and weak and hair strands snap off then proceed with a protein treatment..but I would stay away from the hydrolized plant based protein as it will build up and make your hair hard on low po hair. . As for pre pooing with oil....Well, I think pre pooing benefits people with medium to high porosity hair than low po hair. Reason being is that the pre poo helps with detangling and overload of water, and combating the stripping feeling that shampoo produces. With low porosity should stay away from shampoo unless you have some severe build-up and coating your hair with oil before you wash is only going to make it hard for the water (moisture) to enter your already tight cuticles, and the problem is that you need moisture, so why would you coat your hair with oil to block the moisture and make hydrating your hair that much harder. High porosity hair will respond well to pre poos as it helps fill in the gaps of the cuticles. Heavy oils and butters work wonders on high po hair. Not the case for low po hair. Also, using cold water rinses after you deep condition is great for high po hair but disasterous for low po hair. You have to understand that products, conventional hair methods like pre pooing, loc method, cold water rinses etc tend to benefit people with medium to high porosity hair. There are no products out there being marketed to low po hair. So, most of us have to turn to methods that are not "approved" or go against the grain.

    1. This is really interesting, mlank64. Thank you for sharing. And I love "keeping curls in their own lane!" That phrase is truly priceless.
      I recently tested some lower porosity hair in conditioner+baking soda and the effect of the baking soda truly was indeed buffered as you are describing. I've done this with baking soda and conditioner - but my scalp couldn't cope with the baking soda - thus endeth my experimentation. It did make my lower-porosity hair a bit more "grippy" and I liked that.
      This is worthy of a new blog post for low-porosity hair - and editing this post as well.
      If you'd like to donate half a dozen strands of hair or so towards illustrating it for other blog readers - send me an e-mail at and we can work out the details.

  17. I tried the baking soda on my hair and it ruined it. My hair feels stripped and matts when washing it what do I need to purchase to get it healthy again

    1. Hello Tracy, I'm sorry to hear that your hair is in a bad state after using baking soda. Baking soda probably made your hair 1) a bit more porous, 2) increased friction between hairs and 3) now it may be more easily dehydrated and that means you need to protect your hair's porosity and elasticity. The post that is currently in the "popular posts" on the right about managing elasticity and porosity might help. If you want to keep things simple and inexpensive, you can address elasticity and porosity by giving your hair an oil pre-wash treatment with coconut oil or sunflower oil or olive oil - apply the oil so your hair feels a little heavy or dirty and leave it on for 4-8 hours. If you know your hair loves any of these oils, you might use a little more oil. Some people have difficulty washing excess oil off and you don't want to go that far.
      For lubrication: A deep conditioning would be in order. You can use a commercial deep conditioner, but you can also mix about 1 part oil of your choice to 3 or 4 parts conditioner, add a little honey or aloe vera juice, apply that to washed hair and leave it on with some gentle heat for anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes.

      For hydration: If you know your hair responds well to protein, you can use a protein-containing conditioner with oils added for your deep conditioner. If you're not sure about protein, there is a list of conditioners with protein in the "Products by ingredient category" page of this blog and you might choose a product with some hydrolyzed keratin or collagen to help balance porosity and hydrate your hair. Don't use protein every time you wash unless you know that works for you. If you're not sure, use it, see how it works. If you get a good result (smoother feeling hair, less frizz, a more silky feel, shine?) then repeat it again when those benefits fade to find out the right frequency for you. Some people can use protein daily, some need to use it only once per month.

      Use a leave-in conditioner (or conditioning styling product) too, with ingredients like flax or panthenol or aloe or marsh mallow root, sodium PCA, irish moss (seaweed extract) for good hydration and to keep your hair lubricated and flexible.

      One or more of these should help. Whatever does help, repeat the use or treatment when the benefit fades. Your hair probably needs a lot of help right now, but it may stabilize after a little while. The important things are to keep hair lubricated and flexible and prevent dehydration by using moisturizers (above paragraph, flax, panthenol...) to hold moisture in your hair and oils and leave-in conditioners to add slip and help prevent moisture from leaving your hair.
      Good luck!

  18. I have a hair that is hard to take or it is just me that do not know how. Easily go to protein or moisture overload. For years using henna and breaking then I do a water only wash it was great then I decided to do a prepoo and wash with African black soap and honey and glycerine. Hair is mushy, stretchy, mo cur patterns when I dtangle it stays in the comb. I deep with amla, shikakai and fenugreek, it doing the same thing. Do not know what to do because I do not want to go back to commercial products so much allergies and my scalp is doing well. Do you think I can do a gelatin treatment?

    1. Hello Perpetue,
      If I understand you correctly, your hair was breaking after you used henna. Henna tends to make hair need extra lubrication from oils and conditioners. If you don't use lots of lubrication, hennaed hair may have too much friction between hairs and that can cause breakage. Also, if your individual hairs are coarse (wide), henna might make your hair more difficult to work with.
      Your hair was okay with a water-only wash. But it had a bad result from using soap. Soap has a high pH and can make hair more porous. Soap can also interact with minerals in water and leave a residue on hair that makes hair waxy or tacky feeling or just strange - it can make hair tangly or too soft or even stiff.
      I'm not sure if protein will correct the problem you are having until you try some other things first. Protein over soap residue usually turns out badly, so you'd want to try to remove soap residue first in case that is a problem for you. I think it might be good to use less of the things that seem to cause a problem first (like soap). If your hair has some soap residue, you might try a rinse with diluted lemon juice to remove that. For example, the juice of 1 lemon in 1 cup of water (230 ml), poured over your hair, worked through and then rinsed out. But it would be best to test a rinse like this on a single strand first to make sure it is not too strong.
      Once you have seen what your hair does without soap and perhaps with only 1 herb at a time, then you might try a dilute gelatin protein treatment, maybe half strength to see if your hair gets the strength it needs. If you are very patient, try using the gelatin on 1 section of your hair first. Or for the first time you use it, do not leave it on for very long so you don't overwhelm your hair. The longer you leave a protein treatment on your hair, the more protein your hair will retain.
      Good luck!

    2. thanks a lot. I will be trying the lemon and then a protein treatment.

  19. I used a protein treatment on my low porosity hair. Now it has high porosity. Is there any way I can reverse the damage and change it back to normal.

    1. Hello Blossom,
      Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. It sounds to me like the protein treatment you used may have been too strong for your hair or it was a protein that does not work well with your hair. When that happens, hair can feel rough, tangly, stiff, brittle, dry and even start to break or shed more than usual. Your hair may be coarse - individual hairs that are wide and don't need too much support from protein.
      A remedy for this is to use lots of emollients for lubrication, flexibility and softness. Give your hair a long oil treatment with coconut oil or sunflower oil or avocado or olive oil. Leave it on for *at least* 8 hours, longer if it's practical (i.e. all day). Use enough oil to make your hair shine a little and have some extra weight. Do this on dry hair before washing - don't worry about any conditioners or styling products in your hair.
      After you wash your hair, use a deep conditioner or leave your rinse-out conditioner on, covered with a plastic cap for 5 minutes to 30 minutes with some gentle heat. "Moist heat" would be ideal - wrapping your (covered) hair with a warm, wet towel for example.
      These 2 treatments should counter the "stiffening" effects of protein by giving your hair lots of lubrication, flexibility and softness.
      Keep it up, using oils and conditioner until your hair begins to feel like its old self again. Protein is not permanent, it dos bond to hair temporarily, and it will wash out and "wear off" - but the stiffness of too much protein can cause a lot of mechanical damage so you need extra help from oil and conditioner right now to help your hair return to normal.
      Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much! I will try this immediately.

  20. I asked a question about a month ago, not sure if you got it. I wasn't sure if I was low porosity because I had done the water test but,after reading from your site I realize it's not reliable. I have relaxed hair which I've flat ironed on a regular basis this past year( 3 weeks to a month) wash about every 2 weeks and it seemed like throughout the week product would build up quickly (4-5 days) after using a half castor oil half olive oil mix with my leave conditioner(the shea moisture moisture retention). I mean my hair doesn't seem to fit the characteristics of low po hair it seems to fit the high porosity characteristics( lack lustre,brittle) while the roots of my hair(the natural texture seems to fit into low porosity more as it hold moisture longer. What can do to get moisture in my hair.

    1. Hello someone,
      I thought I answered your previous question, but I can't find it either. My apologies. Flat ironing usually causes an increase in porosity - more so towards the ends. You are using "heavier" oils (castor, olive) - have you experimented with oils that flow more readily ("lighter" oils)? Grapeseed is one example, apricot kernel is another. Coconut oil is a heavier oil, but tends not to feel as greasy. A different oil might have a different feel.
      Or your hair might be the sort that prefers oils when they are incorporated into a leave-in conditioner to oils used directly on your hair. Like the difference between creamy salad dressings formulated not to separate and plain old oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, oils in conditioners are emulsified so they don't separate and that leaves a very different feeling in your hair.
      Moisture is simply water. When hair has enough water, it's well hydrated. Well-hydrated hair is more flexible. Ingredients (film-forming humectants) like aloe, seaweed extract, pectin, flax seed gels or extracts, marsh mallow root, hydrolyzed proteins for hair that tolerates them, etc., slow water loss from hair - so when they are in products they prevent dehydration. Oils and conditioners also slow water loss to keep hair hydrated - and they add softness, lubrication and additional flexibility.

      One thing that usually helps is adding water to hair in between washes if you're already using oils and they're just building up on your hair. If you're straightening, that is obviously not something you might want to do. If not, a hydrating spray with distilled water and a little conditioner and maybe some aloe can help bring water (moisture) and flexibility, lubrication and softness to your hair between washes. This is a between-wash hydration step. It does not have to be a complete re-wetting. Some hair appreciates being "watered" more often, even though that also means re-styling.

      Another approach is to use steam in the styling process to add lots of water with the help of the heat to increase uptake of conditioners and oils and help distribute products. This requires a hair steamer or a facial steamer - something safe to have near the skin and eyes. Steam with styling can help hair stay hydrated longer - especially if you choose products with a good balance of ilm-forming humectants, conditioning ingredients and a little oil to slow down water loss and keep hair flexible.

      Some people need to find a good protein-containing product and use it as often as hair responds well to it. Keratin and collagen are smaller proteins that tend to get along with many hair widths.

      Be a little more generous with oils and conditioners on the ends of your hair because it sounds like the ends are a little porous and the roots are not - and that is normal because the roots are newer and have experienced less "weathering."

      You might need to experiment with different conditioners also. Some conditioners are more likely to leave a build-up-y feeling in your hair than others because of the ingredients that do the actual conditioning. The "Product List by Ingredient Category" tab at the top of this page has a list of conditioners that are less likely to build up, you might compare ingredients to your conditioner and see if there is something else you've used in the past that doesn't cause this problem.
      Good luck!

    2. I would suggest that you try to wrap your relaxed hair every night and secure with a silk or satin scarf. The extreme heat from the flat iron is really "burning" up your hair. The oils you were using were to heavy causing the limp heavy hair. I would suggest shampooing weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and flat ironing your clean hair only once per week. I would suggest the pre oil shampoo treatment if your hair feels dry. Also the hard water treatment after every relaxer treatment makes the hair feel incredibly soft. Hope this helps

  21. I love your blog! I have fine, low porosity curls which easily becomes weighed down. I have severe allergies and cannot use the yogurt/baking soda protein treatment. Do you think the gelatin protein treatment would work for my curls? If so, should I modify the treatment to fit my type of curl such as adding baking soda? Thank you!

    1. Hello curlycue,
      Yogurt can sting and baking soda can burn - both can leave sensitive people with red, sore, irritated skin or cause a flare-up of skin disease. The pH of yogurt is low and the pH of baking soda is much too high for skin - especially sensitive skin.
      If your individual hairs are fine to medium - difficult to see when held up to the light *and* difficult to see when held up to a contrasting (differently colored) background - then protein might perk your hair up and add moisture.
      The gelatin treatment is a strong protein treatment, so it may be best to make your first try with 1/2 or 1/4 the recommended amount of gelatin - just to be sure you don't overwhelm your hair with protein. You can also dissolve a bit of gelatin in boiling water (until it's 100% clear - no lumps or beady looking bits) and add that to your usual conditioner for a protein-enriched conditioner.

      Protein in products like conditioners tend to require extra preservatives and because that can increase the irritation potential, that's not the best option for you then.

      Here are some other tricks for protein for really sensitive skin. You can buy hydrolyzed collagen powder from Because it's a powder - there are no preservatives to cause preservative-related (or fragrance-related)itching. Add a pinch of that to a conditioner. This is a bit milder (smaller) protein than gelatin, even though both are collagen.

      You can buy something like NeoCell Keratin Hair Volumizer. These are capsules with powder inside. I like to open them and dissolve about 1/3 a capsule in water and add that to my conditioner.

      You can also let some beer go flat at room temperature and put that on clean hair, leave it on with some heat for a few minutes, then rinse and condition. It must go flat - the protein is in the foam. This is actually a really nice protein treatment unless you cannot deal with wheat or barley.

      I would stay away from acids and alkaline ingredients when sensitive skin is involved.

      If protein doesn't give you what you're looking for (smoother or more "together" hair, less frizz, shine), then you might need to try a pre-wash oil treatment (see the link to the post on the right of the page) and you might need to incorporate some all-weather humectants like aloe, flax, okra etc. into your styling routine (film-forming humectants).
      Good luck and take good care of that delicate skin!


    2. Thanks for all your advice! I tried the hydrolyzed collagen powder from and it dried out/ coated my hair making my leave in conditioner sit on top of my hair without penetrating/moisturizing as much as it used to. Does this mean the protein was too large for my fine/ low porosity strands? In that case, should I use the smaller protein from makingcosmetics called hydrolyzed silk protein? If so, how many drops of it should I use with my conditioner? Thank you again!!

    3. It depends on how much you used. Powdered proteins are very, very concentrated and it's incredibly easy to over-do it. You will notice a protein in a conditioner or styling product at around 1%. That is equal to 1 gram in 100 grams (or 1 ml in 100 ml). But let's say you had a liquid protein that was actually 50% protein (it would say "50% actives") vs. a dry powder that is 100% actives. Then if you measured by weight or volume, the powder would give you 1% but the liquid would give you 0.5%.
      Protein can make hair seem to dry very quickly and make hair act like it is extremely non-porous.
      But sometimes that's a combination of problems : 1) A concentration issue - use less protein. 2) You needed to use heat with the protein-containing product to help it bond with your hair and work best. 3) Frequency - use protein again when any good effects from the last use "wear off."
      If you're an eyeball measure-r instead of by weight, mix just a tiny pinch of collagen powder per a couple teaspoons of conditioner. For a protein treatment (strong) - you might use 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon per cup liquids (water, conditioner, etc) - but that sounds like it's too much for your hair. If you were mixing up a protein conditioner to use occasionally, you'd want about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per 8oz conditioner. And you'd need to put that in the refrigerator because powdered proteins have no preservatives and would make that batch go bad easily.

      If using less doesn't work - then silk protein might work well for you. Try 4 to 8 drops per tablespoon of conditioner. If your hair loves it, use more.

      Neutral Protein Filler is an easy to use and easy to find protein additive. It can be a bit itchy because of the preservatives and fragrance (which is very light), but for the small investment (tiny bottle from Sally's Beauty Supply or online) it's not much of a loss if it bothers your skin. That is the same as for silk protein, 4-8 drops per tablespoon of conditioner. If you hair loves it, you can use more.
      I hope that helps!

  22. You are life saver, thank you so much! One last question, would you recommend me using henna? I wanted to use it as a protein treatment alternative to thicken my fine curls. Or would this further make my hair have an even lower porosity. Thank you!!!

    1. Curlycue,
      Henna will probably make your hair *act* as though it is lower porosity. Henna can make hair dry more quickly (I mean go from wet to dry) and seem to repel water. I have only used cassia on my hair, but I have hennaed hair that was not on my head and examined hennaed hair (before and after). Cassia and henna both make hair act lower porosity. Henna gives hair a bit more friction and that's how you get the volume. It's not friction like sandpaper, it's more like flannel. You need extra lubrication with hennaed hair.
      Henna will make your hair feel thicker - but probably still low (or even lower) porosity.

      Protein can improve volume somewhat in making hair feel more substantial. Styling products with "Corn Starch Modified" - whether hair gel or curl cream or whatever styler can be good for improving volume. As a bonus, that ingredient provides some medium, humidity-resistant hold.

      Be sure to assess which qualities of "moisturize" you are after. If it's flexibility, you might need a long oil pre-wash treatment or deep conditioning or some protein. If your hair sounds crackly and feels dry (like dry grass) it needs some deep conditioning with or without protein and probably an oil pre-wash at some point. If your hair just doesn't feel soft enough, deep condition.
      Protein and humectants slow water loss from hair to keep it flexible. Oils and conditioners soften and lubricate.
      Good luck!

  23. Hi there,

    Thanks for keeping such an informative and helpful blog, really!
    I have been reading it carefully and would like to take it to a practical side now by making a homemade conditioner for my low-porosity, 2C/3A hair type. It would contain water, jojoba or grapeseed oil, panthenol, aloe vera and flexseed gel as humectants. Does that sound like a good deal? Or am I missing something really important?

    Best regards,

    1. Manon, if you want to make a conditioner like the sort you can buy that is thick and creamy, then you are missing 1) an emulsifier and 2) a cationic conditioner.
      If you make flaxseed gel and add aloe, panthenol, and jojoba and grapeseed oils and use that to style your hair, that product will help keep your hair hydrated and soft and flexible - and probably really fabulous looking too - though with aloe and flax you probably don't even need the panthenol - you might end up with limp hair.

      But if you try to use this like you would use a rinse-out conditioner, you might not be happy with it.

      Emulsifiers in rinse-out conditioners help oils mix into a water base so the oils do not separate out. This also tends to leave a less oily-looking result in your hair. Emulsifiers are often cationic conditioning ingredients or else sold as combination ingredients with them. In that case they're called "self-emulsifiers" and are the best bet for beginners and people who don't want to get too fussy with ingredients.

      Cationic conditioning ingredients have positive charges to bond to hair and stay on after rinsing so the hair is lubricated and softened. These are things like Cetrimonium cholride, Behentrimonium choride, Behentrimonium methosulfate (often sold as "BTMS" and often sold combined with the thickener cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol), Cetrimonium bromide...

      A cationic conditioner and emusifier will give you a creamy base for your oils and humectants.

      This gets a little elaborate because you also need a stick blender, the emulsifiers need to be heated to a certain temperature and held there for 15-20 minutes, then blended at high speed with your other ingredients. It is possible to do - I have a recipe like this with flax in it, linked on the recipes page "Super Smooth Flax Curl Cream." Just as an example of how it goes together.

      But for low-porosity hair, unless you keep the oil at a minimum, you'll get greasy hair without the emulsifier. And without the emulsifier and cationic conditioner, if you use this as a rinse-out conditioner exclusively, you might find your hair acting a little more flyaway than you want.

      It's certainly worth a try - but you should know about these other aspects of cosmetics formulating and what they do.

  24. Hello!

    Thanks for this info. I just found out my hair is low porosity today! Everything makes so much sense now. I now understand why my hair behave so badly when I piled on conditioners and such. I recently started doing the water only hair washing method to reset my hair and understand it a little bit better. I intend to use only natural hair products. In the beginning I noticed alot of hair clumping and definition which was great. Eventually sebum built up so I clarified with acv. Ever since, my curls are not as defined and they are not clumping like before. Any ideas as to why this happened? I've been on this method for almost 3 weeks.(kinky/curly natural)

    1. Hello Gisele,
      With water-only washing, any oils from your scalp are assisted in distribution throughout your hair. When you use vinegar, several things can happen. The vinegar removes *some* oil, but not all. Vinegar is quite acidic, even 1 tablespoon vinegar per cup of water has a pH around 3. Hair is at its most resilient when we use liquids with a pH between 4.5 and 7. Some people's hair reacts quite a lot to vinegar and swells, taking on acid and may become brittle or tangly. Sometimes hair may take on an unfamiliar surface texture after using vinegar rinses.
      Short story: Your hair probably doesn't get along well with vinegar, but it seemed to be loving water-only. Your scalp didn't love water-only. Can't please everybody. If you used the vinegar in a too-concentrated rinse, you might try 1 teaspoon in a cup of water instead. Much less acid that way.
      Hair that doesn't tolerate vinegar sometimes tolerates citric acid, which can be used at about 1/16 teaspoon per cup of water. It's not great for removing oils from the scalp, though.

      For cleansers when you need to get your scalp clean, if you want strictly natural, clay washes might be a more effective option - those do a good job of removing oils and are gentle to hair - clay washes can help curls cling together a bit better. Herbal teas are good for making up clay washes.
      Aloe vera juice (dilute 50:50) is an extremely mild cleanser, it might be enough for once-or-twice-per-week washing.
      Soapnuts are popular as a mild, plant-based cleanser.
      Yucca root can also be made into a hair wash (recipe in the "allergy alternatives" page of this blog).

      Because your hair reacted badly to vinegar, you might be better off avoiding baking soda mixtures also. That is pH 8 and your hair may be the sort that doesn't tolerate pH extremes.

      If natural cleansers that don't have acids or alkalis still make your hair lose its clumping, make sure you're applying oils before washing (several hours if you're using a hair-penetrating oil). If that doesn't help or it helps a little but doesn't quite hit the spot, maybe a product with a little protein might help? Assuming your hair is okay with protein.
      I hope that helps! Good luck.

