Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Have you been noticing split ends, hair breakage or your curls won’t last when styling your hair lately? Your hair needs a little more loving as these are signs of low elasticity. Every stroke of the hair brush, combing out knots, lightening up those ends, creating waves with your curling iron or snatching into a ponytail is all causing damage to your hair’s elasticity. So, let’s get those precious locks on the mend.
What is hair elasticity?
The elasticity of a hair strand is measured by its strength and ability to be stretched and return back to its original shape and without any breakage.
Your hairs memory for its flexibility was determined before you were born by your genes. The middle layer of the hair shaft, the cortex is the inner strength of the hair strand that takes on the external activities you place on the hair that may affect the elasticity.
Healthy hair is considered to be in the high elasticity category as when a strand of hair is stretched it returns easily to its original shape. Hair strands that either break or don’t make it back to its original shape are classified as low elasticity levels and require a little more love.
What makes a hair stand healthy?
When you wash your hair and comb it when wet, you will notice your hair stretching capabilities, especially if you catch the comb on some knots!
It can sometimes be hard to get a true measurement of your hair’s elasticity properties, and your hair will go through different stages depending on what factors you are applying to it like chemicals and heated equipment.
As a general rule healthy hair has a strong cortex allowing it to stretch without breaking when styling hair into multiple shapes, it has body and creates movement with bouncy waves or curls. It springs back to its natural state easily from its high level of elasticity.
The size of the hair’s diameter affects the elasticity of the hair strand. The thinner the hair strand the less force the structure can take. If we look at the structure of a hair follicle, curlier hair types have a flatter more oval shape and they angle from the skin, resulting in the diameter to be less wide than straighter hair. Women with Afro style hair have the smallest diameter of a single hair strand and are more likely to develop breakage opposed to an Asian woman with shiny straight hair.
What causes a change in hair elasticity?
Hair strands that have breakage, split ends, heat or chemical damage don’t retain enough moisture in the hair to protect it. So, when you continue to put more pressure on the hair with physical force, temperature change or chemical reactions the elasticity reduces.
Natures elements effects on the hair
The sun we all worship in summer can play a part in decreasing hair elasticity as the heat can burn the hair and dry it out. Also, be mindful of the windy days, letting your hair get thrashed about in the elements. This can cause harmful knots that stretch the hair when brushing and can cause breakage or spilt ends.
Towel drying, combing and brushing wet hair
Hair is most fragile when it is wet, so we need to take extra care of it when it is in this state. The texture of a normal bath towel is often too course for fragile wet hair and also doesn’t absorb the water from the hair efficiently. Try and use a hair towel or hair turban to towel dry your hair after a shower. Be more delicate when combing or brushing wet hair, start in small sections from the ends and work your way up, if your hair knots easily try adding a leave in treatment spray as you work.
Heated styling tools cause damage to the hair
The constant high temperatures of heated styling tools like, blow dryers, curling irons, straightening irons, hot rollers and hot combs cause damaging effect on the hair.
Chemical Treatments increase porosity levels in the hair
Chemicals are designed to go into the cortex of the hair strand to either change the tone by colour lightening, changing the shape by perming to create curls and straightening with a relaxer. These chemical treatments increase the porosity of the hair due to loss of moisture which can decrease the elasticity. When you colour your hair and it is dry or damaged you may notice that the hair colour will develop quicker as it is trying to obtain more moisture. This will result in hair colour fading quickly as it doesn’t hold the moisture in the hair to lock in the colour like healthy hair does.
How to do a hair strand test for elasticity?
Its best to test the hair when it is wet. It is recommended to test your hair in different sections of your scalp as your hairs condition may vary due to styling methods or colour placement. As an example, you may only use the heating styling equipment at the front of your hair, or you might only get highlights at the top of your hairstyle. Try and take a stand from up to 4 different areas on your scalp to test for its elasticity.
Securely hold the hair strand on either end and begin stretching the hair in and out gently… fingers crossed the strands don’t break and return back to their original healthy shape.
Levels of Hair Elasticity
If your hair breaks or doesn’t return to its former state, you have low elasticity. This means your hair is lacking in balance of moisture and protein from damage to the hair.
If your hair doesn’t break while doing the test and only stretches a little before going back to its original state it means your hair has an average balance of moisture and protein. Your hair is pretty healthy but keep the protein and moisture up for optimum healthy hair.
If your hair can stretch out long and return to original state without breaking it is healthy hair.
How to Improve and Maintain Hair Elasticity
The hair requires sources of protein and hydration to get back to healthy strong hair.
Deep Moisture Based Conditioners - penetrate the cuticle and cortex to restore the layers with the moisture for balance to the hair’s elasticity.
Protein Treatments – go deep into the cortex and deposit the protein that’s required into the hair shaft for flexibility. Don’t overuse protein treatments or leave them on past the manufactures instructions as this can have a reverse effect.
Leave In-Treatments – are a lighter formula designed to coat the cuticle, protect the hair from styling and natures elements.
Use hot oil treatments to seal the cuticle.
Protect hair while sleeping with a silk pillowcase.
Reduce over using heated styling tools – either by reducing the heat temperature or try hairstyles that don’t require heated equipment.
Reduce chemical treatments – Change to balayage to reduce breakage as the style doesn’t require as many visits for maintenance, opt for only a few scattered highlights/lowlights to reduce the damage while its repairing, add in extensions for lighter pieces or rock those natural curls for a while.
Use wide tooth combs and detangling brushes to reduce breakage
Eat a well-balanced healthy diet with plenty of water and exercise regularly