Blow out on the left and finsihed flat ironed hair on the right

Style Icon Nim­ca

Many nat­u­rals with beau­ti­ful heads of hair pro­mote stretch­ing hair as a way to man­age shrink­age, cut down on tan­gles and knot for­ma­tion and all impor­tant­ly pro­mote length reten­tion. Stretch­ing by and large is regard­ed as help­ful, but could it be harm­ful?

The Short Answer
Yes, stretch­ing hair exces­sive­ly could be harm­ful but low lev­els of stretch­ing are per­fect­ly fine and can be use­ful in hair main­te­nance.

stretching_natural_hair

The Long Answer

1. Hair recov­ers very well from low lev­el stretch­ing with the help of water
Sci­en­tists have demon­strat­ed that hair can recov­er very well from a 20–30% exten­sion of the strand (Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Cos­met­ic Chemists, pp 13–26, 1996). The stretched strand will recov­er its full strength once the stretch­ing force is released and the hair is dipped in water. Why the dip in water? Water has a key role in mak­ing hair flex­i­ble and strong as it slight­ly changes the pro­tein (ker­at­in) in hair. Do note that for styling, you do not have to do the dip as it may reverse the stretch­ing process. How­ev­er, when you are done with the style, a lit­tle water will help you have stronger hair to han­dle the next styling or main­te­nance process.

2. How can you tell if you are in the safe lim­it of stretch­ing?
It is pret­ty easy to read a 20–30% stretch in a lab but not real­ly pos­si­ble in a real life sit­u­a­tion. As a gen­er­al guide, if you retain some tex­ture in your hair while stretch­ing, you are prob­a­bly in the safe region. Aim­ing to com­plete­ly smooth out a curl or kink with stretch­ing has the poten­tial to over-stretch the hair. As a gen­er­al rule, if your hair shrinks to 4 inch­es and is actu­al­ly 10 inch­es in length, attempt­ing to stretch it to 6–8 inch­es is prob­a­bly bet­ter than try­ing to get to the full length.

3. What hap­pens if you stretch hair over the safe lim­it?
By now, most of us will know hair has a cor­tex and a cuti­cle. The cor­tex is the strength bear­ing part of hair and it will gen­er­al­ly not suf­fer too much. How­ev­er, the cuti­cle of hair can under­go a dra­mat­ic fail with whole scales lift­ing and sep­a­rat­ing from the cor­tex. This can pro­gress to sec­tions of the hair hav­ing no cuti­cle and there­fore the cor­tex in the­se parts gets exposed to the full brunt of dam­age that the cuti­cle would nor­mal­ly pro­tect it from.

4. Should you stretch hair when it is wet or dry?
You should avoid stretch­ing hair when wet, it can eas­i­ly break (Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Cos­met­ic Chemists, pp 449–467,1978). How­ev­er, when it is com­plete­ly dry, it lacks flex­i­bil­i­ty. Stretch­ing hair which is around 70–80% dry is like­ly to be a good mix of flex­i­bil­i­ty and strength.

Ladies, have you ever wit­nessed dam­age from hair stretch­ing? How do you stretch safe­ly?

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79 Comments on "Can Stretching Natural Hair be Harmful?"

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Miki

I end­ed up over stretch­ing my curls. I dis­cov­er puffs and I did­nt realise how dam­ag­ing it was. The very front ofmy hair is jus­ta big fluffy mess, it does­nt even clump togeth­er. And the same goes for the hair direct­ly over my ears. :( iuts gonna be a while before I can get it where it needs to be

mary

My hair is a vir­gin hair. I stretched my hair on 1st of feb­ru­ary and it makes me feel good cos I av a very stub­born hair. Hope it won’t have any side effect?

Kellee
Since I acci­den­tal­ly stretched my hair back in April 2012, I have been doing so ever since. It has been my God­send! Not only does it allow me to dis­play length with my twists, but it has proven to elim­i­nate the knot­ting of my high­ly tex­tured strands…I don’t real­ly do the hair-typ­ing thing, but for a visu­al ref­er­ence, I would def­i­nite­ly say its in range of 4 lol — any­who, I real­ized that I lose a whole lot of hair when I style it while wet…so I no longer do that under any cir­cum­stances. It is time con­sum­ing, but well… Read more »
Faustina

I twist my hair after i’ve washed it to help it dry, its my loop hole to blow dry­ing my hair as i hate heat. But how long does hair remain stretched? Coz some of my hair strands a real­ly loose and some have tight coils.

