We all arguably have opinions on what we think healthy hair should look like. Maybe length matters most to you. Maybe you're all about volume. Shininess holds a lot of weight for some people, too. All of these factors matter when you're looking for ways to know your hair is healthy.
Then again, being able to spot signs of damaged hair is super important. Split ends, breakage, and brittle strands are sworn enemies that have no business plaguing our luscious locks. And it's no surprise that frequently swimming in chlorine pools, using heat styling tools, and getting back-to-back dye jobs also take a toll on our tresses.
Given all of the obvious things that hurt our hair health, it's important to get familiar with the characteristics that can help you determine what, exactly, is going on with that mane of yours. Focusing on length and thickness are steps in the right direction, but our hair can let us know that it's thriving in subtler ways as well.
Instead of beating ourselves up over ways we damage our hair, I think it's high time we celebrate the route to healthy hair for a change. If any of these nine signs of strong and healthy locks describe your mane, a slow-motion hair flip is in order.
1. You Have Minimal Shedding
Pay attention to the amount of excess hair that falls out in the shower, onto your bedding while you're asleep, or into your comb or brush when styling. It's natural that you'll lose some of your hair daily, but it's important to recognize how much is too much.
"Textbook definition states 80 strands daily is the normal amount of shedding," celebrity stylist Juan Carlos Maciques tells me via email. So give yourself a pat on the back if you've noticed you only lost a small handful of hair by the end of the day. Chances are your locks are actually pretty healthy if this is the case.
2. Your Texture Is Smooth
You probably wouldn't want your fingers getting caught in a tangled web of stiff hair as you run them through your mane. Healthy hair "never feels brittle and dry," according to Maciques. "Typically, long hair means it's growing out healthily, but you can have very long hair that’s damaged and brittle."
When your locks are moisturized, they will be soft to the touch.
3. Your Hair Responds Well To Moisture
Humid weather can tell us a lot about the condition of our locks. Extremely porous strands cause damaged hair to lose its ability to stand up to humidity. When there is moisture in the air, these strands will retain that water and respond by frizzing.
"Hair will take on its natural texture when faced with excessive moisture in the air," Maciques adds. So if your locks are naturally straight, they will stay that way, and if they are curly, they will remain curly.
4. Your Scalp Is Free Of Dandruff
It's basically common knowledge that dandruff is a no-no in terms of #HairGoals. Those pesky white flakes are one of the most obvious signs that your scalp may be suffering. We may not always think to check, but any discoloration on the scalp can also tell us plenty.
According to Maciques, a healthy scalp "should have a nice pigment similar to the face or rest of the body with no irritation or redness."
5. You Experience Minimal Breakage
Maciques says that "you should be able to tug on [your hair] and it will revert back to its natural form." Healthy locks will not break or fray.
Again, a little shedding is normal — but if you're experiencing breakage, it's likely that your hair is lacking in moisture and elasticity.
6. Your Locks Are Shiny
Healthy hair doesn't need to be drenched in oils to give it a sheen. It's already naturally full of shine and luster. Maciques tells me that if your hair is shiny in its natural state, "It means the cuticles are lying flat as they should and are creating a smooth, flat surface where light can bounce off." On the contrary, damaged hair would appear lifeless and dull.
7. Your Hair Has Elasticity
"All hair has elasticity," says Maciques. "Essentially, your hair should be able to snap back to its natural state when stretched out. It's the natural characteristic of hair."
Strands that break when pulled may be over-processed and are definitely in need of a little TLC. "Low elasticity means your hair is much more susceptible to breakage," he adds. So give your locks a tug and see how well they recover.
8. Your Hair Has Movement
This is probably a no-brainer. When your locks are in their prime, "Your hair will have life, bounce, and volume," says Maciques. Rather than using length and fullness as a measure of your hair's health, it's all about the condition of your mane.
According to Maciques, "Healthier hair usually has more weight and more movement than overly-processed or worked hair, which tends to stay in place because it's been penetrated."
9. Your Strands Repel Water
If your hair can pass a water test, you're probably on the right track. "Healthy hair repels water because the cuticles are closed," says Maciques.
You can test the condition of your cuticles by placing a handful of hair into a bowl of water. Healthy strands will float. Damaged hair, however, has cuticles with "an open exterior that allows water in and therefore makes it heavier," he says. This weight will cause damaged hair to sink.
How fast or slow your hair dries is also important. "If your hair takes an unusually long time to dry, that's an indicator that it's extremely porous and over-processed," Maciques tells me.
So thank your lucky stars and continue with your killer hair routine if your precious locks display several of these key signs. If you're not quite there yet, don't sweat it, though. Achieving healthy hair doesn't have to be mission impossible. You can be on your path to a gorgeous mane in no time by adopting healthy hair habits.