WOW your hair is so shiny, it must be “healthy”… um what? This is a common misconception that I was victim of myself in the past. Many naturals equate shine with “health” and with good reason, especially since many hair care manufactures and commercial advertisers bombard us with images of the perfect curl, with shine that would blind the sun, but shine has nothing to do with the condition of your hair. There are many factors to consider in factoring shine with natural hair. For instance dispelling a common myth, that other ethnicities strands have more of the shine factor than African Americans, yes, this is a myth! Typically African American hair is the shiniest due to the shape of the individual strand. On average our hair takes on an oval or elliptical shape while typically European’s strands form a less than perfect circle structure while Asians strands tend to form a round appearance.
So considering the elliptical shape alone our hair is the shiniest because objects that are flat can reflect light more prominently, so despite debunking this myth there many factors to regard in why natural hair may not appear to blind the sun. Stay with me as I explain why shine does not equate to “health” and the factors to consider in depicting “healthy” non-shining curls or dry in appearance from actual damaged hair.
*Technically the visible part of the hair is dead but the follicle part of the strand is “living” which is why I use healthy to describe the condition of the hair in a non-damaged state.
Flexibility: One of the key signs to “healthy” looking hair is Flexibility. From bouncing Shirley Temple curls, to an Angela Davis halo, to coarse thick strands, to the finest kinkiest curl, no matter what the texture, hair should have flexibility. If you are braiding, twisting or pulling your hair in some sort of style and your hair is breaking from a firm but not too tight resistance then you may need to reassess your hair care practices. For instance the density of my hair is dense but the individual strands are super fine, so fine, that separately my strands resemble baby hair but despite the finest, my strands can withstand a firm resistance (remember the root area of any style should never be too taunt or painful). If you notice a goose bump effect on the scalp from any style take out immediately, this is a key sign the style is too taunt)
Length of Shed Hair: The signs are in the shed. An easy way to see if your hair is not damaged is to take a look at the hair you normally shed. On average most of the hair you shed should be the same length as your current length or anagen phase (growth phase of 85% of your hair) which is a big sign your hair is shedding and not breaking, but also sense some strands are not the exact same length as every strand on your head, due to the telogen phase, which is the resting phase of 15% of your hair that lays dormant from 1-4 months. Once the dormant hair sheds due to the preceding hair pushed out from the new growth, the anagen phase begins and these hairs will obviously be shorter, and this is why no one’s strands are the exact same length, but remember 85% of your hair is in the anagen phase so the hair you shed should be same length as your current length with the white bulb attached which is another key sign of no breakage.
Porosity Factor Test: To find out the porosity of your hair KisforKinky.com has a great, quick and easy test where you take a strand of your hair (make sure your hair is clean of any product because if not, you will not reveal true results) and place it in a sink full of water (cold water is fine) or in my case I substituted the sink with a clear glass of water (Using a glass of water made the results of my porosity test easier to see). Normal to low porosity strands will float, but if your hair is of high porosity it will sink to the bottom of the glass from doubling over in its weight and becoming too heavy to float. (She also suggests leaving the strand in for about 5-8 minutes to see if it’s floating or not.)
*If you are testing your hair for the first time and finding out your strands are high porosity fear not here are three tips that may help you maintain high porosity strands. Click here –> “Maintaining High Porosity Strands”
Texture: All curls are created equal but when it comes to shine this is far from the truth. The fact is the texture of our hair has everything to do in the way our hair reflects light. When the strand is a uniformed curl, the shiner the hair because the fibers of the hair align in the same direction and guides (reflects) the light shining down on them in a consistent manner which makes the appearance of the hair shiner. Now when the strand is kinky curly rather than a uniformed curl, you guessed it, quite the opposite so instead of guiding the light in one direction, kinky curly hair disperses the light in many different directions causing less shiny hair.
Color: The darker the hair the easier light is contained and reflected back instead of dispersed in all directions while blonde or grey hair easily transmits or “soaks” the light through the hair rather than reflecting it back as darker hair does.