Some of the most viewed posts on this blog are the ones related to stretching natural hair, especially after washing. Shrinkage is one the main challenges for women with natural hair. A lack of understanding about shrinkage can lead many to conclude that their natural hair is unmanageable or difficult to tame. Some have also had bad experiences related to shrinkage, such as irreparable tangles and breakage. Others may not like how shrinkage hides the true length of their hair and get tired explaining yet again, how they didn’t cut their hair or recently go natural. However, shrinkage is more important than we give it credit for.
Here are six reasons to embrace shrinkage rather than always fighting against it.
Healthy hair shrinks
With afro textured hair, shrinkage is a demonstration of the hair’s elasticity. A lack of elasticity makes the hair prone to breakage. Many of us can testify how our hair is the longest it has ever been without the weakening effects of chemical relaxers. The main effect relaxers had on our hair was to strip it of elasticity. So when your hair has full elasticity, it will thrive and grow to reach its terminal length. Experiencing shrinkage should be taken as a confirmation that your hair is healthy and on the right track to growth, volume and overall health.
Shrinkage can be protective
Short hair is a protective style. The purpose of protective styling is to keep the ends of your hair tucked away. When your hair falls on or below your shoulders it will constantly rub against clothing and get into knots. This can eventually lead to split ends. However shorter hair is not subject to the same stress and damage. Therefore if you wear your hair in a wash and go, or style it when it is damp, it will be subject to shrinkage and appear shorter. This is not a bad feature. Even if your hair is well beyond shoulder length, it still may not touch the shoulders when shrunken. So shrinkage will make certain hairstyles protective, even though they are not traditional protective styles. Check out the post: Unconventional Protective Styles for more ideas.
Shrinkage promotes definition
When the hair is stretched it loses definition. This can apply to both the natural curl pattern or manipulated curls. Twist outs and braid outs are more defined when done on damp, freshly washed hair. The twists or braids will shrink as the hair dries but there will be more definition as a result. Wash and gos are the best example of how shrinkage can create more definition. The natural curl pattern is the very reason for shrinkage. When I do wash and gos I don’t spend as long stretching the curls with a diffuser, because the more I try to elongate the curls the more definition is lost. The hair looks shorter but more defined and bouncier when shrunken.
Shrinkage also gives volume and allows you to wear an Afro
The longer the hair becomes the less easy it is to wear rock a Fro, from my experience anyway. Generally I am able to achieve a Fro by blowing out the hair and fluffing it until I get the desired shape. However as my hair has gotten longer, this method causes the hair look more like a blow out and it falls down rather than up. When trying a wash and go for the first time, I ended up with a huge fro that was achieved because of shrinkage. That was not the look I was going for but it was a style I was happy to stumble upon. People with fine hair may experience a greater appearance of volume when their hair is somewhat shrunken and fluffed out, as opposed to when it is stretched.
Shrinkage gives our hair versatility
No other hair types have the versatility of afro textured hair. The fact that we can wear our hair straight down our backs, in twist outs and braid outs, stretched or shrunken, blown out or in curly fros, gives us more versatility than most. People with other hair types marvel when we pull our hair down to show them the true length. It is even possible to wear styles that look tapered without even having to cut our hair, simply spraying the back with water will shrink it. Also, a twist out done with stretched hair can result in a completely different look from one done with shrunken damp hair. Shrinkage gives us more choice and we can adapt our style to suit our individual preferences. A person with straight hair doesn’t have the same options, so appreciate your shrinkage.
Shrinkage is better than heat damage
Rather than constantly fighting shrinkage with heat, simply learn to manage it better. Women who suffer heat damage after flat ironing their hair would love their hair to shrink like it use to. Instead, they either have to cut off the damaged ends or settle for hair that looks less healthy and bouncy than before. If your hair continues to shrink up after a flat ironing session, it is a confirmation that no damage was done to your hair in the process. Those who suffer severe heat damage wouldn’t complain about shrinkage if they had the chance to do things differently.
Within reason …..
Wearing your hair in a stretched style is better than allowing it to knot over time. Too many knots leads to breakage and at some point the hair may have to be cut. Twist outs, braid outs, roller sets and bantu knot outs are great ways to keep your hair stretched, reducing tangles and knots. However, if your hair was styled while damp, the curls will not be as elongated. This is when you can embrace shrinkage and rock a shorter bouncier style, rather than worrying about stretching the hair all the time. When your hair shrinks after washing, appreciate what it does, don’t see it as a nuisance but a blessing.
How do you feel about shrinkage? Share your thoughts below.