Hair Shrinkage: Find Out What It Means and How to Deal With It

Just when you are excited about your hair length, you wash it, and boom! Your hair shrinks. As annoying as that is, it is a natural thing to deal with especially if your hair is curly. Hair shrinkage happens when your curls become compacted into a coil due to moisture loss. 

Shrinkage is when the length of your hair decreases as your hair dries up. Your hair may shrink up to 90% depending on your hair type and porosity, i.e. how much moisture it can hold. 

This is normal and is also a sign of healthy hair. However, it gets frustrating when you need your hair lengthy for a style. Luckily, there are easy procedures you can follow to help prevent shrinkage and stretch your hair. 

Read ahead to find more information on what hair shrinkage means for your hair, how to prevent it, and how to stretch your hair when it happens. 

Is Hair Shrinkage Good or Bad?

Shrinkage may seem like a bad occurrence when you want to style your hair and your hair’s length is gone. However, it is not bad, as it is a sign of good hair health. 

Your hair shows how well your hair’s elasticity is when it shrinks. This means that your hair is strong and won’t break easily. Hair shrinkage is also a sign of healthy hair care as it is evident that your hair hasn’t been damaged by heat or chemical styling. 

Likewise, this gives you a chance to use hot styling tools on your hair without worrying about heat damage. Just wash your hair after heat-styling it and your curls will bounce back to normal.

SEE: Does Braiding Damage Hair? Find Out if Braids Are Bad for Your Hair

What Causes Hair Shrinkage?

Water is the main cause of hair shrinkage, as the hair expands when water goes on and contracts after losing moisture. The cuticles of the hair soak in water to soften the hair and add weight to it. However, once the water evaporates, the hair shrinks back.

Once moisture is removed from the hair either through natural air drying or with a hairdryer, the hair loses the weight that stretches it out. Your curls tend to be more plump and bouncy when hydrated. 

The annoying thing with the shrinkage is that the reduced length may not work for the hairstyle and look you want. Looking on the bright side, it helps you to determine how well your hair can absorb and hold moisture. 

Does Everyone Have Hair Shrinkage?

Not everyone gets to experience hair shrinkage as it is only common amongst natural hairs of type 3c and 4. The tighter the curls, the more shrinkage you are likely to experience. 

You may not experience Shrinkage at all, while you may only have 20% to 30% shrinkage. If your hair falls under the 4C category, you may experience as much as 75% shrinkage. 

SEE: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair – A Complete Guide

How Does Hair Shrinkage Happen?

Shrinkage happens naturally due to the curly nature of the hair. Because of your curls, sebum doesn’t get a chance to get to the tips of your strands. The oil remains in the crevice and corners of the curls. 

Oftentimes, parts of the hair don’t get enough of the moisture, protein, and sheen that your hair’s natural sebum provides. So when water is applied to the hair, the cuticles absorb it and shrink when the water dries up. 

Therefore, shrinkage is not bad, it just helps to indicate the hair porosity level and how much moisture it can absorb and retain. If your hair doesn’t shrink after applying water-based products to it, then your hair has lost its natural strength and barrier. 

Can You Prevent Hair Shrinkage?

You can prevent hair shrinkage from happening if you don’t want it to. This depends on your curls pattern and the type of hair products you use to stop shrinkage. There are several steps you can take to minimize the level of shrinkage you get. Keep reading to find out. 

SEE: How to Flat Iron Your Hair Properly [The Step-By-Step Guide]

How to Prevent Shrinkage Hair

Below are some of the ways you can prevent and reverse shrinkage.

1. Blow it out

Your best bet to stretch out your strands is blowing it out. However, this process requires heat. Since excess heat can weaken and damage the hair. Therefore, your hair needs to be protected from heat. 

Use a heat protectant and a deep conditioner to prepare your hair for blow-drying. 

After doing that, you will need a comb attachment and hairdryer. The comb attachment will help to limit the exposure of your strands to heat. You can also blow dry your hair on medium heat starting at the roots of your strands. 

