One of the issues of wash days I face is not stretching my hair after washing. One of the main reasons women decide to go natural is for the growth gains. Women love the idea of long locks flowing behind them, like a dramatic cape signifying a Queen has arrived. But other than the beauty benefits, there are some health benefits to stretching that most naturals may not know. If you’re eager to see that length and learn how to start stretching, we need to understand stretchings antithesis – shrinkage.
What is Shrinkage?
Shrinkage is when your hair coils or compacts due to water, air, or a chemical reaction. Shrink keeps you from viewing the true length of your hair. The best way to tell if you’re experiencing shrinkage is to pull on a strand of your, let it go, and watch it retreat to a significantly shorter form over time. First of all, experiencing shrinkage is not bad; in fact, it’s a very good thing! Type 4 hair knows that it’s very fragile, so it coils up to protect itself from the elements. When your hair is protecting itself, it means it’s moisturized, strong, elastic, and alive. I don’t want you to see shrinkage as something that needs defeating, but something that needs to be managed with care.
Despite the benefits of shrinkage, there are some detriments to allowing your shrinkage to go unchecked. For example, if you don’t stretch your hair now and then, your hair will have a difficult time retaining moisture, your chance of tangling will increase, your chances of breakage will increase, and important oils and serums will be prohibited from reaching your scalp. Essentially, unchecked shrinkage will lead to damaged hair. So what can you do?
Good Products & Tool to stretch natural hair after washing without heat
Before you reach for your comb to desperately stretch your hair, you need to find some good products and tools to help you. There are so many great ingredients out there that encourage hair stretching without heat or negative chemicals. The best place to find products that will help you stretch your hair is next to the curling gels and smoothies. Search for products that say “anti-shrinkage”, “curl stretching”, or any other product that implies elongating your hair. While determining which product is best for you, I recommend you choose ingredients that will promote stretching your hair. Here is a list of product that are great for stretching:
- Bamboo milk
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
The second thing that you need to look for are products that can help stretch your hair if you can’t do certain hairstyles. These tools here aren’t necessary for hair stretching however, they will make your life significantly easier:
- Roller Sets
- Curl Formers
- Hair ties (for buns)
- Hair thread (for African threading)
- Bobby pins (for Bantu knots)
Washing and Stretching
Now that you have all of your products, it’s time to wash your hair! I recommend using a shampoo and conditioner that encourages curl and scalp health so your hair is strong enough to withstand the manipulation. As you peruse the hair care aisle, you can see certain bottles that will explicitly say “curl enhancing”, “for kinky/coily hair”, or similar phrases. In addition, find conditioners that have protein in them to make your hair strong enough to withstand the subtle manipulation. After you’ve chosen your shampoo and conditioner, continue with your normal routine until you’re ready to stretch your hair.
5 Best method To stretch your Natural 4C hair
Your hair is washed, detangled, and ready to go! Let’s start using those products we just bought with these different techniques. What makes one technique better than another is if it works for you. Just because one natural is doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s the gospel. So, try each of these methods and see what works for you.
The Tuck and Roll
The tuck and roll method is when you use rollers to tuck, twist, or roll the hair into submission. The first step is to divide your hair into several sections. Make sure that your hair is still damp and detangle your hair. Afterward, detangle your hair and add the products you need for curling. These products should be light mousses or foam products. Then, choose between the curlers or flexi rods and roll. If you choose to use curl formers, make sure that, after all the product is in, you twist from the root and then hook it. Try not to use too much hair in the beginning because it may affect the tightness of the curl. Once it’s done, you should have beautifully stretched hair.
Braids and Twists
Braids and twists are by far the most popular method of stretching. With any of these methods, I encourage that you choose proper products and perform these methods on damp hair. If you choose to do a twist out or braid out, I would like to suggest two different methods based on your schedule and preference.
The first method is doing plat twits or braids, plats are a method of braiding that is done close to the scalp; it almost looks like it’s laying on your head. I prefer this method because it makes headwraps easier to wear and it’s a good way to check on your length. The second method is to section your hair off in different layers, then braid, or twist, out from the scalp. This method is great if you want to wear a protective style while stretching. After your hair is airdried, feel free to undo the style and wear those beautiful, stretched curls as is or picked out with a pick comb. The third method that has grown in popularity in the last few years is the Bantu knot. Bantu knots are not only beautiful but edgy and eye-catching. I recommend this bold style because it results in bold, beautiful curls.
African threading is the final style that I wanted to mention to you because I believe that it’s the most underrated. African threading is done by wrapping black thread in a corkscrew fashion from the root of your hair to the tip. Many women have been benefited from African threading for centuries from various tribes. If you look up photos of this style, there are many elegant styles that you can wear while your threads are in; you would similarly style them like locs. But once you take your threads out, you’ll have a big, fluffy mane for all to see.
Stretching is an important practice that reduces tangles and friction, and increases moisture retention and healthiness of hair. Whatever method, products, or styles that you choose, make sure that that you keep trying until you find what works for you.