by Cipri­ana of Urban Bush Babes

loo1 Now I know you’re read­ing the title and think­ing, “um excuse me, embrace shrinkage…NEVER”. I am not going to lie, I love a good stretch tech­nique as much as the next nat­u­ral, but learn­ing to embrace shrink­age has more ben­e­fits than you think! For some nat­u­rals, stretch­ing is just a visu­al pref­er­ence; but for oth­ers, it’s a tac­tic to pro­mote eas­ier manip­u­la­tion of tress­es. Falling in the tac­ti­cal brack­et, stretch­ing my 4c strands has helped tremen­dous­ly in my detan­gling ses­sions, cut­ting down on time and break­age. But con­stant or every­day manip­u­la­tion to main­tain a stretched style can do more harm than good. Though shrink­age may get more than the occa­sion­al side eye, it is actu­al­ly a sign of health and serves as proof that your strands haven’t been dam­aged by heat or oth­er exter­nal fac­tors. There are many ways to tem­porar­i­ly reduce shrink­age. But per­ma­nent alter­na­tives, such as “heat train­ing”, per­ma­nent­ly dam­age the strands by alter­ing the orig­i­nal bonds, sim­i­lar to the effects of chem­i­cals. Depend­ing on the den­si­ty and “health” of the strand, heat train­ing does work for some, but it still caus­es dam­age by weak­en­ing the strands. Our hair con­sists of sev­er­al chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal bonds. Two of those are hydro­gen and salt. Hydro­gen bonds are respon­si­ble for the elas­tic­i­ty in our strands and its abil­i­ty to return to its orig­i­nal form. The­se bonds are extreme­ly frag­ile and can be changed by heat and water, while salt bonds are changed by ph bal­ance. If the hair is too acidic or alka­line, due to prod­ucts that are applied to it, it can break down the salt bonds. Chem­i­cal bonds are only affect­ed by chem­i­cals; hair relax­ers, tex­tur­iz­ers, cer­tain col­or agents, etc. Although chem­i­cal bonds are stronger than phys­i­cal bonds, once they’re changed, there is no going back. For “healthy” curls, it’s ide­al that your hair be able to “go back.” Pull a strand of healthy curly hair and watch it quick­ly snap back to its orig­i­nal form. The “snap back,” effect has always been my alias for shrink­age. It not only shows the orig­i­nal con­di­tion of the hair but demon­strates strength. The more elas­tic­i­ty your curls have, the more pro­tect­ed they are again­st break­age. So here’s the dilem­ma; Stretch­ing leads to eas­ier manip­u­la­tion while shrink­age pro­tects again­st breakage…I know… what’s a nat­u­ral to do? The solu­tion is to find a hap­py medi­um between the two. Stretch­ing can be extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial, but too much of a good thing can be detri­men­tal. So if heat is your pref­er­ence, stretch your strands no more than once a week with low heat. If heat is not an option some alter­na­tives are braid­outs, twistouts or ban­tu knot outs.

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Do any of you include shrink­age in as a part of your length reten­tion regime?

Urban Bush Babes online pub­li­ca­tion fea­tur­ing  two best friends and pas­sion­istas cre­at­ing the defin­i­tive source for nat­u­ral hair, fash­ion, health, lifestyle, music and arts & cul­ture while liv­ing in NYC.

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20 Comments on "How Embracing Shrinkage Can Help You Retain Length"

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[…] No mat­ter how long your hair gets, one wash can have you rock­ing a TWA. Remem­ber, shrink­age is not a bad thing! It’s a unique aspect of our ver­sa­tile hair :) Peace, Love and […]


well I have real­ly dry, thirsty which drinks everything..and it stopped grown­ing :( I’m young there any­thing I can put before going to bed ?? And how to I grow my edges back??


How’s your nutri­tion? Grow­ing hair healthy is actu­al­ly more about what’s going on inside your body than what you can slather on out­side of it. Hydra­tion is key as well as a bal­anced diet. If you’ve lost edges, I’ve heard good things about biot­in.


I think shun­ken state should be call it’s mat­ted state. On my 4 b/c 12″+ it’s just mat­ted. Even when detan­geling I must keep it enlon­gat­ed and put back in braids or twist.
How­ev­er, I do not twist every night. That just to much work for me. Lol


[…] Embrace Shrink­age […]

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty
I fight shrink­age like the plague ha ha. Only because it actu­al­ly caus­es me more tan­gling than not. While I’m in the type 3 cat­e­go­ry of hair with some sprin­kles of 2 at the base of my neck, I still prefer my curls stretched to the point that they still look like curls but don’t typ­i­cal­ly coil up too much.  While I’ve loved the wash ‘n go for it’s sim­plic­i­ty, I no longer can do it with­out get­ting a mas­sive tan­gle ball with­in a day! The­se days now that I’m just pass­ing bra strap length (in the back stretched…the sides are… Read more »

I love the vol­ume my shrink­age gives me but it also means more tangling/matting so it’s kind of a give and take sit­u­a­tion.

