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Signs of Healthy Curly Hair: How to Assess and Maintain Hair Well-Being

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Image of curly haired woman smiling while touching her healthy hair.

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We’re all familiar with the telltale signs of damaged hair—split ends, breakage, and a lackluster appearance to name a few. However, recognizing the indicators of healthy hair can be less straightforward. Understanding these signs isn’t just an exercise in vanity; it’s a way to ensure you’re giving your hair the best care possible, which in turn can be a reflection of your overall health and wellness.

Whether you have straight, wavy, or curly hair, here’s how to tell if your hair is healthy and thriving:

  1. Shine and Luster
  2. Elasticity
  3. Smooth Texture
  4. Fullness and Volume
  5. Even Color and Pigmentation
  6. Easy to Manage
  7. Moisture Retention
  8. Minimal Shedding
  9. No Split Ends
  10. Scalp Health

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into each of these indicators to give you a comprehensive understanding of what healthy hair truly looks like.

What Is Hair?

Vector illustration of hair anatomy for How To Tell If Your Hair Is Healthy: Signs To Look For blog.

Hair is made from a protein filament that grows from a hair follicle underneath the skin on the scalp. It’s a thin strand made up of proteins, particularly keratin, which provides your hair’s structural support and health.1

Hair also consists of many complex internal layers that include lipid fats in the inner shaft and are protected by the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. The cuticle comprises dead cells that protect the hair from damage.

Hair can be defined into three categories determined by the hair follicle size: fine, medium, and coarse hair. The hair follicle size determines the thickness of the hair, while the shape of the follicle determines the shape of the hair.2 

Hair types chart set of straight, wavy and curly strands.
Straight, wavy, and curly hair types classification set.

Straight hair is made from round fibers, while curly and wavy hair is made from oval or other shaped hair fibers.3

10 Telltale Signs Your Hair Is Healthy

Image of healthy hair strands.

Hair health isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept; it varies based on your unique hair type, texture, and individual characteristics.

While straight hair might naturally exhibit more shine due to the way it reflects light, curly and coarse hair types have their own indicators of health that might not always align with traditional standards.

Recognizing that everyone’s hair is different, it’s crucial to adapt your criteria for “healthy hair” to suit your specific needs and hair type.

Below, you’ll find a list of general conditions and signs of healthy hair. However, it’s important to note that the true measure of your hair’s health is best determined by a variety of factors specific to your unique hair type.

#1 Hair is Shiny and Smooth

A key sign of healthy hair is its ability to reflect light well, which often means the strand of hair has a smooth cuticle layer.

#2 Minimal Breakage During Brushing

If you notice little to no breakage during brushing, especially when using a wide-tooth comb, it’s a good sign your hair is in good condition.

#3 Low Shedding or Hair Loss

Healthy hair strands are robust, leading to a reduced amount of hair loss or shedding, an essential metric of hair health.

#4 Retains Moisture Well

The best way to keep long hair healthy is to ensure it retains natural oils well. This is a crucial sign of healthy hair.

#5 Elasticity in Hair

A strand of wet hair that stretches and returns to its original shape without breaking has good elasticity, indicating good health.

#6 Easy to Detangle

A wide-tooth comb should glide through healthy hair, indicating it is well-moisturized and that the natural oils are doing their job.

#7 Few to No Split Ends

Regular trims can help prevent split ends, but if you notice very few to begin with, your hair is likely in good condition.

#8 Dandruff-Free Scalp

A scalp without flakes or dandruff usually means your hair is healthy; this is the foundation for good hair health.

#9 Hair is Growing

Consistent growth is a sign of a healthy hair follicle and suggests your hair care products, ideally with natural ingredients, are effective.

#10 Hair is Not Dry and Brittle

Using natural products and perhaps a heat protectant when using hot tools like flat irons or a hair dryer can help keep hair in its natural state and prevent it from becoming dry and brittle.

The Importance of Caring For Your Hair

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, proper hair care offers insights into your overall health and fulfills several practical functions in everyday living.

Healthy, radiant hair not only boosts self-esteem but also provides thermal regulation and shields against environmental elements.

Poor hair health could hint at underlying issues, making regular maintenance crucial. Your scalp, a sebum-rich environment, can either nurture or harm hair follicles based on hygiene practices. A clean, well-balanced scalp sets the stage for optimal hair growth and health.

Signs Your Hair May Be Unhealthy

image of woman holding her hair loss in her hand.

Recognizing unhealthy hair is straightforward once you know what healthy hair looks, feels, and behaves like. Factors like harsh chemical treatments, excessive use of flat irons, a blow dryer or curling irons, poor diet, stress, and health issues can negatively impact hair health.

