Shine, luster and fighting dull locks

What is shiny hair?

Shiny hair is a byproduct of when hair strands lay side-by-side — hence why flat ironing hair increases shine. Uniformity in curl pattern is what reduces frizz and increases shine. The less uniform someone’s curl pattern is, the more “mismatched” the peaks and valleys of each hair strand become. This causes light to refract and scatter on each hair strand, rather than reflecting a brilliant sheen.

Why locks don’t shine

Some starting methods popular for kinky hair types, such as comb coils, can make baby locks look really shiny at first. This look is associated with healthy hair, so people begin to panic when the lock begins to mature and the shininess goes away. They overcompensate by loading their locks up with thick layers of oils and serums to simulate shine, but ultimately end up with dehydrated hair with a layer of product buildup. Don’t fall into this trap; decreased shine is normal for a maturing lock.

Mature locks are ropes of knotted hair. Knots are made of loopty-looped hair strands that get zig-zaggy and tangled. The hairs of a mature lock cannot lay side-by-side. Tight knots can’t be formed by hair strands laying side-by-side. Therefore, it’s silly to aspire to have shiny mature locks. It’s fighting the reality of optical physics, and trying to keep them looking shiny is an unhealthy uphill battle.

Identifying and eliminating excess dullness

While locks themselves aren’t super shiny, each hair strand should have a healthy luster. Buildup of any kind can interfere with luster and even change the apparent color of your hair to a darker or ashier tone. If you have residue from product usage, shampoo, or even hard water, your hair will take on an excessively matte, dull tone. Lifting the dull tone with is easy — just fill up your sink with warm water and add two cups of vinegar to it. Soak for 15-30 minutes.

This recipe works so well that some people are falsely led to believe that vinegar lightens their hair — when the hair itself isn’t being lightened, but rather the murky buildup is being lifted.

While this will work well to lift any scum/mineral buildup you may have, it will not make your hair excessively shiny.

If you try the soak described above and notice that your hair experiences no change in luster, then you likely do not have any buildup on your hair. To maximize any further luster, keep your hair healthy and hydrated as best as you can. Once you do that, then your locks have reached their maximum luster, and you have to embrace and make peace with the fact that your hair won’t get any shinier.

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