The war against shrinkage; how to win it.

Linda Hanson (Hair APT)
6 min readApr 14, 2022

Imagine loosening your hairstyle and your hair is at its full length. Big and full.

Unfortunately, it decreases in size and length when water touches it.

Your long, big afro now looks like it’s barely one month old.

What happens when water touches your hair is called shrinkage.

Shrinkage is the natural state of your hair. Your strands are like telephone wires. When your stretch it, it become really long. But when you leave them, they become short again.

The length of your hair didn’t disappear. They just coiled. They shrunk. If you stretch it, you’ll see the full length.

Now, I know you would love to escape this feature for you but it is an in-built feature. You cannot escape shrinkage if you want to keep your natural hair.

The Backdoor to escaping

The only backdoor I know to escaping shrinkage is permanently straightening your curls with relaxers.

Of course, you have to keep doing this every 3–6 months (depending on how long you stretch your relaxer days).

I have another bad news.🌚 You still have to deal with shrinkage while you are stretching your relaxer days. The new growth (popularly called undergrowth) is natural. And natural hair shrinks🌚

Goodnews about shrinkage

Aww🥺 don’t be sad. It’s not all bad news. I’ve got good news. Shrinkage is a sign that your hair is healthy hair. If your hair is not able to shrink, you are in big trouble.

Like if you get heat damage, your hair cannot shrink. This is bad news.

Heat damage means your hair is going to break. And there is no remedy for this than to cut off the damaged parts.

I’m sure you don’t want that. So what’s the way out now?

Well, I’m going to show you how I manage my shrinkage.

Way out of Shrinkage: Stretching

I manage my shrinkage by stretching using short term or long term styles.

For this articles we’ll focus on short term styles that help me manage my shrinkage after washing my hair.

The following are some of the ways that you can keep your hair stretched to minimize shrinkage:

  1. Twists: You can either do mini two strand twists, loose twists, jumbo twists,etc.

I do this after washing and moisturizing my hair. I don’t leave my hair in an afro. It minimizes the knots and tangles I get.

Of course, by now, you should know that knots are not goodnews for length retention.

How to Twist

  1. Always work in sections
  2. Determine the size of twists you want to make. Then divide further to that size.
  3. Divide the sections into two. Then twirl against each other.
  4. Repeat same for all the other sections.

2. Blow dry: You can stretch your hair using a blow dryer. This is involves using heat.

Before doing this, a heat protectant should be used to prevent heat damage.

Work in sections. Possibly trim off snagging ends.

Once you are done, you are twist up the sections if you are not ready to wear out your hair.

It will help keep the hair stretched. Especially if the weather is humid.

When you loosen it, it might look like the picture below.

Blow drying should not be done regularly. If not, you might experience heat damage.

I usually do this once a year when I want to compare my hair progress on its anniversary date.

3. Banding: It is a heatless method of stretching. It is achieved by putting ponytail bands on small sections of your moisturized hair until you reach the end.

The bands keep your hair in an elongated position until your hair dries. The end result depends on your curl pattern and texture.

Example, fine strands can look like a blowout after banding.

If you can’t do twists, you can definitely do this. It is also safer than using heat to blow-dry. A win win.

How to do banding

  1. Divide your freshly washed hair into small sections. (The less bulky sections will dry faster) Your hair should be damp.
  2. Pick a section. Apply your leave in and oil. Massage into the hair
  3. Get your ponytail band and wrap twice around the base of your section.
  4. Move your fingers down about an inch and stretch the band and continue wrapping until you reach the end of that section
  5. Remove the excess cream you can see on that section. Then repeat same for all the other sections.

4. Bantu knots: To create bantu knots section your hair off into squares keeping in mind that the smaller the section the tighter the curl.

If done well, you can wear the knots as a style or unravel them to reveal tight curls and a stretched hair.

5. Bunning: This is the easiest of all. Just pack your freshly washed hair into a puff then tuck your ends in.

This is has been my go to style since 2022 began. However I don’t pull my hair into one.

I usually divided my hair into two. That way, I don’t experience tension nor pain.

6. Threading: This is one of the most popular ways of stretching. People often dislike this style because of the pain.

I’m here to liberate you today. The pain you experience while threading is caused by your stylist’s lack of knowledge and skill

Start threading an inch away from your scalp. That way your roots will not be pulled and it won’t be painful.

Then continue wrapping the thread till the ends of the hair.

When you get to the ends, you can do a bantu knot for easy unraveling without loosing your ends.

7. Braids: This is my least favorite form of stretching. My fine strands always get tangled in braids. However, it might work for you.

Long term Protective styles have been a life saver in my combat with shrinkage.

However, you cannot always have long term protective styles installed. That’s why I had to find easier ways to manage my shrinkage.

I hope you try out any of these stretching methods on your next wash day.

Important things to note

  • Wash in sections and keep those sections twisted or braided.
  • Use a hair shears to trim before washing. Then look out for a reduction in knots and tangled.
  • Then use any of these stretching methods and watch shrinkage disappear.
  • For better results, stretch on freshly washed and moisturized hair.

I look forward to your feedback.

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Linda Hanson (Hair APT)

JW. Healthy Hair Expert. Do you need help with your hair or scalp? Send a message here wa.me/message/6CBMZVYS2X4MB1