Just me

I appre­ci­ate this post and the sci­ence research. I am sure some of the length obsessed over stretch­ers and tape mea­sur­ers and all those in between appre­ci­ate this post as well.

reese

Hurt peo­ple, hurt peo­ple!

It’s just an infor­ma­tion­al nat­u­ral hair arti­cle. To the author, thank you for tak­ing the time to research and post. Smile :-)

hind

Streach­ing hair is dam­ag­ing but shrink­age is also dam­ag­ing .…

What should we do then? Live with­out hair ? SMH

mariah b

damn what’s all the fuss about??? I liked the arti­cle, and I’m glad to know that I’ve been stretch­ing my hair safe­ly and cor­rect­ly. I’m an afro puff girl so i blow occa­sion­al­ly and i found this very help­ful. :-)

Sherice

I thought this arti­cle was about stretch­ing your hair. I stretch my hair when­ev­er I wash because my hair coop­er­ates bet­ter in a stretched state. I have not learned how to embrace my shrink­age and I prob­a­bly nev­er will, so stretch­ing is some­thing I will con­tin­ue to do. I appre­ci­ate get­ting advice from wom­en that have actu­al­ly expe­ri­enced what they are talk­ing about, so this arti­cle is right on time.

mlank64
Char­lot­te had a point and a good one at that. So sor­ry to see her go as no one is an expert on any­body else’s hair or expe­ri­ence with her hair. Why, I thought she made some good points was because I iden­ti­fied with her state­ment. I clas­si­fy myself in the 3–4 range of hair type. I had to back off of twist because it was wear­ing down my ends. I won’t even enter­tain braids, but, like most things in the nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ty, what works for some does not work for every­one else. Why would any­one have a prob­lem with… Read more »
stephanieb
I agree mlank64, some folks on this site over­re­act to me and it’s straight up dumb, giv­ing all of the­se thumbs down and such when often times peo­ple are just express­ing their opin­ion. It’s very sil­ly and child­ish to me to see grown folks act­ing like kids. IT’S ONLY HAIR PEOPLE, CALM DOWN!!! Hon­est­ly, do you see oth­er races get all bent out of shape over some damn hair, NO! Ulti­mate­ly, at the end of the day, hair is hair, obvi­ous­ly, you can manip­u­late it dif­fer­ent­ly depend­ing on tex­ture, length, type, etc., but guess what, white folks hair can get… Read more »
Nooni

I made a cou­ple of com­ments and peo­ple took it way to seri­ous­ly. This is a hair site. I nev­er meant to cause this much fuss. Peo­ple need to relax way more, its just hair.

Nooni

I don’t think that’s true. If peo­ple want­ed only type 4’s to com­ment then sure­ly they would only go to a type 4 web­site. Not every­thing comes down to jeal­ousy or some­thing like that, which is what you seem to be imply­ing

Cami

Yeah, some of y’all were act­ing like a pack of bul­lies in regards to Charlotte’s com­men­tary. So not cool.

Djanira

Agreed

Ariel

Char­lottes com­ments were thumbed down over 50 times, tht was a bit extreme and over the top to me. Like I said she agreed with the arti­cle and was writ­ing about her own hair expe­ri­ence. And the word hate can be used in many forms. What­ev­er form was used over 50 times if you were one of the 50 then pick one lol.

Nooni

I real­ly don’t see how any­one was bul­ly­ing.

