Tag Archives: shrinkage

How to stretch your hair without using heat (updated).

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Shrinkage is no fun when hair becomes unmanageable, knotted and prone to breakage. Stretched hair is more pliable and easier to manage, plus, you get to show off more length.  When I first went natural I thought my only option was to blow dry my hair out, after every wash. Too much heat led to dry hair and slight heat damage. There are many methods of stretching the hair without having to rely on heat. Here are some old ideas revisited plus some new ones.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage

Braids and Twists

This is the most common method. Hair is put into medium to large braids or twists to wear in a stretched out style, such as a braid out or twist out.  If this is done after washing, larger twists or braids can be done and kept in overnight; this will be a quick way to stretch the hair for easier styling the next day.  If you do braids or twists on dry hair (other than a light spray of water), this will stretch the hair out even more.

Bandingbands

Purchase a packet of hair bands, preferably the seamless, snag proof ones.  After washing, divide hair into medium-sized sections (usually 8-10).  Then band each section, working from the roots to tips. Each band should be an inch or so apart. Here is a good tutorial on banding.

 I enjoyed this method but it was a little time-consuming. I have only tried it once.  It’s good for achieving a heatless blowout.  I found that it took a while to dry, especially the sections of hair covered by the bands.  Covering your head with a satin scarf will delay the drying further.  Leave your head uncovered and sleep on a  satin pillow case,  or cover your pillow with your satin scarf.

 Buns

After I take my hair down from a bun, it is always stretched out.  My hair is most stretched after being in a low bun.  I put my hair in a low ponytail, then  braid the ponytail and tuck it under into a bun.  This can be tricky with thick hair, so you can do two or three large braids to make it easier.  After taking down the bun and finger combing my hair slightly, my hair looks like a blowout.

You can also put your hair into two low buns after washing, and leave it overnight. This will stretch it out for the next day. Top knots, high buns and doughnut buns also work well for stretching the hair.

 Roller sets

Putting your hair in large rollers and sitting under a hooded dryer  (or air drying), leaves the hair stretched.  It may even look like it has been straightened or at least blown out.  Again, this may be time-consuming, but should leave you with stretched out hair for a week or even longer.

 Roll tuck and pin

A quick and convenient protective style, that can be done after washing.  If done after washing, your hair will be stretched when it is dry.  This can work with shorter hair as well, but it may require the use of more pins.  Invest in some strong hair pins!

Kimmaytube has a great tutorial on this.

 French braids

It is best to do this on damp hair that is more pliable.  If done on dry hair there may be too much manipulation involved, especially if your hair is in a shrunken state.  After taking your hair down from a French braid, it will be wavy and elongated, with a flat twist out appearance. You could do two French braids on either side, one large braid down the middle, or a bohemian braid around your head to frame your face.

french braid hair

 Heatless blowout

This can be achieved by finger combing your hair or gently using a wide tooth comb, after it has been in an old twist out or braid out. Or after it has been in curlformers, rollers or flexi rods. Before washing your hair you can wear it in as a blown out style without the use of heat.

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My heatless blowout

Stretching out your hair leads to greater manageability and less breakage when styling. The kinkier your hair is, the more you will benefit from wearing stretched out styles. It can also help to reduce single strand knots and  tangling.  How do you stretch out your hair? Share your ideas below.

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Step Away From The Relaxer (part 2)

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Here are tips 3 and 4 in the Step Away From the Relaxer series.  These are some encouraging tips for those who have recently done the big chop or are transitioning and have now come to the ‘awkward’ stage of their journey. Some people give up at this stage and go back to relaxer.  I hope you find these helpful and they give you a few ideas to get through this point. The results are worth it, so hang on in there!

3.  Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair. I believe caring for natural hair requires more effort and the sooner I accepted this the easier it was for me to adjust. It is not going to be like when your hair was relaxed. If you keep comparing the two experiences you will put unrealistic expectations on you and your hair.  When my hair was relaxed I didn’t have to worry about detangling it and shrinkage was never an issue. When I went to bed I didn’t have to worry about stretching it out to style it the next day.

However,  with natural hair, it simply isn’t the same experience. In spite of this the benefits make it worthwhile. I personally didn’t like how flat my hair looked when it was relaxed. I would prefer it a couple of weeks after, when it appeared thicker, as opposed to when it was freshly relaxed. I have always liked big hair!  Now, my hair is the longest it has ever been. When my hair was relaxed it always grew to a certain point (halfway down my neck) and it would not grow beyond that point. I also believe natural hair is much more versatile. There are many more styling options with natural hair that I was previously unaware of. Check out my posts: The Versatility of Natural Hair parts 1 and 2 for inspiration. To be honest I don’t miss the harsh smell of relaxer, neither do I  miss the burning and the scabs on my scalp that followed!

Freedom!