Different hair types, such as curly or gray hair, have unique challenges; for instance, they’re naturally drier but shouldn’t break easily.

Key indicators your hair might be unhealthy include:

  • Split Ends
  • Excessive Breakage
  • High Levels of Shedding (hair thinning) or Hair Loss
  • Dandruff Presence
  • Brittle Texture
  • Unusual Dryness
  • Loss of Shine
  • Detangling Hair is Difficult
  • Frequent Tangling
  • Reduced Volume
  • Lots of Frizz
  • Lack of Elasticity
  • Slower Hair Growth
  • Cuticle Damage
  • Uneven Texture
  • Scalp Irritation (including bald spots)

Note that these signs are general guidelines and may vary depending on your specific hair type.

Hair Care Tips: Do’s And Don’ts

Image of do's and dont's on sticky note.

Two key determinants of hair health are genetics and overall well-being, but an effective hair care regimen can also play a crucial role.

Much like you prioritize skincare through moisturizing and nourishing routines, your hair equally deserves dedicated care.

However, be cautious of common pitfalls that could jeopardize the health of your well-maintained hair:

Don’t Wear Tight Hairstyles

Wearing tight hairstyles, such as ponytails, braids, or cornrows, can place excessive tension on hair follicles and the scalp. This stress can lead to conditions like traction alopecia, a form of hair loss, and may also cause breakage and split ends.

For long-term hair health, it’s advisable to opt for looser styles that don’t pull on the scalp or strain the hair.

Do Use A Shampoo And Conditioner For Your Hair Type

There are many shampoos and conditioners that are specifically formulated for different hair types. Using a shampoo that works in conjunction with your specific hair type and problems is vital. 

For example, if you struggle with dandruff, it’s advisable to use a shampoo specifically formulated to tackle the issue. Similarly, if you have oily or dry hair and scalp, opt for shampoos and conditioners designed to either control excess oil or provide the needed moisture.

Do Get Enough Of The Right Nutrients

Eating correctly and getting the proper nutrients is a fast way to healthy hair. Just as you need to eat right to stay healthy, getting enough zinc, iron, and folic acids can help improve the health of your hair.4

Other vitamins and nutrients that can help hair become healthier are vitamins A,D,E, and fatty acids.

Do Use A Hair Mask or Deep Conditioner

We all love some pampering, facials, massages, or mud baths to rejuvenate tired and dull skin.

Well, your hair is no different. Pampering your hair with a rich nourishing deep conditioning mask can make it brighter and softer. It can even help moisturize your scalp for healthier-looking hair and growth promotion.

Do Get A Trim Regularly

Growing your hair can take longer for some people than others, and the thought of regularly trimming your hair may make you cringe. But a regular trim of the ends of your hair can promote healthier hair.

A regular trim can help to get rid of split ends and help keep hair from getting further damaged from the ends up. Split ends can run up the hair shaft weakening your hair and exposing it to moisture loss.

While it’s recommended that you trim your hair every six to eight weeks, trimming your hair every three months will also keep it looking healthy and strong.

Don’t Subject Hair to Extended Sun Exposure

Exposure to UV rays can be detrimental to hair health, leading to dryness, brittleness, and color fading. Prolonged sun exposure can also weaken the hair structure, making it more susceptible to breakage.

Just as you would protect your skin from the sun, it’s crucial to shield your hair with hats or UV-protective hair products to maintain its health and vitality.

Do Wet Your Hair Before Swimming

Swimming, either in the pool or in the sea, can create havoc for your hair. Dry hair will absorb water, but you don’t want your hair to absorb the chemicals or salt found in the pool or sea, which can dry and irritate your hair and fade colored hair.

Wetting your hair under the tap with clean water before going for a swim can limit the amount of water your hair absorbs, limiting the number of chemicals and salt that get into your hair and preventing damage to your hair from within.

If your hair has been exposed to a lot of salt water or chlorine, use a chelating shampoo to get rid of the minerals and chemicals.

Don’t Use Hot Water

Nothing is better than a hot steamy shower in the middle of winter to chase away the cold from your bones. However, washing and rinsing your hair under hot water can damage your hair.

Instead of using hot water to rinse your hair, turn down the heat and use warm water to prevent any damage to your tresses.

Don’t Skip The Conditioning

We may not always have the time to pamper our hair, but you should never skip the conditioning part. Conditioners help strengthen and soften your hair, leaving it shiny and manageable. They can also combat static electricity in your hair.

