Understanding Hair Elasticity
by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams
Last month we discussed the porosity of hair, and now we will incorporate the importance of hair elasticity.
Porosity and elasticity are related. Hair elasticity measures the strength of the hair strand and the ability of it to stretch without breaking and to return to its natural state without any help. The elasticity of a hair strand depends on a healthy cortex. The cortex is located in the center of the hair strand, makes up most of the hair shaft and determines most of the physical properties of the hair. A hair shaft that has poor elasticity can break easily with grooming and manipulation.
So how does one lose the elasticity in their hair? Heat and chemical damage are the major culprits that contribute to the loss of hair elasticity. Heat damage includes heat appliances such as hot combs, flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers and even damage from the sun. The chemical villains include relaxers, perms, and hair color.
When chemicals are applied to the hair they completely alter the structure of the strand and increase its porosity, so a very strict conditioning routine must be in place to maintain the health of the strand. When heat is applied to the hair at high temperatures on a consistent basis, the affect it has on the hair strand is very similar to what a chemical does. The constant heat causes the temporary breaks in the bonds of the hair to become permanent, leaving straight dry ends that will no longer curl when water hits it. Cracks and breaks in the cuticle of the hair shaft create porous hair strands that are void of moisture and very susceptible to breakage when stretched.
It is difficult to restore the elasticity to the hair and based on the extent of the damage it may require completely cutting it off. Hair requires moisture (water) to maintain its elasticity. Women who have lost the elasticity in their hair strands because of heat or chemical application require a moisture based hair regimen that involves the consistent use of moisture based products and conditioners. I caution women who get addicted or stuck in a routine of using nothing but moisture. Those soft, supple strands feel really nice if the hair was once extremely dry and brittle, but without a solid structure, hair can also lose elasticity and still suffer from breakage.
So how do you maintain elasticity in your hair strands? The key is to balance the use of protein based conditioners and moisturizers. Therefore, if your hair is dull, weak and stretches excessively when wet, you need to incorporate more protein-based conditioners into your hair regimen. This type of hair strand is a sign you over-moisturized your hair (yes, there is such a thing). If your hair strand is dry and brittle this is a sign you need to incorporate more moisture based products into your hair care regimen. Once you determine the unique needs of your hair and maintain the proper balance of protein and moisture with your products, you will be able to sustain the elasticity of your hair.
Dr. Kari is a Trichologist and Owner of Mahogany Hair Revolution in Los Angeles, CA
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