Do you have natural hair? If so, you know that it can be a challenge to keep it looking its best. One issue that many naturals face is shrinkage. Shrinkage occurs when the hair appears shorter and more tightly coiled than it actually is. It can be frustrating, especially when trying to style your hair. You can manage your shrinkage and keep your curls looking fabulous with the right tools and techniques! You can maintain healthy and bouncy hair all year long by following these tips! This article will discuss 12 ways to deal with natural hair shrinkage.
What is Natural Hair Shrinkage?
Natural hair shrinkage is the natural phenomenon that occurs when your hair dries and returns to its natural state. The length of your hair appears shorter, and the strands are more tightly coiled than they were when wet.
Natural hair can shrink up to 80% of its actual length!
Shrinkage can be a problem when trying to achieve certain styles, as the hair may not lay flat or may not hold a curl.
What Causes Natural Hair to Shrink?
Now that we know what natural hair shrinkage is let’s look at the causes.
Two main factors contribute to natural hair shrinkage:
1. Type of Hair
Keratin is a protein that makes up the majority of our hair. The keratin fibers in curly and kinky hair are shaped differently than those in straight or wavy hair.
Therefore, curly and kinky hair has more natural bends and coils than straight or wavy hair.
Tight coils cause type 4c natural hair to experience more shrinkage than any other hair type.
2. Exposure to Water
Water is one of the leading causes of natural hair shrinkage.
When natural hair gets wet, the strands swell and expand. Once the hair dries, it returns to its original state, which is often much shorter than when it was wet.
Humidity can also cause natural hair to shrink.
If you live in a climate with high humidity, you may find that your hair shrinks more often than if you live in a drier climate.
The Science Behind Natural Hair Shrinkage
Different types of bonds hold the protein fibers together in our hair. There are three main types of bonds:
- Disulphide Bonds: These are the strongest type of bonds. They are chemical bonds that give the hair its strength and elasticity. Chemical relaxers alter disulphide bonds permanently.
- Hydrogen Bonds: These are physical side bonds, weaker than disulphide bonds. These bonds give hair the ability to stretch and return to its original shape. Water or heat can easily break down these bonds.
- Salt Bonds: These are also physical side bonds. They are weak bonds that break when exposed to strong acidic or alkaline solutions.
This characteristic is why natural hair shrinks when it dries! When exposed to water, hydrogen bonds temporarily stretch. As the hair dries, these bonds reform and the hair returns to its natural state.
You can temporarily rebuild hydrogen bonds into different shapes through stylings such as rollers, braids or twists. The hair strands will hold onto the shape memory of your hairstyle.
However, they will return to their natural shape when exposed to water again as hydrogen bonds are weak and break down quickly.
What are the Benefits of Natural Hair Shrinkage?
Despite being a nuisance for some, natural hair shrinkage does have its benefits!
- Shrinkage is a good thing! Shrinkage is a sign of healthy hair. If your hair is shrinking, that means the protein bonds in your hair are strong and intact.
- Natural hair shrinkage also means that the hair strands have good elasticity and are well hydrated.
- Shrinkage can also help protect your hair from damage. When natural hair shrinks, the strands are tightly coiled and less likely to break.
- Lastly, shrinkage also makes your hair appear thicker and fuller. The coils take up more space than straight hair, giving the illusion of more volume.
How to Manage Natural Hair Shrinkage
Now that we know what natural hair shrinkage is and what causes it let’s look at how to manage it.
Remember, shrinkage is part of having healthy natural hair! And the only way to permanently eliminate it is by chemically straightening your hair.
#1. Don’t let your hair shrink on wash day.
The best way to prevent natural hair shrinkage on wash day is to wash your hair in twisted sections.
Take out one twist at a time to wash, condition, rinse and re-twist before moving to the next one.
This process may be time-consuming, but it will help reduce the amount of shrinkage you experience.
It will additionally help detangle your hair and prevent breakage.
#2. Blow your roots
If you want to wear your natural hair straight, blow-drying your roots is an excellent way to do so without causing too much shrinkage.
Be careful about the amount of heat you use, as too much heat can damage your hair.
Avoid direct heat on your hair and opt for the lowest heat setting possible.
If you prefer a straighter look, apply a heat protectant and slightly increase the heat setting.
#3. Use a diffuser
If you want to wear your natural hair curly or wavy, you can use a diffuser to minimize shrinkage.
A diffuser is a great way to add volume and definition to your curls without causing them to shrink.
Once your roots are dry, allow your natural hair to air dry or diffuse the rest of your hair in a low heat setting.
