What Is Natural Hair Shrinkage? 8 Best Ways To Combat It

4 Mins read

Natural hair is gorgeous and offers a wide range of styling options. However, most people with these locks need to deal with natural hair shrinkage. Though shrinkage is not unhealthy, it stops you from seeing (and enjoying) the actual length of your beautiful locks. You can easily retain the original length of your natural hair without shrinkage. Wondering how you can do that? This article explores what shrinkage is, why natural hair shrinks, and some effective ways to reduce it. Scroll down to learn everything about this hair phenomenon!

In This Article

What Is Natural Hair Shrinkage?

Natural hair shrinkage happens when your curly, kinky, and coily hair shrinks to form tight coils. Natural hair may shrink around 20% to 80% of the natural length. However, compared to type 3 hair, type 4 hair can shrink significantly and appear much shorter than the actual length.

Let’s understand the science behind natural hair shrinkage.

Why Natural Hair Shrinks

Shrinkage is a sign of healthy hair. Natural hair is more porous compared to any other hair type. It can easily soak water (just like a sponge) to expand and stretch. As a result, damp natural hair may appear elongated (due to the water weight), and the curl pattern becomes apparent. However, when the water evaporates, the hair will shrink to its original form. It will lose the water weight and appear puffed up.

You may experience shrinkage in humid weather conditions and if you sweat profusely. However, the shrinkage level also depends on the hair porosity and damage levels. High porosity hair may experience less shrinkage as it absorbs moisture real quick. On the other hand, low porosity hair undergoes the maximum shrinkage.

4C hair type undergoes the maximum shrinkage as it cannot hold on to moisture for long. That’s why 4C curls are tighter and denser than the other curl types.

However, if your hair does not shrink even after you wet it, that may indicate heat damage. If you want to keep your curls manageable, here are some ways to control the shrinkage.

8 Effective Ways To Reduce Natural Hair Shrinkage

1. Leave-In Conditioners

Leave-in conditioners can lock in the moisture, keep the strands hydrated, and minimize shrinkage. Use conditioners with plant oils and other hydrating ingredients to prevent dryness. This will also help reduce breakage and define your curl pattern.

2. Follow A Moisturizing Routine


Using moisturizing hair products can prevent shrinkage, irrespective of your curl type. A regular moisturizing routine also helps retain hair length. You may buy a hair moisturizer containing beeswax or silicone, a hair oil, and styling gel or lotion.

Follow this 3-step moisturizing routine:

  1. Section your hair and apply moisturizer evenly to each hair section.
  2. Follow it up with hair oil to lock in the moisture.
  3. Set your hairstyle with a hair lotion or gel for a lustrous look. 

3. Plaits and Twist Outs

Plaiting and twisting your natural hair can reduce shrinkage significantly. Depending on the hair porosity, these hairstyles can offer bouncy and manageable curls. You can divide your hair into small sections and apply oil. Braid and twist each hair section to keep them stretched. Undo the sections after a few hours and style them.

4. Try A Blowout

A blowout is the best way to stretch your hair, increase its length, and keep it manageable. However, you have to prep your hair to prevent heat damage and breakage. Use a good heat protectant and a deep hair conditioner before blow drying. Also, use a comb attachment with the hair dryer to control the amount of heat your hair is exposed to. This will also help stretch the hair.

5. Hair Bun


Tying your damp hair into a high bun is another way to minimize shrinkage. However, do not secure it too tightly to prevent creases. Keep your hair in a bun for at least 1-2 hours, and then style it.

6. Roller Sets


Stretching the hair with roller sets is one of the least damaging ways to prevent natural shrinkage. They are often used on wet hair to stretch it while air drying.

To use roller sets:

  1. Comb out hair knots and apply hair moisturizer.
  2. Divide your hair into several small sections.
  3. Use consistent tension and roll each section into smooth rollers.
  4. Leave your hair to air dry.

This technique works well with freshly washed wet and dry hair.

7. Bantu Knots


This protective hairstyle helps stretch the strands minus any heat. It involves twisting the hair section into knots. However, creating this style requires skill. You have to twist the hair sections in the same direction and secure the knot tightly. Brush your hair thoroughly before styling and use hair moisturizers to prevent damage.

8. Banding


This is another great way to make your curls appear long. Banding involves stretching and securing small hair sections with snag-free elastic bands. You may try banding freshly washed damp hair.

Check out this easy wash-and-go banding tutorial here.

To Sum Up

Do not be alarmed by natural hair shrinkage. It is a sign that your hair is healthy and the curls are fine. You cannot stop your gorgeous type 4 hair from shrinking. However, you can manage the shrinkage and retain your hair length. Follow the tips discussed in the article, and keep your hair moisturized and nourished. Similarly, go for hairstyles that will protect the strands and reduce shrinkage. All the tips suggested above will help keep your hair healthy, prevent breakage, and retain its length.

Key Takeaways

  • Type 4 hair can shrink significantly more when compared to type 3 hair. It also can appear much shorter than its actual length.
  • The shrinkage level depends on hair porosity and the extent of the damage.
  • Banding can reduce shrinkage significantly. It involves stretching and securing small hair sections with snag-free elastic bands.

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona is an editor at StyleCraze. Prior to that, she authored over 200 articles on skin and hair care. She… more


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