Image Source: @naturallycurly, of @jaycina
Whether you are new to the Curly Girl Method, or have fully transitioned your curls to their fine, fabulous natural state, you may be wondering the same thing: is my hair healthy? Many of the well-known internet-suggested indicators of hair health, e.g., long, shiny, and thick enough to thread it through a needle don’t necessarily apply to our waves, curls, and coils. Our hair expresses its health in some subtle and not so subtle ways. If you are cued into them, you will know if your regimen is working for you, or if it is doing you dirty. To get the low-down, answer the following questions about your hair and scalp.
Is your scalp free of breakouts and signs of irritation?
You cannot have healthy hair without a healthy scalp. This is where your hair follicles live and, ideally, thrive. Your scalp should be relatively free of flakes and inflammation of any kind, be pliable, and have a healthy tone to it which is several shades lighter than your face.
Any of the following should be evaluated by a doctor: scaling, excessive redness, hair loss, cysts, rashes, and folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles).
Is your hair a lot longer when wet than when dry?
Did you know that the shrinkage we experience is actually a sign of good hair health? It means that the hair strands are absorbing moisture properly. When hydrated, they spring back up into shape. When hair is overly dry and possibly damaged, it stays stretched and loses its curl pattern.
Does your hair feel soft and well hydrated at the end of the day?
While even curly hair that is in the best condition can feel a little dry sometimes, particularly when the air is dry as well, overall healthy hair should feel soft and moisturized. If it does not, consider misting your hair with a refresher spray when it needs a boost.
When you pull a strand of hair taut, does it spring back to shape?
A healthy hair strand can stretch to up to 30% before it breaks. This is a good indication of healthy elasticity. If the hair breaks easily, it is brittle, which can indicate damage or protein overload.
Is your hair growing at a normal rate?
This is a bit of a tricky question since the rate of hair growth does slow down at certain times of the year, and during hormonal shifts and this can be perfectly normal (like after giving birth). But if you notice that hair growth has stalled considerably and you are certain that you are not experiencing hair breakage from styling practices it might be a good idea to speak with your hairdresser, or your doctor if the lack of hair growth accompanies hair loss.
Does your hair pass the “pull test”?
This common test is used by doctors to determine if telogen effluvium or similar types of acute hair loss are occurring. To perform, grasp a section of hair about the size of a straw and pull. If more than 1-2 hairs are shed, see your doctor for an assessment.
If you are happy with your answers to the above questions, you still may be wondering about the biggest indicator of hair health: your true curl pattern. This may be a challenge to determine, particularly if you are transitioning slowly, and have not undergone a big chop. Some indicators that you are through transition include:
- Hair strands that curl at the ends.
- Hair appears slightly darker due to losing the frizz from heat damage.
- Curls that keep their shape if you put them up or into a ponytail for a short time.
What let you know your hair was healthy? Share your thoughts in the comments. For more signs of hair health click here.