With 2015 in full swing, many ladies are putting their best foot forward, and focusing on improving the health of their hair. I'm right there with ya. After tons of experimentation with hair color, the Max Hydration Method and more, I'm devoting 2015 to making my hair as healthy as possible. But what does healthy natural hair look like? You may have in mind smooth, silky, well-behaved curls that bounce and flow like a dream.
Get that image out of your head.
In truth, there are 4 keys or signs of healthy hair that have absolutely nothing to do with how well-mannered or frizz-free your curls are. Check out the 4 signs and what they mean below -- your hair may be in better shape than you think!
Shrinkage tends to be the thorn in many a naturalista's side. Shrinkage causes tangling. Shrinkage hides our true length. Shrinkage won't let us be great. But before you go on a tirade against shrinkage, know this: shrinkage is one of the best indicators of textured hair health. Although all of our hair will shrink at varying percentages (sometimes even on the same head, like me), the shrinkage, or spring factor means that the structure and integrity of your hair is still in tact. You may dislike your shrinkage, but consider the alternative -- limp stringy curls that have no character. Shrinkage doesn't sound so bad now, huh?
Get Your Shrink On
Hydrated hair shrinks. Step up your shrinkage factor by ensuring proper hydration via steaming (I love the Q-Redew), regular deep conditioning (these are some of my favorite deep conditioners), and sealing moisture into the hair.
In theory, you can "manufacture" shine for your hair by using an oil or serum. But before you go faking the funk, take a look at your hair on your next wash day. After cleansing and conditioning, take a curl or two and pat them dry with an old t-shirt (before applying any leave-ins or oils). How does the hair look? Sure, it might bee fuzzy (because you dried it without product) -- but how do the individual strands appear? Are they dull and drab, or on the shinier side of life? Hair that shines does so because light reflects off of the flat and compacted hair cuticle. Shiny hair tends to have a balanced or low porosity, and retains internal hydration better. When hair is dry or damaged (and the cuticles are lifted) hair will appear dull. Dull hair also results from product buildup, signifying that it's time to clarify. Either way, hair that is dull has a health problem or two.
Don't fake the shine funk with serums, get to the root of the problem. Apple cider vinegar rinses, low pH products (like these from ApHogee, Obia, and Bee Mine), and ceramide-rich oils will help boost your shine factor the right way.
Healthy hair is like a brand new scrunchie. You can stretch it as far as it will go, and it will bounce back into its original form. Hair that is not completely healthy will struggle with the stretch and springback--either stretching lifelessly or breaking. Elasticity and strength go hand-in-hand, as both are related to the integrity of the keratin within the hair. Hair that lacks elasticity is more prone to breakage, and has difficulty withstanding damage from manipulation. In generally healthy hair, you should be able to gently tug at a curl or two, and watch it spring back into place without breaking.
If your hair is suffering from a lack of elasticity, treatments that focus on elasticizing the hair via balancing protein and moisture are your best bet. ApHogee Keratin 2-Minute Reconstructor, Hydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioning Treatment, and ApHogee Texture Treatment are regulars in my haircare arsenal.
Of the 4 signs, fullness is the most difficult to measure. For starters, full hair will mean different things to different people--because we have varying textures, curl diameters, densities, and thicknesses. Also impacting the perceived fullness of our hair is the amount and type of curl products we use. Heavy-handed application or use of heavier products will have a condensing effect on the hair, giving you the impression that your hair is thinner. The best way to gauge the fullness of your hair is product-free and unmanipulated on wash day. By seeing your hair in its truly natural state, you will be able to focus on areas that seem thinner, or that have suffered breakage/damage of some sort. Or, you will truly be able to see how full and glorious your hair is -- and how you've seemingly cracked the code on caring for your hair properly!
Get a (re)Fill
Thickening treatments, shampoos, and sprays will only provide a temporary boost to your hair that will go down the drain on your next wash day. While you cannot thicken or increase the number of hairs on your head, you can work on making the best out of the hair you do have. Regular trims and shaping can help your hair appear thicker and fuller. With proper care and maintenance, full cuts can grow out to full, longer curls!