Elasticity has been a way in which we gauge healthy hair and is most noted for attributing bounce and movement to the hair. Elasticity is determined by your hair’s ability to stretch and return to its natural state. Everyone’s hair stretches at different rates. Hair Finder says typically hair can stretch up 50% its size when wet and 20% when dry, as wet hair is more malleable compared to dry hair.
Your individual elasticity is based on many factors beginning with the density of each hair strand. If you have thick hair, you can expect a higher level of elasticity compared to fine hair.
Quick elasticity test
For a quick measure of your hair’s elasticity level, wet your hair and select four strands hair from four different sections of hair. Stretch each section and monitor to see if it breaks, stretches a bit, or stretches up to 50% and then returns to its original state.
-Low - If the hair has a hard time stretching or does not return to normal, it has a low level of elasticity.
-Normal - If it stretches a bit and then returns to its natural state then you have a normal elasticity level.
-High - High elasticity is characterized by stretching at or above 50% of its resting length and it then bouncing back to its normal state.
A look below the surface
Beneath the cuticle lie the two inner layers of the hair shaft. The intricate insides are the medulla, where color is determined, and the cortex, where the bulk of hair’s weight is attributed. These layers are made of hard protein (i.e. keratin) made up of long chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds containing water molecules interactions. According to Texas Collaborative, "The average composition of normal hair is composed of 45.2% carbon, 27.9% oxygen, 6.6% hydrogen, 15.1% nitrogen and 5.2a% sulphur.”
For this reason, it is important for hair to have a balance of strength and moisture (H2O) for healthy elasticity levels. The keratin is needed for the hair not to break when stretched, while the moisture is necessary for allowing the hair to mold, stretch, and return.
According to chemist Tonya McKay, “Hair elasticity is heavily dependent upon two key factors: 1) Hydrogen bonding between water molecules and keratin strands and 2) disulfide bonds between adjacent cysteine amino acid groups, both of which are dependent upon preservation of the protein structure and hydration of the cortex. The best approach to ensure excellent elasticity is to maintain an intact protein structure inside the cortex and an adequate level of hydration.”
Is it too late to improve your elasticity?
Healthy elasticity cannot exist when there is an imbalance caused by chemical damage, heat damage, harsh handling, excessive water contact (hygral fatigue), excessive dryness, or lack of care. Such treatment will leave the bonds vulnerable and weak. All bonds within the hair can contribute to your hair’s elasticity.
Knowing the inner elasticity is determined by the strength of the protein and amount of water molecules within the matrix of the hair shaft; hair must have a consistent supply of protein sustaining amino acids and hydration. Katrina Mallard, Veteran Salon Owner and Master Stylist sheds light on what is important, “When the cysteine bonds, also known as disulfide bonds are broken due to chemicals like relaxers, color, permanent waves, etc., the elasticity is stretched causing the hair to become fragile and break. Reconstructive treatments like Affirm Fiber guard, Dudley’s protein treatment, etc., are used to repair the damage. The length of time required for treatment follows this rule: However long it took for your hair to become damaged multiply that by two for correction.”
For excessive damage, a consultation with a hair care specialist may be in order. With the combination of systematic treatments using high performing products you can see improvements, which help maintain your hair. However, based on the damage, the hair may never return to its natural elasticity.
The best way to treat loss of elasticity is to prevent it. Shy away from excessive chemical treatments, limit heat, and UV exposure, sleep on a satin pillowcase, use a pre shampoo treatment, deep condition regularly, and handle with care.