Ways to Stretch Natural Hair

by Paulette Wilson

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What is the one thing naturals wish would go away? Well, it would have to be shrinkage.

If you flat iron your hair for length check-ups, your hair seems to hit your shoulders. But, once your hair is wet again, you may find your hair looks like you are back in the TWA stage.

Our curls are often tightly coiled and can shrink up to 75 percent of our actual length. Shrinkage is always going to happen with curly hair whether it’s loose or tight.

When your natural hair gets near your shoulders, you will not notice shrinkage as much. With shorter to neck length hair, you will experience it when your hair is damp.

Ladies, here are a few ways to stretch your natural tresses and retain length:

Banding
Banding is when you use rubber bands or elastic hair bands to stretch out the curls in natural hair. You should comb out a sectioned piece of hair, and then place a hair band around it to make a small pony tail. Each section is banded a few more times to secure in place until the whole head is banded.

Twisting

Twisting is a great way to stretch your hair. You divide your wet hair into sections and then part it into two strands. Simply twist the strands together. Twists help to stretch out your roots. Thicker twist stretch out the length of the hair.

To stretch your curls even further, you can re-twist your hair every five to seven days.

Braiding
Just like twisting, braiding can effectively stretch your hair. You work with three strands of hair instead of two strands of hair and tightly wound into braids. Braiding can be done on damp or dry hair.

Bantu Knots
Bantu knots are created by making a square shaped part and the roots are held while the remaining length of wet hair is wrapped around it. Once the hair is dry, the knots are taken down for heatless stretching.

Heat
We know many naturals do not like to explore heat, but lightly blow drying your hair is an option for stretching your hair. Lightly blow dry on low warm heat and use a heat protectant. Tools like hot combs, flat iron, and blow dryers are used to get the hair straight and loosen up the curl.

What are your natural hair stretching methods?

  • Candy 1

    I like my Curlformers the most, although they take like 1 1/2 to 2 hours to put on my hair. They are worth it because they prevent knots and tangles, which is the whole reason behind my stretching. My second favorite is braids.

    To be honest, I do not mind the shrinkage in itself. It is the single strand knots and bigger knots that occur when I do not stretch that are not cool with me. My hair is extremely coily and loves to knot up after an un-stretched puff. It’s funny you did an article on stretching, because my sister and I were talking last night, and she swears that the reason I stretch is because I don’t like the real texture of my hair, which is very untrue. If I could wear my hair free and unstretched with no tangles/knots, I would do it in a heartbeat because it would be less time spent on my hair.

  • Dreaming

    I stretch my natural hair by blow drying or using a flat iron, but I have the tightly coiled hair that shrinks up with the slightest heat.

  • Ebony

    Twists works for me.

  • http://jessicasimien.com Jessica

    I hate shrinkage! It makes me feel like I haven’t made any growth progress. I’ve tried banding, but I didn’t really like that method. I’ve also found that I absolutely cannot style my hair when it is wet or damp because it will shrink up immediately, no matter what. Throughout the day (if its hot outside) it shrinks as well.

    I would like to wear my hair in its wet state, but it is just too short for me and looks really awkward because of the way it falls.

    What minimizes the shrinkage for me is if I blow dry my hair as straight as I can get it (using a med. heat setting w/ heat protectant, of course) and THEN twist it, it comes out great and is stretched very nicely – almost to the length of it when it is straightened.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I’ll be very very honest…..the whole of last week I talked to God while looking at the mirror, and asked him why He felt the need to bless me with knotty hair that needs to be manipulated by products to work right. Then I had an epiphany, it makes me hella unique, but then reality got the best of me, I have run out of shea burra and I need to get me some, and since then I am yet to buy that shea burra. Laziness!

  • C

    All I have to say is

    Hair Crush
    Longhairdontcare2011 on Youtube

  • Ms. Information

    Pure coconut oil and vegetable glycerin works for me…my hair is down the middle of my back now…it was a loooonnnggg rode though.

  • C

    Before shampooing or co washing

    Get a spray bottle with water and cheap conditioner. Section hair. Use a wide tooth comb on each section soaked in the water and conditioner.After using the wide tooth comb, you need a finer tooth comb-not the tiniest tooth comb but something smaller than the wide tooth comb; This should eliminate single strand knots.You could always use oil on each section too along with the conditioner and water.

    Never do this if your hair is not soaked in conditioner and water and maybe oil.
    Naptural 85on Youtube has a tuttorial on detangling thats good.

  • http://twitter.com/shethrives11 SheThrives11

    I stretch my hair using heat during the winter by getting a blow-out once a month. During the spring and summer, I wear it naturally in a fro. Seeing the length after 6 months is a great surprise.