I’m a lot more conscious about ingredients and always scrutinise labels. This goes for hair, skin and food products. Overall, I’m no longer only concerned with the health of my hair,  but with my skin, body and overall health. Hair is the least important part of our bodies so if we are going to make an effort with caring for the health of our hair, how much more for our overall health.  It’s not just about avoiding relaxers but other harmful chemicals and ingredients. When you understand the health benefits of your actions it encourages you to continue doing what is best for your health. So perhaps research the effects of the chemicals they put in relaxers (sodium hydroxide for example). Once you know the facts you can make an informed decision. It’s a personal choice but nothing should be done out of ignorance. Since most of us got relaxers when we were kids I doubt we were fully aware of the facts.

 4. Learn how to manage shrinkage.  This is one of the main challenges for kinky, coily hair.  You will experience it after washing and if you are wearing your hair out during the week it may gradually begin to shrink up.  When you wake up in the morning you may find your hair has been flattened from laying down all night and you have to spend time fluffing it out again. This can be annoying, especially when your hair doesn’t cooperate and you don’t have time.  I found that I relied heavily on blow-dryers when I first went natural because I wanted my hair to remain stretched out. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have used them. Please refer to my previous article: How to stretch out your natural hair without heat. Basically braiding or twisting your hair stretches it out. So before bed you can put it in 5 or 6 medium to large-sized braids. Also, remember when your hair has shrunk and you want to handle it to style, always add water before trying to comb or pick it out! Otherwise you’ll be dealing with tangled hair and if you are in a hurry you are more likely to cause damage to your hair. I always wash my hair in twists or braids so that the shrinkage is minimised, and your hair is reinforced when it is in braids, making  it less fragile.

How do you manage shrinkage? What benefits have you experienced since going natural?

How to stretch your hair without using heat

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Same hair stretched out

Fully shrunken hair

Every time I go to the hairdressers to have my hair put in cornrows they whip out the blow dryer and hair straighteners.  They always feel the need to straighten my hair before they can braid it. I certainly didn’t have this problem when my hair was relaxed of course. However with natural hair it seems many hairdressers are clueless and simply seek to put your hair in a state they are more familiar with before they can style it.  It’s only when I learned to braid my own hair that I realised my hair didn’t have to be straightened before I could braid it neatly. It’s funny, when men get their hair cornrowed at the barbers they don’t have to have their hair straightened beforehand and their cornrows turn out perfect!

After washing
So what are the different ways you can stretch your hair out before styling it. I’m not going to lie, when my hair is in a shrunken state it is impossible to deal with. In fact shrinkage was one of the biggest obstacles to deal with when I first went natural.  I wasn’t use to it and couldn’t believe how much my hair shrunk after washing, at least 75% of the overall length. When I was a kid I use to hate washing my hair simply because of the shrinkage and the harsh combing and painful detangling that followed.

So how do I stretch out my hair after washing so that it is easier to style? My hair gradually shrinks during the week if I wear it out, perhaps due to the weather or simply sleeping on it. I often have to stretch it out if I’m between washes.   Well it’s very simple. First of all I find it a lot easier to wash my hair in loose twists or braids (about six big ones). This stops it from shrinking completely in the first place and when I towel dry my hair I never let it get completely dry before styling. Damp hair is much more durable and thus easier to style, this minimises breakage as well.

Braids and other methods
Then, I simply put my hair braids, adding leave in conditioner or oil to lock in the moisture from the water.  If I want to do a braid out that week  I will braid my hair accordingly and undo the braids the next day. If I want to put my hair in cornrows or another style I will do the same but  it will not be necessary to do as many braids. I usually do medium-sized braids.   After braiding my hair and allowing it to dry overnight, it will be stretched out the next day when the braids are taken out. Then it will be a lot easier to either cornrow,  French braid or style however I want.  Styling is a lot easier to do with stretched-out hair.  I have not used a blow dryer or straightening iron for almost a year now. It was simply a personal decision for me, many people are fine with applying heat to their hair but I choose to avoid it as much as possible now.

So just to recap; to stretch out your hair I would recommend washing it in large braids or twists and braiding after washing and leaving them to dry overnight.  Twists will also stretch out your hair and if you ever put your hair in rollers or curl formers, one added benefit is that they stretch out your hair as well. Perhaps after having your hair styled this way, before washing, you could use the opportunity to do a twist or braid out and enjoy the length that will result from your hair being stretched out. Simply finger combing will get rid of the waves or curls and your hair should be near its maximum length! Putting your hair in Bantu knots also help to stretch it out. Have a look at the video below:

So I hope this helps you find an alternative to heat and helps you to deal better with shrinkage. Most importantly remember that shrinkage is a good thing. It shows that your hair is doing what it is supposed to do. Healthy hair will shrink back to its original curl pattern (which is usually tightly coiled for natural textured hair) when wet. It’s all part of the fun. Unfortunately with hair that has been damaged by heat it may not return to its natural curl pattern. Till this day I still have some straight strands in the front of my head which I know is a result of heat damage. So be aware of the risks that come along with using heat. For those that want to be heat free, give it a try!

How do you stretch out your hair without heat? Share in the comments below.