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4 Tips for Dealing with Natural Hair Shrinkage

By June 5, 2012hair + beauty

“Shrinkage” — has long been a problem for our male counterparts, who watch their manhood transform into a frightened turtle after taking a dip in the pool. For good or for bad, we curly girls are not immune and also have to deal with shrinkage when it comes to our natural tresses.

Naturalistas know that, when damp and tightly coiled, our hair can appear to be 50%, 33%, or even 25% of its true length. Shrinkage is a testament to the moisture level, porosity, and elasticity of healthy, curly hair. Although we at Thank God I’m Natural are all about loving the hair we’ve been born with, here is some tips to help you to counteract shrinkage and display more length, while retaining your curly/kinky texture. We’ve done the research for you, so here are a few options to help you take back your curls – none of which should damage your hair provided you take the proper precautions.

Tip #1 — Weigh it Down

Many naturals have discovered that certain leave-in conditioners, gels, and pomades can help to weigh your mane down and stretch the curl pattern in a way that elongates the hair. The key is to avoid products with alcohol which can dry your hair out. You also should avoid pore-clogging ingredients such as wax, petroleum, and mineral oil, which simply sit on top of the hair and scalp without providing any added moisture benefits

We here at TGIN like the Olive Oil variety of the Eco Styler Gel when used in combination with the Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave in Conditioner.

Tip #2 — Blow it Out

You also can use a blow dryer coupled with a Denman brush or comb attachment to elongate afro-textured tresses. You may remember references to Afro Sheen’s famous Blowout Kit from the 1970s – well the same concept applies today. Fortunate for us naturals of the 2000s, we have come a long way with regard to the products that can protect our hair from heat. Remember to moisturize your hair, seal it with oil, and use a thermal heat protecting product prior to blow drying your freshly washed and conditioned hair. Blown out hair is soft, fluffy, and elongated, and comes close as possible to representing your true length. Another option, which involves less heat, is just using a blow dryer with a comb attachment to stretch or pick out your roots. Both are great for giving your hair more volume and length.

Tip #3 — Banding

It’s kind of obvious when you really think about it, but one of the best ways to elongate is to literally stretch your hair by pulling it back. You can experiment with “banding” your hair by using tight, covered elastic headbands or ponytail holders spaced out in segments to cover the length of your hair. Always be careful to avoid using too much tension to manipulate your hair.

Banding can be done on wet, damp, or dry hair. You may choose to use a setting lotion or pudding that will gently smooth and hold your hair into its elongated state while banding. YouTube has a host of banding trial and error video tutorials. Don’t be afraid to play with your hair and see what works for you.

Tip #4 — Twisting & Braiding

We all know that one of the most beautiful forms of combating shrinkage is twisting and braiding – these techniques have been used on natural hair for as long as we remember. As little girls, we can all remember what our hair would look like when our mothers took our braids and twists down. The byproduct of this type of manipulation was always elongated hair with a beautiful uniform wave pattern.

For a more polished grown up look, we can use two strand twists, flat twists, and braids to have the appearance of more length. Avoid using too much tension to twist and braid your hair or you may risk damage from traction alopecia. Hair can be pulled firm, but not hard. Remember to moisturize your hair, seal it in with a little oil, and use a product that will hold your wave pattern long after the twists and braids are taken down. We like Organic Root Stimulator Lock and Twist Gel. It is alcohol free and it never flakes.

If you’ve got shrinkage, now you have the tools in your hair arsenal that will tell it to stand down.

So how many of you experience shrinkage and what, if anything do you do to stretch your hair out?

For more information about natural hair care, please pick up a copy of the book Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair now available at www.tginstore.com, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.