  25. Would guar gum be considered a film forming humectant too? I like how quick it is to whip up some xanthan gum gel for my tightly curly hair but it's drying. I like flaxseed gel but sometimes I need a quick solution. What about maple syrup, can it be used warmed like honey as a deep treatment? I used to use when my hair was relaxed.

    Would cassia be a good idea for low porosity hair? It's not as long lasting like henna.

    Thanks so much for this website, I'm learning a lot about low porosity hair. I'm still researching and trying out some of the methods on here. I'm on a DIY regimen and I've been having a time getting my hair softness and hydrated and not end up dry and greasy. I will try lighter oils (grapeseed and apricot). I also bought some indian powders to try that as well because so far food based conditioners (like coconut milk, avocado etc) aren't doing anything for my hair from my research the food proteins etc are too big to penetrate the hair.
    I think the method that will benefit my hair the most is warming up the oils and honey. When I still used commercial conditioners, one time I warmed up the conditioner with honey and oils and my hair was so soft and super shrunken and the curls were very defined (not sure why I didn't stick with warming it up)! I feel like I shouldn't need commercial products to get my hair hydrated and soft but it's been a long frustrating road. I think a warm honey treatment will be my saving grace hopefully!

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hello Andrea,
      Guar gum is a film-forming humectant. Compared to xanthan gum, it has a thick, if not even more viscous texture. But it is a little more "brittle" - it has less hold in the hair once dry. To get around this problem, hair styling products that include xanthan gum tend to combine it with other similar, natural gels with different film-forming polysaccharides such as aloe or flax or pullulan or sodium alginate or seaweed extract.

      I wouldn't say that guar gum is less drying and because it doesn't hold as well and gets so thick, it's not my first choice.

      Maple syrup can be used like honey, check the ingredients for anything you don't want on your hair. High fructose corn syrup in this case is not something to avoid - honey has a lot of fructose in it too.

      Cassia is more of a conditioning treatment that a volumizer. It adds golden color to light colored hair or gray hairs. It makes hair soft and also makes it behave as though it is extremely low porosity - hair tends to dry very quickly after using cassia. Depending on how often you wash, cassia lasts 2-3 weeks. It makes hair less tangly overall - but it also adds a little texture to hair (not as much as henna, though). Think of soft, light flannel for that texture and you'll be in the right ballpark.

      If your hair does well with proteins, beer is a good protein treatment. Let beer get warm and flat (dark beer is best) and leave it on with some heat for a few minutes to half an hour (depending on how strong a treatment you need). The plant "extracts" and very small proteins in the foam work quite well for protein-liking hair. The fermentation process chops up some proteins into pieces small enough for hair to use.

      I have tried to go conditioner-free and the one thing that I miss is the weight (sans greasiness or heaviness) that conditioners give the hair. Conditioners have that powdery softness that you don't get from oils. I also missed the detangling/lubricating aspect - but you learn to not create tangles during washing pretty quickly. To that end, you might try creating a conditioning gel using some honey or maple syrup and xanthan gum or guar gum and a little oil.

      Another idea is to make flaxseed gel (I know - it takes time, make a huge batch and freeze it) and add lots of good things to that and use it as your conditioner. There are a few tricks to making this work. 1) You have to use an obscenely huge glob. It won't have any slip unless you add oils, so make sure your hair is detangled before you apply it. 2) Barely rinse it out - really just add a little water to it while it's in your hair so it's super squishy and then *squeeze out the excess water and gel*. You'll make a mess and you'll need to rinse or wipe off the extra gel from your neck and shoulders. But your hair will be soft and shiny. 3) The longer you boil (or soak - see below) your gel, the thicker it will be and the more hair-softening power it will have.

      You can make "no boil" flaxseed gel too for a conditioner base. Sterilize a jar with alcohol, add 1/4 cup flaxseeds and 1 1/2 cups distilled water, leave it for 12 to 24 hours, then strain out the gel. From that point, you can boil the gel to sterilize it and put it in the fridge or freezer. The longer you soak, the thicker (and more softening) the gel will be.

      Good luck in your quest for hydrated hair with non-commercial products!

  26. Thanks, I will try these tips! I did have a light bulb moment about the conditioner giving weight to hair response. I have very dense hair with medium strands and it has been very fly away, uncontrollable. I like it best when it's weighed down. I can get that with Shea butter but then my hair is greasy.

    Hmm, I may have to use at least commercial conditioner get my hair to look how I want. It's something to think about. Thanks.

    1. Andrea, depending on what it is you're wanting to avoid in commercial products - a conditioner bar might be an possibility. You can buy them, but you can also make them yourself. Look up "conditioner bar formula" (or recipe) and you'll find lots of ideas. You do need some specialty ingredients (cationic conditioner flakes) for that powdery-soft, conditioner-y weight - but otherwise you add oils and anything else you want and make a solid bar conditioner. There is no water, you rub the bar in your hands or over your hair and spread it around with hands and water.
      Because it's water-free, you don't need a preservative. You can use skin and environmentally fragrances if you want fragrance. No bottles to deal with so there is less waste and expense of tracking down bottles to use. It eliminates synthetic preservatives and fragrances to be less irritating and more environmentally friendly. Might be a good compromise? I haven't tried making conditioner bars yet, but I have made liquid conditioners. It's really nice to control the ingredients yourself.

    2. I have PCOS, an endocrine disorder even though most think it is a reproductive one. (well it has that component but it's bigger than that.)

      I try to avoid anything that can disrupt hormones. I haven't yet researched things like cetyl alcohol etc so that's why I avoid commercial products. I do miss conditioners as I used to be a product junkie LOL!

      I will look into conditioner bars.

  27. Hello,
    I have been using baking soda on and off for about a month and I now have very damaged hair. The front dries very quickly while the back takes a very long time to dry. I have a lot of breakage. I am willing to do whatever it takes to have healthy hair again including cut it off. If I should cut it off, can my hair grow back healthy again?

    1. Meg, I'm really sorry to hear this happened to your hair! In the post above, it explains what happens to hair when it is exposed to alkaline solutions. It loses its natural protection and everybody's hair has a different tolerance for that based on how wide or narrow individual hairs are, what your water is like, how much sun you are exposed to, and what products you use.

      Your hair needs help with porosity so it's not drying quickly in some places and taking forever to dry in others - that's a sign that porosity is "off." It needs help with hydration because losing it's protective layers leaves it more vulnerable to dehydration. And it needs help with lubrication because that "grippy" surface texture that some people love from baking soda washes can cause too much friction for other people.

      If you haven't already, you probably need to do a long oil treatment with a hair-penetrating oil like coconut or sunflower - leave it on for 8-12 hours so it can really soak in. That will help balance out your hair's porosity and protect it when you cleanse it.

      If your hair tolerates protein, you might use some small protein like keratin. Products like Joico K-pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor or Shea Moisture Noni & monoi Smooth and Repair Rinse Out conditioner may be helpful for hydration and also to manage porosity and breakage. But you should do a test strand first to make sure your hair can handle protein. If your hair is loving the protein - you might look into products with collagen too (see the Product by Ingredient Category page).

      Oil treatments help with lubrication (even after you wash them out). Also, use conditioners that feel quite slippery in your hair (there is a list for conditioners for lubrication on the "Product by Ingredient Category" on this blog - it's the first list on that page). Use a leave-in conditioner or use your rinse-out conditioner as a leave-in conditioner for lubrication when your hair is dry. If you have tangly hair, use a couple drops of oil as a lubricant for detangling. If you detangle wet hair, use plenty of conditioner as a lubricant - best not to detangle damaged hair without adding lubrication.

      Deep conditioning will probably help also. Use a commercial intense conditioner or a rinse-out conditioner to which you've added some oil (maybe some honey or aloe vera) and leave it on your hair for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes with some gentle heat. This adds lubrication, softness and hydration.

      If it were my hair, I would do an oil treatment before every wash, wash my hair, and follow it up with a protein-rich conditioner or a deep conditioning (every wash) for several "wash cycles" and put my hair up to protect it and keep it off my mind until I noticed a change. Then I would use whichever treatment it seemed to do best with, or else use a bit less of all of them.

      Some people need to follow protein with a deep conditioning treatment (but not necessarily a long one).
      I would encourage you to give your hair lots of extra care, lots of conditioner, oil treatments, protein as tolerated and don't make any decisions for 2 weeks at least. Then see how it's doing and what you'd like to do from there.
      Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much! I'll let you know how it goes.

    3. Can you do a post on high porosity hair?


  28. This article is so helpful! I definitely have low porosity hair, and unfortunately I've overloaded it with protein and coconut oil, leading to frizz, stiffness and flash-drying. Adding more products (even without protein or coconut) just seems to make it worse. It's like the hair is coated in something and won't let the products through. Any ideas about how to fix this? Will the protein/coconut wash out eventually? I'm normally sulfate-free, but I'm tempted to use a harsh shampoo to try to fix things, but I'm worried I'll make it worse. Any tips much appreciated!

    1. Hello gigib,
      If you're patient, you can definitely wait it out a few wash cycles. If you want to use a strong shampoo - you can dilute it with water so it is less drying to your hair. Somewhere around 1-2 teaspoons shampoo per cup of water should be a lot milder than straight from the bottle.
      If you have hard water, you can try doing an entire wash cycle using distilled water - minerals in water tend to add to stiffness and that's a product-free way to manage recovery from too much coconut oil and protein. It might leave your hair feeling more flexible.
      If any products you're using are creating build-up (which is always worse/exacerbated when coconut oil and protein are causing problems), then look for a shampoo which contains C14-16 olefin sulfonate. There are a lot out there with this detergent. It's better at removing build-up than "sulfate" detergents and might work better for you. Examples are Ion Hard Water shampoo, Kinky Curly Come Clean, Pure & Basic Natural Clarifying Shampoo - a lot of clarifying shampoos have this detergent. Product build-up that normally isn't a problem can suddenly become a problem when you've overdone coconut oil or protein.
      Sometimes you do need to wash your hair with shampoo that might strip it in order to "re-boot" your hair.

      Follow it up with a deep conditioning - leave some conditioner that works well with your hair on for 5-10 minutes with gentle heat.
      Good luck!

  29. Do a clay wash will do the job also? for clarifying and remove mineral build up from hard water?

    thank you

    1. Hi Perpetue,
      This is a really good question and one I plan to do a blog post on sometime (because I work with soils often and clay is a soil particle). Clays tend to have more negative charges than positive charges. Conditioners have positive charges - and they bond to more-negatively-charged hair. I don't know if the charged on the clay are strong enough to pull positively charged conditioner off hair or not. That's what I hope to find out, but offhand I doubt it. I'd be happy to be wrong, though.
      Minerals in water also have positive charges and bond to hair. Clays do bond with minerals in nature, but calcium carbonate (or bicarbonate etc.) is not something that bonds to clay. So I don't think clay can pull hard water residue from your hair.
      Disodium and Tetrasodium EDTA can help reduce hard water build-up, and so can citric acid rinses or dilute lemon juice rinses.

  30. I found out that a huge problem was damage caused by hard water mineral buildup and chlorine drying out my hair. It was dry, brittle, unmanageable, and had a weird rust color to it (especially areas in the front). I got most of it out using coconut oil and 1/4 citric acid diluted in water and sat under the dryer for 15 minutes. I also did a bentonite clay mask. Then I rinsed my hair with distilled water and I can tell a huge difference. I was going to buy a shower filter until I saw your Naturally Curly forum post from 2010 where you told the original poster that you'd still have to use 1/4 tsp citric acid diluted in distilled water even with a shower filter once a week as it would not remove the minerals from hard water. We have moderately hard water where I live.

    I only wash my hair 1-2 a week so I was thinking of saving the money to buy new shower filter every 3 months and just using either distilled water or the Miracle Water recipe to wash my hair. This seems more economical then buying distilled water as the last time I washed with distilled water I needed 4 jugs.
    I did buy some conditioners to use on my hair however they have not helped at all. I can feel them sitting on top of my hair plus they all have coconut oil or aloe vera in them which I'm beginning to suspect that my hair does not like. I was on Youtube recently and a video on I watched stated not to use cationic conditioners on low porosity hair especially behentrimonium chloride as it could make the hair feel dry and rough. One of the conditioners I got was the Sheamoisture raw shea butter conditioner, which has that in it and my hair did feel that way.

    I also saw another video about squeezing low porosity hair as your rinse it with water in order to help it absorb the water as otherwise the water just runs off the hair. The video stated to squeeze and rinse with water until you could see a wave form in your hair and the hair begin to hang from the weight of the water being absorbed. I did this and it was the first time my hair actually curled up in the stream of the water, so I will continue to do that. Despite that after my hair dried it was dry, brittle, unmanageable like always. It only feels good while wet and during washing. I'm having a hard time with my hair it seems like no matter what I do it will not accept any moisture or oils. I think part of the problem is my texture is wiry and I know that can be a resistant hair type and throw in the low porosity and it won't accept anything. The best my hair feels is after the following things: a bentonite clay wash (which I add oils, mayo, honey too), when is rinsed with just distilled water, and when I washed it with a "honey shampoo" and did an oil rinse (it was very oily however but it was soft and shiny and my curls popped). I also have started doing steam only treatments for deep conditioning. Maybe I should steam oil in for 10 minutes as a pre-shampoo and then steam in the deep conditioner for 20 minutes. I don't think my hair is opening up to getting adequately cleansed and then conditioned.

    When doing the oil pre-shampoo should your hair feel soft? I did it Friday night and did not wash my hair until about 7pm Saturday and my hair was not soft from the oil at all. It still felt hard and dry. Perhaps I left it on too long?

    Another page about low porosity hair I read mentioned every once in a while used a castile soap (about every 3 to 6 weeks) to shampoo the hair in order to encourage moisture uptake, what do you think about that?

    I'm sorry for the long post and questions, I'm at a loss about what to do for my hair. I'm ready to just walk around bald! Thank you for your time and answers

    1. Hi Andrea - wow, your water is seriously difficult! There is one shower-only water softener out there, called "Watersticks." I have one for my itchy skin. Softened water definitely makes my hair and my spouse's hair softer (our hair is quite different) - it even makes my dog's hair softer. That softener has a filter on it that removes chlorine, I'm not 100% certain about chloramines, though. Most filters do not remove "hard water" minerals - though they do remove some things you are better off not having in your hair.

      I recently added a list of cationic-free conditioners (Aubrey Organics, mostly) or conditioners with cationic conditioners that are less likely to be a problem for low porosity hair to this post. It's a bulleted list in the post above.

      What you're describing, squeezing the conditioner into your hair is a really good way to thoroughly distribute conditioner and fully saturate hair the technique goes by a lot of different names. Glad that's working for you!
      During an oil pre-shampoo treatment, I wouldn't go so far as to say hair should feel soft. It might feel easier to detangle, but I always think of it as a treatment (hair under construction!) and I don't expect it to feel good. Afterwards it should feel softer. Assuming you used the right amount of oil and time. For lower-porosity hair, the feedback I get is that shorter treatment times (4 hours instead of 8 or overnight) are better. Too much time or too much oil and you can get an unpleasant result. If your hair ended up hard and dry, that sounds like the wrong oil and maybe too much time. If you were using coconut oil, your hair might prefer avocado or sunflower or even jojoba oil. Low-porosity hair often "likes" its oils in conditioners - like the oil rinsing.
      You already have a good hair wash with bentonite clay or a honey shampoo and oil rinse - so that's a great foundation. Clay works by creating a little friction between hairs - like a smooth flannel - helping hairs cling together, and it's so gentle, you really can't beat that. Honey is a good humectant and low-porosity hair can really benefit from the right humectant! Can you combine these with the conditioner method you described for better clumping?

      I'd also definitely encourage you to try steaming the oil or deep conditioner - but also to try steaming your hair with some leave-in and oil as a styling step instead of as a treatment that is rinsed out. A hair analysis client shared this tip and it makes so much sense - why rinse out all the good things you just steamed into your hair? Make sure you've got some humectants in there! As I Am leave-in is a light product that a low-porosity friend of mine just showed me. It contains my *favorite* humectants - sugar cane extract and beet extract (aka glycine betaine).

      Using castile soap can swell hair and may increase porosity. Like repeated use of baking soda, it may remove the water-repelling layer on the outside of hair, which would help conditioner cling to hair and allow it to attract water. Yes, that can be a little bit damaging, but it can also make hair more water-attracting, so if that's what you're after, it's worth a try. I think you must first test it on a small section first to make sure it doesn't cause too much damage. And also make sure your skin can cope with it (test-wash behind your ear). I think bar soap (shampoo bars) are preferable to liquid castile soaps - they have more oils added, the lather is divine, and it doesn't leave such a waxy, sticky feeling. In your hard water, you may get some soap scum-like build-up (hair and shower walls). A dilute citric acid rinse will help remove that if it becomes a problem.

      Best wishes, WS

    2. Thank you for the replies. I did forget to mention for a while I alternated the clay wash with a liquid African black soap, I'm not sure if that caused any damage or helped my porosity.

      I also have fine hair & it needs protein to help fortify it as it breaks even when finger detangling but that seems to cause build up too. It could be because it was soy liquid aminos. I have gelatin & collagen hydrolysate as well. I'm afraid of the full gelatin treatment as my hair tangles badly. Would the collagen hydrolysate that dissolves in cold water also bind to the hair? I did use it once & sprayed it on my hair as a pre-shampoo. It felt softer & stronger.

    3. Liquid soap can increase porosity with repeated use, depending on how porous your hair already is. For some people, it's not a problem and for some it is. Hard water and soap scum is usually the most common problem.
      Collagen hydrolysate should dissolve in cool water and it will bind to the hair and give a good hydration and protein boost. You can use it like that, you can dissolve in water and mix it into conditioner if you like also.

  31. I could really use an opinion on a new shampoo and conditioner. I've read through this post, along with the one on film forming humectants as well as a couple regarding protein. I think I'm the least sure about protein, but more about that in a bit. I have long, layered, naturally straight hair. It's medium/fine in texture. Based on the tests and what I've been able to glean from your blog posts, I have low porosity hair. I tried the float test, which I know has its issues, on clean hair in filtered water, and my hair didn't budge from the surface... I even checked it an hour later. It's pretty smooth and has a lot of slip - in fact, it's hard to get it to hold any kind of style without adding some texture to it, usually via a homemade salt spray (Wellness Mama). I've been experimenting with a basic homemade gel (gelatin and water), which my hair seems to like. I plan to try this recipe for a spray gel, which based on your film forming humectants post, my hair might like: The only other hair product I use with any kind of regularity is hair spray. I blow dry my hair after I wash it, and sometimes use a straightener to touch up the areas around my face, but not intensively. My hair doesn't hold curl well except when I do an overnight method and make sure it's damp going in and has a bit of something to add texture to it added as well. So that's a little about my hair.

    I ended up on your blog (which is awesome and informative) after looking at countless DIY shampoo recipes. I realize now how complex it is to formulate one that will work on my hair. Lately I've been dealing with drier skin, as well as an itchy spot on the back of my scalp (I never spray salt spray there, by the way). My hair, when wet (post shampoo) has been feeling... gross? It's hard to describe. The hair shaft feels kind of grimy and matted. Particularly after I tried using coconut oil on it. It feels a little better when I add conditioner, maybe a little slippery still (product build up maybe?) and not too bad when it's dry. I really notice the issue when it's wet though. I do rinse it thoroughly. I've always tended towards volumizing shampoos and conditioners, because my hair lays so flat (this is regardless of length), and for the past while I've been using Desert Essence Organics Green Apple and Ginger shampoo and conditioner. Being as organic and natural as possible is important to me - I've been sulfate, paraben, etc, free for years, and haven't colored my hair since 2010. I watched this video on YouTube:, which gave me the idea that maybe Shea Moisture might not be a bad brand to check out even though it's not marketed to my hair type at all. The one that seems perhaps the most suited is marketed towards curly haired girls though, which I definitely am not. Based on your blogs, I think that proteins like keratin, collagen, and silk would be most appropriate for my hair type, as well as film forming humectants such as aloe.

    This is turning into a ramble. Essentially, I'm looking for some shampoo and conditioner recommendations, preferably as organic and natural as possible. So much the better if they are available in brick and mortar stores. If I need to clarify, is there something I can use other than a harsh or special shampoo? And then what? lol Reading your blog posts on the one hand has made me feel more sure of what to do, and on the other, less sure. I do realize that all hair is different and I will not hold you in any way accountable if your recommendations are off, but I could use a starting point (some specific recommendations with product labels I can study) and am in information overload right now.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and hopefully respond to this.

    1. I see some potential problems. A gelatin hair gel could end up being too much protein for hair. Some protein is a good thing, but too much can actually make some people's hair feel rough, tangly, brittle and dry. Coconut oil can also have weird side effects - for some people it can make hair feel rigid, brittle, dry, crunchy or waxy.
      My first suggestion is to skip the gelatin-based gels except for occasional use, I think you're over-doing the protein. If you want to do an oil treatment, you might choose sunflower oil or olive oil to put off the coconut oil question for the moment...

