In order to understand Healthy Hair, we first need to define it!
What exactly is Healthy Hair?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t exist. In essence, all hair has damage to a certain extent; scrutinizing hair under a microscope will corroborate this. For one, hair is technically dead to begin with, thus “Healthy Hair” is only an assumption based on a visual assessment that’s aesthetically pleasing. Ideally, hair that resembles silky, glossy, frizz-free locks similar to that in the latest (CGI enhanced) hair commercials can be termed healthy. In the real world though, hair must meet two basic requirements in order to qualify as healthy in a practical sense. These are porosity and elasticity. Porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, whereas elasticity refers to its ability to stretch and return to its original form without breaking. There are two tests that can establish both porosity and elasticity.
Porosity Test: Grasp a tiny amount of hair (roughly 5 square millimeters) and hold the ends firmly between thumb and index finger of your left hand. Now, using your right thumb and index finger slowly run them down the hair strands from ends to roots. Ruffles indicate how porous the hair is. Less ruffles equal healthier hair and vice versa.
Elasticity Test: Grasping a single hair in the same manner as above stretch it as you would a rubber band. Hair with normal elasticity is springy and lively with a lustrous appearance. Normal dry hair has the ability to stretch 1/5 of its length. Whilst wet hair can stretch approximately 40 to 50 percent of its length. Porous hair is less elastic.
From these two tests you should have a rough idea concerning the health of your hair. To further explicate this subject it is essential to define damage. Damaged hair is dull with little or no sheen / dry / not uniformly shaped from root to ends / may have split ends / isn’t the same colour from roots to ends / isn’t gaining length and volume/ is visibly breaking.
How to repair damage
Are you sitting down? The only way to truly repair damaged hair is to cut it off. Everything else remains a temporary fix to maintain the current condition of the hair, and to create the illusion of healthier hair. Cue umpteen amounts of products. The correct hair care routine combined with the top notch (read professional) products can significantly improve the appearance and condition of your hair. Supermarket / Drugstore brand hair care ranges aren’t professional – even if it states this on the bottle, professional products are only available at selected salons and retailers. I estimate that nearly 70% of the population rely on non-professional brands, out of this percentage I have seen 5% of these people with semi-decent hair, and the reason for this is not a triumphant side effect of these products’ empty promises, and instead due to the fact that these clients have virgin* hair, limit heat styling and handle their hair with care, thus minimizing mechanical damage.
Hair damage is the result of a combination of factors. Anything has the potential to cause damage; however, it’s much easier to foresee hair being damaged from chemicals, than it is from the friction created by a Saturday shopping marathon in your favourite cotton Tee. There are 4 major stressors that are responsible for damage, these are; Chemical, Heat, Mechanical, and Environmental. In order to improve and maintain the condition of your hair, it’s imperative that you understand what you can and cannot do in terms of attaining and maintaining healthy hair. Case in point, if you don’t have the financial means to maintain your hair before and after a chemical service with the correct in-salon treatments, in addition to, Homecare products, I would advise against it. Heat Styling should be limited to once a week and a fantastic heat protector should ALWAYS accompany Heat Styling; various conditioning agents should be readily available to replenish thirsty heat styled locks. One can minimize mechanical damage by using the right tools and accessories, for example, a wide tooth comb on wet hair can cause much less damage than a regular comb. Non-damaging hair ties, limiting brushing to twice a day, using the correct hair brush and just being particularly gentle with your hair in general are all excellent ways of improving the general appearance of your mane. Environmental damage prevention tactics involve wearing a hat or swimming cap when necessary. Applying conditioner to your hair before taking a dip in the pool can greatly counteract damage before it leads to bigger problems. Hair products have come a long way, and using the right products at the right time can produce notable results.
Healthy hair, unfortunately, comes with a somewhat hefty price tag, and requires extra TLC. Hair cannot be repaired, only reconditioned on a temporary basis. Healthy hair is technically damaged hair, that’s been reconditioned to look and feel healthy; the only permanent solution involves cutting it off. Two requirements of healthy hair are good porosity and elasticity. Damaged hair is dry, breaks easily, lacks shine, doesn’t grow over a period of time and is inconsistent in colour / shape from roots to ends. Chemical, Heat, Mechanical and Environmental Damage are the primary causes of less than luscious locks.
*Virgin Hair is defined as hair that has never been chemically treated.