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If Your Hair Dries Fast, Is It Healthy?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

What Does Fast-Drying Hair Say About the Health of Your Hair?

If your hair dries fast, is it healthy? After washing your hair, the next step is to dry it. It's convenient if your hair dries quickly, but what does fast-drying hair say about the health of your hair? Before answering that question, let’s look at what causes hair to dry slowly or quickly.

The Structure Of Hair Strands

Hair is made up of three main parts: the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.

  • The medulla is the innermost layer of your hair, and it's made up of air and keratin (the protein that gives your hair strands strength). It doesn't do much except provide structure to your strands. Fine hair and lighter hair shades often have little or no medulla.
  • The cortex makes up most of your strands' mass and helps give it strength, texture, and volume. The cortex also contains most of the pigment that gives your hair color.
  • The cuticle is an outer protective layer that covers each strand like scales on a fish or tiles on a roof. This coating helps keep moisture in, and when the cuticle is flat and undamaged, your hair shines.

How Quickly Your Hair Dries Varies With Its Porosity

Hair porosity refers to how well your hair shaft absorbs and retains moisture and other substances from the environment. High porosity means your hair strands are more open and can more easily take in water and the haircare products you apply to them.

More porous hair also lathers up easier than hair with less porosity. Hair is porous when cells in the cuticle of hair strands have more gaps that allow water to enter and escape. These gaps may be an inherited trait or can occur when your hair is damaged.

Highly porous hair grabs on and retains moisture and hair care products easier but also loses moisture faster due to the gaps in the cuticle. Therefore, high porosity hair dries faster than less porous hair.

Low porosity hair, in contrast, absorbs less moisture, oils, and haircare products. If you have low-porosity hair, the cuticle of your hair shaft is smoother, with fewer gaps for water and other substances to enter and leave. This creates a stronger barrier to moisture gain or loss.

Therefore, low-porosity hair doesn't absorb water or hair care products as easily, but when it does, it holds on to them better. So, low-porosity hair dries slower because it tends to hold on to water.

How Porosity Affects Hair Health

Hair becomes more porous when you subject it to chemical treatments like bleaching and perming. These procedures roughen the hair cuticle and create gaps that make the hair shaft cuticle more porous.

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This porosity causes your hair to grab onto water and shampoo and haircare products when you wash it but also allows it to dry faster since water escapes through the gaps.

Although you may have inherited more porous hair, damage to the cuticle from overprocessing is another common cause of high-porosity hair. More porous hair also doesn't reflect light, so your hair looks dull and less shiny.

Low-Porosity Hair Looks Shinier

In contrast, hair with low porosity has a smooth cuticle and looks smoother and shinier, which are markers of healthy hair. However, hair shine is also affected by factors such as:

  • The amount of oil your scalp produces
  • The frequency with which you shampoo
  • How often you condition your hair
  • The quality of the ingredients in your haircare products

Hair can also look dull if exposed to too many heat products, like hair spray too.

Chemically Treated Hair Is More Porous

So, fast-drying hair is often more porous and may be less healthy since it's undergone treatments that damage the hair cuticle. However, this is only a general rule since some people naturally have high-porosity hair. For example, curly hair is more likely to be highly porous than straight hair.

Elasticity Is Another Marker of Hair Health

When your hair is healthy, it will bounce back after you stretch or brush it. You can test this by pulling a strand of your hair and releasing it quickly. If it springs right back, you're in good shape! It lacks elasticity if it stays outstretched, breaks, or takes a while to return to normal. That's when you should think about using more deep conditioning treatments ASAP.

What It Means if Your Hair Dries Fast

If your hair dries fast, is it healthy? It's hard to generalize about hair health based on porosity alone. Some people have more porous hair naturally, but hair also becomes porous when you subject it to repeated chemical treatments that damage the cuticle of the hair shaft, and that can make your hair dry faster.

Better markers of hair health are good elasticity, the ability of your hair to stretch and bounce back rather than break when you pull on it. Also, hair that looks shiny and has minimal breakage or hair loss is usually healthier than hair that breaks easily, another marker of damage to the hair cuticle.

If you have frequent hair breakage or hair loss, see your hairdresser (for hair breakage) or healthcare provider (for hair loss).

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