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Is Shine an Indicator of Healthy Natural Hair?

Avatar • Jul 29, 2014

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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?

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Tisha
Tisha
6 years ago

The shine thing is a weakness for me I think. I went natural back in 2002 and started doing twist say 2 years later. In my circle I was THE only natural. So I think we do things (unconsciously sometimes) to make things less different. Mine was I always had Shiny twist outs! ALWAYS! I have naturally Porous hair so this was no small feat. This is how I did and still do it DISCLAIMER: If you cowash your hair DON’T DO THIS! You Must SHAMPOO Your hair on a regular basis!! (back to our regularly scheduled program:) Deep condition,… Read more »

The One
The One
6 years ago
Reply to  Tisha

=p

JenniD
JenniD
6 years ago

The use of natural oils and butters are part of my routine so my hair does typically have some sheen to it. All in all shine isn’t really a big concern for me as its not a true characteristic of my hair (kinky/nappy). Those new super absorbent silicone oils out on the market now aren’t have bad. I have one from L’oreal that I use from time to time on old twist outs to make them look a fresh.

Mary
Mary
6 years ago

My hair is incredibly shiny as is, so for my head, shine is one of my indicators of health. It literally sparkles. I get startled if I notice that my hair looks dull (although usually it is just my hair covered in conditioner that has dried a bit :p ).

I agree with this article. Shine is not an indicator of health for everyone, and no one should get too caught up trying to attain something that isn’t normal for them.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

For me shiny always translates into greasy. I’m learning to live without the shine.

The One
The One
6 years ago

I think I’ll stick to my dull hair. Since my hair wasn’t shiny when I used to have a perm, I figure there’s no way I’ll be able to see any natural shine while it’s all bunched up. Plus I don’t like complicated processes or lots of product to wash out at the end of the week. To tell you the truth, I never even really notice anybody else’s shiny hair either. I don’t think I’ve ever said “oh your hair is so shiny” to anyone, even youtubers (sometimes I see them put a whole lot of product on or… Read more »

Miss Gina Ray
Miss Gina Ray
6 years ago

My 4c does not shine. I’m fine with that. Shine us an indicator of health for those who have certain textures but not for my texture. I think some people chase shine because they believe that is what natural hair should do. I am not one to load my hair with oil for shine. Moisture is my no1 concern when it comes to healthy hair.

Darlyn
Darlyn
6 years ago
Reply to  Miss Gina Ray

I agree since I’m a 4cer too.

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

I have type 4a hair and sometimes, i see shine as a health indicator. For me, shiny hair means moisturized hair. My hair usually doesn’t need to be moisturized frequently but recently, I have noticed that my hair needs to be moisturized everyday. The air is cool but dry( where I am ) so my hair gets dry quickly, sometimes to the point that just holding a twist across my remaining loose hair makes it “stick” to the loose hair without budging and causes a slow and arduous detangling session to begin( It’s that bad ). But dullness lets me… Read more »

Caramelcurls
Caramelcurls
6 years ago

Color plays a big part of shine. Black hair will appear more shiny than sandy brown hair, but it’s definitly not an indicator of healthy hair.

easyBlake
easyBlake
6 years ago

This belief that *only* shine=health irritates me. It’s why I avoid articles about celebrities with non-shiny hair — several people then proceed to claim how healthy or dry and damaged the celeb’s hair is. I’m biased, of course, because Lord knows I’ve had enough comments about my hair looking dry. No, I won’t spray my hair down with oil, turning it into an oil slick — that doesn’t make it shiny anyway. Hair strands with lots of kinks (per NaturalHavenBloom) doesn’t always shine or have visible sheen.

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