Photo by @limitlessbloom
Shrinkage is natural for women with textured hair, and the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage you will experience. Some only have 20% to 30% shrinkage while others can have as much as 75%! Our hair expands when wet and shrinks while drying.
The ability for our hair to shrink back to its normal state after being stretched is a sign that it is healthy, but many women dislike their shrinkage and view it as a problem. One such reader who dislikes her shrinkage wrote in to express this concern, and we wanted to share our tips with everyone.
I have 4c hair. It’s [been growing out for] 11 months. It keeps shrinking. It shrinks so much it looks like a 2-inch hair.
I totally understand your concern, as I, too, deal with shrinkage. Before I got my hair cut, when I wore my hair in a wash and go and did not fluff or interfere with it, by day three, my bra-strap length hair would shrink to a TWA. Annoying? Yes, but it can be fixed temporarily and without heat.
I do not suggest heat, as even one application of heat can cause heat damage. Highly-textured hair should not be subjected to heat too often, as it can cause not only damage, but dehydration as well.
Our hair may be growing longer, but for some of us the shrinkage increases as our hair grows! I want to reiterate that shrinkage is not a bad thing, but if you prefer to wear your hair stretched, then here are seven super easy ways to do that without damaging your hair.
Banding is a method of stretching your hair without trying to make it bone straight. Simply divide hair into sections, and place ponytail holders from root to tip on each section. Allow your hair to air-dry, and then remove the bands. If you want even straighter hair, then you can remove the ponytail holders, and wrap your hair with a silk scarf tightly to help straighten the hair. This can cause a lot of tension, which can cause breakage, so do not use this method often.
I use this method to prevent shrinkage on my own hair, but I prefer to use a method with less tension. I simply place my wet hair in a low ponytail in an ouchless barrette and remove the barette when my hair is almost dry. I shake and go, and that keeps my hair from shrinking as much as it normally would.
2. Bantu-Knot Out
A fun style all by themselves, Bantu knots are a great way to stretch the hair. They can be created on wet or dry hair. Simply section your hair and twist the sections into Bantu knots, then allow them to air-dry completely. When you take them down, you will have a textured look, but with more stretch than your natural texture.
3. High Ponytail or Bunning
A high ponytail is a great way to stretch your hair without heat, and it also maintains a textured look. Make sure not to fasten the ponytail too tightly, or you will end up with straighter hair at the roots, and a curlier texture on the ends. You can also put your hair in a low ponytail for less tension and a similar effect.
4. Roller Sets
Roller sets are a popular stretching technique among highly textured natural curlies. The bigger the roller, the more the hair will be stretched, so many use this style to achieve straighter styles. Make sure hair is properly detangled and completely wet before rolling, and if you want straight hair, just wrap your hair up in a satin scarf when it is completely dry. Mousses or setting lotions are the best styling product for this style.
Ready to try out rollers? Different types achieve different looks, so here’s our quick guide to finding the one for you.
5. Twist-Outs and Braid-Outs
Twist outs and braid outs help stretch the hair, and will still give you that textured look. Another great benefit of these styles is that the hair will be stretched when the style is old, and can be styled into a new look throughout the week. For extra elongation, when you have completed your style, pin your twists to the opposite side of your head. Flat-twist outs give more elongation than regular twist-outs, but all three —flat, regular, and braid-outs — help stretch the hair while keeping a textured look.
Flat twists and twist-outs are not the same; here’s the difference.
African threading is a heatless stretching method that can also be worn as a protective style in its own right. It originates from Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is called Nywele in Swahili. Typically black thread (or any thread that matches your hair color) is wrapped around your hair from root to tip, leaving out the end. As you can see above this method can also be used on a TWA.
7. A combination that works for you
You can use a combination of the techniques above to create the stretching method that works for your hair and your routine, like Miss Tyler Simone did. She stretches her TWA by banding the roots with hair ties and twisting the ends for the back section of her hair, and then twists the front section of her hair. Jemima aka @limitlessbloom used scrunchies on her roots to stretch them out for her twist out.
Photo by @limitlessbloom
The process of developing your hair care routine is always going to be a matter of finding the techniques, products, and styles that fit best with your lifestyle and your specific hair concerns – and whether you choose to embrace shrinkage or stretch your hair is up to you too!
How do you prevent shrinkage? Or do you just not even worry about it? Share in the comments section below!
This article has been updated based on community feedback.