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How Embracing Shrinkage Can Help You Retain Length

• Mar 24, 2014

by Cipriana of Urban Bush Babes

loo1 Now I know you’re reading the title and thinking, “um excuse me, embrace shrinkage…NEVER”. I am not going to lie, I love a good stretch technique as much as the next natural, but learning to embrace shrinkage has more benefits than you think! For some naturals, stretching is just a visual preference; but for others, it’s a tactic to promote easier manipulation of tresses. Falling in the tactical bracket, stretching my 4c strands has helped tremendously in my detangling sessions, cutting down on time and breakage. But constant or everyday manipulation to maintain a stretched style can do more harm than good. Though shrinkage may get more than the occasional side eye, it is actually a sign of health and serves as proof that your strands haven’t been damaged by heat or other external factors. There are many ways to temporarily reduce shrinkage. But permanent alternatives, such as “heat training”, permanently damage the strands by altering the original bonds, similar to the effects of chemicals. Depending on the density and “health” of the strand, heat training does work for some, but it still causes damage by weakening the strands. Our hair consists of several chemical and physical bonds. Two of those are hydrogen and salt. Hydrogen bonds are responsible for the elasticity in our strands and its ability to return to its original form. These bonds are extremely fragile and can be changed by heat and water, while salt bonds are changed by ph balance. If the hair is too acidic or alkaline, due to products that are applied to it, it can break down the salt bonds. Chemical bonds are only affected by chemicals; hair relaxers, texturizers, certain color agents, etc. Although chemical bonds are stronger than physical bonds, once they’re changed, there is no going back. For “healthy” curls, it’s ideal that your hair be able to “go back.” Pull a strand of healthy curly hair and watch it quickly snap back to its original form. The “snap back,” effect has always been my alias for shrinkage. It not only shows the original condition of the hair but demonstrates strength. The more elasticity your curls have, the more protected they are against breakage. So here’s the dilemma; Stretching leads to easier manipulation while shrinkage protects against breakage…I know… what’s a natural to do? The solution is to find a happy medium between the two. Stretching can be extremely beneficial, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental. So if heat is your preference, stretch your strands no more than once a week with low heat. If heat is not an option some alternatives are braidouts, twistouts or bantu knot outs.

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Do any of you include shrinkage in as a part of your length retention regime?

Urban Bush Babes online publication featuring  two best friends and passionistas creating the definitive source for natural hair, fashion, health, lifestyle, music and arts & culture while living in NYC.

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20 Comments on "How Embracing Shrinkage Can Help You Retain Length"

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Sadly not for me — with my kinks shrinkage only means that I’ll have to stretch my hair later to detangle and for me thats as easy as pulling apart a bunch of tangled wires. I think I have about 80% shrinkage, going from BSL to just abouve my ears and all those shrunked coils always lead to breakage.


Me too. Letting my very tightly coiled, high shrinkage hair shrink all the way, just leads to tangles, knots, matting, and breakage later on. I wish I could just let my hair do it’s thing and shrink all the way, but the consequences just aren’t worth it. I never use heat to stretch my hair though. Mainly braids and banding.

My hair is very curly, too, and I absolutely love shrinkage. It allows me to have curly bangs without getting a haircut; it gives my wash-n-go the fullness that I love; and it lets me wear “short styles” such as a curly fro or a curly bob without actually having to cut my hair. Shrinkage also protects my ends by keeping my hair from rubbing against my collar. I use a creamy leave-in that has lots of slip; so I don’t have matting, snarls, breakage, etc. Initially, I did struggle with SSKs; but after I began pre-pooing with coconut oil… Read more »

My thoughts exactly!


I appreciate the effort, and maybe I missed it, but I don’t see the happy medium in this article.

I, too, would LOVE to do wash-n-go’s, and I have no problem with how shrinkage looks on me, but it’s the serious tangles, knots and matting that I cannot live with. I can only keep my hair detangled by keeping it stretched.

One wash without detangling (preferably) before — and I’m guaranteed at least 3 hours of detangling, breakage and hair setbacks my next wash.

I just can’t do it anymore. I just can’t!


What do you mean, being natural? Not looking to judge AT ALL, just curious!