If “snap back” is proof of hair’s strength, then my hair is a super­hero. My hair is final­ly to a length where I don’t mind wear­ing a curly ‘fro. The curls and coils are shiny and defined and very pret­ty. I had been wait­ing on this part like a kid wait­ing on Christ­mas. Now I find I can’t real­ly enjoy full shrink­age because the knots and break­age and bro­ken combs get in the way. My face was broke the first time I real­ized that I FINALLY have the length but logis­ti­cal­ly there’s just no way.  Just a few min­utes ago I… Read more »
I’ve noticed that my hair seems to flour­ish and retain much more length in the sum­mer months(when I do more wash n gos) than in the cold­er, win­ter months(when I wear my hair stretched). I guess it may have some­thing to do with the very lit­tle manip­u­la­tion I do in the sum­mer. I always thought it was because I co-washed more often and my hair may have been bet­ter mois­tur­ized in the sum­mer, but I guess the lack of manip­u­la­tions has a lot to do with it also. I nor­mal­ly co-wash my hair every 3 to 4 days in the… Read more »

I haven’t put heat on or stretched my hair in 9 months and I think it’s been a good move. My hair stays boun­cy and I don’t have to con­stant­ly wor­ry about if I’m dam­ag­ing it. I’ve got 3C/4A hair that shrinks about 50–80% depend­ing on which curl/coil you’re look­ing at, so at about 7in of hair, I don’t have much length to show off either way. But give me anoth­er year of this nat­u­ral thing and I’m con­fi­dent my hair will be healthy and long enough to enjoy an occa­sion­al stretch :)


I think the best com­pro­mise is no-heat stretch­ing (band­ing, flat twists, etc.) that is done a lit­tle loose­ly pro­vides the best of both worlds in con­trol­ling tan­gling and pre­vent­ing dam­age to the hair from heat styling. Now, if only there was a way to do them quick­ly and still look cute while wear­ing them…

I’ve been think­ing about wear­ing my hair more in it’s orig­i­nal state. I’ve seen some good videos out there on W+G and fin­ger detan­gling meth­ods so I’m build­ing my con­fi­dence I guess you could say lol. I’m def­i­nite­ly more com­fort­able with shrink­age now even though my hair shrinks up to 80–85% of it’s length (amaz­ing to me) after most of the water evap­o­rates from my head. So with my hair being 12″+ I’m right back to a twa. Which after some thought doesn’t both­er me, because some­times deal­ing with long, big hair is a pain. So I think I may… Read more »
I myself have nev­er under­stood the fuss with shrink­age. I thought it was more for the looks but now being almost 1 1/2 years post relax­er (remov­ing all perm ends 6 months ago), I now under­stand how stretch­ing helps with achiev­ing cer­tain styles. One state­ment that stays in my mind is from Kim­may­Tube. In one of her videos she addressed shrink­age and stat­ed that it was like her bank account.….the mon­ey is there and she doesn’t feel the need to show it to oth­ers all the time. That has helped me with my par­tic­u­lar jour­ney. I have final­ly mas­tered the… Read more »

Sad­ly not for me — with my kinks shrink­age only means that I’ll have to stretch my hair lat­er to detan­gle and for me thats as easy as pulling apart a bunch of tan­gled wires. I think I have about 80% shrink­age, going from BSL to just abou­ve my ears and all those shrunk­ed coils always lead to break­age.

I thought she was say­ing stretch­ing is good, so if you was then do a twist out that fine, but dont re twist every night. the manip­u­la­tion can be too much for the strands. or if you blow dry and use heat just do it after a wash and do re blow out every day because there was a lit­tle rever­sions. I know i usu­al­ly go fron twist out or milk­maid braids to a faux­hawk to a puff then wash my hair again. thats because i dont retwist my hair. so as it starts to shrink i just change the… Read more »

I appre­ci­ate the effort, and may­be I missed it, but I don’t see the hap­py medi­um in this arti­cle.

I, too, would LOVE to do wash-n-go’s, and I have no prob­lem with how shrink­age looks on me, but it’s the seri­ous tan­gles, knots and mat­ting that I can­not live with. I can only keep my hair detan­gled by keep­ing it stretched.

One wash with­out detan­gling (prefer­ably) before — and I’m guar­an­teed at least 3 hours of detan­gling, break­age and hair set­backs my next wash.

I just can’t do it any­more. I just can’t!


What do you mean, being nat­u­ral? Not look­ing to judge AT ALL, just curi­ous!

My hair is very curly, too, and I absolute­ly love shrink­age. It allows me to have curly bangs with­out get­ting a hair­cut; it gives my wash-n-go the full­ness that I love; and it lets me wear “short styles” such as a curly fro or a curly bob with­out actu­al­ly hav­ing to cut my hair. Shrink­age also pro­tects my ends by keep­ing my hair from rub­bing again­st my col­lar. I use a creamy leave-in that has lots of slip; so I don’t have mat­ting, snarls, break­age, etc. Ini­tial­ly, I did strug­gle with SSKs; but after I began pre-poo­ing with coconut oil… Read more »

My thoughts exact­ly!


Me too. Let­ting my very tight­ly coiled, high shrink­age hair shrink all the way, just leads to tan­gles, knots, mat­ting, and break­age lat­er on. I wish I could just let my hair do it’s thing and shrink all the way, but the con­se­quences just aren’t worth it. I nev­er use heat to stretch my hair though. Main­ly braids and band­ing.