      Shea Moisture makes excellent products. It may take some trying to find one you like. You might want to avoid the heavier masks to avoid weighing your hair down. Desert Essence makes very good products also, though I would be inclined to dilute the shampoos with water (during use) to make them milder to the scalp and hair. Giovanni is also a good brand - their 50:50 shampoo and conditioner and Smooth As Silk are popular - not sure if they have ingredients you're avoiding, but I think the 50:50 is okay. Their leave-in conditioner is quite popular also (Direct Leave-in), and the Tea Tree Triple Treat is also popular.

      If you want to clarify your hair and it's otherwise strong and healthy, try the juice of 1 lemon mixed with 2 more parts distilled water (good for hard water and oily residue). Leave it on for a few minutes with a little heat, then rinse out very well and condition.

      Look at the product by ingredient category in the "film forming humectant" products. All those gels/gel-creams that are marketed as curl enhancing or for curly hair can work in your hair, if you pick one that's not too heavy or too sticky. They may dry a little crunchy - just squeeze that out like you're making a ponytail and gently squeeze down the length, then lightly comb/pick it out. You can also make homemade flaxseed gel and if you want to add protein, use some Neutral Protein Filler (from Sally's Beauty Supply) - find a recipe on the "Recipes and Projects" page for flaxseed gel. It's great for keeping hair soft and hydrated. To avoid a crunchy hair finish, I like to use a big handful of flaxseed gel after rinsing out conditioner - spread it around, rinse very lightly to distribute and then squeeze out excess water and gel - might suit you better for straight hair to not have a crunchy finish.

      If it's volume you're looking for, the dry shampoos and powder volumizers are based on starches and often clays and you should be able to find a number of volumizing powder recipes online. They work a little for root volume and can create just enough friction to keep the rest of your hair from falling too flat. Salt sprays work, but are too drying to use daily unless you put in some other humectants and conditioners. If you do a no-heat curl, a little volumizing powder on the ends (after styling the curls) can keep your curls lasting longer.
      I hope things are coming together for you! Good luck.

    2. Thank you for your response! I ended up trying Shea Moisture's Raw Shea shampoo/ conditioner, because they were BOGO at my local Rite Aid, but I couldn't handle the smell. It was too floral (weirdly) and really lingered on my hair. My hair also felt a little more flyaway than I would have liked. So I went back and exchanged the set for the only other one they carried, the newer 10 in 1 Renewal System. My hair already feels better, especially when it's wet, and the products smell amazing. Approval from my husband too, though he said he probably would rather not use the shampoo on his own hair. It does smell very feminine.

      As for the hair gel, it's great on his hair, and I've used it here and there too. It seems to add some holding power to curls, and it dries soft as apposed to crunchy. I completely forgot to mention dry shampoo - it's one of those products I still buy and don't even look at the ingredients for fear of what I'll find, but I bet I could DIY it. Not going to lie, I like the aerosol can though! My homemade salt spray is via Wellness Mama and includes a little aloe vera and conditioner, so I don't think it's overly drying. Unfortunately, it's the only thing I've found that seems to add texture to my hair, enough so it will hold styles. Dry shampoo on the ends after curling, interesting... last time I used the tiniest bit of almond oil to smooth out my ends after doing heatless curls, it wouldn't have occurred to me to try a bit of dry shampoo afterwards. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Is almond oil a good choice for hair treatments? I've been thinking of trying a hot oil treatment of some kind, but I've been a little wary of trying coconut oil again. In the past it's made my hair feel really soft, but last time was a disaster. It could have been because the recipe I tried included gelatin, whereas the original gelatin hair mask I tried contained honey and a little ACV... Obviously my hair didn't approve of the combination, at the time I thought maybe the lack of ACV was affecting me. I do have olive oil but for the moment would prefer to leave it in the cupboard for cooking, however, my hair could use the love. Over and above all of this, I think a trim would help things a lot.

    3. Glad to hear you found a good product! Almond oil could be a good oil for a treatment. I don't have it listed in my oils list, but I think it's close to apricot kernel oil in chemistry. If you want to try coconut oil again - try mixing a little into another oil to ease into it. Sometimes it works better that way (diluted). Olive oil is a good oil too - but you'll find different oils give you rather different results, so it's a matter of finding oils your hair gets along with.

  32. Hey! I have a question, I tried flaxseed gel on my low porosity curls. At first it was great and made my hair soft and defined. After the fourth day, my hair became tangled, dry and a bit itchy. When I tried combing my hair after washing it out, it was too difficult.. Maybe the flaxseed was still coating my hair? Why is this? Is my hair sensitive to flaxseed or is it because I left it on too long between washes? Thanks so much!

    1. Hello nvj10,
      With any styling product, lots of us need to re-hydrate not only our hair, but the product itself. I don't know what ingredients you used in your flax gel (other than flax and water). I also don't know what you washed your hair with - shampoo and/or conditioner or something else. It is possible that hair and flax gel can interact in an unpleasant way. It's even more likely that flax gel and some conditioner used prior to the gel or build-up (products, minerals in water) on your hair or an additive can cause an unpleasant result. If none of those apply and using a leave-in conditioner with flaxseed gel doesn't help, and misting your hair every day with a little water and conditioner mixture doesn't help the end result, then it may not be a good product for your hair. If you used additives, one of those might not work well with your hair.

  33. Hi,

    I appreciate all your detailed explanations. I have thick, medium dense 3C/4A low porosity hair. How would I know if my hair likes baking soda? I have used it recently and I'm not sure if my hair liked it or not. I also have tried doing the ACV rinse right after following advice I researched, but after reading your article I am afraid to try it again without knowing what my results should be. At this point my ends are suffering and I'm trying to look for a new regimen or alter my regimen. What should I look for in my hair when I do a strand test? Also, would castor oil help with growth? I would like to know if massaging some on my scalp regularly would help.

    1. Hello Janelle,
      People who like the *result they get from baking soda* usually describe their hair as having a "permanent beach-y feeling," the curls clinging together better (a comment above says "curls stay in their own lane"). These are ways of saying the hair has a little more friction so that individual hairs can cling together and don't slide past each other. That's all about the surface modification of baking soda treatments and the friction it creates. It's like the hair molds into a shape more easily.
      People who like baking soda also note that it helps their hair work better with conditioner. So you can use more conditioner without getting that build-up-y feeling or like conditioner is sitting on top of your hair.

      To test it at the lowest possible risk to all of your hair, you might cut a lock of hair, maybe a bit less than 1/2 inch wide, put a band at the top and try the treatments you want to do on that hair instead of on your head. There would be some different without the weight of neighboring hairs - but you could determine the result pretty well on that test-hair.
      >Look for how the hairs cling together, how much they shrink, what the curl pattern looks like, how much conditioner or oil can you use, do the hairs mold together or not. Take photos and notes too! The ends of your hair may not tolerate baking soda as well - so you might lightly apply oil or conditioner to the ends while dry before using the baking soda treatment.
      >If your hair responds badly to the baking soda, you will notice brittleness, excessive tangling and maybe breakage after several treatments. If a test-lock has a bad feel after 5 or 10 treatments, you might not want that on all your hair.
      >The fact that people use proteins and emollients with baking soda offsets the dehydrating effects. In fact, if you use conditioner or (better yet) yogurt with the baking soda, it reduces the damage potential of the baking soda by acting as a buffer for the hair. If this is your plan, use these treatments on your test hair.

      Massaging the scalp with oil can be helpful for stimulating circulation, loosening shedding skin cells, softening the scalp. Castor oil has a couple studies indicating it has some anti-inflammatory components. Inflammation (we can't always feel it) can lead to hair loss or less-than-ideal growth or shedding, but that's often a more complicated problem. If you had some mild inflammation due to mild scalp eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, your scalp is responding to cold or hot weather, etc., it might be helpful. On the other hand, people with seborrheic dermatitis sometimes will have a flare-up if they leave oils on their scalp because the normal fungi living on the scalp "eat" oils and produce irritating by-products. To play it safe, try the oil massage before cleansing first so you can remove the excess and find out how your scalp copes with short-term exposure, before trying longer-term exposure. Castor oil is very thick and lubricating - good for making hair flexible - which is protective for maintaining length and reducing breakage.
      Good luck!

  34. I love this so much. The science of our hair helped me understand it so much more. Thank you so much for this!
    Question. I thought protein doesn't work on low porosity hair? Shea Moisture's Reconstructing Conditioner made my hair hard and brittle. Do you have any advice for how to deal with this?

    1. Protein sometimes works on low-porosity hair. Even if hair is low porosity, if the air is dry or it's windy or hot and sunny out, the protein helps your hair retain water better so it doesn't dry out in those conditions.

      But it depends a lot on which protein you use and whether or not your hair is coarse or fine or medium. Smaller (lower molecular weight) proteins like amino acids, peptides, hydrolyzed silk or keratin are less likely to cause that hard and brittle result. Lower protein concentration is a safer bet for using protein than using a protein treatment in hair that is lower porosity - a rinse-out conditioner with protein closer to the end of the ingredients list, for example. If protein is in the first 5 or 6 ingredients, there is a lot of protein in that product. I searched "Shea Moisture Reconstructing Conditioner" and the result I got didn't have protein, so I must be getting the name wrong.
      Frequency matters too. Don't repeat protein use until any beneficial effects of the previous use have faded - that's a good rule of thumb for hair that sometimes reacts badly to protein.
      Some people just can't use protein at all, or maybe just a rinse-out conditioner with a little protein occasionally (every month or 2). If that's the case for you, then avoid amino acids and peptides and hydrolyzed proteins (or any ingredient with "hydrolyzed protein" in the string of words between commas).
      It's helpful to have protein-free regular-use products so if you do choose to use protein, you're not inadvertently overlapping with other protein-containing products. I hope that helps!

  35. Hey,
    My hair is super super dry, freezy and breakable. See, when I wash my hair, just after five minutes of washing my scalp starts to produce so much oil and my hair becomes so dry and tangled. I'm very scared to untangle my hair because they easily break off. I'm even scared to take bath. I apply oil before washing but then also my hair remains dry. What I think is that my hair already has so much oil in the form of sebum (which comes after washing) but it doesn't have water. When the sebum comes it irritates my scalp and my hair starts falling out. I think the fungus grows out in hair when there's oil, that's why my hair falls out.
    I think there's some kind of distuption of my scalp barrier. I even had a scalp biopsy and the result was 'numerous sebecouss glands are there and mild lymphoplasmacytes inflammation in subepithelial stroma'.
    I think inflammation causes oil glands to become over active after applying water (maybe water is irritating my scalp). Whenever I sweat my scalp irritates. Sweat is also water. So there's some problem with my scalp barrier I guess. Two days ago I took water from my aquaguard and put vineger in it then I washed my hair with organix tea tree shampoo coz it's ph is between 4.5-5.5. I noticed that after washing the oil came but lesser than earlier. And second day oil became more less but hair is still dry, tangled, dehydrated, matted. I just can't go out with such hair :( and yes it's been happening since 2013 (after visiting a water park and taking long showers under chlorinated water). What's your opinion about it?

    1. I responded to your comment on the "Itchy Scalp" blog post as well. You may have aggravated your scalp at the water park (sun, chlorine and other pool chemicals, frequent re-wetting of skin) and that might trigger the scalp barrier disruption, which can allow fungi and bacteria that previously caused no problem to grow more than usual and cause a problem - on top of the already-irritated skin. Irritated skin with a damaged barrier cannot protect itself from even water (skin is made to keep water out) and so it produces more oil to try to make up for the damaged skin structure.
      Tea tree oil is a mild anti-fungal. Usually it's used at 5% and at that concentration in clinical trials, it smells very strongly like tea tree oil - or turpentine if you've ever smelled that. Most shampoos don't even come close to that concentration, though they seem to work for mild scalp problems.
      A shampoo like Nizoral can treat any fungal component directly, which is an over-the-counter, 1% ketoconazole shampoo. Pyrithione zinc shampoos (find a long list on the "treatments for itchy, flaky and bumpy scalps tab on this blog) can also treat fungal overgrowths. Treating fungal overgrowths allows the skin a chance to heal.
      Using lower pH products can make your scalp less friendly for fungi and is similar to skin's surface-mantle pH, but for such a long-standing problem, it probably won't fix it.

      You probably need conditioner for the length of your hair as well as to use the shampoo on it. Sometimes scalp oils can get sticky in hair. Conditioners leave an extremely thin, slippery coating on hair to help reduce tangles, make hair more flexible and soft. Look for an oil-free conditioner and keep it below your ears or chin.

  36. You mean this problem will never go away? :( because it's a long standing problem? I find this really strange that my hair n scalp needs water (hydration) but when I put water, it gets irritated.
    This is a losing battle :(
    What do I do? And please tell the best solution for detangling severely matted dry hair that feels sticky too?
    And thanks for your reply :)

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  39. What an awesome resource your blog is! Thanks so much!
    Hoping you can tell me if this shampoo is good for my low porosity hair? My hair is drier on the top layer and on the sides! And also is henna recommended for low porosity hair?
    Shampoo Ingredients: * Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) hydrosol water, *Helichrysum italicum (helichrysum) hydrosol water, *Melaleuca Alternifolia (tea tree) hydrosol water, *Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) hydrosol water, decyl glucocide, laurel glucocide, vegetable glycerin, sodium alginate, amber extract, (gluten free) oat protein, silk amino acids, panthenol DL, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, lactic acid, propanediol (naturally derived preservative), ethylhexyl glycerin (naturally derived preservative), and potassium sorbate (food grade preservative).

    1. Hello mtsweetgirlrose,
      The detergents in this shampoo are decyl glucoside and lauryl glucoside. I'm not sure why they're spelled "glucocide." Those are "mild" detergents in that they don't have a lot of de-greasing ability. However, I don't see any thickener in this formula, and when that's the case - unless the shampoo is very thin and watery and dispensed in a foamer-pump - the amount of detergent may be too high (too concentrated). Even mild detergents can cause hair to swell and dehydrate during washing if the detergents are too concentrated. And if the shampoo has any thickness at all, there is a lot of detergent in there. Halfway down this page, I photographed hair in a *concentrated* shampoo with the same detergents as the one you posted (California Baby) - you can see that it swelled a lot due to the high concentration of detergent. I would definitely dilute this shampoo! ---------------I also see oat protein - but it doesn't say "hydrolyzed" - though we might assume that it is. There are silk amino acids too, which are very small proteins. For damaged hair, protein in a shampoo might be okay, but for lower-porosity hair, protein in a shampoo can easily lead to too-stiff or dry-feeling hair. Especially if you also have protein in a rinse-out conditioner or other products. If this is the only protein you're using, it's probably okay unless you have very coarse hair. Good luck!

    2. Thanks so much for your reply!! :) You have been really helpful, so good to know what to look for if things aren't working and how to or what to change!
      These products are from a local company (Organic Creations) and they formulate all their own items. They also sell all the raw ingredients to create your own stuff! Ive had a hard time finding unscented products that aren't too expensive for my budget! And their items are a fair price and all unscented and much more natural as far as I can tell! :) So I decided to try their haircare!
      You mentioned you didn't see a thickner in the shampoo, I believe the thickner is sodium alginate per their website as the sell the ingredient and I looked it up there. I've been using the shampoo for almost two months so far I think it's working pretty well no negative stuff yet! :) I think the drier hair on the top layer may be from using a black tea rinse as that's when it seemed to start about three months ago! I stopped using the black tea and it improved and am currently using an herbal sage rinse I make myself and a ACV rinse (3 parts water to 1 part ACV). I did try an argan oil treatment overnight last night and had great results with softer shinier more manageable hair so I am excited to try your oil mix next! Does what I'm currently doing sound ok to you? Also do you recommend henna for low porosity hair? I have some grays I'd like to cover! :) Thanks so much!

    3. I forgot to mention the shampoo is ph balanced to 5.5 I'm assuming this is a good thing? :)

    4. A pH of 5.5 is a good thing. Hair is least vulnerable to swelling between pH 4.5 and about 6. Your tap water is hopefully in that range as well.

  40. Also does this conditioner have what my hair needs? I shampoo usually two times a week! Thank you!
    Ingredients: * Aloe Barbadensis (aloe) Juice, * Orbygnia oleifera (babassu) oil, behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, * Olea Europaea (extra virgin olive) oil, * Prunus Armeniaca (apricot kernel) oil, * glycerin, glyceryl stearate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) extract, panthenol DL, Vitamin E acetate, rosemary seed extract, vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, propanediol (naturally derived preservative), ethylexyl glycerin (naturally derived preservative), potassium sorbate (food grade preservative).

  41. I apologize for the multiple posts I was copying and pasting info and it kept dumping what I had already typed!
    Here is the second conditioner I've been using my hair seems to like it a bit better then the daily conditioner I mentioned in my previous post! Thank you so much for your help!
    Extra rich conditioner Ingredients: * Aloe Barbadensis (aloe) Juice, * Orbygnia oleifera (babassu) oil, behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, * Olea Europaea (extra virgin olive) oil, * Prunus Armeniaca (apricot kernel) oil, * glycerin, silk amino acids, hydrolyzed oat protein, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) extract, glyceryl stearate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, panthenol DL, Vitamin E acetate, rosemary seed extract, vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, propanediol (naturally derived preservative), ethylexyl glycerin (naturally derived preservative), potassium sorbate (food grade preservative).

    1. Hello again, the blog didn't throw out your post - I "moderate" comments before I print them so I don't have to chase after spam and delete it all over the blog. I get more spam comments than real comments. Your second conditioner differs in having hydrolyzed oat protein (good for hydration and strength) and silk amino acids. Sodium stearoyl lactylate is a humectant also. It also has glyceryl stearate, an extra emulsifier - which might be for adjusting the texture of the product. Otherwise, everything looks the same - but we don't know if they're added more oils or conditioners in the second one you posted or not. Just that the relative amounts are similar in both products.
      Apparently your hair likes the proteins in the second conditioner! If you continue to get a good result with the second one- great! But if you notice your hair becoming too soft and limp, or stiff or tangly or dry/brittle after using that conditioner for a while, switch to a protein-free conditioner until it goes back to normal. If that happens, you probably need to rotate between products with protein and products without protein. I hope that helps!

    2. These conditioners are also from Organic Creations!
      You mentioned the second conditioner has protein in it which might cause problems for my hair in the seems the first conditioner does not have protein in it so I assume it would work to rotate between the two if the protein becomes a problem? Thanks again for your time! I'm excited to read more info on your site!!

    3. Yep - absolutely right! If you get any sort of "weirdness" in your hair, switch back to the protein-free conditioner and then see from there how often your hair needs/wants protein. Maybe you'll be able to use it every wash with no problem - just pay close attention. Some people can use it every wash, some can use protein once per week - it really depends on the amount of protein, they type of protein, the condition your hair is in, and how wide your individual hairs are.

  42. Hello,
    Thank you for this great information. I have a question too :) My hair is low porosity and coarse (so very protein sensitive). I have just found the holy grail product in matter of humectant ingredients : The curly gel soufflé by SheMoisture. It has a similar consitency than the flaxseed gel. This product is known to be really moisturizing and it is recommended to use only this product. So.... do I need to mix this product to a leave in conditioner or any styling cream? I am confused in the use of one of these products now... Hope I am clear... Thank you. Gaëlle

    1. Hello Gaëlle,
      I think it depends on how your hair behaves with this product. From what I've heard - this has a tendency to be a "less is more" product - more so than plain homemade flaxseed gel - which I use in generous quantities. If you don't normally need a leave in, you may not need it with this product either (Shea Moisture Curling Souffle). But I can think of a couple situations where you might want a leave-in or to mix a bit of leave in with the Souffle. One is if you need a bit more of the product to get a good result - but that makes it dry with less flexibility (crunchy) than you want. In that case, a leave-in or mixing in a bit of conditioner might add enough extra flexibility to give you a better result. The other is if you get any sort of "product application frizz" from this. A bit of leave-in conditioner can act like a primer to prevent that. You can always go the "diluted leave-in" route - apply leave in and then add water. Or spray on a water/conditioner mixture. I hope that helps!

  43. Hello again,
    I have another question :) When I apply some heat or steam on my leave-in conditioner (I use the LOC method) all my hairs rise and that create a lot of frizz just before styling (twists)...Do I need to apply some heat on my styling creme or leave-in conditioner for my style to be frizz free and if I do not, are the ingredients in these products will be efficient? Thanks. Gaëlle

    1. It's worth a try (warming your styling creme or leave-in conditioner). Don't warm them too much - no warmer than skin temperature (that of your neck or back). That way, none of the ingredients should be deactivated or altered.

  44. Thank you so much for your really quick answers and thank you for your blog! It really helps a great deal
    Gaëlle from France :)

  45. Hi, Science-y Hair Blog!

    For a Honey Rinse made with honey and distilled water, how much honey to how much water would you recommend using? (I would be using this instead of a regular cationic-conditioner after a mildly anionic clarifying shampoo. The cationic-free conditioner I hoped to buy – which appeared safe for my autoimmune issues – has been discontinued, so I'm hoping to use “pantry item” [honey, banana, etc.] concoctions instead; perhaps with some film-forming humectants mixed in.)

    Thank you so much!

