Does shiny hair = healthy hair?

Do you equate shiny hair with healthy hair? I have seen many people emphasise that natural hair can or should have a 'healthy' sheen but is this really true?

The research ( J. Cosmet. Sci, pp 49-63, 2004) I found gave there are three main factors which affect natural shine for clean hair (i.e when oil is not added artificially to create shine and the hair has been freshly washed).

The three factors are
1. Colour of your hair
2. The shape and thickness of your hair strands
3. Twists or kinks in your hair

1. The darker your hair, the shinier it appears

Very light hair  (grey or blonde) can easily allow light to go through the hair instead of reflecting it back. As hair gets darker, less light is scattered in this way and more of it is reflected back, therefore darker hair appears shinier.

2. The more elliptical your hair, the shinier it appears

By now you should know the varying shapes of hair with Asian hair tending to be round, European hair tending to be slightly less round and African hair tending to be elliptical. It may come as a surprise that excluding other factors and considering only shape, elliptical hair is actually the shinier hair. This is because the flattened shape can direct light back better compared to round hair which tends to scatter the light at the edges.

3. The more twists and kinks in your hair, the less shiny it looks

This is really where natural  hair falls. There is a distinct difference between a curl where hair can form spirals and kinky curly hair where hair does not tend to clump up. The more your hair can clump up, the shinier it appears because the hair fibres follow in the same direction and direct the light falling on them back in a uniform way. However, hair that does not clump up will direct light in different directions leading to less shine. Therefore straight, wavy or curly hair where hair fibres tend to align with each other look shinier. Kinky curly hair which tends not to clump up appears less shiny.

So is shine an indicator of hair health? 

No it is not. A very high shine means that your hair is clean, darker, elliptical and not very kinky. For naturals who straighten their hair, they may find that their hair appears much shinier and darker when straightened compared to when unstraightened.

If you are seeking extra shine to your hair and your hair is very kinky, the artificial way (i.e oil) may be the path for you. Castor oil is a noted oil for giving hair sheen as are silicones including amodimethicone (J. Cosmet. Sci, pp 335-351,2003)


  1. Thanks for posting this information. I never knew there were so many factors involved in hair that is naturally shine, such as the shape of hair.

  2. Great post! Thank you so much.

  3. Thanks for posting! I never thought about shiny hair vs healthy hair. I learned something today! (SW)

  4. Great post!Thanks for sharing. I never knew that your hair shape actually affects how shiny your hair looks. I will love to share this.

  5. I cannot tell you just how much I apprecite your posts and how informative they are. You are such a great blogger. Thanks for the info.

  6. I was happy when I saw this hair is kinky curly and I get so tired people thinking my hair is not healthy because it doesn't have " sheen" to ...gets on my nerves>.>

  7. Never thought about it this way. Thanks for posting this. I always use a heat protectant so I have no idea how shiny my hair is without product.

  8. Thank you for all the comments. I appreciate them all :)

  9. With blonde kinky hair, I am so tired of people telling me "your hair looks like straw, it must be damaged". I wish people would educate themselves before they comment on others >:(

  10. I'm new to your blog and it's already my favorite. Thanks for presenting scientific facts only. I have a question. How important is pH in our hair health? Also, how do we maintain normal pH levels?

  11. Wow! How interesting! I'm very surprised that how your cuticles lay doesn't affect shine levels.
    Luckily I've not been a shine chaser so far, because I have the non-clumpy kinky hair. And I love it just how it is!

  12. Thank you so much everyone again! Gerlinde - side story, my friend also has kinky straight hair and many people also think it is chemically damaged but it really isn'T

    Jo - I do think that the way the cuticle lies is an important factor. I will see if I can find a paper talking about bleached hair as that is likely to be significantly different.

    ME - just do a ph search. there are many topics about it already on the blog.

  13. I refer others to your blog often. Thanks for presenting information from a scientific standpoint! I appreciate what you do for the nautral hair community.


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