By Jc of The Natural Haven

The word healthy hair is used quite widely and means different things to different people. For natural hair, this term can be more treacherous because properties often associated with healthy hair do not apply to normal healthy natural hair. Here are some examples

1. Healthy hair does not break  or split easily

Fine, kinky and curly hair has a tendency to break very easily. Scientifically taking a strand of hair and stretching it out to breaking point gives you the force at which the hair should typically break. However, during combing, kinky, curly hair tends to break before that force is reached because it is not just stretching it that matters but also whether it tangles against another strand or forms a knot.

Hair of African origin also has a tendency to break in quite a traumatic fashion. It fibrillates forming a rough edge that is perfect for starting and accelerating split ends.  Therefore, even when you are being very careful, if you snap a few strands of hair, you can end up with split ends.

It is difficult or even nearly impossible to be completely damage free.  It is indeed possible to greatly reduce breakage and ensure healthy hair. Natural hair will be able to resist combing damage provided it is understood that it is necessary to be gentle

2. Healthy hair is moisturized and not dry

Natural hair has a tendency to be dry. This is not because it is damaged but just a normal property associated with it. How often you moisturize your hair (using proteins, water, humectants and oils) affects how dry it feels. Sometimes dry hair can be an advantage, for example for straighter styles and roller sets. Other times some moisture helps , for example with flexibility during styling and handling.

3. Healthy hair has shine

This is simply not true for all hair. Shine is a function of how straight and how dark your hair is. For straight (and even natural straightened hair), having shine is a good indicator that the strands are relatively undamaged and can reflect light well. Some naturals refer to sheen instead of shine but for some hair, this would mean looking at an individual strand rather than the whole head. Having  highly textured hair reduces the reflection of light and therefore shine is not really a measure of hair health for those with this hair.

4. Healthy hair behaves in a predictable way (i.e not unruly)

Many people yearn for hair which has a set behaviour when wet or dry but curly hair is not in this category. It is more likely to change depending on humidity and hair products especially the quantity of oils and humectants (including honey, glycerin and aloe vera).

There is some predictability with natural hair, for example if you wet it, it will shrink/curl up or if you attempt to comb it dry, it will be less flexible than if you sprayed some water or applied a conditioner or oil. However unless you are lucky enough to be in a place with constant humidity, it remains that natural hair especially when left open will change. This does not mean your hair is damaged, just that it is responding to its environments and the products applied to it.

5. Healthy hair gains length easily

Many people equate hair growth with healthy hair and the more rapid the growth, the better the  care given to the hair. However,  while healthy hair should gain length, this does not necessarily have to be fast. If your hair is finer, kinkier and more prone to split ends, taking care to actively trim your hair will slow down the time it takes to reach a certain mark (shoulder, armpit, mid back etc). This does not mean your hair is less healthy or growing slowly, all it indicates is that your hair ends require more maintenance. The concern should arise if your hair is stagnant for a long period and you are not cutting or trimming it to that length.

Ladies, how do you define healthy hair? What does your hair look like in its healthiest state?

Written by SoVAiN Williams — March 30, 2012

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