WHAT IS ELASTICITY?
Elasticity refers to the hair’s normal tendency to stretch when pulled, just like an elastic band. There are 3 levels referred to where hair elasticity is concerned. LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH. The level of elasticity of the hair is determined by the state of the side bonds* of the your hair shaft.
If your hair is healthy, it will stretch up to 50% of its length without breaking when pulled, and when released will return to its normal length and shape. If your hair is not healthy or if it is damaged it will only stretch around 20% or less and maybe not even return to its original shape at all.
A good test for elasticity is to take a hair strand and hold it, between your thumb and forefingers of both hands over a background of white (so you can see it clearly). If you want to be precise, place a ruler under the hair and measure the length of the hair and distance stretched while testing. Pull the hair slowly but firmly, maintaining the same pressure. Do this a few times, and increase the distance of stretch each time. When the hair breaks, try again with a new strand and find the longest it will stretch and return to shape before breaking.
Do this same test from hair strands from 4 areas of your head: front, crown, side and back. You will find differences with each area and depending on those differences adjust your hair care routine to increase the elasticity of the areas which have the least amount of stretch.
IMPROVE YOUR HAIR’S ELASTICITY
- Get rid of those dry, split ends. Your hair’s cortex needs to be healthy and strong (not split) for hair to have good elasticity. Split ends will just break off with no elasticity. If you have low elasticity, check your ends first!
- Wash your hair thoroughly, removing any residue of product buildup. It is important that you clean your hair well for this routine. “No shampoo” will not suffice. You need shampoo.
- Use a protein conditioning product to nourish your hair’s cuticle. Even curly hair benefits from protein once in a while, especially when you are experiencing damage resulting in low elasticity.
- Use a creamy, rich, moisturizing conditioner as a last step after washing your hair, and leave on for at least 10 minutes or 30 minutes for a treatment.
- Style as usual, avoiding heat styling devices.
This can be repeated monthly or more often if you have real problems with damaged hair. I suggest using a creamy conditioner and steam-treating your hair every 2 weeks for an extra treat between washings. This will help maintain your hair’s moisture balance, reducing breakage and increasing your hair’s natural elasticity. In turn you will find your hair grows longer and thicker much faster (retains length) with less breakage.
Of course it is very important for your health and your hair to drink plenty of water every day. And I mean pure water, not Kool-Aid or soda or juices which are loaded with sugar. Try putting a cut lemon in with your water for some flavour but keep it simple and don’t add sugar or artificial flavourings.
If you follow the advice above, your hair’s elasticity will improve immediately and you will notice your styles will last a lot longer.
*Side bonds: Hair is made up of protein chains and these chains are held together by physical and chemical bonds. When we style the hair using, example, chemical relaxers, we permanently break the bonds called side bonds, effectively removing the coil from the hair to make it straight. Some things temporarily break the bonds, like non-damaging heat and even plain water, which is why you may get a coiled stretchy look to your hair when it is wet!