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Style Icon Bianca

Before I became enmeshed in hair care I was able to look at my limp, over processed relaxed hair and rightly conclude that my hair was damaged. I have found, however, that the same quick assessment of damage I could determine for relaxed hair is a bit more difficult now that my hair is natural. Even if we can’t easily determine what looks unhealthy, we may have an idea of what we think looks healthy.  Therefore, we strive to meet that standard by adjusting our routine or buying certain products. One such marker of hair health that I have often heard women reference is “shine”.  Hair shine is something women of all backgrounds and hair types desire. You only have to look at hair commercials featuring brown skinned curly haired models alongside commercials with models with pin straight blonde tresses and fair skin to see that “shine” is both universally desirable and according to advertisers, elusive (without buying their product, of course).  Is hair shine truly an indication of health? Or is it merely a nice but unnecessary hair accessory like a headband?

Two Types of Shine

There are a number of factors such as hair density and curl pattern that contribute to whether an individual may be more or less likely to have shiny hair. One type of hair shine is based on the ability of your hair to reflect light naturally. Often, hair that is naturally straight or finely textured may reflect light more easily giving it a shiny appearance. Another type of hair shininess results from added products that reflect light giving the illusion that one’s hair is shiny. I never had naturally shiny hair so I would often use hair oil sprays that made my hair glisten. However, those products are not really necessary. They change the aesthetics or visual appearance of hair but they don’t add to the health of my hair. It’s great if sprays or other products can impart healthy oils to the hair.  But shine in and of itself is not indicative of the condition of your hair.

Shine and Hair Health

There is often a connection made between hair health and hair shininess in the claims made by hair shine products. These claims, I argue, are pretty spurious but they are rooted in a grain of truth. If you have straight, loosely curled or fine hair it is easier to determine that your hair is coated with natural oils because the hair will appear shiny. This is typically a positive sign because it means that you’re your hair isn’t stripped, otherwise it would appear dull. But what about women with dense, coily hair? The fact that your hair does not shine is in no way a reason to think that your hair is unhealthy. In other words, shininess, while marketed as an attractive feature of hair, is not something that women like me with coily hair need to be concerned about.

Polishers and Serums

So, am I knocking the use of hair polishers and serums? Well, yes and no.  Those products, while they claim to add shine, can also weigh hair down and limit frizz, which is great if you wear your hair straight from time to time. Personally, I think that using those products on a regular basis when your hair is in its naturally curly state isn’t beneficial to your hair, as they coat your hair with silicones and add unnecessary buildup.  If you really do seek shine (and there’s nothing wrong doing so)  I recommend using natural products that will absorb into the hair like jojoba oil (for a mild shine or sheen) and olive oil for a more glossy appearance.  Naturally coily hair tends have a natural sheen rather that light reflecting shine, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t achieve shiny hair. Your hair, if treated well, is still growing, retaining length and likely healthy. Remember, “healthy” looks different on different heads of hair.

Are there methods that you use to achieve shiny twists, braid outs, etc? What products do you find add shine without adding buildup or dryness?