The hair tips, advice and recommendations given on this blog are given based on the experiences of the authors. These tips may not work for everyone and every hair type and it is important to acknowledge this since we are neither hair specialists nor trichologists.

Also many pictures on this blog belong to the authors but there are others that we do not have ownership for and thus we do not claim ownership of the ones that do not belong to us.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shrinkage and Natural Hair

The kinks, curls and coils of natural hair hide the real length of the hair from just looking at it. Now add shrinkage to that equation and you get even shorter looking hair. Shrinkage happens when natural hair comes in contact with any form of moisture. It can be moisture added directly to the hair during washing time or from hair sprays and it can be from moisture in the atmosphere. So you may start with one length today and by the end of the week (or day), it is a shorter length. Some Napps experience as much as 60% – 80% shrinkage. This means that only 20%-40% of their real length is visible after their natural hair comes in contact with a lot of moisture (usually after washing the hair). I think the tighter the coils, the more shrinkage experienced and the looser the coils the less the shrinkage experienced (please correct me if I am wrong).

Stretched hair shows it is about 5.5 inches (just above upper lip)

But look at the length now without stretching: just above my eye brow (about 3inches)

 I had a colleague who could not just understand the concept of shrinkage. He once asked me why I cut my hair and I told him that I did not cut it but that my hair was shrinking. He gave me this “You must think I am stupid look” then burst into laughter and repeated “Yeah shrinkage like when I go in the pool!” *shock horror* As much as I tried to explain it, he could not understand it. Sometimes you have to experience it to get it! 

The thing about shrinkage is that it only “masks” the true length of natural hair. Which means when looked at, the natural hair only looks shorter than it really is. For example, a person with hair length up to her back may look like someone with length only to her shoulders. From looking at the hair, you would never know the true length unless the hair is pulled or stretched. Some Napps want their length to be visible and that is one of the reasons why shrinkage is an issue.

From looking, you would think she has short hair because it is just below her ears. However, true length is almost mid-back when stretched. Wow!

Another reason is that shrinkage may prevent you from getting or maintaining that “look” that you expected when styling your hair. For example hair twisted into a Bob may look like it was twisted into a short cropped Halle Berry looking style. Those two styles are not the same! How about looking like you have bangs when you do not? That’s shrinkage pulling an optical illusion!

One thing I enjoy about shrinkage is teasing or surprising people about my hair length. This usually happens when I am with people who do not know much about natural hair and I get the “natural hair does not grow long” or “your hair is so" comments. And then I stretch my hair a bit and then a bit more and then to its real length and watch their eyes widen the longer it gets. It is like being a magician! Or when I go swimming with one length and get out of the pool with another length: classic! “Ummm … Omozo? What happened to your hair?” Then I do the horror movie scream “OH MY GOD! It must be something in the water! OH MY GOD!” The person starts to check themselves freaking out too. *Evil laugh*

Shrinkage does not have to be so bad. Knowing that it happens to all natural black hair is comforting: as in, you are not alone, we are all in it together *cue High School Musical song* It helps to also know what to do to manage it. Next post, we will talk about stretching and straightening techniques.

Keep it natural!



simplynuttie said...

Omozo, just cut of every inch of relaxed hair on my head. What's left is pure natural hair. Its still short so i can't twist buh what kinda styles can i wear pending the time i can twist. Also, how do i maintain this hair henceforth? I only wash it with my bathing soap **pardonme** i just don't know what to do.

Josephine Mokonogho said...

Nice one! I find it so frustrating!

Omozo said...

@Josephine: What do you do about it? Any tricks you use?

Josephine Mokonogho said...

I'm still rather newly natural so I just take comfort in articles like this! :-) I'm in braids most times though.

Omozo said...

I am glad this article is helpful

NaturaLocs said...

Shrinkage is a companion to the natural.

With the last pic I can now understand why relaxers and presses are so popular, I mean that is a serious difference in length and it never gets shown ho-hum.

On the other hand, curls are still wonderful to have and people with straight hair textures actually choose to make their hair shorter for the sake of adding curls...grass is greener...

Bass said...

Too too screaming funny!!! Especially the out of pool trick and the magic length from no where. I don't even do that they pull it and gasp "your hair is soooo long!!" Love it!

Africa Naturalista said...

As in.... you are really in the spirit. I thought and thought and thought about this yesterday. The shrinkage on my hair is MEGA. Everybody now 'complains' that my hair is no more growing, and this is so ironic cos I have experienced more growth in the recent months. The fact that I mix glycerine with my spritz even makes it worse, since it attracts moisture.

I think I will have to take stretching more serious.

Omozo said...

@Simplynuttie: If your hair is too short to twist can you do weaving / cornrows or maybe coils? If not, you may have to wait a little for your hair to grow longer for styling. It is difficult to say because I cannot see the length of your hair. Could you email me at so we can discuss.

Thank you for following the blog.

Omozo said...

@NaturaLocs: I think the whole idea of others being able to see our true hair length is the vain part of us talking. 6 inches of length is 6 inches of length weather it can be seen or not.

However *mischievous smile* it is nice when my hair hangs down (vain me just spoke)!

Omozo said...

@Africa Naturalista: Stretching is helpful but not mandatory. And people will talk no matter what. You are seeing the growth in your hair? Great! Leave them make them talk sebi na dem get their mouth. LOL!