    1. Oh noooooooooooooo! Product discontinuation! How inconvenient. Which product had you wanted to try? What do you need to avoid? Maybe I know of a substitute product.
      For a honey rinse - try 25% honey and 75% water for starters. If that leaves your hair too limp and heavy, use less honey.
      You're going to need something for an emollient... Maybe a little oil (mere drop or 2) worked into the length on WET hair.
      I did a "conditioner-free week" once to see if I could get away without conditioner. I didn't really like it. It wasn't a tangle problem - I missed the weight and softness that conditioner gave my hair.
      The only way I can do no conditioner is to use oils as a pre-wash or to seal (as above, on wet hair) and then use homemade flax gel in the shower on dripping wet hair. The flax gel really seals in the moisture and helps with flyaways.
      I have used aloe vera gel (Lily of the Desert) mixed with a couple drops of glycerin for a hair wash/"conditioner" in the past. My hair doesn't always love glycerin - or aloe for that matter. But that combo worked nicely.

      Let me know about the conditioner you had in mind and ingredients to avoid.

    2. Hi WS! :-)
      The product I hoped to use was Trader Joe's “Refresh Citrus” Conditioner. It didn't appear to contain things I would have an autoimmune reaction to (formaldahyde releasers, urea, artificial fragrances, wheat ingredients, some corn-derived ingredients, ingredients in cheaper "name brands" like Garnier Fructis – I'm afraid the list is very extensive!) It also didn't contain things I'm aware of causing serious issues with my hair: protein (even small amounts), aloe vera, glycerin, silicones, polyquats, or other ingredients that build up easily.

      Last week, I made up a Honey Rinse recipe, and was able to use it after clarifying. I used 1 tsp Honey in 2 Tbsps Distiled Water, with 4 drops of Avocado Oil. I'm unsure if it left my hair limp, but it did cause a lot of other issues. My hair was very matted after shampooing, and the Honey Rinse didn't help me detangle at all. I haven't recovered from the effects of protein, so that plus my hair being very dehydrated and very low elasticity (wet and dry) made the lack of softening and slip more damaging and time-consuming. I also didn't notice the Honey Rinse helping with hydration, even though I used a shower-cap for gentle heat. I wondered if this were due to our climate; it's typically fairly dry, or drier. It seems like nothing hydrates or moisturizes my hair.

      Also (this is a bit of an update on your other recommendations!), I was able to use a shampoo with just Decyl Glucoside, and I could use it undiluted without it causing the itchy scalp issues I experienced from other shampoos. With other shampoos, I could only use a tiny amount, and then only very diluted (½ tsp shampoo in 3 tsps water). Unfortunately, my hair was still very matted after the Decyl Glucoside shampoo (even with a [light, short] oil pre-wash treatment), so I added 5% VegeMoist. I'm hoping it will add slip as well as help to hydrate and strengthen my hair, especially as it sounds like VegeMoist's hydrating abilities aren't related to climate. I've yet to try the shampoo since adding it, but if I notice any help with slip, etc., I'll let you know!

      I also did an experiment with lightly misting the ends of my hair with a little VegeMoist and Distilled Water, and wasn't aware of the issues I've experienced with other Hydrating Sprays (limpness, increased mats, brittleness, dryness, and a feeling of “dampness” rather than moisturization). I'll need to do more experiments, but I'm very encouraged...I'm hoping I've finally found an ingredient that will help!

      Thank you so much for your help!

    3. VegeMoist works well for me in dry winter and humid summer (Double Ingredient Score!)- but it absolutely is a matter of figuring out what to use it in. Honey is best when used with conditioner - a humectant alone can't do a lot. Humectants don't detangle. That's a job for emollients. But oils don't do a very good job of wet-hair detangling (unless you used a whole lot).
      I'm not seeing any info online that Trader Joe's Refresh Conditioner has been discontinued. Might be worth contacting the company. Rainbow Research Kids conditioner (unscented and Vanilla scent) are creamy, but pretty light. I have used it in the past.

    4. In that case, it looks as though VegeMoist is going to be the most useful in leave-on products. I noticed no improvements after adding 5% in my shampoo (not even slip, which was very disappointing!) nor the 3% I put in my conditioner.

      Is it reasonable to expect some instant improvements in things as deep as hydration and elasticity, or is that something that could take a little more time to notice (than improvements in fuzziness, messiness, etc.)?

      We contacted Trader Joe's after being unable to find the conditioner twice in the store; they said it was discontinued, but could be brought back if enough people wanted it.

      Okay! Thank you! I'll take a look at Rainbow Research conditioners.

  46. I don't know how in the world I found your blog, but first and foremost, I just want to say that it's AWESOME. Thank you so very much for sharing your wisdom with all of us...

    Okay. So before I pose my question, I'll share a bit of background, which may impact your answer: Although I've been natural for over 15 years, I only stopped straightening my hair back in November 2015. (I was addicted to my flat iron!) Anyhow, after seemingly trying everything under the sun, I only recently figured out a regimen that works for my low porosity hair (of which a little more than half has suffered some form of heat damage, but I digress). Here's my regimen, which I complete every 4 or five days: 1. Rinse my hair with warm water 2. apply bentenite clay and let sit for 20 mins 3. Rinse clay out and apply a generous amount of conditioner (either Tressemme natural's radiant volume or Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle) cover my hair with a plastic cap and go to sleep with the conditioner in my hair and let sit overnight 4. Get up in the morning, rinse out conditioner 5. apply knot today (diluted with water) 6. apply curling custard. it sounds cumbersome, but it's pretty simple. I've been doing this regimen for about three weeks, and my hair has never felt better.

    In about a month or so, I will be traveling for about two weeks, during that time I'll be staying in a hotel and I expect to wash my hair at least twice in that two-week period. My question to you is this: Can I get away with skipping the bentonite clay step, and instead just co-wash and then sleep with the conditioner in my hair overnight and continue on with my regimen (and still get good results (i.e.moisturized hair with good definition?

    The clay is messy and I just don't feel like mixing it up in my hotel bathroom, etc. I use the clay because I know it successfully lifts my cuticles...but I'm hoping that, for the period of time I'll be in my hotel room that the warmth created by my hair being kept in the plastic cap while I sleep will be enough to sufficiently lift my cuticles to get moisture in there.

    Please share your thoughts!

    Thanks so very much.

    1. Hello Courtney, thank you for the compliment. My first thought is, "Could you try washing your hair without the bentonite clay (co-washing only) before you go out of town?" That's one way to know how it might react. Bentonite clay gives hair a little extra surface texture, almost like ultra-smooth flannel. It gives hair the "grip" it needs to encourage it to cling to other hairs. Conditioner doesn't do that.
      If you don't get the result you're after from that experiment, you might make clay-mixing easier by using a color applicator bottle to shake it up. Or I wonder if you could make a "clay co-wash" with clay and conditioner to pack along that would be pre-mixed - there's a second experiment before you go out of town! As long as everything you mix it with - spoons, containers - is sterile (washed with isopropyl alcohol) it should keep for a week or 2. I would be doing all this over the hotel shower instead of the floor. I'm hopelessly messy.

  47. Sorry! One more question. Since January, I've only used hair products that are approved by the Max Hydration Method (, so I've been using Kinky-Curly Curling custard on my hair and Giovanni’s L.A. Natural styling gel on my daughter's hair.

    But I recently strayed from the script and went back to using Ego Styler Argan Oil gel on my daughter's hair, which was met with FANTASTIC results. I semi-wondered why I had ever stopped using it on her hair. But, of course, I knew why: That gel contains glycerin and hydrolyzed wheat protein. And according to the Max Hydration Method, glycerin "pulls moisture out of hair cortex in dry conditions, glycerin is also astringent," and hydrolyzed wheat protein is "bad for low porosity hair and most kinkier Type 4 hair."

    Now, mind you, my daughter and I have 3c/4a curls. My hair is a bit different than my daughter's because of my heat damage.

    But, the question I ask of you is this: Is Eco Styler Gel really all that bad? Is hydrolized wheat protein the devil? Is glycerin all that bad? (People have put the fear of God in me that using glycerin in the summertime is bad news and will make my hair swell and frizz like nobody's business...

    1. EcoStyler gels are not bad. They're very simple in formula. Glycerin is not necessarily a problem for everybody. It's very much like brown sugar or sea salt - it will pull water out of the air if there is enough water in the air - and then it will clump. When the air is dry, there is less moisture for glycerin to absorb. So it's possible that glycerin might be able to pull water from your hair instead when the air is dry. But if you have a little oil on your hair for sealing or a leave-in conditioner, then the glycerin has less contact with your "bare, naked" hair shaft and can't do that as well.
      In some products, glycerin is a problem because it will actually cause the dried product to feel tacky or tangly. For me, EcoStyler Krystal is that product! Frizz everywhere and extra-crispy hair. But EcoStyler Argan oil + a little leave-in conditioner = none of that crispy crunch at all. That argan oil makes the product nice and flexible.

      Protein isn't necessarily bad for lower porosity hair either. For fine and medium hair, it can provide support. Hydrolyzed proteins are used as humectants in cosmetics - they actually help hair stay hydrated because they pull water to themselves and don't readily lose it to the air around you. For low-porosity hair, protein can be over-done more quickly than for chemically-treated or heat damaged hair. But even low porosity hair can benefit from protein if you're careful about using it. Coarse, low porosity hair would probably be the sort to always object to use of protein.

      Hydrolyzed wheat protein is not too devilish, but keep an eye on your and your daughter's hair. If it begins to act differently, space out the Ecostyler use (less often). Use a leave-in conditioner under it. Glycerin can be a very effective humectant - especially when the humidity is neither very high nor very low. Some people can use it year-round in dry and humid climates, and others get obnoxious hair no matter when they use it. Glycerin is very individual. If you just can't use glycerin when the humidity is tropically-high, then save those products for the rest of the year.

      I like to think of prescriptive hair-care methods as recipes. You might follow it to the letter for a while to get used to it, then start making additions and subtractions to suit your taste and your lifestyle and your climate.

      When in doubt with protein and glycerin - use emollients (oils and conditioners) to temper them. If things go along fine and then get odd - take a break from glycerin and/or protein in favor of oils and conditioners (and no glycerin) for a while. Then try adding those things back.
      Good luck!

    2. Oh my God, you are amazing. A treasure trove of wisdom, you are! I mean that. Thank you.

      I just have one question: This idea you pitched about mixing my conditioner with the clay. I have never heard (or thought) of that before. How do you suggest I do this? Should I mix water, my conditioner, and the clay together, apply to my hair and let it sit? And for how long? And by doing this, do you think I can omit the step of me sleeping with my conditioner in and instead just go straight to my final step (aka styling with diluted knot today and curling custard)?

      Of course, you are totally right about trying this before my travels.

      Thanks, again!


    3. Me, again.

      For starters, my reply is so long that I have to break it into two parts...

      PART ONE: I know you haven't even had a moment to read my latest reply in response to your information above. I hope I'm not wearing out my welcome, here. But I have scoured the Internet for good, quality advice, and I've gotta tell you, no one seems to render it like you do. And, no, that is not just gratuitous flattery.
      So, I have two more questions for you now: The first being just some clarification on my experiment that will be the bentonite clay and conditioner mixture. What do you think the clay-water-conditioner ratio should be...and do you think it would matter? How long do you recommend leaving it on, overnight? A few hours? And do you think I can skip straight to styling (ie applying leave-in and gel)? So, my next question I tried to resist the urge from asking, but with your knowledge, I just HAVE to...

      First some background: I used to have a toorid love affair with silicones. Back when I straightened my natural hair with a super hot-ass flat iron, applying serums with silicones were a regimen when I stop straightening my hair back in November, one of the first stying products I used was the Mixed Chicks Leave-In conditioner (which actually functions more as a styler, which is why I truly like it because it's like two products in one, but I digress. The point, here, is that back in November, my hair didn't even remotely possess the moisture levels it does not. Yet ad still, I could see that my hair seemed to "like" the Mixed Chicks Leave-In conditioner. Fast forward to today, and I have since been indoctrinated into the belief that silicones are evil, so I kicked the Mixed Chicks Leave-In conditioner to the curb, and began following the Max Hydration Method, which is even a step further than the Curly Girl Method. My question to you is this: Are silicones the very embodiment of the devil himself? What are you thoughts on silicones, really? I was wondering if I could dare go back to using the Mixed Chicks Leave-In conditioner without fear of adverse results? I've gotta admit, not only do the silicones give me pause, but so, also does the glycerin. Here is a full list of the ingredients: AQUA (WATER), BEHENTRIMONIUM METHOSULFATE, GLYCERIN, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, AMODIMETHICONE, STEARALKONIUM CHLORIDE, PVP, PHENOXYETHANOL, HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE, METHYL GLUCETH-20, ETHYLHEXYL METHOXYCINNAMATE, CETYL ALCOHOL, PARFUM (FRAGRANCE), POLYSORBATE 60, HYDROXYETHYLCELLULOSE, SOLUBLE COLLAGEN, ETHYLHEXYLGLYCERINE, OENOTHERA BIENNIS (EVENING PRIMROSE) OIL, SIMMONDSIA CHINENSIS (JOJOBA) SEED OIL, CARTHAMUS TINCTORIUS (SAFFLOWER) SEED OIL, SILK AMINO ACIDS, WHEAT AMINO, ACIDS, POTASSIUM SORBATE, BENZYL SALICYLATE, HYDROXYISOHEXYL 3- CYCLOHEXENE CARBOXALDEHYDE, HEXYL CINNAMAL, GERANIOL, LINALOOL, ALPHA-ISOMETHYL IONONE, CITRONELLOL, CI 19140 (YELLOW 5), CI 15985 (YELLOW 6) (END OF PART ONE)

    4. PART TWO: Here's what I'm thinking, and please, offer your opinion: I know, I know, people in the curly community say silicones dry out the hair, yadda, yadda, yadda, and that they are particularly bad for low porosity hair that tends to be dry anyway and prone to build-up, to boot. But I would use the bentonite clay to wash as my first step, my second stop would be sleeping with my Tressemme radiant volume i overnight, and then rince the conditioner out in the a.m. and apply the Mixed Chicks Leave-in. My thought is that using the clay every time I wash would not only open up my cuticles to get the necessary moisture in there, but the clay would also guard against build-up. Furthermore, by the time I apply the mixed Chicks, my hair will have had the benefit of being deep conditioned over night. I know you might say that I just have to try it out and see. But my question to you is, should I NOT try it due to the fact that my hair has been silicone free for several months and I don't want to take steps backward, if that's what applying silicones would do. It's just that I can't shake this wondering about how the Mixed Chicks would perform on my hair now, when it did more than just a decent job when my hair was in worse shape. I'm thinking it would really make my curls pop now!The way I see it, the Mixed Chicks Leave-In wasn't the problem back when I used it in November. The problem was that I didn't know how to get the necessary moisture into my hair BEFORE applying the Mixed Chicks...and now that I know how to do that, I'm thinking I might be fine.

      Okay, Oh Wise One, I am all ears. And, again, THANK YOU.

    5. Courtney,
      If you're thinking "less messy and pack-able" I think mixing clay with conditioner might work. If you add water, the preservative gets diluted and things become messier. I think you need to add the clay a little at a time and mix in a large enough bowl because the clay will want to clump together and you'll have to smash out the clumps - then "pour" through a funnel or scrape it into a plastic bag and snip off one corner to "pipe" it into a bottle just like decorative icing on cakes or cookies. I think you might be able to co-wash with that and go on to your final step. You would really need to try it at home to see if it works - because clay adds texture or "traction" it may work in the conditioner or it may not - but if it's "close enough" maybe that's good enough.
      I'm not sure you'd want the clay in your hair overnight. Overnight clay might require some extra oils to avoid being drying. I hope that helps!

    6. About those silicones... Here is what I know about silicones: They are excellent lubricants that do not soak in nor evaporate, therefore they stay on your hair, lubricating it and keeping it flexible. Silicones used in conditioners are present at about 1%-2%, so they're suspended in the product, (unless it's a silicone serum) they don't totally coat waterproof your hair - though some products do tend to leave that "raincoat on my hair" feeling.

      I think lubricants are great. I think silicones have their place in hair care. Used in moderation, they can have very useful effects. Shampoo removes silicone residue -1 shampooing removes about 90% unless the only detergent is Decyl glucoside). So should you feel the need to "re-boot" - even a sulfate-free shampoo will do the trick.

      The down-side: When people use silicones in excess (in cleanser, conditioner, styling products and anti-frizz serum), it can lead to that waterproof feeling and also limp, flat hair that never feels hydrated, but always silicone-slick.
      My feeling is that over-reliance on silicone in products to keep hair from tangling and looking frizzy means you are ignoring hair's needs for protein or penetrating oil treatments or deep conditioning or whatever your hair needs. You can't substitute thoughtful, appropriate hair-care with silicones and still have healthy hair.

      That's where your question fits perfectly. You have a conscientiously designed hair-care routine and you're wondering if a product with some silicones might be the icing on that well-made cake. I say - go for the icing and see how it works! The silicone ingredient is Amodimethicone in the Mixed Chicks Leave-in, a silicone that's designed to bond to damaged areas rather than spread out over hair in general. Hypothetically, it doesn't build up on top of itself, it needs to bond to hair just like conditioner does - to little chipped cuticle edges, for example. That makes Amodimethicone a better silicone ingredient to experiment with than something like Dimethicone. Especially for people with low porosity hair who don't use shampoo.

      If it makes your curls pop - use it! Maybe you can use it regularly, maybe you'll need to take a break once in a while. It's good to be flexible. Good luck!

  48. Hi <3
    So I've been battling with medium to coarse & high porous hair after lots of bleach, finally a year or so after i have all natural hair growth, that I recently cut and it's now reaching my shoulders. The problem that I've been having is that after conditioning it seems as though I washed it I never fully get rid of the conditioner, so as I understand this is because my natural hair has low porosity (to normal) (?). I had thought it was because it's so short, and conditioner tends to go to my roots...
    So, what I did the other day was I soaked my entire head in coconut oil (the ends of my hair has higher porosity), went to sleep, and then washed my hair with argan oil shampoo (by hask) and put no conditioner and it was soft and felt nice. It didn't feel neither greasy nor heavy (as it has been feeling with conditioner) If I continue to do so, would that cause oil-build up ? /Important to note, that I don't wash my hair daily, I always try to wash it 3-4 times a week, half because I'm lazy and half because the water here has lots of calcium (now in summer it gets even harder not to wash it as often) and use dry shampoo in between.And I don't use any heat in my hair, enough with living near the equatorial zone!

    One last question, I'm not sure if I got it right, so also if my hair is failing at absorbing the conditioner then does it mean I have to use deep conditioners? I had always understood that was for high porosity hair!

    Thank you! <3

    1. Hello,
      I don't think you'll get "oil build-up" if you oil-treated your hair over night, then washed it with the Hask shampoo.

      You might over-soften your hair with the oil and end up with limp hair - or hair that doesn't behave as you expect. It's not certain to happen, but it is a possibility. In which case you might skip the oil some wash days and use some diluted conditioner.
      I understand the problem you're having with conditioner - hard water makes the low porosity effect more pronounced!
      Here's my suggestion for conditioner - when you do use conditioner (maybe on a non-overnight oil treatment day), dilute it with distilled water in a color applicator bottle. Maybe 1 part conditioner to 5 parts water - thin enough to squirt out the top but still concentrated enough that it helps you detangle your hair. The distilled water will have fewer minerals and the diluted conditioner is less likely to feel like it never rinses out.

      Lower porosity hair doesn't BOND with conditioner very well - not enough binding sites. But it will bond with some conditioner and that's great for detangling wet hair and for reducing static in dry hair. If you want conditioner to "soak in" you need to use some gentle heat to encourage your hair to swell slightly. It will work even better if you use a conditioner with some ingredients small enough to penetrate into the hair's cortex like Cetrimonium bromide, possible Cetrimonium chloride, panthenol, or amino acids. Good luck!

    2. Wow, just...WOW. I am so -- SO -- very grateful for the knowledge and thoroughness of your replies. Really. In an effort to prevent wearing out my welcome, I promise this is my last inquiry -- at least until another little earthquake crops up; lol.

      So, if I do take the plunge and try the Mixed Chicks again, the question begs: How often do I shampoo?

      I had the pleasure of interviewing the owner of Zakia's Morocco, one of's most popular ghassoul/rhassoul clay vendors, and he assured me that ghassoul clay removes silicones from hair. And now that I use bentonite clay instead (which I like much, much better than ghassoul clay), I'm hoping the same is true for bentonite.

      Honestly? If the bentonite clay does NOT remove silicones, then, game over. I can't use the mixed chicks because I don't want to shampoo everytime I "wash" my hair.

      But let's assume for the rest of this message that bentonite clay does indeed remove silicones effectively...

      So here's my newfangled approach, and I simply would like to know if you think this is wise -- and if not, what you would recommend instead:

      I would apply my bentonite clay, sleep in my Tressemme conditioner overnight, rinse it out in the a.m., and then apply the mixed chicks. Every month, I would shampoo with Dr. Bronner's liquid Baby Castile Soap -- just to make sure that all silicones are removed, and after I shampoo, I would proceed with the clay, conditioning overnight, and then apply the mixed chicks again.

      Now, of course, I'm going to try your conditioner/clay mixture before heading out on my trip, so, just to clarify (no pun intended) the regimen I just described above would be my regular regimen at home.

      THANK YOU, again.

    3. I did my "quick and dirty" test for clay's ability to remove silicone (and conditioner). I used a conditioner with Amodimethicone *and* Dimethicone. I spread it on a glass slide and let it dry completely. Then I mixed up some Bentonite clay and water and left that on for about 10 minutes, then rinsed with water and a little gentle agitation (rubbed very lightly with my finger). ALL conditioner and silicone washed off. When I tried this in the past, it did not, so leaving the clay on for a while seems to be necessary. I must admit - I was surprised! I hadn't thought of leaving the clay on. I'm so impatient.

