Why It's Time to Appreciate Hair Shrinkage

According to experts, it's actually a good thing.

Why It's Time to Appreciate Hair Shrinkage
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Ask any person with natural hair, and they'll probably tell you that shrinkage is one of the most annoying styling problems they face. The struggling of spending hours twisting, stretching, tugging and styling your curls, only for them to shrink in size once your hair dries, is real.

"Some hair, particularly afro hair, can shrink by up to three quarters or even 90% of its stretched-out length," says Vernon François, celebrity hairdresser, educator, and founder of Vernon François Haircare.

But here's the thing: We really shouldn't be classifying it as a "problem."

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According to Jamilla Powell, hairstylist, founder of Naturally Drenched, and owner of Maggie Rose Salon, shrinkage is nothing to be concerned about. "Shrinkage is a sign of healthy hair and means your hair is naturally doing what it's supposed to do," she says. "When your curls get wet, they go from a stretched-out form to your natural curl, which is often a tighter curl. If you lack moisture or have some form of damage, your shrinkage will decrease."

François agrees, adding that it should be embraced as part of every natural hair journey. "Shrinkage is part of your genetic make-up, part of what makes your own head of hair uniquely yours," he says. "You might find that the amount of shrinkage your kinks, coils, curls, or waves have varies day by day — this can be influenced by things like your environment, when you last washed it, what products you use, the hairstyle you're wearing, or have been wearing, and more. How much or how little your hair shrinks is part of what makes your own head of hair unique."

Below, we asked the stylists to explain more on why shrinkage occurs, and how to embrace it.

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Why Does Natural Hair Shrink?

Shrinkage is caused by the absorption of water which causes the hair cuticles to expand and elongate due to the weight of the water. "Once the water begins to evaporate, shrinkage occurs," says Powell. If you have natural hair, you'll usually find that your kinks, coils, curls or waves contract or spring back when your hair shrinks, versus when the hair strands are completely dry and pulled taught.

Why Are We So Opposed to Natural Hair Shrinkage?

Well, in a world that associates longer hair with beauty, it's easy to see why.

"Usually, elongating the pattern of kinks, coils, curls, or waves is about achieving a desired look, and I'd ask yourself why you want to do that," says François. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to change up your look, but know that your hair in its most authentic state is beautiful and good enough."

Are Stretching Methods Bad For Natural Hair?

It depends. Lessening shrinkage is neither a good or bad thing in itself, so long as the hair is treated with respect. It's also important to be mindful about the frequency in which you use techniques that require excessive heat or tension because they can lead to permanent elongation and change your curl pattern.

"Be sure that any hairstyling technique that stretches out the strands do not pull too harshly on the hair as this can lead to stress at the roots and can cause breakage," says François.

What Should I Be Focusing on Instead of Stretching Out My Hair While Styling?

Keeping your hair nourished and hydrated.

According to Powell, natural hair will always shrink due to moisture in the air. But rather than worrying about the inevitable, it's better to focus on having strong, healthy hair. She suggests incorporating leave-in conditioners, creams, and nourishing gels into your routine.

"I like Adwoa Beauty Moisturizing Curl Defining Cream for its versatility, and Innersense Organic Beauty's I Create Hold is a great gel for higher textured hair."

François is also fan of moisturizing ingredients.

"Shea butter is an ingredient that keeps the hair well moisturized in the styling process," says François. "It's a key ingredient in Vernon François Styling Cream, and it's excellent for emphasizing the natural curls and kinks of all hair types."

And both stylists say that it's also important to have a good bedtime routine to help keep your curls away from friction, which can cause breakage. "I recommend gently detangling your curls with the pads of your fingertips working from the ends of the hair upwards towards the roots and moisturizing with a product like my overnight repair treatment oils," says François. "Following this, it's important to prepare the hair before bedtime, like loosely braiding it, then covering it with a silk cap to sleep in."

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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