Antrelise
Nooni u were pret­ty harsh. May­be you should watch her YouTube chan­nel and you would see what she was say­ing (the video she men­tioned in her first com­ment). It seemed to me that you became unnec­es­sar­i­ly defen­sive. There was noth­ing wrong with what she said. I too noticed that my hair doesn’t han­dle braid­ing too well.….and I’m Black. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it took me a few months to real­ize that (not that i am Black, but the braid­ing part :)It just nev­er occurred to me that the loose braids I did at night was ruin­ing my ends!! If I had read Char­lot­te… Read more »
fluffy-in-flight
You’re for­tu­nate that it took you two months to real­ize that, but it took me almost 3 years, in fact it took Charlotte’s com­ment to make me real­ize why i was con­stant­ly los­ing my ends, I’m ane­mic, have thy­roid prob­lems and a host of oth­er prob­lems and I attrib­ut­ed my hair loss to every­thing except what Char­lot­te said. I tried treat­ing it with every­thing but noth­ing worked. by the way, i’m tak­ing care of the prob­lems i men­tioned ear­lier, but after read­ing her com­ment and then han­dling my hair dif­fer­ent­ly I noticed that my loss was next to noth­ing. In… Read more »
fluffy-in-flight

@ Antrile­se — got to see the video, much thanks to you.

Antrelise

Hi fluffy-in-flight. Not sure of her chan­nel, but I linked to it through her first com­ment (she gave the address). It’s the com­ment with her pic in it and the address is in the first sen­tence or so. Good luck!!

shayshay

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, “com­mon sense” is not com­mon. Peo­ple come to this site to learn. Peo­ple come to learn what they didn’t know before, or learn dif­fer­ent ways of doing some­thing. Some­times peo­ple come here to get a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive because “com­mon sense” isn’t work­ing the way “every­one” says it’s sup­posed to. It’s not fair to make fun of any­one try­ing to learn in good faith.

Anike

Lol, why are ya’ll get­ting so angry, it’s not like they said nev­er stretch your hair again. That’s some com­mon sense that nat­u­rals espe­cial­ly should know that over stretch­ing could dam­age the hair. Just like how we’re sup­posed to be care­ful w/ heat and pulling on it too tight­ly is bad or any oth­er of the­se rules that are up to YOU whether or not you wan­na fol­low. Too much of any­thing is bad for you, ya’ll didn’t think when it came to stretch­ing you couldn’t over­do it? Come on now, get it togeth­er, don’t tell me you didn’t know this…

Candice

Wow, where did the dra­ma come from? I don’t think this arti­cle is say­ing any­thing con­tro­ver­sial. If you stretch your hair to the point that it is 100% stretched, that CAN be dam­ag­ing. Ok, noth­ing earth shat­ter­ing there. When I put my hair in twists, when I pull my hair, there is still give, so I’m not doing any harm, accord­ing to this arti­cle. Please calm down, peo­ple. It ain’t that deep.

Ariel

I didn’t see any­thing wrong with Charlotte’s com­ments, she wasn’t try­ing to hurt any­one with what she said. She also agreed with the arti­cle and said tht she also can­not stretch her hair or it will break off. It looks to me like ppl real­ly got upset about some­thing else, and even thumbed down every sin­gle one of her com­ments which is why she left. Smh, diver­si­ty shouldn’t been wel­come, but I have learned as a 30 year old black wom­an tht most of our own ppl are the racist and hate­ful ones.
[imgcomment image[/img]

?

So you couldn’t cape for the over­ly sen­si­tive one WITHOUT bash­ing “your peo­ple” smfh Seems you haven’t learned a thing in all of those 30 years.

Ariel

Ummm, you said I couldn’t cape, what is the mean­ing of that please? =) Oh and I haven’t bashed any­one, I sim­ply made an obser­va­tion, wrong is wrong and right is right. Like it or not, I stand up for the under­dog regard­less of race. Thank you very much. Oh and heres anoth­er pic­ture for you. It was a pro­tec­tive style!!! WASNT IT CUTE GURLLL!!!!! ^__^
[imgcomment image[/img]

Ariel

Oh and you don’t know what I have expe­ri­enced in this life, you don’t know any­thing about my near death expe­ri­ences. Or what I have learned in this life for tht mat­ter, so you can­not judge me by one state­ment tht I made in defense of anoth­er per­son and think you all of a sud­den know me or my life. Mrs or Mr Ques­tion mark since you dont have a name I will address you as tht.