      Bear in mind that conditioner and Amodimethicone DO bond to hair (temporarily) and they DO NOT bond to a glass slide. That's why I call it a quick-and-dirty test - that element is missing. But in general, it tends to be pretty accurate with what will or will not wash off with water or a mild detergent or - clay.

      So my guess is that you'll have a reasonably good balance between silicone deposition (using the Mixed Chicks Leave-in) and silicone removal (with clay-washing) as long as you're leaving the clay on for a while like you already do.

      If every once in a while you feel the need to start over with a clean slate - "non-sulfate" (milder) detergents like Cocamidopropyl betaine, Olefin Sulfonate (C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate), Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate - will help remove any residue. So you can go the "conditioning shampoo" route too as long as it's a silicone-free shampoo.
      Newfangled routine sounds like a solid plan - if you end up feeling like you need to clarify your hair. I experienced what can only be described as "waxed hair" from using Dr. Bronner's Baby castile soap, undiluted. I think liquid castile soap needs to be diluted with plenty of water to avoid waxy-feeling soap scum (if you have hard water) and to avoid drying hair out too much. I'm hearing from other people with low-porosity hair that liquid castile soaps are leaving hair dry and sticky too, so it's not just me and my hard, high-pH water. I've seen recipes for 1 tablespoon liquid soap per cup of water, which sounds like a good starting point. Lots of sudsy water to spread around.
      I'm intrigued by this "wow - clay removes silicones!?" thing. I need to do a blog post. So many good ideas, so little time. Thanks for the inspiration.
      Be well, and I hope your hair has wonderful results with the Mixed Chicks as well as on your trip. WS

    4. I swear to God, you've hit it out of the park again, WS. You have no earthly idea how grateful I am for your knowledge. I'm beginning to feel like the words *thank you* don't do justice anymore. I mean, like, seriously, if you're ever in the Metro Detroit area, I'd love to take you out to lunch...but, then, you probably wouldn't be able to eat a morsel what with my incessant inquiries being hurled at you...

      Okay, so I did a quick search on my end and realized that a shampoo I purchased for my toddler daughter, Circle of Friend's Chocolate Shampoo (which smells more like chocolate than chocolate itself), contains Olefin Sulfonate (C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate), Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, and Sodium Lauryl Mama will be using this shampoo from time to time, too, when I feel the need to press the reset button.

      Thank you for the info on Dr. Bronner's -- I hadn't heard that before, but I'll gladly take your word for it it: My hair is jacked up enough as it is without my hair feeling (even more) dry and sticky to boot. No bueno.

      So I'm going to take the plunge and try the Mixed Chicks tomorrow. Instead of starting my routine at night when my kids are in bed, I'll do it during the day: I'll get up early, apply the clay, let sit for about 15 mins, rinse, apply warm Tressemme conditioner and let it sit all day since I'm not going anywhere, rinse, and then I'll apply the Mixed Chicks and then sit under my hooded dryer/diffuse so that I don't go to bed with wet hair.

      I'm so nervous, you'd think I'm jumping out of a plane. But at least I know how I can reboot and go back to my Kinky-Curly if Mixed Chicks is a bust.

      You have no idea how appreciative I am of your knowledge.

      I'm looking forward to your clay blog post, and I won't miss it: You've just gained a new subscriber.

      THANK YOU.

    5. I must go Google this chocolate shampoo. It would go well with a mint scented conditioner. I hope all went really well. I couldn't get the comments to load until today (the 4th) so I just read this, this evening.

    6. Oh, WS. Where do I begin? I just feel kind of "meh".

      So I applied the Mixed Chicks late last night. As I was doing it, I was thinking, “I’m not sure about this. It didn’t seem to define my curls as my memory recalled it once did. I dried my hair, and went straight to bed.

      But when I “fluffed” and “shook out” my hair this morning, I was pleased with the results. Again, I like the way my hair looks with Knot Today and Curling Custard, too. It’s just that I crave the simplicity of using ONE styling product and calling it a day. (Plus, I had JUST purchased a big ‘ol 33-oz bottle of Mixed Chicks back in November…and then two days later I swore off silicones. I didn’t return the bottle, I kept it. And part of me hated seeing it not being used, so that was another motivator for trying it out again.)

      But I can’t shake this feeling that the Natural Hair Police are going to accost me for breaking the cardinal rule of not using silicones. I mean, seriously, WS, I feel like I’m going to hell with gasoline panties because I’m using a product with amodimethicone!
      Plus, we’ll see if I can eek out 4 or 5 day hair with Mixed Chicks. I just don’t know.

      If I were to go back to square one, how do I do it? Shampoo with the chocolate shampoo first, apply clay, rinse, condition, rinse, and then style?

      Here are the links to Circle of Friends Klunie’s Chocolate Shampoo, too, by the way. I bought mine from Amazon, but check out the COF Web site, it’s awesome:

      And another thing: I had mentioned to you that I condition overnight. But let’s say I crave an easier approach to that, too. (Hell, I’m a tired mother of two!) What’s the least amount of time that constitutes “deep conditioning”? An hour? Two hours? And what if I were to sit under my hooded dryer the entire time? Can I get away with 45 mins to an hour under my dryer with conditioner and plastic baggy?

      I know deep conditioning weekly is a non-negotiable must. I’m just looking for an effective alternative to sleeping in conditioner overnight All. The. Time.

      Thank you, again, for your response last night! You weren’t late at all. I appreciate ANY time you spend responding!


    7. I had typed out a reply and then my browser crashed. I'll try to re-do it.
      I had a good laugh over your punishment for using silicones! The "Whatever" (Natural, Curly Girl, No-Poo) Hair Police are our there and I guess a lot of us need that structure with absolute rules, especially when we're learning something new and unfamiliar. But then we may also need to spread our wings and fly on our own too. Strict rules often don't take unto account the incredible variability in human hair, in the interactions between hair and water supply and climate and products. Not to mention lifestyle! We need to be able to adapt and be flexible.
      I tend to use silicones in challenging weather - like in winter so I can take my hat on and off and have my hair recover, or when it's windy but my hair won't be "up." So hopefully the Mixed Chicks will help with day 4 and 5 hair. Silicones don't soak in - so they should still be there doing their job. But by day 4 and 5, hair needs moisture (water) as well as emollients and lubricants.

      - If you feel like you need to hit the "reset" button with shampoo, wet your hair and shampoo it, then proceed as usual. If it doesn't feel quite clean enough after shampooing, lather up a second time *or* mix shampoo and water in a cup and pour that over and through your hair to dilute the second wash.

      -Most studies of deep conditioning have the conclusion that you reach the maximum amount of conditioner that can bond to hair at 30 minutes. Any benefits beyond that are probably from ingredients in the conditioner penetrating into the hair if they're small enough (panthenol, amino acids, Cetrimonium bromide…) or from keeping the hair in a wet and pliable state for an extended period of time. That might soften hair overall.

      - To approximate or even improve on that, you might use a hair penetrating oil (for the softness) before washing for 6-8 hours. Really good oils are coconut, babassu, and sunflower. Then cleanse and apply your intense conditioner after cleansing and leave it on (covered) for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes under your dryer, wrapped in a warm, wet towel, or wrapped with something insulating so you can do other things.

      - A quick-and-easy alternative to deep conditioning is Oil Rinsing. It is divine, even for low porosity hair. Great hydration and curl definition. The method I like best is to cleanse hair, then apply oil generously and spread it well. Then rinse lightly with warm water. Apply conditioner and detangle and squeeze your hair. Imagine you are squeezing the conditioner into the oil on your hair, and squeezing the oil/conditioner mix into your hair. Add a splash of water if it becomes less "squishy" feeling. Pop on a treatment cap and leave it on for about 5 minutes. Then rinse. Then squirt some body wash on the floor of the shower to clean off extra oil so nobody slips and breaks anything. Any oil you like should work.

      - One thought about the Mixed Chicks and now vs. before is that with the amino acids and emollients and good things in that leave-in, the more your hair needs those things, the bigger "wow" factor products like that will have. It has a little "PVP" for hold too, which is a great idea. If your hair had been greatly in need of hydration and lubrication when you bought that product - it would have made a huge difference. If your hair is better hydrated and stronger now, then those things will have a lesser impact. In which case, you might look into curl creams for a single-product styling.
      Best wishes! WS

    8. First of all, my condolences – and sincerest gratitude – for your browser crashing! I hate when that happens. And when it does, I curse like a drunken sailor. (Not proud of this, but it’s true.)

      “We need to be able to adapt and be flexible.” Truer words have never been spoken, my friend. I needed that reminder. THANK YOU.

      OMG, you offered SO many nuggets to consider. I’m intrigues in particular by Oil Rinsing. I had never heard of that before…

      Okay. (Sigh.) That part about me retreating to my cave in an effort to stop asking you questions?
      Yeah, I’m opening my mouth and inserting my foot.

      I just got an epiphany right after I sent you my last reply, but I’m wondering if, scientifically, it’s even worth attempting.

      You know how my heart’s desire is to have one styling product? And you know how you explained that -- at least for low porosity hair, anyhow – that leave-in conditioner functions more as a styling aid’s helper than an actual conditioner to be absorbed by hair?

      Well, I’m wondering if I could combine water, Knot Today, and Curling Custard in a spray bottle, shake it up to combine the mixture, and saturate my wet, freshly-conditioned hair with the spray.
      Styling Mission Complete.

      In addition to giving me that one-stop-shop I’m looking for, I’m hoping that this method will more evenly distribute the gel: I tend to be pretty heavy handed with the curling custard, to the point where my 1st day and 2nd day hair remain crunchy and thinner-looking…and it’s not until day three and beyond where a bit of frizz sets in – which I actually like – and creates more volume with my hair.

      Oh, I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws here. I’m like the Goldilocks of curly hair: I’m looking for a regimen that is just right.

      But this amendment to Newfangled Plan is contingent on whether Knot Today’s and Curling Custard’s ingredients are capable of being mixed smoothly and sprayed out of a fine mist spray bottle.

      I swear to you, after I try this, I’m just going to – for real – retreat to my cave and limp along with regular Newfangled Plan.

      Thank you, as always,


    9. Oooooo - a spray of Knot Today and Kinky Curly Custard sounds like a great idea. The only problem (and it's going to throw a wrench in the "spray" part of the Kinky Curly Hybrid Wonder Product Idea is that it probably will want to come out in a stream unless it's very diluted. On the up-side, if you mixed them together outside of a spray bottle, you'd have a nice, fluid styling product that would be more difficult to over-apply.

    10. I swear to the heavens above, WS, you are the Oprah of hair care. You need your own TV show, or, at the very least, a daily podcast where I can hang on your every word...

      It's settled. Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to press the reset button, mix KT and CC together outside of a spray bottle, and apply on one fell swoop.

      I'll report back tomorrow evening after my hair is dry.

      Fingers crossed, this will be a hit.

    11. PART ONE
      Well, the “quick and dirty” is this: The Kinky Curly Hybrid Wonder Product (KCHWP; lol) is The Ish. It’s a wrap. Story and film at eleven. I swear, as I applied it to my hair, I could almost hear my hair rejoicing and squealing with delight.

      I liked the way it “felt” from the get-go. One of the things I noticed immediately when my hair dried with Mixed Chicks is that it felt as if my hair had a film on it (the amodimethicone, perhaps?) I hadn’t noticed this when I used it 7 months ago, but it’s apparent now, and I’m not sure I like it. With KCHWP, my hair feels light and bouncy. As if my hair is naked.

      So, let me give you the deets on precisely what I did:

      First, I shampooed twice with the COF Chocolate Shampoo and rinsed well; then I applied the bentonite clay, let sit for 20 mins, and rinsed; applied a generous amount of the Tressemme Radiant Volume while still in the shower; when I got out of the shower (with the conditioner still in my hair), I then squeezed a generous amount of 100% pure argan oil to each of the four sections, slapped on a plastic cap, and sat under the dryer for 30 mins, and then rinsed well.

      (Sidebar: God only knows what my intention was with the oil. I think I feared I’d eff up the oil rinse, but still wanted to dip my toe in the oil waters. I’m confused, though, if oil is a “sealer,” was it a barrier which prevented the water and conditioner from getting in? I must say this, my hair felt VERY moisturized when it was all said and done.)

      Sorry, back to topic. Now, here’s where things got interesting. In a small plastic Tupperware bowl, I added equal parts (I eyeballed it) KT and CC and mixed vigorously with a spoon. I did add a bit of water, too, to make the concoction just shy of being runny. I wanted to dilute the mixture just a tad to really guard against me being heavy handed. I kept a water bottle handy which contained water and about 2 tbsp of KT. Working section by section, I sprayed that particular section with the water bottle and then raked through KCHWP.

      I then sat under my dryer for a bit and then diffused my roots until my hair was about 95% dry.

      Three things are now very apparent to me:

      First, the KCHWP is where it’s at – at least for now. I have made TREMENDOUS strides in boosting my hair’s hydration levels in the past three months, and I did so using KT, CC, and swearing off silicones. I hear you loud and clear about being flexible – and believe you me, one day, I intend to play around a bit more with products. But now? Nah. It if ain’t broke, why fix it. Again, my hair has come a long way. But the fact of the matter is, a good 75% my hair is heat damaged. And I’ve got a gazillion different curl patterns because of it. The fact that I can find two products that work on my smorgasbord head is a miracle.

      Second, I used to think Mixed Chicks gave me the best definition. WRONG. Now, it’s KCHWP. I know where my bread is buttered. Until I grow out my hair and have more of a uniform curl pattern with hair that wasn’t shot to all hell by my flat iron, KCHWP it is.

      Third, because KCHWP is thinner than if I applied straight KT and CC, my hair dried waaaaaay less crunchy. It remains to be seen if the hold will still be there on day 3 and 4. If I had to do it all again – and I will – next time I won’t apply that much water to KCHWP. Not that I applied a lot this time. Perhaps I should not have applied any at all…
      (End of Part One)

    12. PART TWO
      So, I’m planning to wash my hair again on Wednesday night, and that’s when I’ll attempt Newfangled Plan: The Vacation Edition. Please tell me whether you see anything wrong with the following:

      1. Rinse hair thoroughly with water
      2. In a glass bowl, combine Tressemme’s Radiant Volume Conditioner and dry bentonite clay powder and mix well. (Should I add equal parts water???) I’ve decided to take a bowl and plastic spatula on the trip with me because I’m just so used to applying it this way.)
      3. Apply the mixture to my wet hair and let sit for about 20 mins. (Do I put on a plastic cap and sit under the dryer? I’m not bringing my hooded dryer on the road with us, though, so if I need heat to “activate” this mixture, do you think the plastic cap with a bath towel on top of that will be enough?)
      4. Rinse out clay/conditioner mixture
      5. Style. Using a spray bottle with water (I don’t think I’m going to add the tbsp of KT), drench my hair and then rake through the KCHWP
      6. Air dry/diffuse roots

      Again, tell me if you see any potential road blocks here.

      Wanna know what I’m secretly hoping and praying for?
      For you to give me your blessing, and for this to work so that it can become my regular routine.


      Because by combining the clay and conditioner step, it’s like I’m washing and conditioning at the same time, thereby shaving considerable time off my regimen.

      Again, it bears repeating: I’m just too tired.

      So, that’s all.

      I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, and this is not just gratuitous flattery: THANK YOU.

      You are invaluable. I’ve combed YouTube, Instagram, FB, and the Interwebs for MONTHS, and the wisdom you dispense is more valuable than all of them combined.

      Thank you.

    13. I love your sense of humor - if hair must provide us with frustration, it should provide an equal amount of joy or it just isn't worth it! I was thinking one could mix a bit of KT with the Kinky Curly Custard - but you mixed half and half! Kinky-Curly needs to be all over this idea, your Kinky Curly Hybrid Wonder Product (KCHWP) is an awesome new curl cream! Way to go - that's such a great idea and it sounds like your hair loves it.

      About that Argan oil step you did over your conditioner - that's a great idea too. Oil seals on wet hair as a styling step. But whenever you're using oil, especially generous amounts of oil (and argan oil is such a nice oil) as a treatment - you are building in flexibility and softness and that "moisturized" feeling that goes along with them. Like putting lotion on your face when you've been out in the dry wind - it becomes pliable and flexible. Oil does many things. Sealing is only one of them.

      Oil is not a barrier to conditioner. By definition, conditioners are "emulsified" - meaning there are ingredients that make oil and water MIX or it would all separate. That's why your oil + conditioner was so great instead of an oily disaster. You can add more oil to a conditioner and if you work it in with your hands, it will also become emulsified (more or less). It's actually mixing into the conditioner to make the conditioner way more wonderful. You might not be able to pull that off all the time with low-porosity hair, but you can probably do it as often as your hair needs it. The shampoo may have made your hair more oil-friendly.

      For multi-day hair, if your hair is losing definition, you might be able to apply some more diluted KCHWP. Why not? It's diluted.

      Newfangled Plan: Vacation Edition. I would be hesitant to add water to the clay/conditioner mix to store for more than a day. Adding clay may not alter the preservative because clay is not liquid so it won't support bacteria and mold, but adding water dilutes the preservative in the conditioner and that will allow bacteria and mold to grow in the mixture.

      Do you have a fleece scarf or something insulating for heat to wrap your hair (covered with a cap)? Heat would be for the conditioner more than the clay. Or so I imagine.

      A travel tip: Either put water from home in your spray bottle, or get some "drinking water" or distilled water to use. Water away from home sometimes provokes different hair behavior.

      Thank you for all the compliments, I'm always very happy to hear that the information I share is helpful and I love hearing how people put it to use. Good luck with the new routine - may it work very well and shave time off your routine. Time is precious. Best wishes, WS

    14. WS, your compliment about my humor was The Ultimate. Thank you so very much. I fancy myself a glass-half-full kind of person, and what with the challenges I’ve had with my hair within the last seven months, I’ve often had to laugh to keep from crying. (I actually wrote a book about how my baby daughter inadvertently prompted me to go natural, and the book contains my entire hair journey since I was three years old – and there are *several* comical episodes. Now, mind you, I didn’t think they were such a laughing matter back then, of course. Anyhow, you can find my book here: Do you have a PayPal account? If you are interested in reading it, email me your PayPal e-mail at, and I’ll deposit the money into your account so you can buy it. That’s the very least I can do for all the help you’ve given me.)

      So are you saying that you’ve given Newfangled Plan: The Vacation Edition – and more specifically my clay/conditioner concoction – your blessing???

      I was waiting with bated breath for your reply and, for some reason, I anticipated you giving it a thumbs down.

      I just so badly want things to go smoothly when I wash and go in the hotel! (Insert my whiny voice here.)

      Anyhow, I’ll nix the water. I’ll just mix conditioner and clay powder until smooth – and I’m going to do so at the hotel literally seconds before I apply it to my hair. (But I will pack some distilled water; VERY good thinking.)

      THANK YOU for clarifying the way oil works in a way that I easily understand. Oil was one of those things that literally left me scratching my head. I’m thinking I’ll repeat the argan oil “infusion” every three months or so, perhaps? I’ll play it by ear.

      Change of topic here: What are your thoughts on Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème? Have you used it, or do you know of someone who has?
      Before you deem me the most indecisive person on the planet – just 24 hours ago I dropped the mic after proclaiming KCHWP the greatest thing since sliced bread, and my curiosity is piqued about something new already; lol! (I’m Type A. What can I say.)

      Yesterday, before I tried the KCHWP, I was at Walmart and the Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème caught my eye. The product junkie in me lobbied hard to buy it. (I remembered what you said about how I might want to look into curl creams for a single-product styling – see? I pay attention, lol!.) But I abstained.
      Fast forward to this morning when I had a moment to kill. I looked up the crème on the CurlMart Website, and lo and behold, it’s a 2016 Naturally Curly Editor’s Choice winner!

      So I went back this morning and bought it.

      I’ll try it out this week, and while I (hope) to like it, I’m betting I’ll still want a tad more definition in my “kitchen,” so maybe I’ll add a bit of KC Curling Custard to that area.

      I’m just sitting here shaking my head at myself.

      I’ll go and retreat to my cave for now. But, rest assured I will report back after I try Newfangled Plan: The Vacation Edition and Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème.:-)

    15. If you're mixing conditioner and clay at the hotel - add water if you need it (you might to get the clumps mixed in). I just wouldn't want to store it with water added because of the potential for spoilage.

      I think the Clay+Conditioner in the Newfangled Plan/Vacation Edition is a "go." There are already some "clay masques" out there that have conditioner and oils and clays and whatnot, so it's working for other people, why not you too?

      Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème - Looks like a well-formulated product, as long as your hair is okay with coconut oil and shea butter. For low-porosity hair, one has to be careful with shea butter sometimes. Butters sometimes leave hair a little waxy or crunchy or water-repelling (just like coconut oil does for the occasional person). It has a good balance of humectants and emollients and a little protein for all-weather hydration. Aloe can actually sometimes be weird in low-porosity hair too - usually it's a dry feeling if it's going to cause a problem.