  • Humanista

    I occasionally use a blow-dryer as well. my hair doesn’t set well when it’s dry (and my twists don’t stay!) so I blowdry on warm (not hot) just until it’s slightly damp. Then I’ll twist it and roll up the ends on those little perm rods. With a good leave-in conditioner, it will be full and bouncy and BIG.

    It’s a very versatile stretch strategy. I can do a headband or pompadour to look professional or pin back the sides into a ‘hawk for a vacation or night out.

  • Candy 1

    Thanks, I plan on trying that one day.

  • Alexandra

    The last four are my stretching methods, preferably drying.
    I have extreme shrinkage and sometimes I just don’t have the patience and blow dry the hell out of my hair to keep it detangled. If you’re scared of heat, just make sure you find a nice heat protectant/serum that works well for your hair and you won’t have to worry about heat damage.

  • I got sense!

    According to her fotki album, HairCrush used a relaxer throughout her transition period.

    LHDC2011 is the truth. She does what she wants hand doesn’t follow the “hair guru’s” dos and do nots. She using common sense and what works for her.

  • mahogany

    Shrinkage and knots are my enemies. Shrinkage not as much as knots. There are days feel like shaving my head because of knots ugh! I’m still trying to get around the knotting. Somebody help please!!!

  • http:www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    @mahogany:

    How do you wash your hair?

    Do you wear your hair lose often?

    What is the texture of your hair?

    Do you sleep on a sating pillowcase?

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    @Mahogany, I SWEAR by Shea Moisture’s Volumizing Conditioner.

    My hair started growing really fast for a minute when I first started using the SM “shea butter” products, but when it reached about chin-length it just started breaking off like crazy, the ends were all knotted and more and more hair would fall out any time I did ANYTHING to it — comb, twist, wash, condition, you name it. So I switched to the “yucca and baobab” line, which is supposed to thicken thin hair, and it INSTANTLY stopped breaking off and knotting.

    In full disclosure, I only use the conditioner and the spray, but my hair NEVER knots anymore and I only see an average amount of hair in my comb when I do my twists. (Also, just got my hair braided, so I haven’t used these products for a couple of weeks).

    Anyway, sounds like what you need is a good detangling conditioner. Also, make sure you don’t rub your hair dry with your towel, just blot it, because rubbing and friction are one of the main reasons black hair gets knotted!

    Good luck.

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    Dude… I think YT has done an amazing job in helping to grow the natural hair community, but it’s like you have to be a f-ing chemistry major to do have the stuff that people suggest.

    At the end of the day, single strand knots are easily combated by detangling your hair while your hair is saturated with a detangling conditioner that has really good slip. I listed the one I use below, but you can basically use any brand that works with your hair. When the conditioner is in, use a wide tooth comb (or just your fingers, depending on how long your hair is) and gently detangle.

    Once your hair is clean, try to blot your hair dry with the towel instead of rubbing, since the friction can lead to knots. Follow up with a detangling leave-in conditioner to push the point home, or not – it’s up to you, but you don’t have to turn into McGuyver!

    Another way to combat knots is to put your hair in single twists or braids BEFORE you wash and condition it.

    /shrug. Hope that helps. :)

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    Um… any time you put that kind of direct heat on your hair, you’re going to suffer heat damage, no matter what kind of magic potion or serum you use.

  • binks

    I do braiding to stretch my 4b kinks and it has been working ever since, I want to start incorporating a bit of heat but my ends are a bit of a mess right now. But any tips on how to do a mean twist? Every time I twist my hair they seem to undo the next day and I do them on damp hair using leave in/shea butter

  • df

    you can never completely eliminate SSK’s anyway….best case scenario is to minimize them…i don’t freak out over them if i’m taking care of my hair or unless I have a CRAPload of them…

  • http://[email protected] Ebony

    I’ve been natural 6 yrs I never ever stretched or protective styled until recently. I literally did wash and go’s all the time. I’ve never minded shrinkage cause my mid back lenth falls into cute bob when dry… But those damn knots. After a trim they’d always come back with vengeance reason being my hair has been same length for 3 years. Smh. I just thought it was my particular texture my hair tangles so easy even after detangling. Now I usually braid or twist . Other day I let braids halfway dry undid and blow dried midshaft pointing heat downward while holding end, I liked results a lot. I’m not for youtube and all those extensive regimens that’s too OD for me peesonally but I’ve taken a liking to stretching as to get past this legnth and single strand knots.

