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Is Your Long Hair Healthy? 4 Tips To Know For Sure

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Length was one of your main goals when you decided to go natural and I know you’re so excited about finally receiving something tangible. But now that you’ve reached that milestone and you’re seeing some results, you want to make sure you stay on the right track. You don’t want to regress. So the next important milestone (which really should be first) is health because, yes, it is possible to have long and unhealthy hair.

You may think it would be evident to see if your hair is healthy or not, but in reality your hair can be unhealthy right now and you may not even know it. Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, in her book Hair Care Rehab: The Ultimate Hair Repair & Reconditioning Manual, says that “[Healthy hair is] damaged hair that is well-maintained.”

That’s a funny way to put it, but it’s true. With the climate changes, combs, brushes, clothing, pillowcases and our own hands posing a threat to our hair, it’s almost impossible for hair to avoid some type of abuse. Even our hair strands rubbing against each other can cause damage. And the longer your hair is alive, the more exposure to damage it can endure.

So the question then becomes: Are you well-maintaining your damaged hair? Here are some ways to test that:

1. Test while your hair is in it curliest state

Some naturals think the best way to see if your hair is healthy is by straightening it to see how it turns out. Well, that will only help best with determining whether you have split ends. A way to see if your hair is healthy is to see how well your hair bounces back after it’s pulled, so your hair should be in its fully natural state. When you pull a group of hair as far down as it can go, let go of it and see if it shrinks exactly back to where it originally was. If it doesn’t, that’s not a great sign.

2. Is your hair soft and manageable?

Hair becomes hard and brittle mainly due to a lack of moisture or protein. There are other factors that can tie into it as well (poor diet, etc.), but if your hair is noticeably dry and hard to manage, it is not in the best health. This is not a hard test to do as it only requires your fingers. Touch your hair. How soft is it?

3. The cup test

You’ve heard of the cup test. It’s a method that helps naturals discover their porosity level. Porosity is the ability for hair to absorb and keep in moisture. It’s either low, medium or high. Have you previously tested your hair’s porosity? Studies show that damaged hair becomes more porous (high porosity) because of its consistent exposure to heat, friction and/or improper care. The hair cuticles stay lifted (and in extreme cases are missing) and it becomes extremely hard to keep water in the hair. If your porosity level has changed, something has changed in your hair’s health. Additionally, there are times when hair is trying to take in moisture but just needs some assistance. These are typically issues naturals with low porosity levels experience. Their stubborn hair has that “no new friends” mentality and is very skeptical about who (or what) they let in. Heat can actually be a friend in this situation as heat allows the cuticle layer to relax and “open up.” Hot oil treatments, co-washing with hot water, and heating up mixtures can make a noticeable difference in your hair’s health. If your products are not getting into your hair, you could be literally letting your money go down the drain.

4. The stretch test

This may be the most accurate way to test hair’s health (it’s debatable though). This test measures elasticity. Our hair is very flexible. So flexible in fact, it should be able to stretch about 50 percent of its original length before it snaps. This puts hair to the ultimate test of durability. All of its years of exposure to harsh conditions will be put to work to see if it can withstand some pressure.

Hair is strong and can grow even while it’s damaged, but hair is like a rubber band. You know how a frail rubber band looks and how (incredibly) it can still hold things together and not disintegrate to the touch? Now try stretching that rubber band. As you begin to pull it, all the cuts and flaws in it are clearly visible and as soon as one of those weak spots give way, the rubber band snaps.

Hair is the same way. If the rubber band (or hair, it’s the same scenario) was fresh and “healthy” it could be stretched MUCH further. If your hair is not passing the stretch test, it’s time to adjust some things in your regimen.

How to bounce back to your healthiest damaged hair –

There’s only two words of advice to give here. Stay consistent. Hair loves consistency. Actually just about anything loves consistency because it is something to look forward to. You look forward to pay day, right? You probably know the exact hour and minute of the day you will get your expected money. Well, your hair expects you to come through for her, too. If she responded positively to a hair product, she will expect it again. And if she doesn’t get it, you’re accepting the risk or making her more fragile and prone to those same cuts and flaws of a rubber band. Don’t do that to her.

Healthy hair can be a bit tricky to nail down, but it’s not impossible, and it’s not too hard either. Now that you know that completely damage-free hair is a little fictional, you can stop pining over attaining it and manage your “damaged” hair to the best of your ability. Just know the difference between healthy “damaged” hair and damaged hair beyond the point of return.

Now get to work, sista. Elevate your hair game!

XOXO,
Sheridan

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Written by Sheridan C. Watkins

Sheridan C. Watkins is a vivacious naturalista that knows every woman is capable of achieving healthy, ankle-length hair! Her blog is all about cultivating hair to its full potential. As hair craves patience and commitment, Sheridan asks you to actually take a second and debate if you’ve made the right decision for your hair’s happiness and success.

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  1. I need to learn how to trim my hair. I don’t trust other people doing it because I feel like they’ll cut it all off . It’s very uneven. Any suggestions…

  2. Hey!

    I have very curly hair , it’s very damaged though. I have split ends , it’s dry & rough. My curls aren’t that damaged , like when I get my hair wet my curls look great but there’s some that are straight but curly at the ends. I also don’t know what products to use to make it healthy again & keep it that was. Please help

    • Najwa,

      It sounds like your trying to determine whether you hair is damaged or not.

      Take a look back what I said about the stretch test and testing to see if your curls bounce back to their original form.
      And has your hair always had curly AND straight ends? Or did it used to just be curly? A change in your curl pattern is a definite sign of unhealthy hair.

  3. I have what I believe is 4b/4c hair. My hair stretches to my shoulders and chin. My texture has changed immensely since I cut my relaxed ends last June. I self trim regularly and curls have gotten a lot looser but when my hair is dry it’s really dry and brittle. I know I have low porosity hair and I always deep condition with heat. I’ve read aloe vera juice and aloe vera gel can help with moisturizing low porosity hair. Do you have any recommendations? I keep my hair in protective styles because it’s hard to manage.

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