      Seriously - there is nothing like a success with "finessing" one set of hair products to work for YOU to make you feel like you have conquered the hair product world and now you can make anything work. The Eden Crème gets mixed reviews (love it / hate it), so I'm guessing it's one that takes some trial and error. Like all really good products.
      Onward to success!

    16. PART ONE
      Well, WS, I’ll start things off by declaring that I am not in the best of moods today. Let me cut to the chase and tell you what happened so that I don’t get to bitch ranting…

      Both the Newfangled Plan: The Vacation Edition and Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème were both epic fails.

      Oh, and as if that isn’t bad enough, KCHWP is not, in fact, wonderful, it is like Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

      So, first things first: I mixed the Tressemme radiant volume conditioner and bentonite clay powder until smooth and applied it to my hair. The mixture felt odd going on, I can’t describe it. It was just different. But, then, this was all new to me so I pressed on.

      When I rinsed it out in the shower after 20 mins, my hair didn’t feel the same as how my hair feels upon immediately rinsing out the clay. Again, I can’t describe it, but it didn’t feel super posturized like I thought it would. That quality that clay gives to the hair to make curls clump and stick together? It was as if the opposite happened.

      Frizz f*cking City.

      With my hair freshly-rinsed and still divided into four sections, I proceeded to apply the Tressemme radiant volume conditioner on its own and let it sit for a bit while I finished showering, hoping to soften and better detangle my hair. Then I rinsed that out and got out of the shower.

      Now, here’s where things went from bad to worse. Beginning with my first of four sections, I commenced to spraying diluted KKKT (and water; in a spray bottle) and then adding a dollop of Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème. It was apparent – almost immediately – that this would not define my curls. I pressed on, though, thinking that I wasn’t giving the product a fair shot.

      But after completing the first of four sections, I knew that if I used this product on my entire head, I would most likely end up with a mess of an afro.

      So I rinsed the Eden out, and went back to spraying diluted KKKT and adding dollops of KCHWP.

      And guess what?

      These flakey-things appeared here and there. At first glance they *looked* like flakes…but upon closer inspection the flakes looked like pieces of wet/soggy lint: The product was clumping together.

      Is this because the KCHWP was mixed several days ago? Because it lacks a certain preservative? Because it needs an emollient?

      God only knows. But I’m also pissed that, apparently, the KCHWP I had already mixed is rendered unusable.

      So then I rinsed *that* out, and went back to applying diluted KKKT and pure Curling Custard.

      By now, my hair just feels striped, squeaky – like I had washed it with a sulfate shampoo.

      It took me nearly 2.5 hours to get to that point, the kids are waking up from their naps, so I just press on and finish. Tomorrow is my son’s end-of-the-school-year celebration, and we have to leave the house at 10:30 a.m., so starting all over and sleeping with my conditioner in – which, mind you, is the only thing of late that has truly made my hair feel moisturized – is out of the question.

    17. PART TWO
      I’m just pissed. But I guess I’ve found my answer: I can’t do any short-cuts. If I want decent results, I need to wash with just bentonite clay and water, condition overnight, and then style with pure Knot Today and Curling Custard.

      I’m angry about what happened today.

      But I’m also angry that, FOR YEARS, I ignorantly f*cked my hair up with excessive heat and was foolish enough to think I wasn’t doing any harm.

      I’m angry that, subsequently, I now have a gazillion different curl patterns and a myriad of areas that won’t curl at all.

      I’m angry that, despite taking great care and detangling with my fingers, the hair I lose during each wash and go looks like a small animal when clumped up. (I realize that this isn’t new growth that I’m losing, but breakage happening where the new growth meets the heat damage.)

      I’m angry that in order to get decent results, it seems that a simple wash and go is a seemingly 17-step process, all of which will go to pot if I evidently don’t wash with pure bentonite clay and water Every. Single. Time I co-wash. (I mean, really, that’s a pain in the @ss!!!!)

      Thanks for listening. I’m signing off now. I apologize for my diarrhea of the mouth and lack of humor this time around. I’m just frustrated. Sigh.

    18. This is totally normal and a good thing to go through. You have to try new things. How many products and combos have I tried and on day 1 thought, "Wow!" and on day two it was beyond "Yuck!!!" Pushing the limits to find out how many steps you can combine and still get a result is still a good idea, even when it doesn't work out. Because life is telling you, "Hurry this up." And your hair is saying, "I like it this way."
      I'm not surprised the clay works best alone. It's pretty unique stuff and what is does is contrary to what conditioner does. But it was worth a try.
      I notice that for a lot of people, frustration is a necessary part of figuring out your hair. Frustration means you're growing and learning and solving problems.
      It's totally normal for hair to freak out when you try new things, too. Ideally we try one new thing at a time. I never, ever seem to be that methodical when it comes to my hair, though.

      Kinky Curly products are ***notorious*** for not getting along in mixtures and forming white globs. So that mixture probably needs to be mixed fresh every time.
      Eden BodyWorks’ All Natural Curl Defining Crème has some ingredients that tend to be problematic for low porosity hair and sometimes are picky about the weather too. On the Sally Beauty website - the reviews for the product also have some helpful application tips.,default,pd.html

      There are so many sanity-saving things to add to your life for wearing your hair in its natural curl pattern. Having a few favorite updos is one. Ones that you feel good about when you need to default to "hair up." For next-day hair, knowing a few tricks with satin-covered rollers (because you can sleep in them) can give you not only fun (heat-free) variation, but a predictable hairstyle when you need it. This is a nice tutorial, but I can't imagine actually getting any sleep in hard perm rods.

      I think people sometimes push so hard to get their hair right, it becomes another life stressor. Styling hair to look a predetermined way (like heat styling) is fairly easy - styling it to do it's own thing (and look how you want doing it) is hard! Your hair should bring you joy. If it's not - then put it up for a while or style it differently and give your mind a rest. We need vacations from our hair projects from time to time.

      Here's a thought on needing to sleep in conditioner regularly to have your hair feel moisturized: Have you tried using protein? Hydrolyzed protein in conditioners, that is. Heat-damaged hair is often more porous and porous hair often benefits a great deal from the hydration (moisture) and strength hair gains from hydrolyzed proteins. Depending on how wide your individual hairs are (fine/medium/coarse), you may be able to use protein regularly, or just occasionally.

      What about long coconut oil or babassu oil or sunflower oil treatments before washing? (Oil pre-wash treatments). Those aren't just for seriously porous hair, they add flexibility to any hair.
      Protein 101:
      Oil pre-wash treatments:

    19. PART ONE
      Oh, I’m just…I need to breathe.

      Thank you, once again, for such educated, thoughtful, and, as always, informative information.

      The updo’s are out of the question. I’ve never been able to successfully do them in the past – even when I straightened my hair. My hair is so thick – and even more so now that I’m wearing it curly –that I can barely gather it all evenly into a ponytail. The length isn’t the problem – it’s the fact that my hair is so damn thick, particularly at the roots…Nope. I’m “married” to the wash and go because as much as my hair can stand to improve, it actually looks best this way.

      I tried pre-pooing with coconut oil (no Bueno!), and perhaps the fact that I used coconut oil instead of another oil was the problem. It just seemed to make my hair more tangled and my texture felt even less smooth. So I just stopped doing them.

      I’m deathly afraid of proteins. There. I said it. After near-tragic run-ins with proteins in the past, I thankfully now know that I need to thoroughly condition following using protein, but, still.

      And I know my hair needs proteins to an extent. Still, I am scared of them.

      The last time I put a protein treatment on my hair was 2001. I’m not even kidding. From that point on, I just used straight moisturizing conditioner. And, still, what with all the silicones and very hot heat I applied to my hair, it grew to my tailbone. The fact that it didn’t snap like a twig, but rather accumulated such length is a testament to how strong my hair is…But the down side is that, although it didn’t break, I’m left with a ton of heat damage.
      So, I broke my “protein” strike last month by applying a Cherry Lola Treatment. (The one that I followed can be found here:

      OMG, it was like magic. I’m actually going to do it again, and then sleep with my hair in conditioner overnight.

      In the morning I’ll style with my ‘ol standbys, Knot Today and Curling Custard, applied separately, of course.

      I’m intrigued, though, by what you say about hydrolyzed proteins…which is in Eco Styler with Argan Oil. (That gel has been performing WONDERFULLY on my daughter’s wash and go’s. Oh MY GOD! I’m wondering if *I* might be able to use Eco Styler with Argan Oil on top of Knot Today, instead of the Curling Custard.

      But do you think that styling with Eco Styler with Argan Oil immediately following the Cherry Lola Treatment is a bad idea? Is that too much protein in one fell swoop?

      Like I said, I had been scared off by Eco Styler with Argan Oil because it is not on the “approved” products list for Maximum Hydration Method, which I’ve been a devotee of since February. It is really the only thing that has worked for me. (Tresemme Naturals Radiant Moisture, Knot Today, Bentonite Clay, and Curling Custard are all on the list.)

    20. PART TWO The strange thing is, my hair doesn’t fall in the super-coarse 4C category that the method was designed for, but, for whatever reason, it is the only thing that has improved my hair.

      But the sentiment that the grass is greener on the other side, coupled with the super-rigid list of what one can use (in accordance with the method), has almost compelled me to try other things…

      But nothing else has worked.

      So, from here on out, here’s what’s on tap: I’m going to do a Cherry Lola Caramel tonight, sleep in Tressemme, wake up and rinse, apply bentonite clay, rinse, and finally, style.

      From here on out, I will go back to “washing” with bentonite clay, either sleeping with conditioner overnight or leaving it in for at least 30 mins under my dryer, and will style with Knot Today and Curling Custard. I’m on the fence about trying the Eco with Argan.

      What do you think? Should I go there?

      This is what I think will continue to give me the best results…for now. Until my hair grows out. Frankly, I’m just going to have to hang in there until my hair grows out. Only then will things really change.

      There are endless combinations of products and pre-poos, and hot oil treatments, and proteins, and conditioners, and stylers….and, I’m just tired.

      I’m just going to limp along this way until my hair grows out. I’m done fighting.

    21. My hair is not a fan of coconut oil either. It does very well with sunflower oil, though. Different chemistry. Babassu is an interesting oil - it's kind of solid at room temp. like coconut oil, but it's much lighter.

      There is almost no protein in the Cherry Lola treatment that is hydrolyzed - maybe the yogurt has some itty-bitty amino acids. So it's not quite the same as store-bought protein treatments. But that's a good thing for you. What works is what works. Baking soda modifies the hair surface a little bit. The yogurt lowers the pH of the baking soda so it's not so high. Egg is great for hair - the cholesterol and other fats are hard to find elsewhere.

      With the oil treatments etc., there's always the "strand test" so you don't have to commit all your hair to a treatment. Just treat a 1 or 2 -inch wide strand with an oil treatment - or whatever other treatment. It's not quite the same, but you get a decent approximation of how it works.

      As for using the Eco Argan Oil gel and the Cherry Lola Treatment - might it be better to try changing only one thing at a time? "Change one thing at a time" is a good rule for sorting out the effects of different products and treatments. Too many changes muddies the waters. I know because I do that all the time. And then I have to backtrack and sort things out.

      Good luck! I hope you see the same great result and feel hopeful and positive.

    22. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Really, I truly mean it.

      I wholeheartedly admit that the primary sources of my frustration lie in the fact that a.) It took me nearly 39 years to get to know my natural hair texture, and b.) I am impatient by nature. I cringe when I think about how far I have until my natural hair can get as long as my heat damaged hair.

      Oh, well. I'm frustrated, but I'm not throwing in the towel. I'll get the hang of it eventually.

      I do have one question for you that, in my haste, I neglected to ask you about amodimethicone: I have watched several women on YouTube who demonstrate that they use Mixed Chicks Leave-In and clarify their hair, say, once a month or so, by using a sulfate shampoo. But in between those clarifying washes, these women -- get this -- co-wash their hair with regular conditioner. Not a cleansing conditioner, but straight up regular 'ol conditioner -- and a silicone-free one, at that. And sometimes I've seen women let that conditioner sit on their hair in an effort to enable the conditioner to provide moisture.

      Now, here's what I don't get: If the Mixed Chicks leave-in is already in their hair, doesn't that mean that anything else -- namely the conditioner those women are using -- is UNABLE to penetrate the hair shaft due to the amodimethicone?

      Put another way, if I were to put the Mixed Chicks Leave-in back on my hair, and then I rinse my hair thoroughly with warm/hot water a few days later...and then I put a silicone-free conditioner on my hair to sit overnight: That would be pointless, right?

      I just scratch my head every time I see women cowash or leave conditioner to sit on their hair when they already have a product on their hair which contains amodimethicone, or worse, dimethicone.

      Oh, and your "Change one thing at a time" advice is invaluable. I KNOW this, that's the thing, but somehow, I conveniently need to be reminded of this when my insatiable need to experiment strikes. Grrrr; lol

      Thanks, again.

    23. Amodimethicone is actually an odd silicone. It is an "amino-modified silicone." It will dissolve in water (when you're making a product), but it is not water-rinseable. It has a charge on it, whereas most silicones have no charge (they're non-polar). That means that Amodimethicone acts like conditioner, not so much like a silicone like dimethicone. What I mean by THAT is that conditioners form a micro-thin layer over your hair that doesn't rinse right off because their positive + charge bonds to hair's negative - charge. Amodimethicone does the same thing.

      That matters because the negative charges things like conditioner and Amodimethicone bond to are mostly cuticle edges and broken cuticles. Amodimethicone is not spreading over the hair like some silicones - it's searching for little damaged areas to bond to. Early on, that feature was used to market products - and it still is. Amodimethicone is not supposed to build up on top of itself - those spots are already taken.

      Bear in mind, a conditioner with Amodimethicone may be more softening than one without them because any oil or emollient added to a conditioner makes the end result softer.

      If a person was washing their hair 1x per week (co-wash) and clarifying once per month, that shouldn't be a huge amount of build-up.

      Amodimethicone will be present in a conditioner at 1-2%, so it's not sealing hair up like bathtub caulk - it's just a small component of the micro-thin conditioner film applied to the hair.

      Most hair conditioners *do not* penetrate the hair shaft - their carbon chains are too long (too big) so they mostly act at the hair surface anyhow. So that's not a problem. Unless every product a person used contained silicones, including heavy-handed application of silicone serums - then it becomes a challenge to get the hair wet.

      It's easy to over-think these things vs. trusting our own experience because so many hair routines out there are very prescriptive and work really well for some people.
      If a product works for somebody as long as they shampoo/clarify occasionally, that's a compromise that works for them. It's a practical compromise - it lets them keep a product they really like, and yet clarify to hit the "reset" button to avoid any wonky build-up.

    24. Ha! Look up "over-think" in the dictionary, and you'll find my photo staring back at you.

      Thank you, once again for providing clarity.

      But now, I'm kind of -- scared? Gun-shy? I'm not sure -- about whether use of bentonite clay every week is bad for my hair. I know it has a (somewhat) high Ph, and I made the switch to that clay after thinking that my baking soda/conditioner/water mixture (which I used to wash with) might be too damaging to my hair long term.

      I'm leaning *heavily* on bentonite clay now, as it works like nothing else...but I don't want to look up one day and realized that my hair has thinned -- or worse -- has broken off!

      Thank you, again

    25. Bentonite clay could have its pH modified by adding something mildly acidic - a little lemon juice, some aloe vera, hibiscus flower tea, a tiny pinch of vitamin C crystals. You don't want to go too acidic with clay or you completely change the interaction the clay particles are having with each other (and your hair). Just a little bit of acidity.

  49. First, my hair behaves like LP - all except the "it takes forever to dry". Assuming LP for the moment, what stylers would you suggest for us?

    1. Hello firebirdseeking,

      One sort of styler that often works well for low porosity hair is a product based on film-forming humectants. There is a list on a page of the blog (tab above) "Products by Category." More about them here:
      Those ingredients help hydrate hair without adding weight like creamy styling products or oils. A lot of those products mentioned are designed for curly hair, but will work for lots of hair textures.
      For low-porosity hair that needs extra flexibility and softness, a diluted leave-in conditioner helps too. Mix conditioner and distilled water (mostly water) in a spray bottle and apply as a spray, or apply the leave-in and then add more water.
      If you always feel like products sit on top of your hair, they may need to be diluted during application - applied to very wet hair (still dripping-wet) and then add a little more water. Then squeeze and scrunch out excess water.
      Good luck!

  50. Hey! What type of blow dryer do you suggest for low porosity? I use yellow bird but I'm interested in an ionic babybliss blow dryer. I use the blow dryer and diffuser to stretch out my curls. Since I have low porosity curls, are ionic blow dryers a bad idea since they will close up my cuticles even more? Thank you!!!

    1. I shall direct you to comments from one of the authors of "Beauty Brains" on the subject:
      And here:

  51. You are my new best friend! Finally somebody who understands low porosity hair! Every other site I've seen has minimal info on our hair type and maximum info on high porosity hair. This was excellent and comprehensive. I have many of these things and had to learn by trial and error and endless online searches. Hydrolyzed protein! Steam not just deep conditioning with heat! Brilliant!!! Avoid the apple cider vinegar washes.... embrace the light oils and steer clear of ones with the heavy & highly toted Shea Butter and Castor Oil. Oh my goodness how I've searched for this info online. THANKS! I'm a low porosity, very curly, only coily in the back 4A who's hair does not clump and is crazy DRY!!! It only stayed moisturized if I water/leave-in/oil then make 6 or 7 flat twists with it each night. Thanks for giving me hope! I just started trying bentonite and honey with olive oil last week and my hair felt so fresh & clean afterwards. Keep the advice coming!

  52. Hi WS! Thank you so much for all your precious information! It's very thorough! I would love your insight on a few questions that I have.

    1) Because low porosity hair has less binding sites available, does that mean that the cationic conditioning ingredients in conditioners / deep conditioning treatments that wouldn't bind will just be washed out during the last rinse instead of creating build-ups? So I am wondering, does it really matters in terms of build-ups if my conditioner contains cationic conditioning ingredients (if I rinse well)? Will it be more important to avoid them in leave-ins?

    2) Because it's already quite difficult to moisturise low-porosity hair, will the hot-oil treatment be counter-productive for hydration especially if we use coconut oil? The coconut oil will penetrate the hair shaft and prevent too much water to penetrate. But don't we need the water to get in? And if I use a non penetrating oil, will it not create some kind of film around the hair shaft?

    3) What do you think of co-washing low porosity hair? Is it ok to co-wash after a hot oil treatment or do you think its better to do a light shampoo to avoid build ups?

    Sorry for all my questions and thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hello Lolli via,
      1) Cationic conditioners won't bind in as many places to low porosity hair, though other ingredients in the product will soften hair. You can still have the feel of build-up in low porosity hair, depending on your perception and opinion of build-up, how you style your hair, and what is in the product you're using.
      2) Oil treatments can be helpful for lubrication, which is something lots of people need in their hair. Even coconut oil in low porosity hair can add softness and lubrication, though other oils will probably work well too. After a penetrating oil treatment (like coconut oil) is cleansed from the hair, water will get in to the hair, but in *porous* hair that soaks up more water than is good for it, that problem is reduced by using oils like coconut oil. Oil doesn't keep water out of the hair. It just slows it down.
      3) Some people do co-wash after an oil treatment, even a heavy one. Whether or not co-washing works for you after an oil treatment is truly something you have to try first. If you have slippery/silky hair or hair that looks oily, easily, then you probably need to use a shampoo after an oil treatment.

  53. Hey there, I've just discovered your blog and it's amazing!!! As a chemistry teacher I'm totally in my element (pun intended). I have 3a/ more 3b, low porosity, coloured hair and want to know why my curls are so dry frizzy and undefined? I've recently learnt to embrace my curls and wear it natural but there is so much (amazing) info on the blog I'm so completely overwhelmed with information!!! :(( would you be able to give me a rough plan/ starting point? I know every curly girl has their own needs according to their hair type but if you could help me in any way I'd really appreciate it! Thank you so much, neeks x

    1. Hello Anny Apple,

      Hooray for chemistry teachers! Have you heard the one about, "If you're not part of the solution - you're part of the precipitate." Young people just *love* great chemistry humor like that.

      A rough plan might look something like this.
      You need a cleanser. If you want to try the "co-washing" (conditioner-washing or "no-shampoo"), good products are As I Am Naturally Coconut Co-Wash, Suave Naturals (now Suave Essentials) V05 Herbal Escapes, DevaCurl No-Poo. You need to do some extra scalp massaging for co-washing because the cationic surfactants are not good de-greasers, nor very helpful at assisting in removing dead skin cells and excess sebum (dust, dirt, pollen, etc.) from your scalp.

      If you prefer shampoo - check out the "Product List By Category" page (tab at top of post) and scroll down to the "mild shampoo" list. There are products in a variety of price ranges and with different benefits. Some of the "sulfate free" shampoos feel drying to scalp and hair, or leave a bit of a tacky feeling. It's a deal-breaker if conditioner doesn't immediately improve the situation or if the tangles are unmanageable during washing. But a good plan if your hair feels dry is to chose a "moisturizing" shampoo or one formulated for color-treated hair.

      If your hair feels dry, you probably need to use an oil pre-wash treatment now and then. Good oils that penetrate hair for that process - but might not overwhelm your hair - are sunflower and babassu. Use only enough to add a little shine and weight - don't get greasy. You might do that every 2 weeks. And ALWAYS do that on the wash-day before coloring your hair. It will temporarily make your hair behave as though the porosity is similar at roots and ends and keep your hair protected.

