Among the various types of natural hair, when it comes to curly hair, shrinkage can be one of the most frustrating phenomena for some women.
You can spend hours stretching your curls to their true lengths, only to see the opposite effect as your roots dry.
This can be even more frustrating when you have short hair.
As annoying as it may be, shrinkage in curly hair is entirely natural. It’s part of the journey when you have curly hair.
Rest assured, by understanding your hair’s texture, there are solutions to help reduce shrinkage.
First, let’s look at the definition of shrinkage and how to reduce this phenomenon.
Before reading this article, make sure you’re not making these mistakes on your curly and kinky hair!
What is Shrinkage in Curly Hair?
To begin, shrinkage is an English term that means the reduction in length between the time your natural hair is wet and when it dries.
Depending on hair type and porosity, curly hair can shrink by more than 50% once it’s dry. Shrinkage doesn’t mean your hair is unhealthy; quite the opposite!
It actually shows that your hair is well-hydrated and has good elasticity.
It’s a phenomenon we can’t change with curly hair; in fact, it’s what gives textured hair its unique character.
Certainly, you lose the length you desire when your curls tighten up, but with the right care, including anti-frizz products, you can change your hairstyle without risking damage.
Shrinkage: What Causes It?
To better understand shrinkage, let’s take the example of a sponge.
You see, the small holes in a sponge absorb water, making it softer and larger. But when the sponge’s water evaporates, it returns to its original size.
Similarly, when you wash your clothes, before wringing them out, they are heavy and stretched. Well, for your Afro-textured hair, it works in much the same way.
Water passing through the hair fiber makes it more flexible and adds some weight. As a result, wet hair will expand and stretch.
But in the case of hair, when moisture is removed, either through air-drying or using a hairdryer, they lose that weight and shrink.
However, the advantage of shrinkage is that it acts as a natural moisture gauge. When the curls are hydrated, you can see that they are more supple and elongated. But when you start to see your hair becoming dry, you’ll know it’s time to rehydrate them.
It’s also a good way to determine your hair’s porosity, which is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. This is an important factor in determining the health of your hair, and it’s discussed in detail in another article.
How Can You Reduce Shrinkage?
Regardless of your hair type (whether it’s oily, fine, brittle, normal, straight, wavy, etc.), there will always be some degree of shrinkage, and that’s perfectly normal.
To answer the question, it depends on several factors:
- Your hair type
- Your hair care routine
- How often you moisturize them
- The hair products you use
Even when taking some measures to reduce shrinkage, keep in mind that the real remedy is moisture.
Check these hair care tips to help you :
Stretch Them! Stretching your natural hair is one of the best ways to get rid of shrinkage. Proper stretching techniques are also protective.
These hairstyles include:
- Braids or twists
- African braids
- Low bun
- Banding method
- Threaded braids
- Bantu knots
- Hairdryer (with moderation or on cool settings)
As you know, curly hair easily tangles, and small strands stick together to form knots. It’s a good idea to stretch your hair because it will be easier to style and less prone to breakage.
Hydrate Your Hair in the Shower The key to ensuring that your hair stays hydrated for as long as possible starts in the shower.
You may not notice it immediately, but the type of shampoo you use can impact the quality and drying speed of your hair afterward.
To retain moisture in your hair, it’s recommended to wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid stripping natural oils. This will clean your hair of residues while preserving the volume of curly hair.
Detangle Your Hair Without proper detangling, your hair will inevitably shrink, and it won’t be properly hydrated when you apply your hair care products.
Make sure to use a wide-tooth comb or a soft bristle brush (like a Tangle Teezer), starting from the tips to the roots to avoid unnecessary hair breakage.
Apply the Right Products Once you’ve gone through the previous steps, you’re ready to work on moisture.
Use a conditioner or repair treatment to provide moisture and make detangling easier. Some vegetable oils like castor oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or argan oil in a treatment can make your hair smoother. You can then apply a leave-in conditioner.
When it comes to stretching, you’ll need to do some manual elongation both when the hair is wet and when it’s dry. Try the LOC method (applying water, oil, and leave-in cream) and finger detangling.
Anti-frizz styling products will also help smooth and elongate your curls. Creams and gels are useful for reducing both frizz and shrinkage when doing twist-outs, braids, and even wash-and-go styles. Look for products labeled “anti-frizz” on the label.
Protect Your Hair at Night Of course, it’s essential to cover your hair at night with a satin bonnet or sleep on a satin pillowcase.
I also strongly recommend using a protective hairstyle to keep your curls loose overnight. Sleeping on your curls will not only affect their appearance but also the health of your hair.
If you’re in a hurry, create a pineapple (a high front bun) in your hair if it’s long enough, or multiple pineapples if they’re not long enough for just one. This method will stretch your hair and give it volume once you remove it the next day.
In another article, I provide 8 tips for keeping your curly hair well-hydrated.
One last piece of advice, and I would say it’s the most important one: shrinkage is, once again, a natural phenomenon. How about accepting it?
Easier said than done, but always keep in mind that shrinkage is inevitable for curly hair.
Don’t try to compare your hair texture to that of an influencer, your friends, or even a celebrity. Their porosity and hair type may be entirely different from yours.
What do you do to stretch your natural hair?