Most curly/kinky gal understand the struggle of natural hair shrinkage. What is shrinkage exactly? Hair shrinkage usually occurs when curly/kinky hair is moisturized while stretched/straightened, shrinking it back to it's natural (normal) curly/kinky state. This makes the hair appear shorter in length when it is in fact the same length.
Basically you do an incredible braid out that gives you the luscious fro you desire but if you step outside on a rainy day, you may return with seemingly half the hair density you left with and a shrunken afro. But not to worry because this isn't particularly a bad thing, it might not be the style you intended to do that day but hair shrinkage actually speaks to the health of your hair. Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Different hair textures (hair types) experience different amount of shrinkage, some may experience only 40% while others experience 90%. The capacity a persons hair shrinks depends on how tightly coiled their hair is capable of becoming. This is actually a great thing to know about your hair because once you realize that your hair is not in a constant battle against every braid out or roller set, but is just in fact returning to its most natural state, then you can view this as a way of reminding yourself that your curls are still healthy and popping. If they were damaged through heat or some other source they would not spring back into a curly state as readily.
2. This leads to the next thing to remember about shrinkage. It can be used as a tool to see how healthy your curls are. Excess heat or damaging chemicals applied to the hair is one of the common forms of damage. In order to achieve that perm or that extremely flat ironed style, curls have to become damaged in order to stay permanently or temporarily straight. For those who want to go between natural and flat iron styles they find that the curls begin to not bounce back due to the damage. So when we embrace the fact that tight curls can equal healthy curls we see that shrinkage is a good thing.
3. We must reject the notion that shrinkage (especially extreme shrinkage) is unattractive and unkempt. Many girls with kinky hair may have grown up with the idea that natural hair = not neat. This idea has always been something that has been present in our society. Even as the rise of naturals who reject this grew this idea also found a way to make itself present when it comes to texture preferences. Many find that there is still even with many who embrace natural hair an idea that looser textures (which usually but not always may have less shrinkage capacity) are better than kinkier textures (which usually but not always has more shrinkage capacity). We cannot stop what others think about our own hair, but what we can do is LOVE OUR HAIR no matter what texture you have. So we say, embrace it no matter how much it shrinks.
4. Now we can't ignore the fact that wearing your hair in tight curls can inevitably lead to more interaction between strands and more opportunities for tangling if not done carefully. This is even more likely if you are not regularly detangling your hair using a good slippery conditioner and applying moisture on a consistent basis A.K.A if you do not have a good hair care regimen that incorporates protein from time to time. Wearing it in this state can be very low manipulation but the need for moisture becomes higher due to the increased contact between strands. A great moisturizer will allow the strands to come into contact and more likely slip past each other instead of becoming caught. Also, alternating between shrunken styles and other protective styles is a good idea for those who may want to change it up. With a good regimen and plenty of moisture, your hair will tangle less whenever you want to wear your hair shrunken
5. Once you have embraced that your hair shrinks and that you are a unique flower, you may decide to wear it in its shrunken state from time to time. As we know low manipulation can lead to tremendous growth so rocking your shrinkage from time to time can lead to less damage and length retention.
So it's ok to manipulate your hair here and there but the best way to grow your hair, especially kinky hair to to stick with low manipulation hair styles and wearing your hair in it's shrinkage state every now and then is completely ok and reminds you of how healthy your hair actually is.
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