Hair Elasticity: What It Is + How To Test For It

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When you have healthy bones, you are more flexible and you can stretch your body really well.

Reaching your toes becomes very easy. Old people can’t do that anymore because their bones are weak.

And it’s the same with hair. The strands can be stretched well if it’s healthy, but they can easily break off when dry and brittle.

That is hair elasticity. With this hair characteristic, you can tell if your hair is healthy or not. It determines your hair’s overall strength.

A smiling young woman is holding a piece of her hair against a pink background.

And when it comes to caring for and styling your hair, elasticity testing is important.

Continue reading to discover what is elasticity in hair, what causes low elasticity, and what you can do to improve your hair’s stretch.

What Does Hair Elasticity Mean?

Human hair is elastic. That means, you can stretch a strand and it will return to its previous length and shape. That ability is what we call hair elasticity.

Research states that a hair strand can stretch up to 20% when it’s dry and up to 50% when it’s wet.

Plus, it can stretch more when it comes in contact with ammonia (the chemical found in strong permanent dyes).

To understand elasticity better, let’s talk about the hair cortex.

See, the structure of a hair shaft or strand can have 2 or 3 layers, namely:

  • Cuticle
  • Cortex
  • Medulla

The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair shaft that acts as the protector because it coats the hair cortex. It’s like the door that’s responsible for letting moisture in or out.

The medulla is a soft mass of tissue that’s in the center of the hair. But not all hair has this. It’s only found in coarse hair.

For our hair elasticity topic, we’ll focus on the second layer of the strand which is the hair cortex. It’s the thickest layer in the hair shaft, made up of coiled keratin proteins and lipids.

The hair cortex gives the shaft the ability to be stretched.

A young woman wearing a white shirt is holding her hair strands on while looking and smiling on it

Hair Elasticity and Hair Porosity

Elasticity is a characteristic of the hair that’s related to hair porosity.

Allow us to briefly explain what hair porosity is. Simply put, hair porosity is the ability of the strand to absorb moisture.

This greatly depends on how tight or loose the cuticles are.

If the cuticles are tightly packed and lay flat on the hair shaft, the hair has low porosity and can’t absorb moisture well.

Whereas if the cuticles are looser, the moisture can get inside the hair and will be able to stay there. That’s medium porosity.

Finally, if hair cuticles are lifted and far from each other, hair is highly porous. This means moisture easily gets in but also effortlessly gets out.

So how is elasticity related to porosity?

Well, hair with low porosity or high porosity is more prone to dryness. And when the hair is dehydrated, it loses its elasticity.

That’s why both low-porosity and high-porosity hair have low elasticity and tend to have more breakage.

Hair Elasticity Test

Now that you understand hair elasticity, you might be thinking, How will I know if my hair’s elasticity is fine?

Well, the answer to that is an elasticity hair test. It’s easy to identify your hair elasticity level at home using this test.

Here’s how you do the test:

  1. Take about 3 to 5 strands of wet hair and hold them near the roots.
  2. Using your other hand, gently stretch the strands.
  3. Observe what will happen to your hair.

If your hair goes back to its normal length after you release it, your hair elasticity is balanced.

But if your hair feels gooey and breaks, it has low elasticity.

Hair Elasticity Level

When your hair elasticity is balanced or normal, then that means your hair is strong and healthy. That’s because the amount of protein and moisture in your hair is in the right balance.

However, if your hair has low elasticity, then it lacks moisture and protein. That’s why the strands are weak and brittle.

Here are other signs of low elasticity in hair:

  • Some of the strands break when you brush your hair.
  • Your locks feel dry.
  • They look dull.
  • The hair feels rough.
  • It’s difficult to style.

When you’ve done the hair elasticity test and see those signs on your hair, then it’s time to level up your hair care routine.

A woman with long hair is holding her hair while looking at the camera

Why Your Hair Has Low Elasticity

If you’ve taken the elasticity test and you’ve determined that your hair is not elastic, it might be helpful to know why that happened.

Low elasticity isn’t something that you’re born with. It happens when your hair becomes damaged. And that damage is caused by several factors.

