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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stretching 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.