Kinky/Curly hair can shrink dramatically up to 50-80% of its true length, depending on how tight the curl pattern is. Shrinkage can make hair that falls to the mid back when straightened shrink up to just past the shoulder when it dries naturally after a wash, and shoulder length hair can tighten to ear length hair etc. Shrinkage can be one of the main obstacles for women who want to go natural. No wonder so many African American women turn to relaxers and texturizers to loosen or straighten out the curls/kinks. However, chemicals and heat are notorious for weakening and damaging the hair during the straightening process. Which in turn leaves many women opting for a much more healthier approach.
Although, anyone with a curl pattern is highly unlikely to avoid shrinkage, there are ways to keep it at a minimum when you’re styling your hair.
Banding – this involves sectioning hair when it is wet then tying a series of hair bands from root to tip hence the hair remains stretched as it dries. The bands are then taken down and hair is styled as usual.
Weigh it down – Some leave-in conditioners and crème moisturizers can help to weigh your mane down and stretch the curl pattern, which in turn will help to elongate the hair. Remember to always avoid using products with alcohol, because alcohol can dry your hair out! Also, avoid products that can clog your pores such as petroleum/grease and mineral oil, which simply lie on the surface of the hair and prevent moisture from penetrating.
Blow it out – This can be done after the hair has been washed and deep conditioned. A blow dryer should be applied to wet hair only. Use a paddle brush to elongate the curl/kink tresses. Remember to avoid using heat excessively. Do NOT apply heat to your hair more than once a week! Always moisturize your hair, seal it with oil, and use a thermal heat protecting product prior to blow drying your freshly washed and conditioned hair. Blown out hair is soft and elongated, and comes close to showing your true length.
Twisting & Braiding – This is the most common technique for reducing shrinkage. The braids or twists are undone once completely dry imparting a beautiful texture on the hair or leaving it relatively ‘stretched’ out and ready for the next step of the styling process. When braiding or twisting remember to pull hair firm, but not hard. Always moisturize your hair.
Diffuse your curly hair – Invest in a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment, or get a diffuser that you can attach to a blow dryer you already have at home. Use a towel to absorb excess water from hair after shampooing and deep conditioning as usual. Water drags any existing curl down; hair looks straighter rather than springy if the excess water is not absorbed right away. Apply your favorite curl-enhancing product on your palm and rub your hands together before working it into your wet hair. Turn the blow dryer on, making sure it is set to “low,” as you don’t want to blast your hair with excessive heat. Press the diffuser to your head, making sure it is cupping the hair in that section; scrunch the diffuser into your hair so that the strands coil around the teeth on the diffuser—combined with the heat from the blow dryer, this is what will make your curls bigger. Hold the diffuser in any one spot for about 35 to 45 seconds. Get more body in your hairstyle by bending over at the waist and tilting your head sideways as you repeat the process. You may have to go over some areas several times, depending on how much more curlier you want your style to be. Stop when your hair feels mostly dry. Finger style your hair when you are finished. Do not use a comb or brush, as either of these will break down your curls or waves.