Styling Tools

Flat irons, curling rods, and hair dryers are all heat powered. And when you expose your hair to heat, it can lose its moisture.

That’s because heat opens up the cuticles, and this gives more space for moisture to get out.

Environment

Another factor is your surroundings. Sun exposure, humid weather, salt water, and chlorine are harmful elements that can make your hair lose its elasticity.

Bleach and Hair Dye

Coloring and bleaching can affect your hair elasticity as well.

You see, when we bleach or color our hair, the cuticles are opened up, and the chemicals work on the hair cortex to change the hair’s natural pigment.

And when the chemicals do this, the hair color isn’t the only one changed.

The porosity, protein content, and moisture content in your hair become altered too. That results in elasticity loss.

Chemical Treatments

Perms, relaxers, and basically any chemical that you use on your hair can damage it, especially if it’s made to penetrate the hair shaft.

Once hair is damaged, it’s hard for it to keep the moisture. And as you probably know by now, low moisture means low elasticity.

How to Improve Hair Elasticity

So what do you need to do if you have a low level of hair elasticity? Is there an elasticity treatment for natural hair?

Yes, there is. You don’t need to chop off your hair once its elasticity gets low. There’s still hope and a number of ways you can restore your hair elasticity.

Protein Treatment

Since low elasticity is caused by a lack of protein in your hair shaft, then the best way to improve it is by using protein treatments.

You can use protein-packed shampoos and conditioners like L’Oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner.

You can also try a protein treatment at home with Elizavecca Cer-100 Collagen Ceramide Coating Protein Treatment.

Regular Conditioner

Just like moisturizing your face after cleansing is important, it’s also essential to add moisture to your hair after shampooing.

Use a rinse-out conditioner as part of your hair-washing routine to replenish the moisture that has been stripped off by the shampoo.

Some also opt to just use conditioner without shampoo or use a co-wash so their hair won’t be too dry.

A smiling woman is applying conditioner on her hair while looking at it

Deep Conditioner

The main reason for low elasticity is not getting enough moisture in your hair shaft.

So aside from regular conditioning, you should also deep condition once a week or every two weeks to give your locks their much-needed hydration boost.

Healthy Diet 

You are what you eat. And since hair is a part of our body, it’s also affected by our overall health. So to have healthy hair, you need to eat healthily.

Include protein-rich food in your diet. Eggs and meat are good sources of protein.

Omega-3 is also good for nourishing the tresses. Salmon and nuts are rich in this nutrient.

Gentle Styling

If your tresses already have low elasticity, then they’re prone to breakage. To prevent your hair from snapping off, you have to be gentle when it comes to styling.

First, avoid brushing your hair when it’s still wet. Or you can use a wide-tooth comb instead. This can help prevent your strands from snapping off.

Another helpful tip is to refrain from doing tight hairstyles.

One more thing you can do is lessen the use of heat styling tools.

But if you must use one, apply a heat protectant before curling or straightening your hair.

With these simple steps, you can help your hair rest until it recovers its elasticity balance.

Nourishing Oils

Add essential oils to your hair care routine. Use it before you shampoo or at night before you sleep.

The best oils for improving hair elasticity are olive, almond, or avocado oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you repair hair elasticity?

You can repair hair elasticity. Some ways to balance the moisture and protein on your locks are:

  • Protein treatments
  • Deep conditioners
  • Gentle styling
  • Healthy diet
  • Nourishing oils

While the result may not be visible in an instant, using elasticity treatments for hair regularly can help take the hair back to its healthy state.

Why is hair elasticity important?

The elasticity of your hair is important because elasticity determines the health of your hair.

If you know your elasticity level, you’ll also know if your hair can still handle chemical treatments. Plus, you can customize your hair care products.

A woman is combing her dark short hair with her hands.

Your Hair is Healthy if It Can Stretch

As mentioned, hair elasticity is the hair’s ability to stretch and then bounce back or return to its original shape.

If your hair does that, then it has a balanced level of elasticity. But if your hair doesn’t stretch and breaks instead, then it may not have much protein and moisture.

Restore your hair’s elasticity by using moisturizing and protein-rich products and avoiding harmful chemicals and styling tools.

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Author

  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

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