Shrinkage on natural hair is real! If your hair is curly, kinky or coily, you definitely understand this. While some naturals experience just a little bit of shrinkage, some others experience shrinkage up to 80 percent of their actual hair length. This can be really annoying especially when you want those inches you worked so hard to be visible for all to see.
What is shrinkage?
Shrinkage is the decrease in hair length when your hair goes from wet to dry. It is your hair curling back into itself, this forming knots. The level of shrinkage you experience would depend on your hair type. For most people with tighter curls like 4b and 4c hair types, we seem to have a lot of shrinkage due to the tightness of our coils.
Not only is it completely normal and a sign of healthy hair it shows that your hair is properly moisturized and has good elasticity. For every natural, their hair will experience shrinkage in some way shape, or form it can be after washing and styling your hair.
Here are two reasons why shrinkage is a good thing and a sign of good hair health.
- Good Elasticity: If you experience shrinkage it means that your hair has great elasticity and doesn’t break easily. Elasticity equates to strong hair.
- No damage: Shrinkage on natural hair is a sign that your hair hasn’t been damaged by heat or chemical styling. Your hair’s ability to bounce back means that it’s in a healthy state.
Even though shrinkage is a great sign that your hair is healthy, it can pose some problems such as the formation of single-strand knots which eventually leads to breakage making length retention a problem. Therefore, learning ways to reduce shrinkage not only helps you retain length but also makes managing your hair quite easier.
7 effective ways to reduce shrinkage on natural hair
1. Blow Drying
This is using heat to dry out your hair. This provides maximum length. However, it is important you prep your hair with a heat protectant before doing a blowout. Never blow dry a dry hair.
Tips to get maximum length from a blow out
- Air dry your hair first: Don’t blow-dry as soon as you finish washing your hair. Let it sit dry till it becomes damp and most of the water is out.
- Use a heat protectant: Heat can weaken your hair, therefore, it is important to protect your hair with a product before applying heat. These could be oils such as Moroccan oil, hemp oil, argan oil, or even shea butter.
- Keep the nozzle of the dryer away from your hair. While drying, keep the hairdryer as far away from your hair as you can. The closer it is to your hair the more damage it could cause.
- Use low heat. Using the lowest heat setting helps reduce the amount of damage that your natural hair could encounter.
- Don’t forget to comb through your hair strands gently as you dry for maximum length.
- Focus on your roots if you want more volume.
Watch this video below to learn how to properly blow-dry your natural hair.
This method is an alternative way to stretch your hair without heat. It involves using ouchless hair bands to stretch your hair.
While your hair is damp, divide your hair into sections and tie the ouchless bands from the roots all the way to the tips until it dries. Be careful about breakage and tension with this method. Once dried, remove the bands carefully.
Banding method decreases the risk of knots and tangles. It helps with length retention, which to most people looks like growth.
3. African Threading
This is yet another heatless way to get rid of shrinkage. It is a traditional styling technique that goes back in time.
For this technique, black thread is wrapped around the hair from the roots all the way to the ends. This is a low manipulation style that not only stretches the hair but helps retain length and leads to minimum damage. It also gives the result of an actual blow out.
To get the best out of African threading, follow these few tips:
- Avoid washing your hair while threaded. Wash your hair before threading and thread on a damp hair.
- Avoid threading too tight or too small of a section.
- Avoid wearing the thread for too long. This is like a temporary stretching technique. This style should be worn for a few weeks or less.
4. Bantu knots
Bantu knots is one of the stunning natural hairstyles you find. They work great in reducing shrinkage on natural hair and as protective styles.
How to do a Bantu knot
- Wash and detangle your hair. Detangling the hair helps make knots and knot outs as smooth and shiny as possible.
- On damp hair, separate your hair into multiple sections using a rat tail comb. The bigger the section the bigger the curls. If the hair is short you can use smaller sections.
- Apply a curl cream or anti-frizzle product. Stick with a product that has light to minimum hold to create knots and knot outs that hold their form without becoming stiff.
- Twist a small coil at the base of your scalp. Twist each section of hair for a few turns in between your fingertips like turning a doorknob.
- Gradually wind the remaining hair in the section around the base coil bringing the hair closer to your head with each wrapped layer.
- Set the coils in place. If the coils are tight enough you can usually tuck the ends under the coil to hold them in place. Don’t let the coils be too loose.
- Repeat the procedure on the remaining sections until you are done.
You can wear this style out or do it at night and unravel the next morning to give your hair a stretched look with curls that are popping.
5. Roller set
This involves rolling your hair using a variety of tools such as flexi rods, perm rod, magnetic rollers, etc, to set your hair while it dries. This is done immediately after washing while the hair is still wet. This set method can either create curls or straighten your hair depending on the tools you decide to use.
Watch the video below on how to stretch your hair using a flexi rod set.
6. Twists and braids
One of the simplest methods for reducing shrinkage especially if you already twist your hair before washing is to put your hair in a twist or braid while wet and leave it in until it’s dry. Then unravel the twist or braid for stretched coils.
7. Use anti-frizz products.
Anti-frizz products are products formulated to help smoothen and elongate your coils. Creams and gels are useful for reducing both freeze and shrinkage while you’re doing your twist braids or roller sets. These products can be identified by the inscription “anti-frizz” on the front label.
Keep your hair in twists while washing. This is the easiest way to solve shrinkage. Do not allow your hair to shrink on wash day by keeping your hair in several twists when you wash and only take out the twist when it is time to apply is shampoo, conditioner, or for rinsing. You’ll find that your hair is less likely to shrink if you keep it in an elongated state while it’s wet or damp.
Apply aloe vera gel before styling. Aloe vera is rich in hydration enzymes and amino acids for your hair. The smoothing properties and will help reduce shrinkage when you apply it before using your styling products. Your hair has more length when it’s wet or hydrated therefore it is important to keep your hair well-hydrated.
Use natural gels: Gels are thicker than other products and can lock in moisture longer.
You should keep in mind that reducing shrinkage on a regular basis may even permanently break your curl pattern. Reducing shrinkage is helpful if you like to wear your natural hair straight and let those inches show. Reducing shrinkage will ultimately make your hair more manageable, healthy, and less prone to breakage.
However, you should learn to embrace shrinkage as it is natural and a sign of good hair health. Nevertheless, it is better to opt for the heatless ways of stretching your hair. Try to avoid heat as much as you can.