I thought she was saying stretching is good, so if you was then do a twist out that fine, but dont re twist every night. the manipulation can be too much for the strands. or if you blow dry and use heat just do it after a wash and do re blow out every day because there was a little reversions. I know i usually go fron twist out or milkmaid braids to a fauxhawk to a puff then wash my hair again. thats because i dont retwist my hair. so as it starts to shrink i just change the… Read more »
I myself have never understood the fuss with shrinkage. I thought it was more for the looks but now being almost 1 1/2 years post relaxer (removing all perm ends 6 months ago), I now understand how stretching helps with achieving certain styles. One statement that stays in my mind is from KimmayTube. In one of her videos she addressed shrinkage and stated that it was like her bank account.….the money is there and she doesn’t feel the need to show it to others all the time. That has helped me with my particular journey. I have finally mastered the… Read more »
I’ve been thinking about wearing my hair more in it’s original state. I’ve seen some good videos out there on W+G and finger detangling methods so I’m building my confidence I guess you could say lol. I’m definitely more comfortable with shrinkage now even though my hair shrinks up to 80–85% of it’s length (amazing to me) after most of the water evaporates from my head. So with my hair being 12″+ I’m right back to a twa. Which after some thought doesn’t bother me, because sometimes dealing with long, big hair is a pain. So I think I may… Read more »

I think the best compromise is no-heat stretching (banding, flat twists, etc.) that is done a little loosely provides the best of both worlds in controlling tangling and preventing damage to the hair from heat styling. Now, if only there was a way to do them quickly and still look cute while wearing them…


I haven’t put heat on or stretched my hair in 9 months and I think it’s been a good move. My hair stays bouncy and I don’t have to constantly worry about if I’m damaging it. I’ve got 3C/4A hair that shrinks about 50–80% depending on which curl/coil you’re looking at, so at about 7in of hair, I don’t have much length to show off either way. But give me another year of this natural thing and I’m confident my hair will be healthy and long enough to enjoy an occasional stretch 🙂

I’ve noticed that my hair seems to flourish and retain much more length in the summer months(when I do more wash n gos) than in the colder, winter months(when I wear my hair stretched). I guess it may have something to do with the very little manipulation I do in the summer. I always thought it was because I co-washed more often and my hair may have been better moisturized in the summer, but I guess the lack of manipulations has a lot to do with it also. I normally co-wash my hair every 3 to 4 days in the… Read more »
If “snap back” is proof of hair’s strength, then my hair is a superhero. My hair is finally to a length where I don’t mind wearing a curly ‘fro. The curls and coils are shiny and defined and very pretty. I had been waiting on this part like a kid waiting on Christmas. Now I find I can’t really enjoy full shrinkage because the knots and breakage and broken combs get in the way. My face was broke the first time I realized that I FINALLY have the length but logistically there’s just no way. Just a few minutes ago… Read more »

I love the volume my shrinkage gives me but it also means more tangling/matting so it’s kind of a give and take situation.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty
I fight shrinkage like the plague ha ha. Only because it actually causes me more tangling than not. While I’m in the type 3 category of hair with some sprinkles of 2 at the base of my neck, I still prefer my curls stretched to the point that they still look like curls but don’t typically coil up too much. While I’ve loved the wash ‘n go for it’s simplicity, I no longer can do it without getting a massive tangle ball within a day! These days now that I’m just passing bra strap length (in the back stretched…the sides… Read more »

[…] Embrace Shrinkage […]


I think shunken state should be call it’s matted state. On my 4 b/c 12″+ it’s just matted. Even when detangeling I must keep it enlongated and put back in braids or twist.
However, I do not twist every night. That just to much work for me. Lol


well I have really dry, thirsty which drinks everything..and it stopped growning 🙁 I’m young there anything I can put before going to bed ?? And how to I grow my edges back??


How’s your nutrition? Growing hair healthy is actually more about what’s going on inside your body than what you can slather on outside of it. Hydration is key as well as a balanced diet. If you’ve lost edges, I’ve heard good things about biotin.


[…] No matter how long your hair gets, one wash can have you rocking a TWA. Remember, shrinkage is not a bad thing! It’s a unique aspect of our versatile hair 🙂 Peace, Love and […]

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