The Truth About Shrinkage

The truth is shrinkage isn’t all bad. Its actually an indication that your curls are in good shape.  If your hair springs back without breaking you have healthy hair that is full of elasticity. Shrinkage is the natural tendency of kinky, curly hair.

What is shrinkage? via

Shrinkage is the difference between what your hair looks like when it’s wet and gently stretched to its maximum length and what it looks like when it’s dry. It happens to all curls, from type 2 to type 4. However, it’s definitely more noticeable in type 4 coils because type 4s have tighter curls. For type 2s and some type 3s, shrinkage is hardly noticeable, since the hair won’t look all that different dry than it does when it’s wet. For type 3s with super-coils, it’s pretty noticeable as well. Some type 3cs and type 4s have even reported losing as much as eight inches once their hair dries!

Natural haired women often try to avoid shrinkage like the plague.  If you’re wearing your hair natural there is almost no way to avoid.  And many have just learned to embrace it. Fighting shrinkage can really damage your hair especially if too much heat is involved or too much tension is placed on the hair and scalp.

But here are some ways to at least minimize shrinkage or stretch your hair. Pictures below in photo gallery.  It is important to throughly detangle hair to get optimal stretch.

Banding via Hollis

Banding is the process of using ponytail holders to gently stretch out wet natural hair.  The hair is divided into sections then the holders are wound tightly down the section from root to tip so that the hair stays stretched as it dries.  If you are going to try this method, be sure to use ouch-less elastics made without the metal piece that can snag your strands.

Be careful with this one because it can lead to breakage and thinning edges if too much tension is applied to hair.  This is also true if you use rubber bands or elastic bands with metal closures.

African Threading

The same warning from above applies. Thread is wrapped around the base of a section of hair.Thread is wrapped around the entire length of hair from root to tip using a special technique.

Blow Out

A blow out is simply blow drying your hair.  The heat from the blow dry stretch the hair usually until you wash it again. I know some ladies are anti-heat. But you don’t have to be afraid of heat if done in moderation.

Twist and Braids

Shampooing natural hair in braids or twist is the kinky girls best defense against shrinkage. Braids create a little more stretch or tension than twist given a little extra length. When I want a quick style I braid my hair in two braids while in the shower. By the time my hair is dry I can see my bra strap length.

READ: 3 Quick and Easy Natural Hair Styles


Recently, Curlformers have been the go to heatless natural hair stretcher. But sets in general stretch natural hair whether its a straw set, roller set, flexirod set etc.  See more pictures of Set Natural Hair Styles

Bantu Knots

Bantu knots are done by take a section of hair and wind it in one direction. Take the wound section and continuously wrap it around and around, forming the knot. Tuck the very ends of the hair underneath the knot to secure it. For finer hair textures, use a bobby pin to hold the knot in place and to keep it from unraveling. For extra elongation twist or braid sections of hair, then make a bantu knot with the twist or the braid


10 thoughts on “The Truth About Shrinkage

  1. abi


    i recently discovered that if i only apply raw shea butter to my hair when it is wet, i don’t get shrinkage and my hair remains soft till my next wash. recommend it! it also prevents my hair from tangling.

  2. Toni Moore

    @Abi.. I recently started using raw Shea butter also out of curiosity/trial and error. I still get shrinkage but you are so right about how soft my hair stays.

  3. Nicole

    My hair shrink so bad it looks like I got a hair cut .Any product that’s wet shrinks my hair .I have the worst 4c hair every. Been natural for 6 years now .and out of six 2 years no heat .tried everything that’s mentioned. Still comes out the same tiny bush like I went to the barbershop. I just where it as is .

  4. LILY

    THE BEST FOR THE VERY COILED HAIR THAT SHRINK TO ITS LENGTH IS THE AFRICAN THREAD: that was the way hair for black was styled back then. The braids, cornrows also are used before all the chimical relaxing products reached Africa. However, note that in Africa, they is a native relaxing cream that hurt very badly and break the hair anyway.

  5. SouthernCurlsBTR

    I discovered that I could use curved clips with gaps in them to air-dry my 4-inch 4B/4C TWA. Before bed, I use Jumbo Clips by Annie item # 3183 and Salon Care Shorty Section Clips item # SBS-292608, using 2 per section, and let air-dry while I sleep comfortably because the clips are curved. When I wake up, my soft fluffy afro is nice and dry, and stretched. I even made a video showing how I do it. I hope this helps even 1 person. I wish I had known about these clips a year ago!

  6. MyFluffyPuffs

    Before I wash my hair I plait my hair – just in singles to avoid tangling my thick hair. I have 4C hair and I find it to put less stress on my hair. I section my hair in about 10-15 braids and pre-poo, wash and condition this way. Even before I go to sleep I either twist or braid my hair so I can moisturize my scalp and hair.

  7. Pingback: Les Bantou Knots -

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