#4. Wet setting
Wet-setting is another excellent way to style natural hair without causing shrinkage.
To wet set your hair, simply apply a product to damp hair and then put it into a protective style such as braids, twists or cornrows.
Allow your hair to air dry or sit under a hooded dryer. Once your hair is completely dry, take down the style and enjoy your beautiful, shrinkage-free curls!
#5. Try natural stretching techniques.
If you want to stretch your natural hair without causing shrinkage, you can try a few different techniques.
One popular method is the banding technique. To do this, put your hair into four or more sections as desired. Ensure hair is adequately moisturized and wrap ponytail holders along the length of each section.
Leave the hair ties in for 2-3 hours (or until the hair is dry) before taking them out and enjoying your stretched natural hair!
- African Threading
Another stretching technique is called the African threading method. This method is similar to the banding technique, but you use thread instead of ponytail holders.
Other popular natural stretching techniques include: using curlformers, bantu knots, and twist-outs/braid-outs.
#6. Use Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a natural moisturizer that can help reduce shrinkage. It contains lauric acid, which helps to hydrate and nourish the hair.
Lauric acid comprises small molecules that can easily penetrate the hair shaft.
To reduce shrinkage using coconut milk, use it in place of your regular conditioner. You can also use it as a leave-in conditioner or detangler.
#7. Try using bentonite clay
Bentonite clay is a natural hair product that can help to reduce shrinkage. This clay is known for its ability to absorb excess oil and impurities from the hair and scalp.
Bentonite clay can also help to add volume and definition to natural hair. To use bentonite clay, mix it with water or apple cider vinegar to create a paste. Apply the paste to your hair and scalp and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it out.
#8. Style your hair at night
One of the best ways to reduce natural hair shrinkage is to style your hair at night. It allows your hair time to stretch out and reduces the heat and manipulation required to style it during the day.
There are a few different ways that you can style your natural hair at night:
- Braid your damp hair into a few braids as desired.
- Two-strand twist your wet hair into medium to large twists.
- Pineapple style it by gathering all of your hair on top of your head. And secure it with a satin scrunchie.
Always sleep in a satin/silk bonnet or scarf to protect your natural hair from breakage and moisture loss.
#9. Use the LOC/LCO Methods
The LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method is excellent for moisturizing natural hair and reducing shrinkage.
To do this, start with freshly washed natural hair. Apply a liquid leave-in conditioner to your hair, and then follow it up with an oil of your choice.
Finally, seal in the moisture by applying cream or butter to your hair. You can use the LOC method daily or as needed.
The LCO (liquid, cream, oil) method is similar to the LOC method, but the order you apply the products is different.
With this method, you start with a leave-in conditioner, followed by a creamy moisturizer and then seal it all in with an oil.
The products in these methods help stretch each coil and reduce excessive shrinkage once the hair dries.
#10. Use Hair Shrinkage Products
If you want to reduce natural hair shrinkage, a few products can help.
One popular product is the Don’t Shrink — Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel by Aunt Jackie’s. This gel is lightweight and does not cause caking or flaking. It helps control shrinkage while adding moisture and shine to natural hair.
Another product that can help reduce natural hair shrinkage is the Pomegranate & Honey Curling Custard by Mielle Organics. This cream helps to moisturize and repair damage while reducing shrinkage.
To use either of these products, apply them to damp or dry hair as desired. Style your hair as usual and enjoy your reduced shrinkage!
#11. Do Regular Henna Hair Treatments
Henna is a natural hair product that can help to reduce shrinkage. Henna works by temporarily adhering to the hair shaft and adding length and volume.
Mix it with black tea or water to form a paste to use henna. Apply the paste to your hair and scalp and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it out. It also helps to protect the hair from damage and breakage.
It would be best to do henna treatments every few weeks to maintain effectiveness.
#12. Embrace Shrinkage
Last but not least, one of the best ways to deal with natural hair shrinkage is to simply embrace it! Shrinkage is a natural part of having curly or kinky hair.
Instead of trying to fight it, learn to love it and style your hair in a way that embraces your shrinkage. There are many beautiful hairstyles that you can do with shrinkage.
So, instead of seeing natural hair shrinkage as a bad thing, try to see it as a natural and beautiful part of your hair journey!
While shrinkage is a natural part of having curly or kinky hair, it can be frustrating when you want your hair to look a certain way, and it just doesn’t seem possible.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to reduce natural hair shrinkage and achieve your desired style.
Try one or more of the methods listed above and enjoy your new, less shrinkage hair!