Make time to use conditioner when washing your hair, and ensure you leave the conditioner in your hair for a while to get the product’s full benefits. If you’re in a rush and can’t spare the time to condition, use a leave-in conditioner that takes seconds to apply.

Don’t Over Process Your Hair

Over-styling and over-processing hair can leave your hair damaged, brittle, and dry. Hair protein is held together by disulfide bonds which makes hair strong.5 Over-processing can damage these bonds, which will lead to hair breakage.

Cuticle layers can also be damaged by excessive drying with heat or bleaching. This eventually weakens the protein and causes lipid loss in the hair.

Give your hair a break from coloring, hair dryers, and straighteners, and allow your hair to dry naturally every once in a while.

Don’t Over Wash Your Hair

As previously mentioned, each individual’s hair requires unique care. Tailor your shampoo and conditioning routine to your specific needs, but be cautious not to overwash or vigorously scrub, as it can damage your hair.

Skipping a wash occasionally can be beneficial, as overwashing may deplete or strip the essential scalp oils that promote hair health and the growth cycle.

Don’t Over Brush Your Hair

Brushing your hair one hundred times daily to promote healthy hair is a myth. You should brush your hair only when necessary.

Trying to get rid of every single tangle can cause damage to the hair, especially if it is wet, as that is when the hair is at its most vulnerable.

Gently brush your hair with a wide-toothed comb or brush, depending on your hairstyle, and keep the brushing to a minimum, especially with curly hair.

Foods And Supplements For Healthy Hair

Image of vegetables in the background and supplements in a spoon.

Good hygiene and genetics may be necessary for healthy hair, but diet and getting the proper nutrients can be just as crucial for the health of your hair.

Sometimes the help of daily multivitamins is necessary to encourage healthy-looking hair by providing the hair follicles with the right amount of trace minerals to help tissues with high biosynthetic activities like the hair follicle.

• Iron

• Magnesium

• Zinc

• Biotin

• Vitamin C

• Vitamin A

The hair strands are mainly composed of the protein keratin; it’s essential to incorporate protein into the diet. Lack of protein can cause weak, brittle hair, loss of hair, and color dullness.

Some examples of protein that promote healthy hair are:

• Meat

• Fish

• Poultry

• Beans

• Eggs

Minerals are also essential to help sustain the health of your hair. A lack of zinc can cause excessive shedding, but you can supplement this naturally by adding foods that are high in zinc, such as:

• Brazil nuts

• Cashew nuts

• Pecan nuts

• Walnuts

• Almonds

• Leafy greens

• Fruits

Another essential mineral that promotes healthy hair is fatty acids like omega-3, which stimulates the hair follicle and helps improve your scalp’s health.

Some examples of fatty acids rich in omega-3 are:

• Salmon

• Mackerel

• Sardine

• Herring

• Cottage cheese

• Yogurt

• Flax seed

Vitamins and minerals are important in the cycle of hair follicles and cellular turnover. Including nutrients that promote healthy hair in your diet can easily be achieved. 

Adding supplements aids any micronutrient deficit you may have from your diet or due to a specific condition. However, it’s essential to understand what is happening with your hair and for what reason, so ask your healthcare provider which supplement you should take.

Hair Loss: Potential Causes And When To See A Doctor

Image of my hair loss
My hair loss following a damaging chemical treatment (bleach).

Losing a few strands of hair daily is normal, with around 100 hairs typically shedding each day and being replaced by new growth.

Hair loss can be temporary or permanent and can stem from various factors, including genetics, medical conditions, pregnancy, hormonal shifts, chemical treatments (i.e. bleach), aging, and lifestyle choices like fad diets or high-stress levels.

Some medications and significant life events like surgery can also trigger hair loss. If you notice rapid or unusual patterns of hair loss, such as widening partings or bald patches, consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.


References

  1. What Is the Structure of Hair and How Does It Grow? InformedHealth.Org [Internet], Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), 2019. ↩︎
  2. Hoover, Ezra, et al. “Physiology, Hair.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2023. PubMed. ↩︎
  3. Hair Follicle.” Wikipedia, 2 Nov. 2023. Wikipedia. ↩︎
  4. Guo, Emily L., and Rajani Katta. “Diet and Hair Loss: Effects of Nutrient Deficiency and Supplement Use.” Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 1–10. PubMed Central. ↩︎
  5. Bruce Fraser, R. D., and David A. D. Parry. “The Role of Disulfide Bond Formation in the Structural Transition Observed in the Intermediate Filaments of Developing Hair.” Journal of Structural Biology, vol. 180, no. 1, Oct. 2012, pp. 117–24. PubMed. ↩︎

HI,I'M VERNA

I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

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