      If you're using products with Hydrolyzed protein and getting dry hair - you might need to use protein less often. Or smaller proteins (Hydrolyzed silk, keratin, collagen). Some hair - coarse hair in particular - needs protein only infrequently. Color-treated hair has lost the water-repelling 18-MEA-containing "epicuticle" - so it has a lot more exposed negative charges for bonding with conditioners and proteins. That means on the one hand, your hair may benefit from protein more than non-colored hair. But it also means if your hair is coarse, it might grab a bit too much protein and feel dry and stiff.

      If you're not using any protein at all - you might really need some protein in your routine! A protein treatment every 1-2 weeks in that case (like Aphogee 2 Minute Reconstructor or Ion reconstructor or Ion Effective Care) should help with hydration and dryness.

      I'm planning a post really soon about applying conditioner to get the best hydration. After you apply conditioner, you need to add water to your hair. Cup your hands and scrunch water in, or splash it on, or dunk your hair in a cup of water. Then get to smoothing and scrunching it in until your hair feels extra flexible, slippery, and hyper-saturated. You'll be diluting the conditioner, so it's already partway rinsed. Then - don't rinse any more. Squeeze out the excess water and proceed as usual. This can make a huge difference in how your hair feels - without changing products. I usually rinse my scalp a little bit to keep the conditioner off.

      You need a good conditioner too! On the "Product List By Category" page, the first list is conditioners that have good "slip" detangle easily - they may work well. If you find that conditioners tend overwhelm your hair, scroll down to the list of conditioners for hair that tends to get build-up. Some of those may be less likely to be a problem. Those are categorized by how strongly the cationic conditioner bonds to the hair (the "lower build-up" ones don't necessarily contain cationic conditioners), and what the combinations of other ingredients might be predicted to do.
      Best wishes for happy hair and motivated students.

  54. Hello,
    I desperately need your help again! I have been natural for 2 years and still do not understand how my hair behave! Let me explain. I am so confused because I have natural low porosity and coarse (high density) hair. For me this is a complete paradox. I was urged to use lightweigh products for my low porosity but since I have high density hair, I was told to buy heavy products... You understand my confusion? I did notice today that with my smoothie and gel, my hair did not clump together when shingling my hair. My guess is that maybe the smoothie is to light.. Anyway, in order to pick the right product, could you please please give me your advice for my texture? I really do not know what to do now.

    Thank you in advance.

    Gaëlle (from France)

    1. Hello Gaelle,

      For low porosity hair, there is a difference between thick products that will help your high-density hair clump together and heavy products which are rich in oils and butters. Conditioners that are very slippery are good for detangling, but might not be good for your hair for styling.
      A thick product - a gel or leave-in conditioner should not be too thin or watery in your hands. It should feel like it is pulling your hairs together when you apply it.
      For leave-in conditioner, look for a product that is not watery - it should be somewhat thick, but not have oils or butters like shea butter in the first 5 or 6 ingredients on the package. Your hair might prefer gels that are not too watery as well. Not necessarily thick gels that can stand up on their own, but hair gel that has a little stickiness or grip to pull your hair together.
      I am not sure what product brands are available to you - this is just a general way to pick products to avoid ones that are too rich and heavy, but will still help your hair clump together.
      Best wishes, W

  55. Dear WS,
    This is great great great information. I just have to start from scratch as I use milk or smoothies (no wonder why my hair do not clump and why my twist outs are unravelling within a few hours) I have access to a broad range of products I think such as "Shea moisture", "As I am", "Giovanni", "curls", "cantu", "Darcy botanical", "Miss Jessie's",etc... I need now to pay attention to ingredients now for my styling. Thank you so much again. I was really confused.


    1. Hello WS,
      I just wanted to thank you. I am so grateful to you. Thanks to your advice, for the first time in 2 years, my hairs clumped together and all my kinks popped. The result is just great - I love it... Keep it up and thank you again for your precious knowledge. I thought I would never get happy to be wrong.


    2. I am so happy to hear you found some products that worked for you! Best wishes for many happy hair days in all weather! WS

  56. Hi, WS! Long time no speak, I know. I hope all is well with you and that you’re enjoying your summer…

    I’m proud to report that our family vacation went extremely well—and that I conducted two successful wash ‘n gos in the hotel room, and, most importantly, I’m a lot closer to finalizing my wash ‘n go routine in general.

    My routine is as follows: Co-wash and detangle with Aussie Moist, rinse, and finish with Eco Styler olive oil gel. That’s it. I’ve finally figured out that less is definitely more with me. Occasionally, after the Aussie Moist, I’ll also condition with Trader Joes’ Nourish Spa conditioner—which, gasp!—contains dimethicone. (Well, me likey, so I’m not quitting it; lol)

    But it has become abundantly clear to me that I need to clarify. While I’m sure my hair needs it, as I don’t want to risk ‘cone buildup, the bigger issue I see at this point is the yucky buildup on my scalp.

    So, I defer to you for my first question. I plan to clarify every four-six weeks or so, and I would like to know which option you think sounds best:

    #1 Simply shampoo with one of the many sulfate-free shampoos I have in my arsenal—they all contain Cocamidopropyl betaine, Olefin Sulfonate (C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate), Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, or Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate. My fave at the moment is TGIN’s Moisture Rich sulfate-free shampoo. Or…

    #2 Add a few sprinkles of pure baking soda to my Aussie Moist when I co-wash and detangle.
    Now, first, I have to give you some background on my love affair with baking soda as a clarifier: This used to be my jam for several years. I would add it to my sulfate-free shampoo once a month. (My hair was still chemical-free (aka no relaxer or perm), but I still flat-ironed the bejesus out of it.) Anyhoo, I loved it. I never did a ACV rinse afterward. Just went straight to conditioning, as I felt that that sufficiently closed the cuticles of my low porosity hair. Again, I did this for about five years with zero breakage or damage.

    A few months back, about five months after I stopped straightening my hair, I started following the Max Hydration Method, and step one of that method calls for co-washing with a mixture of sulfate-free conditioner and baking soda. Well, I loved that, too, as it did soften my hair and seemed to help with definition. The problem, I think, is that baking soda should not be used several times a week, which is what I was doing. I think that was overkill. So I stopped altogether.

    Like silicones, I feel like the natural hair community shuns baking soda. People either love it or abhor it.
    I’m kind of leaning toward option #2 because it saves me a step: instead of shampooing, rinsing, detangling, and conditioning…I would only have to co-wash/detangle with bs, rinse, and condition and move straight to styling with the gel.

    What do you think?

    1. Howdy! Good to hear from you. Glad the vacation went well and the hotel-hair-washing too.
      If the baking soda-in-conditioner worked for you in the past for scalpy issues and it still works now with no unpleasant effects, it sounds like a good option.
      Usually I issue all kinds of disclaimers for baking soda because it can be really damaging to some people's hair. But
      1) You've used it in the past with no problems and...
      2) You're adding it to conditioner. I have tested baking soda in water versus baking soda in conditioner on hair samples and baking soda in conditioner causes much less swelling and dehydrating in the hair. The conditioner acts as a buffer for the baking soda. Shampoo doesn't provide that buffer like conditioner does, the milder the shampoo, the better in that case because shampoo + baking soda = more dehydrating power. It also cleans a lot better though - for the same reason people sometimes put baking soda in the laundry for removing stains and odors.

      Sometimes for scalp build-up you really do need some shampoo, especially in summertime and for that, there's the "condition, wash, condition" solution to create some extra slip before shampooing your scalp so detangling goes more quickly.

      Usually, it's porous or damaged hair (chemically treated or heat-treated) hair that fares the worst with baking soda. But sometimes, porous or heat-styled or dyed hair is not bothered by baking soda. And sometimes low-porosity, "virgin" hair blows up like a pufferfish in baking soda solution. It's kind of predictable - but not entirely predictable.

      No real need to use vinegar after baking soda - once the baking soda is rinsed off, hair begins to return to normal.
      I hope the easiest option works for you!

    2. Oh, WS, reading your replies is—no joke—the adult equivalent opening up presents on Christmas morning. Again, THANK YOU.

      So, now I’m even more intrigued: Why, pray tell, is baking soda so damn bad for hair? And why, then, does it give my hair the results I want—such as softer hair with seemingly better definition?

      I know you said that you usually issue all sorts of disclaimers to your readers who inquire about baking soda, and at the risk of scaring the hell out of me, I want to hear it all.

      All I know is that the Ph is super high (9 or 10?), and I know that alone scares many people. I’m also wondering why, if *I* love it so much…why don’t I see more naturalistas singing its praises, too?

      When I’m ready to clarify again—which is about three weeks from now, I’ll try adding a few sprinkles to my Aussie Moist when I co-wash and detangle. And If I like the results, I’ll continue to do that every 1 to 2 months. I’m wondering whether the bottom will fall out one day, though.

      Basically, I’m asking you whether I’m playing Russian roulette, here.

    3. Sorry for the belated reply - so busy lately! Baking soda is generally more alkaline (high pH) than is considered chemically stable for hair. Above and below a certain pH range (about 4.5 to 7), hair is more vulnerable to swelling, taking up acids or bases in the low or high pH solutions, and accumulating damage.

      But not everybody's hair read that textbook. Baking soda tends to create a little bit of texture on the surface of hair and make hair act more conditioner-attracting instead of conditioner-repelling. That helps curls find their neighbors and find their shape better.

      If the hair is in a pH 8-ish baking soda solution, it may swell up. When it swells, the cuticles pop up. Imagine blowing a balloon halfway, sticking Post-it notes all over it so they lay flat, then blowing it up the rest of the way. The Post-it-note-"cuticles" would now be sticking out. In that condition, the cuticles break off easily. Broken cuticles = more-porous hair in the long run. As the cuticles pop up, that high-pH solution seeps in under the cuticles, taking out some tiny, hydrating amino acids and other water-conserving ingredients.

      The more porous or alkaline-sensitive hair is - especially heat-damaged or sun-damaged or chemically-treated hair - the more it will swell, the more baking soda solution it will soak up, the more it will be damaged and dehydrated and roughened. Some people's hair is not very sensitive to those ingredients and doesn't accumulate much damage through swelling - such as low porosity hair. Because you mix the baking soda with conditioner, you've effectively buffered it so it can't attack your hair too aggressively.

      Doing that every 1-2 months - I doubt the bottom will fall out. But if you had spent a lot of time in the sun (even under a hat - it still gets hot) or in the wind or using a different type of water (hard or soft) or had been using different products - you might get a different result on that occasion.
      Best wishes - W

  57. wondering where are concerns about raw shea butter coming from. i have tried some amazing products with organic raw shea butter in them. am currently using sheamoisture moisture retention shampoo with raw shea butter. it works great and my hair have never been so good before...

  58. Hello again WS,
    Again thank you for all your help. It is precious.
    I would like just to know how work leave-in conditioners. I mean do the ingredients enter the hair shaft? I thought they did not but I heard that some ingredients did reach the hair shaft. In this latter hypothesis, would it be a good solution to steam or apply indirect heat in order to open the cuticle for low porosity hair?
    Thank you so much.


    1. Hello Gaelle,
      Some ingredients including panthenol, Cetrimonium bromide, Cetrimonium chloride, amino acids, coconut oil, palm oil, babassu oil - can enter the hair shaft.
      If you'd like to try using steam to assist in this, it is a very worthwhile experiment. The ingredients like those listed in the previous sentence will work well whether or not they actually enter your hair shaft, they can provide hydration from the outside of the hair. If you use steam, it may help your hair be very well-hydrated as well as help the product have access under your cuticles. Best wishes -W

  59. Hey, I just started with sulfate-free shampoos and all the good stuff. I have type 1/2a, low porosity, fine but thick hair. As you can tell, it's really difficult for me to find a shampoo and conditioner that works well.

    I first bought the Shea Moisture JBCO and was really excited to try it out but it made my hair really dry and brittle. Soon after I discovered porosity and found that my hair is pretty low, protein sensitive. So I declared that it would be my clarifying shampoo because it removed buildup but didn't have sulfates.

    Today I bought the Manuka Honey Intensive Hydration shampoo, also SM. I tried it out today and while it was a little more moisturized, it still felt dry and crunchy. Is this normal? I didn't use a conditioner today... Am I overthinking this because this is what shampoos are supposed to do?

    Yesterday I did use a silicone conditioner and leave in without a sulfate shampoo to get them out, could that be why the Intensive Hydration wasn't working as well as I hoped? Does my hair have to be previously fully cleaned in order for me to accurately test new shampoos?

    I'm buying the matching hydration conditioner tomorrow to see how my hair feels with this specific line.

    Is this a good idea? I have no knowledge of other great shampoo brands other than SM, what others do you recommend, and if they are better than SM? Does SM not seem like the right brand for me? Should I try some light oils to moisturize as well? Would you consider SM a natural line? Any other tips/advice for my specific hair type care?

    Sorry I'm typing this all in a hurry so I don't have time to post the ingredients of the SM shampoos I've tried. You'll have to find them on their website (again, sorry) if needed. Thanks

    1. Hello Scott,
      It sounds like your hair could be reacting to the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey shampoo's Hydrolyzed rice protein, or the shea butter, or the Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. Protein can make coarse hair feel dry and brittle if over-used. Shea butter is a great ingredient - but in some people's hair it can feel a little waxy. Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride can cause a matted feel and dull look - and that doesn't sound like what you're describing.
      There is a tab at the top of the page with Products by Category. About half way down the page is a list of milder shampoos. That might be a good place to start. Shea Moisture Moisture Retention shampoo is protein-free and might be a better choice if Shea Moisture products are easiest to shop for. Giovanni shampoos are a good choice too.
      A bit of oil on the ends of your hair is a good idea to keep hair flexible and smooth. Argan oil, jojoba oil, and rice bran oil tend to work well for that.
      Shampoo should not leave your hair feeling crunchy, dry or stiff. It takes some looking, but a good shampoo should leave your scalp feeling clean but not dry or tight, and leave your hair feeling clean - not greasy, not stiff, not lightweight and fly-away nor limp and flat. Conditioners add a little extra weight, flexibility and lubrication to hair. If you follow the "20 second rule" and only rinse out your conditioner for about 20 seconds, a little bit will be left in your hair to keep it flexible and smooth.
      You need to read labels very carefully to avoid hydrolyzed proteins. Protein is great if you've been out in the sun a lot, swimming, out in the wind (hot or cold weather). Protein adds hydration and shine and bounce. But in low-porosity, coarse hair (even if it's slightly to moderately coarse) protein can cause that dry, crunchy feeling after a couple uses. Stick to protein as a once-in-a-while treatment.
      Good luck! WS

  60. What tips do you have for someone with straight, fine but thick, low porosity hair? Lol

  61. What's the best method for coloring LP hair? My hair is LP and protein sensitive. I've done my fair share of Henna/w indigo with tons of conditioner in the past which didn't work out; so I switched over to Miss Clairol "Semi" Permanent and my hair isn't in the best condition. I read on some site that a "semi" permanent dye can be more damaging than a permanent dye because you use them more frequently. I use a SP dye monthly and just noticed it has proteins in it, so it's like i'm putting a protein treatment in my hair monthly and that's just way too much for my hair. I'm scared to go permanent because of the harsh chemicals. I'm at a lost on what I should do. The dye is for covering my gray hairs btw,our thoughts. Thanks you so much in advance, you have been a true blessing to so many others on this site.

    1. Hello Kutia,
      Semi-permanent dye, hmm. If there isn't a protein-free color, it sounds to me like it might be better to use a permanent dye and do root touch-ups most of the time rather than have to color all your hair, every time. I don't know of any protein-free semi-permanent formulas, though "vegetable protein" might be more troublesome than keratin or soy protein, or even wheat protein. I think Shea Moisture hair color uses soy protein. Tints of Nature Semi-permanent and permanent color uses wheat protein. Madison Reed color uses keratin, which tends to be a smaller protein and agreeable with a broader range of hair protein-tolerances.

      Permanent dye needs to use a high pH ingredient like ammonia or ethanolamine to make your hair swell more so the color can be permanent. And the peroxide is more-concentrated. That's where the protein comes in handy, to help restore hydration.

      Herbatint permanent color is protein-free, but it does contain PPD, if you're sensitive to that, it would not be a good choice.

      Whichever you choose, you can help your hair along by using an oil treatment before the wash before coloring with a penetrating oil like coconut or avocado or olive or sunflower. That will help balance the porosity in your hair if the ends are a little bit porous and protect your hair during coloring a bit. Follow up coloring with a protein-free intense conditioner. When you are coloring your hair - it loses its water-repellant outer coating and becomes more water-attracting and oil and conditioner-attracting. So even if your hair still acts like low porosity hair, it needs more help to stay hydrated.
      When you condition (rinse-out) - add water and work the water in with the conditioner until your hair feels more flexible and slippery. That can help low-porosity hair achieve better hydration. Good luck! W

  62. Wow, WS, THANK YOU. Despite the fact that I had co-washed my hair with a touch of baking soda -- monthly -- for years, I think it's time for me to back away from the baking soda until somebody (read: my strands) gets hurt. My hair had been severely heat damaged for years -- I just didn't realize it until about a year ago when I stopped flat ironing my hair) -- so, in hindsight, I wonder how much damage -- if any -- the baking soda was doing to my hair. While I didn't have a lot of breakage, my hair still could have been damaged...

    This past spring, sadly, I think my hair indeed incurred damage from the baking soda because although I mixed the bs with conditioner, I was applying the mixture to my hair several times a week. I know now that it was overkill.

    So, here's my next question: I hear bentonite clay has a Ph that is near or equal to is that clay potentially damaging, too? I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the clay -- and I liked it when I used it for a short time back in the spring. The problem, I think, was that by the time I began using the clay, my hair had already incurred damage from the frequent bs-conditioner I stopped using the bs-conditioner mixture and clay immediately.

    I am looking to clarify my hair soon, and I'm thinking of applying the clay. (I want to make sure that the Aussie Moist hasn't cast a film over my hair.)

    I don't plan to begin using the clay regularly. Just 1 or 2x a year to clarify. And should I mix the clay with water or water + apple cider vinegar?

    Thank you!

    1. I just tested my bentonite clay in distilled water and the pH was around 8. That's a big high. I'm not sure if it's damaging, though - it's not a strong base. But if you work in clay with your hands for hours, they get very dry and papery-feeling. Outside our hair's ideal pH range, it is more vulnerable. You could adjust the pH of the clay with a few drops of vinegar. You can check the pH with pH test strips, which can be a bit difficult to read with clay on them, so test a few times. You want the end product around pH 6. Good luck! W

  63. Can I do a hydration spray by mixing water and jessicurl aloeba daily conditioner? Thank you!

    1. Give it a try! Keep it refrigerated for the longest shelf life.

  64. Hi WS!
    First of all, I just want to say that I truly love your blog! It is exceptionally well written and I appreciate the effort you put into putting together highly informative posts backed by extensive scientific research.
    That being said, I am in need of serious help. I have hair that is EXTREMELY low in porosity and also very fine, predominantly 4c with some 4b thrown in the back. I have tried everything. It doesn't get wet. It doesn't accept moisture. I can sit under the shower stream for an hour and a half and come out with it looking sandy brown and sad. It dries in two seconds because water has simply beaded up on my hair and not entered the hair shaft. I have done enough trial and error at this point to deduce that porosity( or lack thereof) is indeed the cause of this pretty much perennial dryness. I have a couple of questions to ask you with the the hopes that your responses will help me figure out where to go from here!
    - I remember one time I got a roller set done after the hairstylist used a sulfate shampoo. I sat under a hair dryer and after taking out the rollers my hair was extremely soft and hydrated and stayed that way for 5 days( this is how I know that my hair is definitely low porosity). Could the sulfate shampoo have contributed to the increased hydration? And/or could roller setting and sitting under a hooded dryer possibly help with the absorption of product? I have a theory that when I use really small sections of hair and expose them to direct heat from a hooded dryer, my hair actually absorbs products well because each hair strand has direct access to heat for a long period of time( which is why blow drying works for my hair too I believe) thus the cuticles per strand are more likely to open than say if I had my hair in 4 large twists under a dryer.

    I performed an experiment. I created the same deep conditioner with 2 tablespoons of Baking Soda to 4oz of conditioner, and two capfuls of Green Beauty's hydrolyzed wheat protein. I DC'ed at the gym sitting in the sauna for 20 minutes and then performed the same treatment at home 2 weeks late under a soft hooded dryer for an hour. It worked incredibly at the gym, my hair was dark, weighed down, and strong( this was the first deep conditioner that actually penetrated my hair.) When I replicated the DC at home under the soft hood dryer( blow dryer setting on medium) for an hour, it didn't work( hair was sandy brown, water particles beaded on it, super shrunken, le sigh).
    I'm guessing I need both high pH and high heat DC to penetrate. Between a blow dryer( soft bonnet attachment) or salon style hooded dryer, which replicates sauna heat best?

    - Do you think I could add bentonite clay, castille soap or alkaline water to my conditioners instead of BS( hair felt strange albeit moisturized) and that would possibly increase pH and lift the cuticles of my hair? Could I add hydrolyzed wheat protein to bentonite clay/conditioner mix, or to bentonite clay alone? ( I use Green Beauty Hydrolyzed protein, my hair LOVED it the one time it was actually able to penetrate.)
    I know that mixing conditioner and shampoo is not advised because they have opposite charges which could create a coating that is really difficult to remove from hair, would conditioner and castille soap, or conditioner and bentonite clay have the same result?

