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How To Beat Hair Shrinkage, According To A Curl Guru

photo of woman with hair shrinkage
If you’ve recently gone natural, chances are good you’ve heard the term shrinkage before. If you haven’t, we’re here to tell you it’s not what you think—trust us—but you may want to get familiar with the term. Whether you have loosely curled dark brown hair or tightly coiled dirty blonde curls, shrinkage is something almost every curly girl deals with during her lifetime.

If you’re wondering how to beat hair shrinkage, you’re in luck. We recently sat down with curl guru Ashley Jackson, a Mizani brand ambassador and stylist, and she explained everything you’ve ever wanted to know about shrinkage.


What is shrinkage?

Shrinkage is a term used to describe the way curly hair appears shorter dry than it does when it’s wet. The hair literally shrinks as the water evaporates from the strand.

When wet, hair is weighed down and your true length may be shown....Shrinkage takes place as hair begins to dry and your hair reverts back to its natural shape, thus hiding your hair’s actual length.

Do all curl types experience shrinkage?

Jackson says all curl types experience some degree of shrinkage, but ladies with higher curl types (think types five through eight) usually undergo a more significant decrease in curl length.

“Higher curl types are most likely to experience more dramatic shrinkage, as their curl patterns are tighter and more compact than someone with an open wave,” she says.


What products do you recommend to prevent shrinkage?

Unfortunately, there are no miracle products that will prevent shrinkage. In Jackson’s professional opinion, the best way to combat shrinkage is 80 percent hair stretching techniques (we’ll get to those) and 20 percent product choice. That being said, there are some products on the market that can help minimize shrinkage.

“To prevent shrinkage, utilizing products with high hold like gels can help alleviate some shrinkage when defining your natural curls,” Jackson explains.

High hold gels like Redken’s Hardware 16 will help to weigh down your hair and hold your style in place allowing you to maximize your length as your hair dries.


What are some of the best hair stretching methods?

There are several hair stretching methods, which one is best for you depends on what your desired end result is. If you’re looking to give your wash-and-go a little extra length, Jackson recommends using your hands and a blow dryer to stretch your hair longer. All you have to do is gently tug on the ends of your curls as you blow dry your hair to set the longer length.

“Make sure to use a heat protectant before this step to protect your curls,” Jackson advises. “Mizani’s Thermasmooth Smoothing Sleek Guard and 25 Miracle Milk provide great protection for natural curls.”

If you’re looking for more significant length, Jackson recommends a braid out. A braid out is when you braid or cornrow your hair and allow it to dry in its elongated state. When you undo the braids, your hair will appear longer and will have the texture created by the braids.

“My top hair stretching method is a braid out, especially over the course of a few days. Braid outs allow for some of the least shrinkage when styling, as opposed to normal two strand twists. By styling on top of dry hair and adding minimal product, you’re able to get the length and volume you desire,” Jackson explains.


What should you do with your hair at night to prevent shrinkage?

If braid outs and twist outs are a bit more work than you’re ready to do, you’re in luck because you can actually sleep your way to longer-looking hair. Before heading to bed, Jackson recommends retwisting your dry hair to stretch your curls and add definition without wetting your strands. After your hair is twisted, gather it all near the top of your head and secure in a loose pineapple to get the ultimate stretch.

“A ’pineapple,’ or sleeping with your curls pushed toward the top of your hair, gives your hair some stretch as well as volume,” the stylist explains.

Now that you’re equipped with the tools and techniques to stretch your curls as long as your heart desires, you’ll never have to deal with unwanted shrinkage ever again.

Interested in personalized advice about the best hair care routine for your mane? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.