Aaah…shrinkage!!! Ever been online reading natural hair forums and you see commenters saying “shrinkage is a 🤬” or “the shrinkage is real”? That’s because it is!

Or is it? 🤔

It really depends on the person and how they like to wear their hair.

Some curly heads happily embrace their shrunken strands while others steer clear from it.

What is natural hair shrinkage by definition?

Natural hair shrinkage is the hair in a much shorter state lengthwise than it truly is. It gives the appearance of kinks, coils or curls in an afro or puff like state.

Now that the term for shrinkage has been defined, what is the cause, exactly?

Are there certain textures that experience more shrinkage than others?

Hair Shrinkage: The Cause

Most people that wash their hair experience some form of shrinkage. When the hair becomes wet after a shower or swim, it naturally shortens.

Source: GIFit!/YouTube

The more coily and dense the hair is, the more shrinkage one will experience. Shrunken strands are not much of an issue for straight haired naturals, since their hair is mainly worn in a stretched state.

If you are fully natural, meaning that your hair is always in its kinky or curly state with minimal heat usage for styling, then you likely live in shrinkage city.

I am currently visiting the city with my latest hairstyle. See below.

shrinkage natural hair

shrinkage natural hair

Shrinkage: The Blessing and Curse

Believe it or not, hair shrinkage is a positive indication of healthy hair! Have you ever seen someone trying to get their curls back or the hair looks limp and lifeless?

That is because the hair may be damaged from straightening too much or it could be lacking hydration. Protein is also a nutrient needed for healthy curls.

There needs to be a balance between moisture and protein in order to have healthy, thriving hair.

So yes! Shrinkage may make your hair appear shorter, but it means that your strands are striving for greatness.

So consider yourself blessed! 😇

If you prefer length, then you may see shrinkage as a curse. Of course, it is not! No need to worry because there are solutions to shrinkage.

natural hair shrinkage

Shrinkage Prone Hairstyles

An unstretched wash and go is a major culprit for shrinkage. Why? Because wash and go’s are set in damp or even soaking wet hair – mainly the latter.

As mentioned above, hair shortens when wet so it only makes sense for the wash and go to show off its shrinkage once its fully dry.

I usually prefer to do braid outs or twist outs because I do not like using a lot of gels, but I decided to do twists in front with a wash and go for the back of my hair.

I’ll be honest, I am used to my hair being longer so I kept saying “my hair is up on my neck!” or “It did not come out right!” or “never again!”

Look at the difference between my hair blow-dried and the twists wash and go.

woman looking sideways

But ☝🏾, I really started to like the style after a day or so. I know that I have length so no need to trip over a little change up.

Also, I can always stretch my hair with heat or banding if I decide that I want more length for future wash and go’s.

Braid outs and twist outs can also appear shrunken if they are not stretched during or after the drying process.

I usually set my hair in individual braids or twists and pin each one with bobby pins while its still damp.

The pins stay in overnight or however long that I decide to leave my hair pinned for maximum length – sometimes up to 3 days! This is a heatless stretch method.

I’ve seen others stretch their styles with a blow dryer on cool to low heat after the hair is about 90% dry.

In my opinion, it’s best to stretch the hair the heatless way, but if you must use a blow dryer then do so on hair that is mostly dry so that you’ll still have some definition.

Products That Help Elongate Your Shrunken Strands

Now let’s be realistic. A specific product alone will not magically rid shrinkage.

If your hair is not properly hydrated during the wash day process, then applying a shrinkage reducing product will likely not get the results that you are looking for.

Still, these products are worth a try. First up on the list:

Twist Elongating Cream by Melanin Haircare

best twisting cream for natural hair
I LOVE this product! The entire line is amazing, but the cream is where it all started. I use it with every braid out and it gives me the length that I desire every time. Moisture ✅ Definition✅ Elongation ✅✅ It’s a 10 for me!

Mizani Therasmooth Smooth Guard Smoothing Serum

black hair care products for natural hair
This serum will not only aid with shrinkage, but it protects hair against damage due to heat styling, frizz, breakage, and humidity. Frizz is a contributor to shrinkage, so once that is tamed the hair will appear shiny and elongated.

Ice Curls Glossy Curling Jelly by Aunt Jackie’s Curls and Coils

best gel for natural hair
This curling jelly provides the shine, definition, and moisture that all curlies need, especially type 4. It also keeps frizz at a minimum. Again, the more moisture, the less the hair frizzes and shrinks up!

Jane Carter Solution Curls To Go! Coiling All Curls Elongating Gel

best gel for natural hair
I love the Curls to Go line. It was one of my go-to’s during my transitioning days. I have yet to try the gel, but the reviews on this product are amazing!

I would imagine that the gel works best with the entire line. I will definitely put the gel on my list to try in the near future!

The Takeaway

Shrinkage may be a 🤬 to some, but there are ways to cope. It should be embraced because shrinkage = healthy hair.

What are your thoughts about shrinkage? Comment below!