  • http://refreshreport.blogspot.com Ebony

    I’ve been natural 6 yrs I never ever stretched or protective styled until recently. I literally did wash and go’s all the time. I’ve never minded shrinkage cause my mid back lenth falls into cute bob when dry… But those damn knots. After a trim they’d always come back with vengeance reason being my hair has been same length for 3 years. Smh. I just thought it was my particular texture my hair tangles so easy even after detangling. I was so over it and considering just getting it pressed every 2 weeks, as my stylist clients have long healthy hair, only thing there’s no turning back. Once a year already changes it. Now I usually braid or twist . Other day I let braids halfway dry undid them and blow dried midshaft pointing heat downward while holding end, I liked results a lot. I’m not for youtube and all those extensive regimens that’s too OD for me personally but I’ve taken a liking to stretching as to get past this legnth and single strand knots cause lawd knows the hot comb was calling on these kinks.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut up!!! your hair is where?! Oh miiiiii gosh! Marry me!

  • http:www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    I’ll add Sera2544 and Ciprianna for Urban Bush Babies for the 4C girls that will swear you down their hair “can’t/won’t grow”. Both ladies have waist length hair. African Export is pretty darn long too.

    I would also recomend Tohiahli’s “quick finger curls” for girls who’ve just got the big chop and Fusion Of Cultures for girls transitioning

  • Brasilia

    The one thing I LOVE about shrinkage is that I get a short hair do without cutting it. Kind of neat watching people’s reactions when I come in one day with tightly curled, short hair and as the week goes on, my hair starts to stretch and the curls lengthen (when it’s flat ironed, my hair hits my mid-back).

  • mahogany

    @ Chic Noir, I have a 4B 4C texture. I sleep with a satin scarf and I do have the satin pillow case. I section my hair in 4 before shampooing and conditioning but even with the best conditioner as soon as I get out the shower my hair seem to curl back on itself. It can be frustrating at times. If wear my hair out I make sure that is well moisturized, and it usually is, but the knots drive me crazyyy!!! As my hair grows longer (now pass shoulder length) the more knots I get.

    @purplekeychain
    I love shea moisture and nubian heritage. The “yucca and baobab” line is from Shea Moisture?

  • Trey

    Girl I swear I had the same mirror convo all this week! lol I was just like… why lawd why? But like you said, when it behaves, my hair is super fun…but on there are still some days when I want to just shave my head.

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    Yep. Yucca and baobab are the ingredients in their hair thickening line (the green label). It is, by far, the BEST hair conditioner I have ever used, my hair has never felt so silky after conditioning, and since I started using it, it’s the first time I’ve ever NOT had tons of knots and tangles once my hair grew past CL.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    @ Trey

    Girl, let me tell you, I’ too have been toying around with the idea of shaving my hair again,but then I’m dissuaded because I have an objective to meet. Crazy thing is, I don’t even know what the objective is, but all I do know is that this is not in vain.

    Let’s just get married, and support each other in this journey of hair wat the fuggers!

  • C

    @I got sense

    I think Hair Crush transitioned for two years and then she big chopped. She didnt use a relaxer for those two years. She had a straight up fro when she big chopped.

    Also add Rustic Beauty to Sera2544 and Cipriana of UBB.

  • C

    @Mahogany

    Maybe its your shampoo.

    Before shampooing or co washing, do a prepoo with oils or whatever. Leave it in a few hours or overnight. Get a spray bottle with water and cheap conditioner. Section your hair and soak each section with the water and conditioner. Use a wide tooth comb on each section, then a finer tooth comb. Keep your sections in.

    Shampoo if you must or just co wash in sections. If shampooing, condition again. Rinse. Use a good leave in. Style. Seal.

  • Logic

    Love Sera2544 and Rustic beauty for representing the type4 and Haircrush has awesome hair but Cipriana’s hair is downright hideous. It always looks to dry and matted. i’ll pass. Many YouTubers finger detangle and their hair looks much better. I personally use the Curly Girl method, a seamless comb (magic Star Jumbo Rake), coconut oil and glycerine and while my hair is not “stretched”, it is moist, there are no SSK, it’s healthy, detangled, and is bra-strap length unstretched.

  • imani

    I recently started using my blowdryer w/concentration nozzle just to stretch my rots to gain a few extra inches of length. I never stretch to the ends.I love the natural curl pattern that emerges from air drying.there is no twist out or bantu knot that can match the devine curls I get from air drying. My problem is the 75% shrinkage i get everytime I wash it!I also find the straigthened roots help decrease the tangles I get throughout the week from everyday exposure to the elements. Unfortunately I like to drive with my windows down so I know I’m tramatizing my hair a little everyday which is why I try to be gentle with it eveery chance I get.I let it breath & do what it do most days& my hair shows her appreciation of my care! Luv my kinky curly mane!

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