We all remember that one sister-friend while growing up who had never had her hair straightened. She had tight coils, maybe an afro or coarse hair until she got that Jheri curl or Just For Me hair relaxer. Oooh honey, she was stylin’! Swingin’ that Jheri curl “juice” everywhere - but really it was simply curl activator. Her hair was full of chemicals but baby those coils were relaxed and longer. And if she got a relaxer, she went from wearing an afro to tossing her long tresses back and forth. It wasn’t until years later that your sister-friend realized that those chemicals weren’t so good for her scalp and hair when she saw the breakage or dryness. Maybe she loss hair. Maybe that sister-friend decided to go back to her roots and go natural. Maybe that sister-friend is you.
Shrinkage is when the hair appears to be shorter than it actually is. Shrinkage occurs when our hair is at its best, moisturized with healthy elasticity. Elasticity is a huge indicator of healthy hair and it gives your hair the ability to withhold stress and manipulation. When your hair loses elasticity, it’s easily stretched, loses curl retention, and is prone to dryness and breakage. When we have curls and coils that are really moisturized and full of elasticity, it has the greatest ability to spring back to its natural, healthy shape. According to NaturallyCurly.com: “Depending on the hair type and hair porosity, curly hair can shrink up to 90% when it dries.”
If you are natural or in transition to becoming natural, just know that shrinkage can happen when the hair gets wet or when it’s humid. Natural hair shrinkage is something you can’t avoid. Let us not forget that shrinkage is what makes us unique and different from others. Without shrinkage, our hair would not have its texture and definition that makes us unique. With various hair depth, width and curl patterns, we must be patient with ourselves as we work to discover a hair care routine that will be best for our crown.
We should be doing our best to stop looking at shrinkage as a negative trait of natural hair. It is not a negative trait, as western society may have us to believe, but it is actually the complete opposite - a sign of healthy hair. Instead of rejecting shrinkage, we should embrace it as a sign of elasticity and properly moisturized hair.
Now, if you’d like to decrease shrinkage, there are products such as shea butter that can aid with that. There are also hairstyles like straightening your hair that also lessens shrinkage but be careful because too much straightening can cause breakage and a loosening of your curl pattern.
After washing your hair you can twist or braid it to combat shrinkage, depending on your hair type. Using different products such as leave-in conditioner can help reduce your hair shrinkage as well. Just know that embracing your shrinkage is easier when you know what, why and ways to help deal with it. Knowing is half the battle so embrace your shrinkage because it means you have healthy natural hair!