The Healthy-Hair Checklist For Curly Girls

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
By Christina Patrice

With the first quarter of 2015 coming to a close, many ladies are putting their best foot forward and focusing on improving the health of their hair. I'm right there with ya. After tons of experimentation with hair color, the Max Hydration Method, and more, I'm devoting serious effort to making my hair as healthy as possible. But, what does healthy natural hair look like? If you're envisioning smooth, silky, well-behaved curls that bounce like a dream, get that image out of your head.

In truth, there are four signs of healthy hair that have absolutely nothing to do with how well-mannered or frizz-free your curls are. Check them out below. Your hair may be in better — or worse — shape than you realize.

Shrinkage
Shrinkage tends to be the thorn in many a naturalista's side. It causes tangling. It hides our true length. It won't let us just let our hair down! But, before you go on a tirade against it, know this: Shrinkage is actually one of the best indicators of textured-hair health. Although all of our hair will shrink at varying rates (sometimes even on the same head, like it did for me), the shrinkage or spring factor means that the structure and integrity of your hair is still intact. You may dislike it, but consider the alternative — limp, stringy curls that have no character. Shrinkage doesn't sound so bad now, huh?

Hydrated hair shrinks. Step up your shrinkage factor by ensuring proper hydration via steaming (I love the Q-Redew), regular deep-conditioning, and sealing moisture into the hair.

Shine
In theory, you can "manufacture" shine for your hair by using an oil or serum. But, before you go faking it, take a look at your hair on your next wash day. After cleansing and conditioning, take a few curls and pat them dry with an old T-shirt (before applying any leave-ins or oils).

How does your hair look? Sure, it might be fuzzy (because you dried it without product) — but how do the individual strands appear? Are they dull and drab, or on the shinier side? Hair that shines does so because light reflects off of the flat and compacted hair cuticle. Shiny hair tends to have a balanced or low porosity, and retains internal hydration better. When hair is dry or damaged (and the cuticles are lifted), hair will appear dull. Dull hair may also result from product buildup, signifying that it's time to clarify. Either way, hair that is dull is probably not as healthy as it could be.

Get to the root of the problem with apple-cider-vinegar rinses, low-pH products (like these from ApHogeeObia, and Bee Mine), and ceramide-rich oils that'll help boost your shine factor the right way.
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Elasticity
Healthy hair is like a brand-new scrunchie. You can stretch it as far as it will go, and it will bounce back to its original form. Hair that is not completely healthy will either stretch lifelessly or break. Elasticity and strength go hand-in-hand, as both are related to the integrity of the keratin within the hair. Hair that lacks elasticity is more prone to breakage and has difficulty withstanding damage from manipulation. 

If your hair is suffering from a lack of elasticity, treatments that focus on elasticizing it via balancing protein and moisture are your best bet. ApHogee Keratin 2-Minute ReconstructorHydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioning Treatment, and ApHogee Texture Treatment are regulars in my arsenal.

Fullness
Of the four healthy-hair indicators, fullness is the most difficult to measure. For starters, full hair will mean different things to different people based on varying textures, curl diameters, densities, and thicknesses. The amount and type of curl products we use impact our hair's perceived fullness. Heavy-handed application or use of heavier products will have a condensing effect, giving you the impression that your hair is thinner.

The best way to gauge your hair's fullness is to assess it when it's free of products and before you've washed it. By seeing it in its natural state, you will be able to focus on areas that seem thinner or that have suffered breakage or damage of some sort. Or, you will truly be able to see how full and glorious your hair is — and how you've seemingly cracked the code on caring for it properly!

Thickening treatments, shampoos, and sprays will only provide a temporary boost to your hair that will go down the drain on your next wash day. While you cannot thicken or increase the number of hairs on your head, you can work on making the best out of what you have. Regular trims and shaping can help your strands appear thicker and fuller. With proper care and maintenance, you can get fuller, longer curls.

Did we miss any of your healthy-hair must-have tips? Let us know in the comments!
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