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One of the greatest plights next to not knowing how to style natural hair, is SHRINKAGE! After going through all the process of chopping off years of chemicals , and sometimes shoulder length hair or beyond, we want to see the benefits of such a major decision. Yes, it feels great, and it is liberating, but all too soon, those natural kinks become frustrating!

Does your hair look like this?

 

But you want it to look like THIS?

If we want to rock a full afro, we at least want it to look well…NICE!

It looks beautiful when it is wet and it feels so soft when it is freshly washed, but what is REALLY going on? After an hour or so of TLC, including deep conditioning treatments and detangling the hair….IT SHRINKS!

In the shower it is teasing the shoulders, maybe even dangling past, but when it is dry, it barely reaches your earlobe! What a seemingly, insurmountable obstacle, this hair. You may have even gone to a salon who most often tells you to texturize it, (it will just stretch the curl a little bit), flat iron or press it, or cut it down to a short, cropped, fro.  Is there anyone out there listening? One of the greatest benefits of going natural is to eliminate the use of harsh chemicals and  EMBRACE the natural texture of our hair. But it gets frustrating when we see all this length and these lovely, soft curls, that shrivel up like raisins when it dries!

There aren’t many women I know that wouldn’t want to have hair cascading down their backs, full of body and shine, but it is discouraging to know that we have this when our hair is wet and then it disappears.

So what can we do about it? Is it in the products? Is it the way we shampoo our hair? Should we blow dry or air dry?  Is it a curse? There are so many questions and so many solutions offered that it all becomes a big blur after a while.

About products. They are great to have and great to use.  Marketing Ads show us that a vast majority of products are light, refreshing, natural and effective- until we take them home and try them out. The truth is that with all the products available, many have developed them to best suit their own hair, and what may work for their hair may not work for our hair. You find the best products to use by trial and error, but what helps the products to be used in the best way is actually knowing your hair type, texture and reactions to heat, humidity and cold temperatures. How are these things discovered? Through trial, error, and patience!

For example, if you know how to detangle your hair already, that is 75% of the battle when applying a product. You can make water and essential oils work just as well as buying an expensive cream or pudding that smells good. Another example is if you learn some basics about stretching the hair, you may not need hair straightening spray, cream or harsh “temporary” products (used in Brazilian or Dominican Blowouts).

Maximizing length. It isn’t impossible to maximize the length of your natural hair, but it may take some tedious preparation that gets easier over time. When the hair has been shampooed and you wish to wear a nice full afro, you can achieve this by plaiting the hair into 6-8 large sections, depending on the length and texture of your hair. When you plait the hair, apply a moisturizing cream, leave in conditioner mix or essential oils. When you do this, it adds moisture to the hair and braiding the hair retains the moisture. When the hair has been dried undera  bonnet style dryer, you can unravel the large braids and your afro will be looser than if you just let your hair air dry without sectioning it and braiding it.

Why braiding it stretches it better than twisting it. When you twist the hair, it isn’t pulled as taut as a braid is able to achieve. Once the braid is unfurled, it has a wave pattern but is easier to comb out than a twist which adds texture and should be finger combed as to not disturb the texture you are trying to achieve.  (ie: Leela James’ fro) However, twisting the hair is good to do when you want to add body to your fro and don’t mind it being a little more free formed. (ie: Esperanza Spalding’s fro)