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Hair Elasticity Explained

If you’ve ever been intrigued by the peculiar phenomenon where some people can easily stretch their hair to twice its length when yours snaps like a rubber band you’ve stumbled upon the right place. The answer lies in your hair’s elasticity.

This complete guide will explain everything you need to know in one fell swoop – what hair elasticity is, the different types, how can you measure your elasticity, tips for low and high-elasticity hair, and whether you should even care. After reading, you’ll be far better equipped to show your strands the scientifically curated care regimen they need.

What Is Hair Elasticity and Why Does It Matter for Your Hair Health?

Hair elasticity refers simply to your hair’s ability to stretch and return to its normal length without breaking. This should not be confused with the bouncy characteristic of curly or coily hair.

It can have a huge impact on certain styles and overall hair health. Higher elasticity makes hair more resistant to breakage from brushing or heat styling. Lower elasticity leads to easier straightening but can cause snap ends.

Understanding your elasticity helps pinpoint the right products and routines for optimal locks. People have wasted years battling on the wrong front of hair care before realizing it was a simple elasticity issue!

What Determines Your Hair Elasticity?

What gives hair the ability to stretch and snap back? The answer lies beneath the cuticle in the cortex, made up largely of keratin proteins bonded together to form long-chain molecules. These bonds act like “springs”, allowing the keratin strands to be pulled apart and then quickly reconnect when tension stops. The more bonds or “cross-links” between proteins, the lower the elasticity. Heat and chemicals break these cross-links, boosting elasticity temporarily. But overall, your natural elasticity range depends mainly on:

  1. The amino acids making up your keratin
  2. How tightly packed together the keratin chains are
  3. The natural shape and integrity of bonds

Genetics determine these structural factors setting our natural elasticity range. Through chemical processing or damage over time, styling habits can shift things slightly up or down too. But in general, the way your unique keratin configurations allow stretch and recoil stays fixed.

The 4 Types of Hair Elasticity

Highly Elastic

This enviable hair type can expand incredibly without fracturing. The cuticle layers hold firmly allowing flexibility against stress. Highly elastic strands have high moisture content and spring back to normal.

Moderately Elastic

Moderately elastic hair has decent stretch capacity. The cuticles may have slight damage but the cortex isn’t overly impacted. This hair has good strength and tolerates various styles if cared for properly.

Slightly Elastic

Slightly elastic hair has compromised cuticles, making it vulnerable to breakage. There is some capacity to endure manipulation but strands remain quite fragile. Extra precautions are needed for protective styling and treatment.


Technically, no hair is inelastic but some have so low levels of elasticity that it practically exhibits inelastic behavior.

Inelastic hair barely stretches even a tiny bit before shattering. It has extremely fragile cuticles and a cortex prone to extensive disintegration. Special handling is mandatory to prevent excessive wreckage.

How to Determine Which Category of Elasticity Your Hair Falls Into?

Figuring out where your hair falls on the elasticity spectrum is crucial for customizing your regimen. Here are some tricks:

The Stretch Test

Pluck a shed of moist hair after a shower and gently stretch on both ends. High elasticity hair will stretch to twice its length without breaking. Medium elasticity stretches 50-80% more before snapping. Low elasticity or inelastic hair barely stretches or immediately snaps.

This test isn’t perfect but offers a rough idea of elasticity. I suggest testing 5-10 hairs from around your head for accuracy.

Other Telltale Signs

Beyond the stretch test, these characteristics can also be sound indicators of your elasticity type:

High elasticity: coily hair, feels gummy/spongey, absorbs lots of product, stays curly for days

Low elasticity: straight hair, feels dry or stiff, gets oily fast, hard to curl

Caring for Low Elasticity Hair

If your hair showed signs of low elasticity, here are some tailored tips to keep it in prime health:

1. Gentle Handling

Gently detangle small sections at a time, brush before washing, and pat dry. Harsh handling causes more friction and snap damage. I speak from experience – stepping up my delicate care game was a necessity for my brittle strands!

