In addition to the actual structure of hair, there are several properties of hair that affect how hair behaves. These properties include elasticity, stiffness, cross-sectional area, shape, density and static charge. The way our hair looks from day-to-day is dependent on these qualities, as well as hair’s ability to resist water and stretching. Let’s look at the two most influential factors in hair properties—and the ones that proper hair care has the most control over.

Elasticity and Stretching

We’ve all heard the warning to not be rough on our hair when it’s wet, and there’s truth behind it. Wet hair has a higher combing friction than dry hair and is more likely to be stretched. And any time you start stretching your hair, you start stretching toward hair breakage. Hair that is chemically treated is even more likely to stretch because it has lost the protection of the F-layer and is more porous. Hair can be stretched up to 30% of its original length without damage, but irreversible changes occur when hair is stretched past 30%. Stretch it to 80% and the hair will fracture, so be gentle on your hair when it’s wet! Make sure it’s well conditioned and use a wide-toothed comb.

Static Charge and Flyaways

In general, “static” hair happens more in the winter, when hair is dehydrated. Damaged hair is even more likely to suffer the “finger in a light socket” look in the depths of winter, especially when you run a brush through it. The best way to prevent this is to keep hair very moisturized and well conditioned. Leave-in conditioners can be lifesavers, as can moisturizing shampoos and hairsprays. The trick is to keep brushing to a minimum and keep hair hydrated.