Natural Hair Shrinkage: Ways To Control It

Written by Ramona Sinha

Natural hair is extremely versatile. It gives you endless possibilities to break the routine and style your hair in ways that can dramatically enhance your look. However, if you are trying to grow natural hair, shrinkage can be an annoying factor.

Natural hair loves to shrink! And even if you have been growing your hair for a while, you can barely see the length. Shrinkage is not unhealthy. However, you can easily manage it and make your hair retain its original length. Keep reading to understand why your hair shrinks and what you can do about it.

What Is Natural Hair Shrinkage?

Natural hair shrinkage happens when your curly, kinky, and coily hair shrinks to form tight coils. Natural hair may shrink around 20% to 80% of the natural length. However, compared to type 3 hair, type 4 hair can shrink significantly and appear much shorter than the actual length.

Let’s understand the science behind natural hair shrinkage.

Why Natural Hair Shrinks

Shrinkage is a sign of healthy hair. Natural hair is more porous compared to any other hair type. It can easily soak water (just like a sponge) to expand and stretch. As a result, damp natural hair may appear elongated (due to the water weight), and the curl pattern becomes apparent. However, when the water evaporates, the hair will shrink to its original form. It will lose the water weight and appear puffed up.

You may experience shrinkage in humid weather conditions and if you sweat profusely. However, the shrinkage level also depends on the hair porosity and damage levels. High porosity hair may experience less shrinkage as it absorbs moisture real quick. On the other hand, low porosity hair undergoes the maximum shrinkage.

4C hair type undergoes the maximum shrinkage as it cannot hold on to moisture for long. That’s why 4C curls are tighter and denser than the other curl types.

However, if your hair does not shrink even after you wet it, that may indicate heat damage. If you want to keep your curls manageable, here are some ways to control the shrinkage.

8 Effective Ways To Reduce Natural Hair Shrinkage

1. Leave-In Conditioners

Leave-in conditioners can lock in the moisture, keep the strands hydrated, and minimize shrinkage. Use conditioners with plant oils and other hydrating ingredients to prevent dryness. This will also help reduce breakage and define your curl pattern.

2. Follow A Moisturizing Routine

Using moisturizing hair products can prevent shrinkage, irrespective of your curl type. A regular moisturizing routine also helps retain hair length. You may buy a hair moisturizer containing beeswax or silicone, a hair oil, and styling gel or lotion.

Follow this 3-step moisturizing routine:

  1. Section your hair and apply moisturizer evenly to each hair section.
  2. Follow it up with hair oil to lock in the moisture.
  3. Set your hairstyle with a hair lotion or gel for a lustrous look. 

3. Plaits and Twist Outs

Plaiting and twisting your natural hair can reduce shrinkage significantly. Depending on the hair porosity, these hairstyles can offer bouncy and manageable curls. You can divide your hair into small sections and apply oil. Braid and twist each hair section to keep them stretched. Undo the sections after a few hours and style them.

4. Try A Blowout

A blowout is the best way to stretch your hair, increase its length, and keep it manageable. However, you have to prep your hair to prevent heat damage and breakage. Use a good heat protectant and a deep hair conditioner before blow drying. Also, use a comb attachment with the hair dryer to control the amount of heat your hair is exposed to. This will also help stretch the hair.

5. Hair Bun

Tying your damp hair into a high bun is another way to minimize shrinkage. However, do not secure it too tightly to prevent creases. Keep your hair in a bun for at least 1-2 hours, and then style it.

6. Roller Sets

Stretching the hair with roller sets is one of the least damaging ways to prevent natural shrinkage. They are often used on wet hair to stretch it while air drying.

To use roller sets:

  1. Comb out hair knots and apply hair moisturizer.
  2. Divide your hair into several small sections.
  3. Use consistent tension and roll each section into smooth rollers.
  4. Leave your hair to air dry.

This technique works well with freshly washed wet and dry hair.

7. Bantu Knots

This protective hairstyle helps stretch the strands minus any heat. It involves twisting the hair section into knots. However, creating this style requires skill. You have to twist the hair sections in the same direction and secure the knot tightly. Brush your hair thoroughly before styling and use hair moisturizers to prevent damage.

8. Banding

This is another great way to make your curls appear long. Banding involves stretching and securing small hair sections with snag-free elastic bands. You may try banding freshly washed damp hair.

Check out this easy wash-and-go banding tutorial here.

To Sum Up

Healthy natural hair shrinks. While you cannot stop your beautiful curls from shrinking, you can manage shrinkage and retain your hair length. Keep your hair thoroughly moisturized and follow the ways discussed in the article to minimize shrinkage. All these methods work on the tightest curls and add at least a few inches to your hair.

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Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.