Sick And Tired Of Hair Shrinkage? Have You Ever Tried This?

Shrinkage can be a problem. Here's the solution.


If I could name one common reason for why a lot of us struggle with going completely natural, it's because we don't want to deal with the almost inevitable hair shrinkage — because the shrinkage struggle that's out in these streets is oh so very real (there's a shrinkage challenge compilation video here and a few other women who talk about their own shrinkage journeys here, here and here).

So, what exactly is the root cause of this thorn in our hair's side? It's interesting because when our hair gets wet, it absorbs moisture that can "trigger" our strands to go into their natural curl pattern. On many levels, this is a good thing, because when our hair reverts to its natural state, that's a sign that it is healthy. On the flip side, because moisture is also something that helps to weigh our hair down and keep our cuticles somewhat stretched out, when the moisture leaves, it can be hard to elongate our strands so that our curl patterns can appear looser and our hair can ultimately appear longer too.

At the end of the day, what all of this basically means is, combating shrinkage is all about coming up with ways to stretch out our stands without damaging them in the process. While doing this requires some major TLC, there are things that you can do that are pretty great at giving you the results that you're looking for. Here are 10 of 'em.

1. Deep Condition Your Locks


One of the main things that a lot of Black people don't realize about shrinkage is, aside from your natural curl pattern, since it can be more difficult for our natural oils to make it all the way down our hair shaft, dry hair also plays a direct role into why we can experience so much shrinkage. The remedy? One of them is deep conditioning your hair on every wash day. Why is this an important step? Well, conditioning your hair provides some extra "weight" to your strands that I was talking about, so that it's able to stay stretched out for a longer period of time. Think of it like a sponge — when a sponge is full of water, it is easier to stretch out than when it is dry. So, if deep conditioning has never really been your thing, now you've got a really solid reason to incorporate it into your hair regimen.

2. Braid It Up


Something that I figured out works better for me is to blow out my hair on wash days and then keep it cornrowed on the days when I choose to not wear it out. Both methods are what stretch out my hair (so that there are less tangles and knots). Plus, the braiding is what prevents me from putting excessive heat on my tresses.

That's why I simply could not do an article like this and not mention that braiding is a top tier way to keep shrinkage from getting on your very last nerve. Even if you'd prefer not to apply any heat, you can plait your hair while it's wet, let it air dry and then take your braids down. You'll still see a good amount of stretching by going that route too. While we're here, two other heatless methods that significantly reduce shrinkage include banding (video here) and threading (video here). Check 'em out when you get a chance.

3. Roller Set Your Locks


Another way to reduce shrinkage that can also give your hair a lot of movement is roller setting it. This method makes it easier to stretch your hair while it's wet (preferably damp). Then, you can let it air dry or sit underneath a hooded dryer. Once your tresses are completely dry, your hair will remain stretched out for longer. As a bonus, if you use a leave-in conditioner before rolling it up, you can end up with a lot of bounce to your hair as well.

Basically what you'll need to pull this off is a leave-in, a light oil (like sweet almond or grapeseed) and some rollers that won't damage your hair (and yet can give you some pretty bangin' results) like Perm Rods, Flexi Rods and Curlformers. A video that I liked that offered up some cool tips and concluded with some dope results is right here.

4. Break Your Hair Caste


If you're someone who likes to rock and wash 'n go, I'm thinking that you already know that one way to give your hair a lot of curl definition is to apply some non-alcohol gel to it while it's wet (Aloe vera gel is cool too). And what if, once your hair is dry, your curls are a little "tighter" than you would like them to be? No worries. All you need to do is break your hair's caste. What that basically means is you need to loosen up the gel, so that your curls can become looser and appear to have less shrinkage.

Caste-breaking isn't hard to do. You just need to put a little bit of oil in your hands (jojoba, liquified coconut oil or avocado oil is great for this) and then gently apply it to your hair, softly tugging at the curls until they feel less hard from the gel. Again, it's a wonderful way to elongate your look and also bring movement to your hair, thanks to less gel and more oil being in it.

