In the natural community, we have the tendency to view shrinkage as a bad thing, but what if I told you that it’s not necessarily a bad thing, that it can be a sign of healthy hair, and that we should readily embrace it instead of trying to avoid it like the plague.
Who decided that shrinkage was bad or that its presence was unappealing? Before you give me any crazy looks, let me first say that I understand the desire to see those inches, trust me I do. I rock some fine tightly coiled curls and most days it looks like a very full TWA (teenie weenie afro) no matter how long it gets.
It used to bother me, and I honestly do still like to see the length, but I have learned the value of the elasticity in my strands and how to accept it as is. So, join me today as we take a closer look at shrinkage, what it means, and why I learned to embrace it.
What shrinkage is
Shrinkage is essentially a way of life for anyone with highly textured hair. By definition, it is when the hair contracts or lifts as a result of moisture loss or drying of the hair. At any given time, the hair can release or absorb moisture from the atmosphere. During this process, as moisture is released, the hair will draw up or shrink. Shrinkage is most evident as the hair moves from a soaking wet to a dry state. When wet, hair can stretch to about 50% of its natural length. When it dries, as the moisture is released, the hair will begin to draw up.
Why we should be OK with it
Besides the fact that this process will occur whether we like it or not, shrinkage can be a sign of healthy hair. Elasticity, or the ability of the hair to stretch and return to its original length without breaking, is a good thing. It usually demonstrates that the hair is in good condition and adequately hydrated.
While we can’t depend on shrinkage or elasticity alone as the only indicator of the health of our hair, if we are routinely cleansing our hair and incorporating healthy practices into our routine, it could be a sign that our hair is thriving.
Ways to realize length
As a bonus, for those of us who get where I’m coming from but still would rather see the length, I have included a few simple suggestions on ways to do it without damaging the hair.
Remember, all techniques are not created equal. We will take a look at techniques you may want to avoid and some proven techniques that may be beneficial.
What I wouldn’t do
Several techniques can be used to help stretch the hair during the styling process. While most may give similar results, all of them do not have the same lasting effects on the hair. Techniques, like banding, that require significant manipulation and wrapping of the hair can, over time, create weak points in the hair strand. These weak points can increase the fragile nature of the hair and often lead to breakage.
Alternative ways to stretch the hair:
The following are some of the alternative ways to achieve an elongated look of the hair strands without compromising the overall strength of the hair.
- Twist outs, knot outs, or braid outs – depending on the density of the hair, these methods may be a great way to achieve length when styling. For those with fine or low-density hair, it is better to avoid these styles if you would like a fuller look.
- Layering gels – Depending on your climate and location, humidity can play a significant role in the look and longevity of your styles. Layering anti-humectant gels can help reduce shrinkage associated with humidity. The practice of layering gels regardless of humidity can also be useful when you are trying to achieve an elongated look.
- Drying under a hooded dryer – The speed and way you choose to dry your hair can also affect shrinkage. Hair that is air-dried has greater opportunity to shrink because it is dried slower and requires longer for the gel cast to form. Drying under a hooded dryer will dry the hair quickly, creating the gel cast and securing the style while your hair is in its elongated state.
- Allow the style to fully “set’ – setting a style requires that you allow it to dry thoroughly and completely before any significant manipulation. Excessive touching and moving of wash and gos or taking a twist out down before it is dry can result in a lack of definition and shrunken frizzy strands.
No matter what stage your hair is in, it is important to feel confident and comfortable. Focusing on the overall health of your hair will help you to achieve many of the goals that you set for your natural hair journey. Learning to embrace your shrinkage will allow you to acknowledge its benefits, promote the overall health of your hair, and help to eliminate some major frustrations.
If you need help accepting your shrinkage, or you’d like to explore ways to help your hair thrive, visit us today and let’s start a curly conversation. At Bold Kulture Beauty, we will give you the tools needed to be successful and will gladly assist you in achieving all your healthy hair goals.
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