In the natural community we here about shrinkage all the time. So, why is this topic discussed so much? What exactly is shrinkage? Is it possible to decrease the amount of shrinkage you experience?
When it comes to natural hair, most individuals experience some form of shrinkage. I would have to say that the shrinkage is more noticeable with type 4 hair and above. I experience shrinkage around the perimeter of my hair mainly. However, in the crown of my hair the shrinkage is so minimal--the hair has more of a wave pattern. With my sister, Alison, her shrinkage is major and throughout her head. When she washes her hair or wear it unpicked her hair looks shorter than mine. Yet, when her hair is stretched it reaches to her midback--very long. My sister, Auset, experiences shrinkage too. She usually wears her hair unpicked and one day I stretched it out and she had more length than I thought.
So, what exactly is shrinkage? Shrinkage is the length of the hair in its naturally coily state. This length usually appears much shorter than the actual length of the hair. However, once the hair is stretched it is possible to see the actual length of the hair. Once the hair is unstretched the length will spring back to the shorter length. You can usually see the shrinked state of the hair when it is wet.
In what ways do naturals avoid shrinkage? There are a number of processes that naturals use to decrease the amount of shrinkage their hair experiences. There is the process of banding, which involves putting hair bands along the length of the hair. Once the bands are removed the hair is stretched to show more of its length. Some naturals also choose to braid the hair to stretch it out. Some naturals choose to twist the hair. Another method naturals use is to blow out the hair, which involves combing the hair out while blow drying it. And some naturals choose to straighten their hair periodically to get an idea of the length of their hair. Of course some of these methods show the length of the hair much more than other methods. For instance, banding, blowing out, and straightening the hair will allow the hair to stretch more than braiding or twisting the hair. Also, some naturals like to use some of these methods on dry hair because it stretches the hair more than it would on wet hair.
Now, how do I feel about shrinkage? I noticed that I don't really focus on the shrinkage of my hair that much. Of course I twist my hair and this does stretch it somewhat. Yet, I mainly do this for the style and to help with detangling. I also tried the braid-out. Other naturals said the braid-out will stretch the hair out more, but I didn't notice a major stretch. The braid-out and twist-out are the only methods I can see myself using to stretch out my hair. I don't like the idea of blowing out the hair. I just think that is too much manipulation of the hair. I know some use cool air instead of hot air for their blow-outs in order to avoid heat damage. I'm not to keen on banding because I just don't think I would feel like putting the bands in. And I wouldn't want to sleep with those bands in my hair. Also, I wonder if those bands put too much pressure on the hair. As for straightening, I don't have any plans to ever straighten my hair. Many of the natural gurus have straightened their hair at some point but, this isn't for me. I don't like the idea of heat on my hair and I adore my natural texture.
I tried to stretch my hair so you can get an idea of the actual length of it compared to the rest of the hair. (It's kinda hard to hold the camera with one hand and pull the hair down with the other.) This is another pic from the side, which gives you a better idea.
My sister, Joy, is obsessed with me showing the actual length of my hair. Everytime I am around her she goes "Pull down your hair so I can see where it actually is." Once I pull it down she just gets amazed at the amount of shrinkage. Also, in my family we all love to pull down my sister, Alison's, hair. Her shrinkage is so major that it is amazing to watch is stretch to her mid-back and then spring to the nape of her neck.
In the end, I think shrinkage is a unique feature of our hair. It puts me in awe to see the things our hair does. The Lord truly blessed each and every one of us with a uniqueness and I fully embrace it.