Jasmine

Wow, you look 18,19, 20

Ariel

Lol, thank you and I wish. I would be able to do a lot of things over again. I will be 31 in Sep­tem­ber :)

Nooni

What are you talk­ing about, I made a sim­ple point. It’s hard­ly racist or hate­ful. May­be as a 30 year old black wom­an you should try to relax. If Char­lot­te took the com­ments way to per­son­al­ly, that’s her own prob­lem.

Ariel

See thts what I mean right there, you obvi­ous­ly felt guilty because I nev­er said any names. Lmaoo!!! So may­be you need to relax Nooni. There was no need to come at me dis­re­spect­ful because of your own guilt.

Djanira

Wow

Sassy24

I see that word hate­ful is often exag­ger­at­ed.

Ariel

Typo: diver­si­ty should­ve been wel­come

Nooni

How was diver­si­ty not wel­come?

Rachel

Wow. All of that was real­ly unnec­es­sary. So now only peo­ple with cer­tain hair types can join in a dis­cus­sion? All she was doing was giv­ing her opin­ion. Way to alien­ate her! How dis­ap­point­ing, ladies.

Charlotte

Btw I am done with this site. Adios. Prob­a­bly this site is for type 4’s too, eh? The def­i­n­i­tion of stretch­ing seems a bit nar­row here.

Stace

NO this site is not just for type 4 hair. Unless an admin­is­tra­tor asked you to leave you shouldn’t.

Amelie

It’s for peo­ple who appre­ci­ate the infor­ma­tion. ;)

nicole

bye

Mia

Rude and ghet­to. Smh

smh

I agree, they are act­ing like straight n***gas and think their igno­rance is fun­ny when it’s dis­gust­ing and child­ish how so many “wom­en” cosigned in on this igno­rance. Is this BGLH or Bossip? Peo­ple can be so igno­rant and cru­el.

AC

Child­ish, that behav­ior was awful… All she did was basi­cal­ly say every­thing wasn’t for every­body all the thumbs down and neg­a­tive com­ments weren’t nec­es­sary but this is the Inter­net so I don’t even expect peo­ple to act mature­ly. Now she’s leav­ing the site with the impres­sion that it’s some kind of type 4 only cult when it’s clear­ly named Black Girl Long Hair not Type 4 Long Hair. Wel­come diver­si­ty ladies, we don’t all have the same hair nor we do have the same prac­tices.

Mia

Seri­ous­ly. And the­se same black wom­en will lat­er com­plain that they are exclud­ed in oth­er areas of life. Yet they so read­i­ly exclude oth­ers who are a true asset to the knowl­edge that is cul­ti­vat­ed in this blog. Oh well. Black wom­en.… smh!

AC

* do we.

JENNID

Wow! Home girl took a sim­ple arti­cle away to far. Smh

Valerie

Lol

Nooni

Most nat­u­ral hair advice boils down to a vari­ety of guide­li­nes that have helped a lot of peo­ple. Just because it doesn’t help you, doesn’t mean its bad advice or that any­one is forc­ing it down your throat.

Charlotte
Yeah you are right except you for­got one thing, no one said any­thing about hav­ing some­thing forced down the throat. The per­son who gave me this advice did say that it was dam­ag­ing to anyone’s hair to do wash and go’s and did clear­ly tell me that I should wear my hair up and in braids, and she has seen count­less pic­tures of my hair. I nev­er blamed her for the issue, but I am let­ting you know that peo­ple do in fact have black and white opin­ions on what makes or breaks healthy hair, and being that I was… Read more »
fluffy-in-flight
I have to agree with you that braid­ing wet hair is risky. At least for me per­son­al­ly it is.Because although I’ve nev­er had a prob­lem with grow­ing my hair, yet i have to admit that every time i deal with my hair which is dai­ly, i lose hair and i clip hair- I real­ly would like to grow my hair out but at the same time I can’t stand to have it out because i per­spire very heavy from my head, so i am forced to put it in twists, and because i manip­u­late it when it’s wet, i do… Read more »
Antrelise

I under­stand your point Char­lot­te. You have the right to your opin­ion and you did make a point to say “me” and “I”. I hope you con­tin­ue to vis­it the sight because it is full of infor­ma­tion and you nev­er know when you may read some­thing that real­ly speaks to you. By the way, your hair looks healthy so keep up the good work!!