    -What are the risks of using heat frequently to aid with hydration in my hair? Is this counter-productive as heat effectively zaps moisture out of the hair?
    I'm debating whether it's worth it to keep experimenting with the pH of products, or just say bye to the concept of deep conditioning and blow dry my hair after every wash( which always results in open cuticles for about two days and allows me to add products that penetrate the hair) and hydrate it after blow drying ( thus essentially making the purpose of my wash day to clean my hair only and not to hydrate it)

    I am sorry that this is so long, but I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and look forward to your response. Thanks! :)

    1. Hello Gaone,

      "Sulfate" shampoos tend to make hair swell up during washing - temporary porosity. While that can cause frizz and dehydration - if the stylist followed up with a good conditioner and a setting lotion or foam (do you remember what was used?), and smoothed your hair into a roller set - it might have felt more moisturized due to the shampoo. But I have to scratch my head a little too (yep, a hair pun - why not) - because often people say that sulfate shampoos make hair feel dehydrated. So I wonder if perhaps it was a chelating shampoo (if you have hard water - those can help with "hard water stiffness") or if she used a setting lotion that was just about perfect for your hair - I have experienced that with some setting lotions.

      How long has it been since you had this done? Can you quiz the stylist about what she used? There might be a simple answer.

      For a sauna - if it's a "wet sauna" - then you might replicate it best with a hood-type steamer.

      For an alkaline additive, castile soap tends to be even more aggressive than baking soda. I know some people love soap bars for hair - at least those have extra oils in them - but soap leaves sticky "soam scum" on hair in hard water.

      Bentonite clay has a pH of about 8 when mixed with distilled water. It also leaves hair with a bit of texture to help hairs "grip" each other for curl definition.I have read mixed reviews for mixing clay and conditioner - it works well for some people, but not for others.

      Mixing a little baking soda with conditioner or, better yet, yogurt creates a buffer for hair. I've tested people's hair in both of these mixes. The yogurt is the better "buffer" because the acid in yogurt also lowers the pH in the baking soda.

      If you're using heat below 120°F, you're unlikely to cause much damage to your hair. Even up to 150°F isn't so bad as long as you're using moisturizing products. Wheat protein acts as a heat protectant - so that's helpful. You have to balance this out for yourself. :) If you take extra care of your hair - using leave-in conditioner and oil for lubrication and heat protection, make sure you use protein for hydration, and don't use a lot of tension in blow-drying, your hair may be able to handle heat fairly well. You'll run into problems if you use heat that is too high, and if you don't give your hair enough hydration and lubrication to stay flexible and strong.

      If you know you're going to use heat, you can care for your hair as "heat-treated hair" to prevent dehydration. Heat does help hair take up conditioners - but it also pulls out more water than might otherwise be pulled out. Some ingredients like proteins and humectants can reduce excess water loss from heat-styled hair, those are useful for heat-dried hair.
      I hope that helps! W

  65. When you say castile or black soap can make the hair porous, does that still apply when you add a ph balancer like aloe vera or acv?

    1. Hello Fret fire,

      You'd need to test the pH. If you can add enough aloe or vinegar to get the pH to 6 or 7, there is less risk for the temporarily increased porosity from castile soap.

      If you're diluting the castile soap with water and adding ACV or aloe to that mixture, you should be able to use pH test strips and get a fairly accurate reading. Best wishes! W

  66. Thank you for being so helpful to all of us out here. I have spent a tremendous amount of time reading your blog and other people's questions and your response. I have not seen a question yet with my particular problem. I would greatly your knowledge and expertise.
    I color and highlight my hair and have for a very long time. About 4 months ago I noticed my hair was getting very dry and TANGLED! I changed all products and eventually felt this was due to the alcohol in my hair spray and hair gel. I now loose A LOT of hair when I shampoo and condition. It seems to be full length strands of hair. After conditioning, my hair feels dry and "rough". I can't get a comb through it without pulling my hair out. Here is a clear list of what I have done so far.

    *I reduced washing/condition to 2 times a week.
    *I applied Olaplex once so far followed with wash/condition.
    *Got an ionic hair dryer and only use 1-2 times a week atmost.
    *Apply Malibu Hair Repair after wash/conditon with cap and medium low heat for 20 minutes (which thus far is my best thing to do to get a comb through my hair).
    *Purchased a WIDE tooth comb and use while rinsing conditoner out of my hair starting at the bottom and working my way to the roots.
    *Got a full blood workup of other issues which may lead to dry hair or hair loss which all looks normal.
    *Placed a couple strands of clean hair in room temperature water and it absolutely floats.....forever! By the way, I have mildly wavy hair more so at the nape of my neck. And as a side note, the hair loss seems to be more of the medium brown color verses the real dark brown or bleached hair.
    *I purchased alcohol free hair gel and spray and only use them when I need to "style" my hair.
    *I talked to my hairdresser and we are going to alternate the color and bleaching every other time.
    I had the MOST hair loss after using the Deva Curl low-poo shampoo followed by the Deva Curl Heaven conditoner. My hair was so dry, rough and tangled. At this piont, I have lost about 35% or more of my hair.
    *My hair is feeling softer but my hair is always falling out, especially when I put it under water or when rinsing the conditioner. (I am using Malibu's wellness shampoo and conditioner for hard water since we are on well water and also have an in home water softener.)
    I can't seem to find a GREAT leave in detangler that allows a wide tooth comb to float through as I always have been able to do.

    I am hopeful you can help me! I would be forever grateful. You seem to be the only one that understands hair chemistry and porosity.
    Thank you so very much for your time!

    1. Suzanne,
      The best way to do the porosity test is to dunk the hairs quickly to get them wet - then watch the result.
      It sounds to me like your hair is over-processed. There may have been something in highlighting that wasn't right, or in your water and activities that didn't line up right at a particular time.
      The Malibu product has protein, flax, humectants and some good, slippery conditioners and that seems like the right direction to go.
      You probably need to do an oil treatment before washing some wash days. I'd suggest sunflower or avocado oil, and leave it on for at least 4 hours - better 6 or 8. See if that helps.
      Keep using the Malibu conditioner, or look for a conditioner with protein to use. Check out the "Products by Ingredient Category" tab to help you find those. If your hair is over-processed, a little protein should help keep it strong. Maybe not every wash day, though. See how your hair responds. If protein makes it feel stronger and more flexible, that's a good result. If you use it again the next wash day and it feels worse, then that's too often to use protein.
      Also, on that same page of products, choose your conditioners from the top list for hair that needs a conditioner with a lot of slip - or choose one with ingredients like those listed.

      Use a leave-in conditioner under your gel for flexibility - preferable one with some good humectants.

      Look up on YouTube "Squish To Condish" for applying conditioner. This technique should help a lot. Don't spend too long rinsing out your conditioner. No more than 15 or 20 seconds!

      All those things should help. If not, keep in touch! W

  67. Thank you for taking the time to help me! I have not tried the oil treatment before wash but I will take your recommendation. I use the Malibu leave in conditioner but it does not make my hair have that "slip". Do you have a specific leave-in that you recommend? I just watched the video you recommended and will implement that technique.
    Again, I thank you so much for your expertise and time!

    1. I don't have a favorite leave in conditioner, but you might look for a leave-in conditioner which contains one of these ingredients: Behentrimonium methosulfate or Behentrimonium chloride, Cetyl alcohol or Cetearyl alcohol. Those should have the slip you're looking for.
      It is possible to use a rinse-out conditioner as a leave-in conditioner as long as you dilute it before using it, or once it's in your hair. Some ingredients in rinse-out conditioners are not meant to be left on the hair/near the skin. Diluting them may make those ingredients more tolerable. Good luck! W

  68. Wow this was such a good and informative posts. I have been searching for what has been going on with my hair especially the ends this seems to explain my exactly entire situation down to a T and why retaining length for me has been sort of troublesome especially around armpit length. I didnt even know that hair can get more porous around that length or that it could. I have always had thick hair but it always had a rough, dry feeling at the ends for quite a while while the rest of my hair wouldn't really have any problems. I didnt want to feel them anymore and decided to cut a bit off. I just did not think it was healthy hair but the moment i let them go, moisturized with water, cream and sealed my hair with castor oil it felt alive i have never felt my hair feel that smooth before. I always trimmed my ends frequently i guess i just never wet above the damage of the dry rough hair thus always making me to cut my my hair so soon again. I am so glad i found this and with my new ends i am going to try these methods. Thank you so much for taking the time to share, I hope your methods can help.

  69. Hi there. Your blog is amazing... Ive struggled with moisturizing my hair for literally my entire life and have been wearing it almost bald for the last two years bc I was well.. over it, but I've started getting nostalgic and think I'm ready to grow it out. Many hours of blog searching later, I believe my hair is low porosity and I did about 4 days worth of the max hydration method (protein treatment, baking soda + olive oil + honey clarifier, and honey + olive oil + honey clay mask) spread out over a few weeks. My hair is definitely the most moisturized its ever been but still less defined than I would like... I dumped the baking soda mixture after finding your blog and the clay mask is definitely the most impressive part of the regimen for me. My curls are POPPED and super tight and defined, no frizz or flyaways..

    I'm trying to find out if there is a way I could use the bentonite clay almost as a product instead of as a rinse-out treatment instead, but I can't find if that would be so drying it would be damaging. As is, the mask dries white on my hair, so I was considering if I could essentially dilute the mask with water enough that it wouldn't dry with white residue all over my head. Would this potentially undermine any moisturizing I've been able to obtain? Is there any ratio you'd suggest or honestly, just thoughts on this?

    I make all of my own beauty products and am really only interested in things I can make myself (water, honey, bananas, plant oils, clays, charcoal etc) - I will admit that until I find alternatives, I am using kinky curly leave-in conditioner (diluted with water) and the custard.

    Given this, could you recommend a DIY, natural regimen? What could serve as a replacement clarifier/shampoo instead of the baking soda mixture?... Also, a conditioner? I'm thinking right now to try to use honey and water as a conditioner, and then the diluted clay mask as a leave-in product... Thoughts on this? What about potentially adding a grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil with water spray in after the clay mixture starts to dry.

    Sorry that this became a little bit of a ramble. THANK YOU for this project.

    1. Hello,
      I have put bentonite clay in homemade flaxseed gel. It was a very small amount, maybe 1/8 teaspoon clay per cup of gel - and it's easier to mix clay in water or something liquid than a viscous product like flax gel. It gave very nice definition. It might go into a leave-in conditioner too, but the amount needs to be small or hair will look dull.
      Clay isn't necessarily drying. The pH of different clays varies, I think rhassoul is more neutral, but I don't have any to test. Many people put oils in their rinse-out clay treatments to keep scalp and hair feeling good. I know one person who made a gel with xanthan gum and herbs (herbs strained out before thickening with xanthan) and clay and oils as a cleanser/treatment.
      A clay "wash" can serve as a cleanser if it works well enough for your scalp as well as your hair.

      For "edible things only" conditioners, oils can lubricate and add flexibility, and honey-water rinses help soften hair and hydrate. Banana can also hydrate. Something one tends to miss when going without commercial type conditioners is the weight and softness they give hair. So if you don't mind keeping a commercial product in your routine - conditioner is a good one for a compromise.

      Because oil and water don't mix, they don't make a very good spray together. Misting the hair with water or water and aloe and applying the oil directly might be more effective. If you have an emulsifier in there like condiitoner, it helps the oils stay mixed in a spray. Gums like xanthan gum help oils stay suspended - but then you tend to get a stream from a spray bottle, not a mist.

      Good luck! W

  70. Hi there. Your blog is amazing... Ive struggled with moisturizing my hair for literally my entire life and have been wearing it almost bald for the last two years bc I was well.. over it, but I've started getting nostalgic and think I'm ready to grow it out. Many hours of blog searching later, I believe my hair is low porosity and I did about 4 days worth of the max hydration method (protein treatment, baking soda + olive oil + honey clarifier, and honey + olive oil + honey clay mask) spread out over a few weeks. My hair is definitely the most moisturized its ever been but still less defined than I would like... I dumped the baking soda mixture after finding your blog and the clay mask is definitely the most impressive part of the regimen for me. My curls are POPPED and super tight and defined, no frizz or flyaways..

    I'm trying to find out if there is a way I could use the bentonite clay almost as a product instead of as a rinse-out treatment instead, but I can't find if that would be so drying it would be damaging. As is, the mask dries white on my hair, so I was considering if I could essentially dilute the mask with water enough that it wouldn't dry with white residue all over my head. Would this potentially undermine any moisturizing I've been able to obtain? Is there any ratio you'd suggest or honestly, just thoughts on this?

    I make all of my own beauty products and am really only interested in things I can make myself (water, honey, bananas, plant oils, clays, charcoal etc) - I will admit that until I find alternatives, I am using kinky curly leave-in conditioner (diluted with water) and the custard.

    Given this, could you recommend a DIY, natural regimen? What could serve as a replacement clarifier/shampoo instead of the baking soda mixture?... Also, a conditioner? I'm thinking right now to try to use honey and water as a conditioner, and then the diluted clay mask as a leave-in product... Thoughts on this? What about potentially adding a grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil with water spray in after the clay mixture starts to dry.

    Sorry that this became a little bit of a ramble. THANK YOU for this project.

  71. Hi!

    I believe my hair to be of low porosity, and adding diluted Terressentials Hair Wash to my regimen has worked wonders. My hair is clearly hydrated and doing well - it's even retaining its curl after it dries! Thing is, I'm curious as to the science behind bentonite clay. In this post you discuss how alkaline solutions may be injurious to hair - but isn't that what Terressentials is (or, bentonite clay in general)? An alkaline solution, that causes the hair to swell, thereby allowing moisture into hair. So if it IS an alkaline solution, do I need to worry about using it and perhaps damaging my hair in the same way people who use baking soda solutions do? If it's *not* an alkaline solution, do you think you could tell me how exactly bentonite clay works to help bring out the tiny curls in my natural ("4c"-ish) hair AND allows them to stay after the hair is dried, please? Thank you!

    1. Hello Selah,

      Bentonite clay mixed with water has a high-ish pH, I think around 8. It's not a strong base (alkali) - it won't burn skin, for example - like bleach or lye can, which are both strong bases. Baking soda isn't a strong base, but it's more active than bentonite clay, more aggressive. You can neutralize things like acids with baking soda, to get fizz. You could put bentonite clay in water on your tongue and not feel any burn. But you would feel a burn with baking soda in water - and hair is the same. Bentonite clay just sort of sits there, at a higher-than-neutral pH, which is a pH at which your hair is more vulnerable to damage, but it's not the same as using a baking soda solution on hair.

      I doubt clay has the same swelling effect on hair. I've only looked at hair in clay under the microscope a couple times.

      My impression is that clay works by leaving behind a tiny bit of friction on the hair's surface that helps hairs grab on to their neighbors, pulling them into curls instead of those hairs doing their own thing. Dry clay is powdery-soft, so it's not any gritty or rough sort of friction. More like really soft flannel - just enough texture to create a little grip. Clay is used in volumizing powders for exactly that reason. It also may add a little bit of weight to hairs, and a little extra sculpting. There are some styling products out there which contain clays - though the ingredients don't say "clay" - they usually use the mineral name. Those are great for molding hair. Just the right amount of clay shapes a style.

      If your hair looks and feels good and stays looking and feeling good - it's probably very happy with the products you're using. Your hair knows what is best. It will show you if it has had enough of a product. As long as you pay close attention, you'll catch any signs of your hair showing you it's time to change things up. Good luck and best wishes! W

  72. Hey, thanks so much for your blog - I've been relying heavily on it and it's been so helpful. However. I have a question about allergies - I did a grapeseed oil pre-poo last night and this morning my neck and the back of my ears are covered in itchy red bumps. Has anyone else had or heard of this kind of reaction to grapeseed?

    1. Hello Adub,

      You might not so much be allergic to that oil as it may have caused irritation to your skin. My skin does the same thing when I leave oils on it too long. Better not to leave oils on your hair overnight!

  73. Hi, I wondered if you've ever heard of someone being allergic to an oil pre-poo. 2 weeks ago I did olive oil/sesame oil for 2 hours, washed it out, and the next day I woke up with a mild rash on the back of my neck. I thought it was related to something else so I didn't really think about it. But, a few days ago I did a grapeseed oil treatment, again 2 hours and then washed it out, and the next day I had a crazy red bumpy, scaly rash all over my neck, scalp and ears. It required a trip to the doctor to get it sorted out. I was pretty surprised and am not really sure what to think about it? I'm not allergic to olive oil or sesame oil, I use them all the time... and grapeseed oil is *supposed* to be so benign. Any thoughts you have about why a reaction could occur would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Adub, I replied to your other comment also. That sounds very much like Seborrheic dermatitis, which can be aggravated by oils on the skin.
      I have the same reaction as you have to oils. I only use oils on my hair during the day (and never under a hat!) and wash out the excess at night. I keep the oils away from my scalp and wear my hair tied up on those days so it doesn't contact my ears or neck.
      Sometimes you can use those oils on other parts of your body with no reaction, but not the scalp. Some times of the year the scalp and neck are more sensitive than others - it depends on what else is going on in your world and in your skin's world.
      Unfortunately for people with sensitive skin - even natural, simple products like oils can cause lots of problems. Good luck - I hope you can find a way to work with oil without irritating your skin! W

  74. Hello WS,

    After a lot of reading and researching, I think my hair may be low porosity. I also think I have protein overload. I've tried everything from Aphogee 2 Step, no protein, etc. and nothing is working. At the end of wash day my hair feels like Brillo. I've been using protein throughout my transition (even my daily moisturizer has silk protein) and I think it's too much.

    My question to you is: what do you think of steaming hair with a Kiss Hooded Steamer for 20 minutes weekly? Any side effects of steaming?

    Also, what do you think of adding a moisturizing shampoo to hair (spray with water), let sit for 20 minutes and then detangle before shampooing? I detangle before shampooing because it will just get worst throughout wash day if I don't.

    What do you think about using The Mane Choice Shampoo (Biotin and Silk Amino Acids) and Restorative Mask (Silk Amino Acids and Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein) as my only source of protein for the month?

    Lastly, is Jane Carter Detox Shampoo able to remove silicones?

    As always, thank you so much for responding. It means so much to me.

    1. Hello,
      If you are using coconut oil, that can cause a dry/brittle feeling similar to having used too much protein - but for a completely different reason. It's not common to have that reaction to coconut oil - but its not uncommon either. So that's something to keep in the back of your mind while dealing with the protein schedule.
      Aloe can do that too, but I'm not sure it's quite as intense an effect as coconut oil can be.

      Hard water also can make hair feel dry and less flexible that is ideal.

      Steamers are great if you have the space and time to use them. For deep conditioning or after applying styling products - the steamy heat gets hair extra well hydrated. Too much time steaming could potentially weaken hair, but any time hair is wet (or hot) for too long, damage is a possibility.

      The Mane Choice products you mentioned seem to be a good, cautious approach to using protein once per month.

      The Jane Carter Detox shampoo looks like it should remove silicones - it has anionic surfactants in it.
      Best wishes! W

  75. Hello I was wondering how you felt about the "Green Beauty" products for low porosity hair, in particular the" REAL Protein" treatment item.Also, I don't know for sure if I'm truly low porosity because I did the Strand in the water test, and it floated but also I'm currently transitioning from parts of my hair being relaxed and the other parts virgin,so I'm confused as to if I put product in my hair and there's too much protein does that mean that I'm porous?
    I can't do the other strand test because I'm currently in a protective style but I was just wondering what would be a good regimen for me not knowing my porosity for sure and how you felt about the green Beauty line of products

    1. Hello Crystal,
      It looks to me like Green Beauty is selling some repackaged raw ingredients, or combinations of raw ingredients. Their Real Protein treatment is a Hydrolyzed wheat protein additive. It's a lower molecular weight Hydrolyzed wheat protein, which is handy to avoid getting stiff hair and good for hydration. But you can buy the same sort of additive from,,, or in the protein/herbal additive "Neutral Protein Filler" found at Sally's Beauty. All of those are meant to be added to a conditioner or treatment or spray. Check the prices and shipping and see what you think.

      I think sticking to lower molecular weight proteins - low molecular weight wheat protein, silk, keratin is a good idea if you're not sure how well your hair handles protein and you have more and less porous areas in your hair.
      Best wishes, W

  76. How do you feel about a Rice Water Rinse on low porosity hair?

    1. Hello Crystal,

      I don't have much experience with "starchy water rinses." They should be a bit hydrating due to the starches and might add a little bit of weight. If you're making the rinse with boiled rice water (rice strained out) and then letting it ferment, all kinds of things are happening. The rice starch is changed by heating it with water, the starch grains get "fluffier," and then through fermentation, those starch molecules are broken down further into smaller bits. Maybe bits that are small enough to penetrate hair is the bacteria really get to work on it, and that would be even more hydrating. Naturally, there's some risk of disease-causing bacteria here, especially if jars and utensils are not sterilized in alcohol or in boiling water or with a bleach solution beforehand. Play it safe - always sterilize before fermenting. So I guess if you want to make the effort, it might be a very interesting experiment in natural hair care. Good luck if you do try it! W