I have found that during my entire stint of having natural hair especially in the early years I would swing from either embracing my shrinkage wholeheartedly with no attempts at stretching to literally wearing my hair stretched completely, not a kink in sight!
The reason for each phase varied and typically originated from either frustration with tangles due to shrinkage or seeing a cute wash and go style and wanting to replicate it for an extended period of time.
The truth is, every one of us with natural hair will have these moments and some of us have better control than others especially when you have found what works for you as your hair grows out.
In this post and with the help of our friends over at As I am I want to explore the reason shrinkage is important and how you can *realistically* embrace it and still retain length.
What is shrinkage
The term “the shrinkage is real” can only be applied to us black girls and it refers to the natural appearance of afro-textured hair when wet and curled on itself. It truly is amazing because your hair can start out at one inch and can triple in length when stretched out just with a slight tug of a section or some sort of manipulation.
From a scientific perspective, your hair strand is naturally curly or kinky in structure based on the bonds that make up the strand and shrinkage is directly correlated to the health of your hair strand. It is a fact that our hair naturally gets shorter when it is fully moisturized and healthy, so if your hair shrinks a lot use *that* as a sign that whatever you are doing to your hair is working.
How to embrace your shrinkage and retain length
One would argue that truly embracing your shrinkage would mean that you just wore your hair in a fro and allow it to do what it wants without any sort of manipulation.
I would argue though that the term ’embrace your shrinkage’ is more about mindset than anything else. Obviously, we all have to do “something” to our hair and cannot allow it to remain unmanipulated and expect that it will remain healthy on its own. Embracing your shrinkage from a psychological perspective just means that you are able to love your hair even when it isn’t in a stretched state and you are not constantly battling to keep it straight because you hate your natural kinks.
From a practical perspective, however, we all have to manipulate our hair using techniques and products designed to keep the hair free from knots, tangles and moisturized so as to avoid friction. When you finally figure out what works for you, you find that you are able to embrace your shrinkage, avoid tangles and ultimately retain length.
How to wear your shrinkage and still avoid tangles
As I mentioned earlier I used to be the girl who could not see a gorgeous wash and go and not want to try it. I tried to perfect my wash and go to the point of sometimes washing my hair multiple times a day. I already know what you are thinking!
Yes I know! But I learned alot about my hair during those times much of which I share right here on the blog. I like to focus on wash and go’s because that is the style that tends to have the most shrinkage so it is a great baseline to show you how to manipulate your shrinkage and still win the retention game.
Products and clumping
One of the neatest things about curly hair is that our strands tend to be naturally attracted to each other, this can be a good thing if you know what you are doing. One of my top tips for a successful wash and go or any high shrinkage style is to allow your hair to keep the clumps your strands naturally create. A clump is a series of strands that are moving in the same direction and are seemingly stuck together.
Most of us call this “curl definition” because you can visibly see your curls forming ‘s’ patterns and ‘zig zag’ patterns.
Creating clumps in your hair not only ensures that you are managing your shrinkage and keeping your hair organized it also means that your hair is fully moisturized and less prone to dryness and breakage. Here are my top 5 tips on how you can encourage clumping, maintain your shrinkage and still retain length!
Shampoo the hair with As I Am Curl Clarity Shampoo to get rid of all dirt and debris from your hair.
The more obstructions you remove the easier it is for your hair to stick together and not appear frizzy. Cleansing is a very important part of any regimen because dirt not only clogs the pores of the scalp but your hair will appear dull, weighed down and lifeless.
– Oil rinse
I am a huge fan of oil rinsing especially after clarifying because it helps your hair to retain moisture longer and the oil nourishes the strands in preparation for styling. Use your favorite oil to coat sections of your hair while in the shower to keep your strands moisturized longer.
– Deep condition
The number one job of the deep conditioning process is to ensure that your hair has enough moisture to sustain itself. For this, to work you have to have a great deep conditioner to work with and you have to deep condition consistently.
One of my favorite deep conditioners is the As I am Hydration Elation, It hydrates the curls, its thick and the ingredients are stellar! Deep conditioning not only guarantees that I had maximum moisture but as I detangled my hair with the product my hair would naturally form the clumps I needed for great definition.
– Use a styler
Personally, I prefer a styler that is light and that does not weigh the hair down. You can choose whatever styler your hair likes, but my fine hair loves the As I Am Smoothing Gel, the As I Am Coil Defining Jelly and from the Long and Luxe Collection the Curl Enhancing Smoothie.
Stylers help your hair to hold its natural curl and those clumps I keep mentioning remain intact even when your hair dries!
Oh and Pro Tip! Try adding your styler in the shower when your hair is soaking wet! BEST CURLS EVER!
-Do not touch it
Girl! If you want to play this healthy shrinkage game you better be ready to keep your fingers and everybody else’s fingers tucked away!
This was one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn dealing with my own shrinkage and one of the reasons I failed miserably in the past. I am always twirling, pulling, tugging, causing knots and frizz! The safest way to avoid tangles is to ensure that your hair remains hydrated and unmanipulated for maximum 3-5 days.
Stretching your hair is always an option
Maintaining your shrinkage is one thing but there are still some of us who prefer to stretch the hair somewhat to avoid tangles.
I stretch my hair using the heat of a blowdryer during the cold months of the year but not enough straighten my hair.
Choosing to stretch when it is colder and wear wash and Go’s during the Summer helps to bring some structure and order to my regimen and I am no longer impulsive about how I style. Getting focused not only helps you to avoid damage but it helps me to retain length as well!
Styles and Products
Twist outs, braid outs, bantu knots, twist’n’curl are all examples of styles that help your strands to maintain a specific shape and flow in one direction. Not only do they require the use of great styling products but you have to be able to achieve the style using the specific technique that gets your desired result.
For example, using a simple two-step combination of the As I am Leave-in Conditioner and the Double Butter Cream will give me a flawless braid out result. While using just The Curl Enhancing Smoothie and a little bit of water from my spray bottle will create bantu knots that are almost as smooth as a blowout.
Additionally using gels, and wet stylers during the Summer or wash and go season and opting for butters and oils during the Winter is a great way to organize your products according to how you are styling your hair for the season.
Finally, retaining length is easy because you are using your products to not only achieve a style but to control dryness and add order to your strands. This is essentially what stretching should really mean because like clumping the process helps you to organize your hair to avoid tangles and making the hair ‘longer’ is sort of a by-product of that!
If you are that girl that wants to embrace her shrinkage but wants to be smart about it, make use of some of the tips I suggested! If you prefer to stretch then that’s great too, as long as stretching doesnt take over your life!
How do you embrace your shrinkage? Comment below!
This post was sponsored by As I Am Naturally but all thoughts and opinions are my own