2. Frequent Moisturizing

Frequently apply creamy, oil-based leave-ins. Focus on the shaft and ends to counter the dryness prone to low elasticity hair. Deep conditioning treatments are also vital – aim for at least once per week. Proper moisture prevents the rigidity and breakage associated with this hair type.

3. Protein Treatments

Use a dedicated protein conditioner once a month. Low elasticity hair needs slight protein reinforcement to withstand damage. But don’t overdo it – too much protein leads to dryness and breakage too! I found adding a light protein conditioner monthly boosted strength without stiffness.

Caring for High and Medium Elasticity Hair

If you exhibit signs of high elasticity, these tips will safeguard those stretchy strands:

1. Get Regular Trims

Get a minor trim every 8-10 weeks. Highly elastic hair grows rapidly but has weak ends. Consistent cuts prevent splits and tangling. I used to only trim 2x a year – what a mistake! My fuzzy ends tangled relentlessly until I stepped up trims.

2. Avoid Over-Moisturizing

Use water-based products and focus on mid-lengths, avoiding roots and ends. High elasticity hair soaks up everything but too much weighs hair down. Even conditioner can be too much! Stick to lighter gels, sprays, and foams only using enough to enhance definition.

3. Apply Lightweight Products

Similarly, gels, mousses, and foams give shape without burdening elastic hair. Prioritize defining hold over heavy nourishment. For true washing, use a gentle shampoo and very little conditioner to prevent residue buildup.

Is Improving Your Hair Elasticity Over Time Possible?

While elasticity is largely genetic, there are certain aspects of hair care regimens within your control that can enhance your hair elasticity to some extent if done properly. Here’s how:

Prioritize Scalp Care

Massage the scalp weekly and use clarifying treatments monthly. Removing dirt, oil and dead skin boosts circulation for stronger strands from root to tip. Don’t skip those scalp scrubs!

Protective Styling

Wear hair in loose buns, gentle braids, silk wraps, etc when possible. Protecting ends from manipulation and weather reduces the risk of damage – both fibers and bonds stay intact. I limit heat and braids but do love a loose silk wrap or bun for low manipulation!

Limit Heat and Chemical Damage

Air dry when possible, always use a heat protectant, and be choosy with chemical processing. Heat and chemicals compromise elasticity greatly over time, causing brittle snap-prone hair. Prevention is crucial! I’ve stopped bleaching completely and rarely blow dry – game changer.

Is Hair Elasticity Too Much to Worry About?

Yes, you definitely should be worrying about your hair elasticity, it has a direct correlation with hair and scalp health.

The Impact on Styling

Elasticity directly correlates to hold and longevity. Low elasticity hair stays straight for days with the right product. High elasticity ringlets rebound instantly. So yes – worries about achieving your best styles are valid if elasticity needs addressed!

Relationship with Strength

Surprisingly strength and elasticity do not go hand in hand. Severely damaged hair can retain elasticity just fine. However healthy hair more readily withstands styling and environmental damage when elasticity is optimized.

Is Seeking Professional Help for Elasticity Concerns an Overkill?

Not! It’s your hair and the very fact that you’re in this article implies you genuinely care about every aspect of your precious fluff.

If improving elasticity on your own feels overwhelming, see the experts! Licensed stylists can assess your hair in person and suggest personalized regimens for your needs.

The Bottom Line

Lack of elasticity understanding created years of bad hair days for me. But a few simple changes made all the difference. I hope this guide arms you with actionable tips for gloriously stretchy, bounce-back strands. Our hair goes through so much – caring for elasticity is caring for ourselves in the end! You deserve to have the healthiest, happiest hair possible no matter your elasticity.

Dr Hamdan Hamed Abdullah

Dr Hamdan Hamed Abdullah

Dr. Hamdan Abdullah Hamed MBChB, co-founder of, is a UAE-based board-certified dermatologist. Committed to natural hair care, he's been quoted in MSN, Yahoo, The Mirror UK, Daily Mail UK, Chronicle Live, Gulf News, among others. He specializes in natural hair care, supporting individuals with a range of hair textures to achieve their hair goals