Nooni

When did I say any­thing about Domini­can or mixed peo­ple? They can have type 4 hair too.……

Charlotte
Yes ! I just did a video about this on youtube called “Pro­tec­tive Styles Are Not For Every­one.” http://www.youtube.com/chamarieq. My hair is fine as you will see and my hair went as far as break­ing and sev­ere crin­kling even from dry stretch­ing and buns. Now even a loose braid aggra­vates it so I just wear it down. It is still being grad­u­al­ly trimmed but it is fair­ly healthy now, no more split ends and less break­age. I had to go back to a mod­i­fied wash and go but because my hair likes brush­ing (after fin­ger detan­gling), I do not get knots. … Read more »
Alwina

Thank you shar­ing your per­spec­tive Char­lot­te. No one head of hair is the same. Always do what works for you and stay healthy doing so. Ignore the haters. God bless!

Marie
I did not much wrong with the first thing Char­lot­te said. Or how peo­ple got a patron­iz­ing tone from it.  A wom­an gave the advice that all peo­ple should wear their hair a cer­tain way, it lead to Char­lot­te find­ing out what worked best for her. Her hair doesn’t need pro­tec­tive styles and she even said she real­izes everyone’s hair is dif­fer­ent in the first com­ment. I was just think­ing that’s how you learn about your hair through trail and error.  A lot of nat­u­ral hair *new­bies espe­cial­ly* come to this web­site and they may say some­things that some­one may thing is… Read more »
Stace

Peo­ple are get­ting angry why? If she didn’t have her pic­ture attached would peo­ple be so mad?

kan

I was think­ing the exact same thing Stace — I had to reread to try and under­stand why peo­ple got so upset…still not see­ing it?? Oh well — I appre­ci­ate the post Char­lot­te — nice to see a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. :)

Em

I don’t get why peo­ple are tak­ing issue with what she said. I also didn’t know that pro­tec­tive styling for hair growth was exclu­sive to type 4 hair. White wom­en pro­tec­tive style their hair for length. There are forums online that aren’t specif­i­cal­ly for black wom­en, where wom­en share their pro­tec­tive styles for opti­mal growth.

Any­way, it’s not that big of a deal to me that she shared her sto­ry. Either you can relate or you can’t. *shrug*

raw

Because, she sounds slight­ly patron­iz­ing .

Nooni

Pro­tec­tive styling for length has only real­ly been for type 4 hair. You aren’t that. I per­son­al­ly have nev­er seen any­one say every hair type you do the same thing. May­be you were watch­ing a type 4 video. It is a bit annoy­ing when peo­ple who take advice not direct­ed towards them go on about how bad the advice is.

Pro­tect­ing styling con­sis­tent­ly is only real­ly for most type 4. may­be some 3’s. It’s no one else fault if you fol­lowed bad advice from a video from a per­son you nev­er met.

Charlotte
Hmm, I do not think that I said it was anyone’s fault. But let me just clar­i­fy some­thing real­ly quick­ly because in fact, the per­son who gave me this advice did specif­i­cal­ly give it to me, and when I say “pro­tec­tive” styling I am not refer­ring to the exten­sive micro braid­ing and twist­ing that type 4 ladies tend to wear, I am talk­ing about a basic sim­ple bun, and a few braids. She did in fact tell me that I could pre­vent trim­ming by wear­ing my hair up all the time and doing braid out’s. Bear in mind, for me… Read more »
Nooni

You seem to con­fuse hair and race. Being black doesn’t equal type 4 and being mixed doesn’t equal type 3.

