One of the primary indicators of the health of your hair is its elasticity. Healthy hair has a high level of elasticity, which gives it body, bounce and curl formation. Elasticity makes it possible to style hair and also is responsible for curl retention. But what exactly does the term elasticity mean? We know it has to do with the stretchiness of our hair, and we know it is a desirable property, but it may not be entirely clear what it is.

Also, what contributes to elasticity of hair, and how can we maintain or improve the quality in our own locks? These are important questions, and as always, much insight can be gleaned by an examination of the fundamental principles as well as the molecular structures that make up the hair.

What Does Elasticity Mean?

Elasticity is a term used to describe how a material responds to the application and removal of a specific type of mechanical load (pulling and/or bending). When a stress (force per unit area) is applied to a material, it stretches a certain amount beyond is original length. This deformation is dependent upon the stiffness or rigidity of the material. The ratio of applied stress to the amount of deformation/elongation that occurs is called the elastic (or Young’s) modulus.

Rigid materials, such as iron, stretch very little with an applied force, while other materials, such as synthetic rubber, can stretch many times their original length without breaking. Dry hair can stretch to approximately 1.2 – 1.3 times its original length and still return to its dimensions, while wet hair is less rigid than dry hair and can stretch up to 1.5 times its length. Curly hair can stretch even than straight hair, as it is highly coiled in its relaxed state.

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Great article. I never thought to apply the P=F/A formula to hair. Makes total sense