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how to stop my natural hair from shrinking

Everything You Need to Know About Natural Hair Shrinkage

As frustrating as hair shrinkage might be, there are some methods you can use to elongate and stretch your strands.
Of the many styling dilemmas all too familiar to those with natural hair, shrinkage has to be one of the most frustrating. You spend hours twisting, stretching, combing, and pulling to get every single curl to reach its full potential — only to have it retreat toward your roots as soon as it dries. But shrinkage is not a bad thing, and it’s actually a marker of whether your curls are healthy and hydrated.

As annoying as it can be, shrinkage is a natural part of any curly hair journey. It may feel more hindering if your hair is already on the shorter side or if you are working toward a specific style (and that shrink just won’t let you be great), but it’s honestly one of the easier natural hair concerns to solve. With a full understanding of your hair texture, why hair shrinkage happens, and how to stretch curls and make them stay put, you’ll be on your way to some serious hair hang time in no time at all.

What Is Natural Hair Shrinkage?

Even if your hair has been the same length for as long as you can remember, you can still experience shrinkage. Natural hair shrinkage is pretty much exactly like it sounds: It’s when curls go from a more lengthy, stretched out form to a tight, more compacted coil.
To be clear, your curl pattern isn’t changing when it gets tighter. Instead, as hair dries or loses moisture, each strand contracts. Shrinkage isn’t a sign of unhealthy hair. In fact, it’s what makes your hair texture curly, and if you don’t care to stretch your curls you likely don’t mind it. You do lose some length when your curls get tighter, so if you want to gain that back you can enlist some anti-shrinkage products for natural hair for a hairstyle overhaul when you want to switch things up.

What Causes Natural Hair Shrinkage?

The best way to think about hair shrinkage is to compare it to a sponge. The little holes in a sponge that absorb water to both soften and expand the sponge are very similar to the cuticles on a strand of hair. When you leave a sponge out and the water evaporates from it, the sponge shrinks back to its original size.

In the case of hair, moisture goes in, and the hair expands — it can also stretch out each strand a bit. Similarly, when you wash a garment, before you wring the water out, it can get a bit heavy and stretched — hair functions in the same way. Water goes in, making each strand more pliable and adds a little bit of weight to it, causing it to elongate and expand.

When moisture is removed, whether it’s through the natural air drying process or with a hair dryer, the hair will no longer have that weight keeping it stretched out. That’s when you notice it revert or “shrink” back to its curl size. The good thing about shrinkage is that it acts as somewhat of a natural moisture barometer. When curls are hydrated, you’ll notice that they are more plump and pliable.

Style-wise it may not be the look you’re going for, but when you begin to see your curls retreat, you’ll know it’s time to rehydrate. It’s also a good way to determine your hair’s porosity — how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture is an important factor in determining your hair health.

Which Hair Type Shrinks the Most?

While hair shrinkage can affect all kinds of curly strands, certain hair types are more susceptible to shrinkage. Those with 4A, 4B, and 4C hair experience shrinkage the most because the curls are coiled tighter than the other curl patterns. Hair types 1 or 2 usually don’t experience significant shrinkage, but if you start to notice a lot of shrinkage, it can be a sign of damage and high porosity, as water flows in and out of highly porous hair freely.

Find Your Personalized Routine!
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How Do I Stop My Natural Hair From Shrinking?

No matter how healthy your hair is, there will always be some level of shrinkage, and that’s completely fine. Exactly how much really depends on a few things: your curl pattern, how well you care for your hair, how often you moisturize it, and the type of anti-shrinkage products you use at each phase of your hair care routine.

While there are a few steps that you can take to reduce the amount of shrinkage you experience, the main anti-shrinkage remedy is moisture, and paying attention to your product’s information label. Hydrating ingredients like almond oil, shea butter and avocado oil will help reduce shrinkage, and there are also certain hairstyling techniques that will assist in stretching your strands as well. Here’s what to keep in mind:

1. Moisturize While You Wash

The key to ensuring your hair stays hydrated as long as possible starts while you’re washing your hair. You may not notice it at the moment, but the type of shampoo that you use can impact how much and how quickly your hair dries out later on. To help retain moisture, start with a sulfate-free shampoo like the Goddess Strength Fortifying Shampoo With Castor Oil that will cleanse without stripping hair of its natural oils. This formula, in particular, is made to not only remove dirt and debris, but to also strengthen and promote less breakage, which is helpful when shrinkage is a concern.

2. Banish Knots and Snarls

Hair that isn’t properly detangled and completely knot-free will also experience curly hair shrinkage. This has more to do with tangles standing in the way of showcasing your true length than moisture, but the two actually go hand-in-hand. Hair that hasn’t been properly detangled won’t get the proper distribution of hydration that it needs when you apply your products. Make sure you use a wide-tooth comb and the Goddess Strength True Stretch Defining Cream, which contains castor oil, black cumin seed oil, and ginger to deeply moisturize your hair and help reinforce your strands so hair will look and feel longer and smoother. Work your comb from the ends to the roots to help prevent any unnecessary tugging and breakage.

3. Use Traditional Conditioner and Leave-in Conditioner

Once you’ve created a clean foundation, you’ll want to start layering on the moisture. Use a traditional rinse-out conditioner like the Monoi Repairing Conditioner to both add moisture to and help detangle your curls. The emollient and moisturizing ingredients in this conditioner, like glycerin and coconut oil, will help make the process a lot smoother and can start the stretching even before your stylers. Apply the Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-Styling Milk before the Hair Milk Nourishing and Conditioning Styling Pudding. The leave-in styling milk works as a primer to infuse more moisture while the styling pudding provides added hydration, which helps smooth each strand to keep frizz away.

4. Use a Hair Treatment

Incorporate a more intensive moisture treatment like the Coco Creme Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask into your monthly mix for even more hydration. With ingredients like coconut oil and mango seed butter, you’re infusing moisture and then sealing it in, which helps reduce hair shrinkage once your strands are dry.

5. Physically Stretch Your Curls

You can also do manual elongation both while hair is wet and once it’s dry. While your hair is wet, it’s best to stretch it as you apply your styling products. Try the LOC method (the leave-in, oil, and cream product application process) for layering, and finger comb as you work the products through your hair from the root to the ends. Once your hair is dry, use a pick just at the roots to pull any compacted curls loose.

6. Style With Sleep In Mind

Even though your hair should be covered in a satin bonnet or scarf for bed, you can style it in a way that will keep curls loose overnight. How you sleep on your curls not only impacts their look but also how healthy your hair stays. If long enough, gather your hair into a pineapple by loosely gathering your curls into a scrunchie at the top of your head. This will stretch it out a bit and add some volume once you take it down in the morning. Remember that shrinkage may be frustrating, but it’s not a bad thing. It may temporarily interfere with your style goals, but overall it’s a helpful marker of how well-moisturized your hair is. It also helps add character to your curls.

Featured Image provided by@kindalerice
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Next: Here’s How to Stop Hair Breakage

Related Products: Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme
Black Vanilla 4-in1 Combing Creme
Born To Repair Sulfate-Free Nourishing Shampoo
Born To Repair Nourishing Conditioner With Shea Butter
Born To Repair Defining Leave-In Cream With Shea Butter

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