5. Play Around with Some Bentonite Clay


Speaking of wash 'n gos, personally, I'm a fan of bentonite clay for all kinds of reasons (for instance, it's a great skin detoxifier if you sprinkle some of it into your bath and soak). When it comes to your hair specifically, if you want more defined curls and softer hair, apply some of it to your hair right after washing it. Put it on saturated hair, leave it on for about 10 minutes and rinse it thoroughly (preferably in the shower because bentonite clay can get messy). Then deep condition your hair (don't forget this step because clay has a tendency to make hair hard). No matter what your hair type is, you should end up being pleasantly surprised (check out some how-to videos here, here and here).

6. Try Some Silicone


Something that a lot of people don't know is sometimes, when it comes to styling natural hair, the ingredients in our favorite products can cause the shrinkage. Stuff like glycerin, glycol, hydrolyzed wheat protein or even honey can make your curls tighter because they are humectants that can draw moisture from the hair and cause your hair to draw back towards your scalp.

An ingredient that won't do this is silicone. It's cool because it's a non-toxic chemical that actually works as a sealant to protect your hair from outer moisture (the kind of moisture that can cause your hair to get tighter than you may want it to be). And since it literally weighs your hair down, silicone can help to keep shrinkage from occurring while reducing frizz and keeping your locks shiny. As far as silicone-based products that you should look into, Naturally Curly has a list that you can check out right here.

7. Or a Little Bit of Beeswax


Maybe you do or maybe you don't know that one ingredient that a lot of people use when they decide to lock their hair is beeswax. Although it literally has a waxy texture to it, beeswax is actually good for natural hair on a few levels. It moisturizes. It seals in the moisture. And it's an awesome way to straighten hair without applying any damage. The main thing to keep in mind with this particular anti-shrinkage tip is less is more. That said, you might want to apply it, along with a little bit of oil when you're braiding/banding/threading your hair or to lay down your edges after styling your hair. Otherwise, your hair could turn out to be stickier than you planned.

8. Pull at Your Roots


One of the greatest hacks for combating shrinkage is using a pick to lightly lift up your roots after you've finished doing any of the techniques that I've just mentioned. This approach can keep you from frizzing out your curl pattern while still giving your hair an inch or two of height and volume.

9. Blow It Out


Out of all of the tips that I've shared for how to deal with natural hair shrinkage, I'm thinking that this one is probably the most obvious one because you can always pull out a blow dryer and blow your hair straight (well, as straight as possible without using a flat iron). Again, the reason why I like this approach is because it provides a lot of stretch, so that I don't have to constantly pull and tug on my hair in order to style it. It also cuts down on fairy knots significantly.

The keys to this point is to select a dryer that does as little heat damage as possible, that you let your hair dry at least 50-60 percent before applying any heat to it, that you do not go above a medium setting (otherwise, you could end up frying your tresses) and that you definitely put on a thermal heat protectant (cream is usually best, coverage-wise) before you begin the process. Then, once you're done, don't forget to stretch out your hair with cornrows or plaits so that you don't have to use heat again until your next wash day. By the way, Byrdie did an article on some top dryers for natural hair. You can check it out by going here.

10. Pull It into a Pineapple (at Night)


Some stylists will say that another way to stretch your hair is to pull it up into a ponytail (if it's long enough). That's true yet you need to be careful that you don't pull your "tail" so tight that it creates tension that leads to breakage or that you get so consumed with your edges and nape (by constantly applying gel and or always brushing it) that you weaken certain parts of your hair. However, when it comes to your bedtime routine, if your hair is long enough, I definitely recommend putting it up in a loose pineapple (you can learn how to do it here and here). It's another way to reduce shrinkage while you rest and to prevent a lot of detangling, so that it's easier and quicker to style your hair the following morning. It's an anti-shrinkage method that is easy, low-maintenance and (so long as your scarf stays on, chile) can keep your hair looking just the way you want it. Enjoy!

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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