Amelie

Preach!
Lol +1

sa

I’m on team #dowhat­works­fory­ourhair.
This arti­cle is ridicu­lous lol.

kan

I actu­al­ly appre­ci­ate this article…giving sci­en­tific data to help nat­u­rals with our hair, that’s pret­ty awe­some to me. That’s the beau­ty of this site — you can browse and see what info per­tains to you and sim­ply ignore the info that does not. Just a very friend­ly sug­ges­tion for us all to be a bit more sup­port­ive (as I see com­ments like this kind of often). It’s a bless­ing that some­one even takes the time to bring us all this awe­some infor­ma­tion into one con­ve­nient place. I know for me, this site has lit­er­al­ly saved my hair! :)

Nooni

It’s hard­ly ridicu­lous! It’s offers good sci­en­tific advice. Its up to you about whether to lis­ten to it.

TS

Man at this point even look­ing at your hair is “harm­ful” to nat­u­ral hair. Do what works for you.

Nicole

Why can’t we con­tin­ue the con­ver­sa­tion on nat­u­ral hair with­out all this sar­casm and ridicule?
Some peo­ple want to know. And now I know thanks.

Sassy24

I agree

Cass
I stretch reg­u­lar­ly (week­ly) with a blow dry­er. I also flat iron a few times a year. In my expe­ri­ence, stretch­ing my hair when it’s bone dry or near bone dry allows me to retain the most mois­ture. My hair is also less like­ly to shrink,thereafter. I’ve heat stretched my hair for the past 2+ years. I’ve had no issues with heat dam­age or length reten­tion. The only time length reten­tion becomes an issue is dur­ing the sum­mer, when I sport the wash and go. My MBL, dense, and fine hair shrinks to above my ears. Detan­gling is a night­mare… Read more »
YOOHOO

OH PLEASE DO WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS THE HAIR IS HEALTHY

Asia
LOL! I agree, do what­ev­er works for you. BUT I appre­ci­ate the the­o­ry in the arti­cle, it makes per­fect sense — too much stretch­ing can dam­age the cuti­cle = weak points on the strand/breakage. BUT stretch­ing can mean a lot of things! Some pic­tures of meth­ods that can cause the most dam­age over time would have been nice. I braid my hair 4-ish coils a lot, is that BAD? I have noticed that my ends get real­ly brit­tle and crinkly when I braid some­times. Am I stretch­ing too much, or do I just need to mois­tur­ize?? UGH! LOL. I just… Read more »
Asia
LOL! I know right, all the­se “rules” do get frus­trat­ing… I agree, do what­ev­er works for you. BUT I appre­ci­ate the the­o­ry in the arti­cle, it makes per­fect sense — too much stretch­ing can dam­age the cuti­cle = weak points on the strand/breakage. BUT stretch­ing can mean a lot of things! Some pic­tures of meth­ods that can cause the most dam­age over time would have been nice. I braid my hair 4-ish coils a lot, is that BAD? I have noticed that my ends get real­ly brit­tle and crinkly when I braid some­times. Am I stretch­ing too much, or do… Read more »
The Natural Haven

lol, clear­ly some peo­ple can­not read a sen­tence to com­ple­tion. If you were to amal­ga­mate the sen­ti­ment of prac­ti­cal­ly all the com­ments here, they would be iden­ti­cal to the arti­cle i.e stretch your hair but do it care­ful­ly. The ridicu­lous part to me is that there are argu­ments about that. 

Char­lot­te, if you read this, please know that your views are valid. Hair is indeed diverse, for some peo­ple stretch­ing and pro­tec­tive styling are not good. This is not a type 4 vs type 3 thing, there are some type 4s who will not thrive with a pro­tec­tive styling regime.

Mia

Lol… JC is so rude and defen­sive.

Mia

Lol… JC is so rude a defen­sive.

tracy

I know, right! All the­se rules and reg­u­la­tions for a fiber that will dete­ri­o­rate no mat­ter what you do. If you’ve man­aged to main­tain length, the ends of your hair will look and feel dif­fer­ent­ly from the hair just out of your scalp, no mat­ter what you do or don’t do to your hair. It’s a FIBER. It’s not going to be per­fect­ly pre­served forever!! That would be impos­si­ble.

Basi­cal­ly, do what the heck you want to with your hair and do what’s best for your hair.

Kelsey

So am I good with my once week­ly band­ed wash n go? I usu­al­ly band over night but i might just switch to twist­ing…

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