2. Try Bantu knots

If you don’t like the idea of using heat on your hair, you can try this instead. It will help to stretch out your hair to its full length. The good thing is, this process doesn’t require any special styling skills. 

To create the knots, divide your hair into square sections. Brush out your curls and start twisting. Try not to make the knots too tight to avoid pressuring your scalp.

3. Use a roller set

You can use roller sets to maintain your hair length after washing. Use the rollers on wet hair and wait till your hair is dry. This is the least damaging way to stretch out your curls and prevent hair shrinkage. 

Comb your hair and ensure there are no knots before you start rolling. Rolling your hair with knots is a well-known recipe for entanglement. You can also use this on dry hair too but the maximum result is achieved when you use it while your hair still has enough moisture.

4. Put your hair in a bun

Put your hair in a bun while it’s still damp to reduce the level of shrinkage. Keep this bun for about an hour or two before releasing your hair. Ensure that the hair is not placed in a bun that’s too tight. You may not get your full length back, but you will see a difference in the level of shrinkage.

5. Moisturize while you wash

The type of shampoo you use while washing your hair determines how quickly your hair will dry up after. So ensure you use a shampoo that contains moisturizing properties that will help to prevent protein loss as it cleanses your hair. 

6. Use anti-frizz hair products

Anti-frizz hair care products mostly contain moisturizing and nourishing ingredients that can help to strengthen your strands. It will help to keep your curls elongated and bouncy. 

Look for hair products that contain flaxseed oil, rose water, and the like. These products will help to nourish your strands and follicles with maximum hydration while also helping to prevent shrinkage. 

7. Styles

Don’t leave your hair to shrink when you can style it into braids, twists, and other styles that can stretch it. This will help to retain your hair’s true length.

What Hair Type Shrinks the Most?

Type 4 curly hairs experience the most shrinkage. The tighter your coils are, the more your hair shrinks. Type 3C hairs are likely to experience a similar level of shrinkage with type 4 hairs. You may experience up to 90% shrinkage of your natural hair.

Shrinkage makes your hair look shorter than it is. 4C hair types come with tighter curls, therefore shrinkage is inevitable. Shrinking may cause your tight curls to knot together, making it hard to untangle and style. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can stretching your hair damage it?

Yes, it can. Stretching your hair too often can damage your hair cuticles and cause breakage. 

Stretching your hair appropriately once in a while can also ruin the elasticity of your hair. Shrinkage is a sign of good hair health and elasticity. You could lose elasticity and wellness when you stretch your hair too often.

Does braiding stretch hair?

Yes, it does. Putting your hair in braids can help to stretch your hair strands to their true length. 

Compared to twists, braids are a tighter and more controlled pattern. Braiding your hair will make it look longer and less curly. 

Can coconut milk conditioning help shrinkage?

Yes, it can. Using coconut milk conditioning in your hair care routine can help to reduce the shrinkage of your strands. This is because coconut oil contains rich fatty acid content that can help to strengthen, smooth, and soften hair strands. 

Also, coconut milk contains water and protein that can help to moisturize your hair and make it less tight. This will leave your curls bouncy and elongated. 

Can aloe vera help to stretch curls?

Yes, it can. Using aloe vera before styling your hair can help to soften and stretch your curls. Aloe vera contains hydrating properties that can help to plump up your strands and curls. 

Likewise, it contains fatty acids that can help to strengthen and smooth the hair. This will help to stretch your strands and reduce shrinkage. Although aloe vera cannot straighten the strands, it can help to smooth and maintain the true length of your curls.


There will always be a level of shrinkage, no matter how well you care for your hair. You may not experience a noticeable shrinkage level If your hair doesn’t fall between type 3C to type 4C hairs. These hair types are liable to experience up to 75% shrinkage of their hair’s length.

Shrinking of hair is a good sign of wellness and porosity level; however, it can be frustrating when you want to style your hair. The number one solution to that is moisture. As long as your hair is moisturized, it will not shrink down heavily. 

Thanks for reading.

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