Stretching Your Hair

For naturals with hair that shrinks more than 25% when wet, stretching hair and sometimes keeping it stretched between washes becomes a matter of length retention versus broken hair frustrations.
I keep my hair stretched for numerous reasons and if you can relate, you may want to do this activity too.

Here are some great reasons to keep hair stretched:

1. To make detangling easier.
My last post (with video) was about how I dry detangle and why I dry detangle. And I will re-iterate my reasons here: Stretched hair is less likely to knot around shed hair and end up broken during detangling.
If you stretch your hair prior to detangling, like overnight, you will find your dry detangling sessions less frustrating and less likely to end up with broken hairs. I gave some tips on how to stretch hair in preparation for detangling but will elaborate it here later in this post.

2. To show off your true length when wearing your hair out.
Be it two-strand twists or twistouts or some other out styles, nothing showcases the hard work you have put into caring for your hair and retaining length than a stretched out style. Read on for info on how I keep my twists and twistouts stretched.

3. To make trims more precise and prevent over-trimming (cutting too many inches off).
Ever got out the trusty scissors to 'dust' your hair and noticed you cut off more than you intended after you pulled a couple strands of the cut hair straight? I have been there. Cutting shrunken hair can become a nightmare as the hair kinks back on you and you lose a guesstimate on just how much you are really cutting off.
Unless you have an extra pair of hands to keep hair strands stretched and taut while you snip, stretching hair prior to cutting is the only way to eliminate over-trimming and setting your precious length-retention goals months if not years behind. Many naturals blowdry their hair prior to trimming to ensure hair stays as stretched as possible but that's not the only way to prevent over-trimming and if you are not a fan of heat like me, you will be happy to know you can get a successful trim by just stretching your hair prior to cutting.

4. Re-styling dry hair becomes easier. You don't have to deal with tangles as you try to undo your current style for a new one and the shrinkage gets in your way. You won't need a comb to make the parts as the hair gets in your way. Going from one updo to another becomes much easier and quicker to do when your hair is stretched.

So how do you keep your hair stretched?

There are several ways to stretch your hair. Here are some of my favorites:

-Stretch hair after a wash prior to styling
After I wash and condition my hair, I sometimes place it in anywhere from 5-10 plaits or flat twists (not twists as they are not tight enough to fully prevent hair from shrinking). The key here is to get the root stretched as well but when braiding or flat twisting do not pull hair so tight that it feels uncomfortable, as it will cause breakage.
Note: It is always important to make sure you seal very well before you plait (actually before you do any protective styling).
After at least a day, once hair is dry. I will unravel each plait or flat twist and do two-strand twists or whatever protective style I had in mind. At this point the hair is usually stretched enough to see the length I have worked so hard to retain.

-Stretch hair in two-strand twists
Sometimes I co-wash my hair with two strand twists. This is when I have done very small/mini-twists and do not want to be bothered unraveling before washing but hair badly needs a wash.  I am sure many of you contemplated washing your hair in twists but are afraid of the shrinkage and fuzziness that often results.
Here are my tips to counter that:
Group the twists in about four big plaits if your hair is long enough, six if it is shorter.
Do the plaits loosely so the root is not stretched too tight, leaving you room to work your fingers when washing your scalp.
 Then go for it!
 I often do a co-wash instead as I think shampoo exacerbates the tendency for hair to shrink and get fuzzy after wash. Wash the hair with the plaits in or unravel each plait and wash separately but then re-plait right away while in the shower to keep the hair from shrinking too much and to keep track of the sections you have washed.
 As soon as you have rinsed the conditioner out of your hair (and are out of the shower), get the excess water out of your hair (towel or cotton T), add your favorite sealant from root to end, smoothing as you go (the smoothing will help minimize fuzzing of your hair which is caused by the shrinking of the hair) and plait or flat twist the group of twists in each section.
It is important to:
1. Apply sealant right away after eliminating excess water from hair
2. Apply sealant from root to tip (this smooths the fuzzies and minimizes the tendency to fuzz even more as hair is drying)
3. Plait or flat twist groups of twists immediately after applying sealant - notice I said immediately as time matters. The longer you leave your wet hair loose, the more likely you will experience shrinkage and fuzzing of your twists.

Once you have plaited or flat twisted each group of twists, put a silk scarf over your hair. This will help to keep the hair smooth and keep fuzzies at bay. Try not to cover your whole head with the scarf as it will lengthen the time for your hair to dry. You can leave out the parts of your hair that are tucked away in the plaits or the flat twists, like the ends but definitely put a scarf over the parts of your hair closest to the root or the edges of your hair where you have shorter stray strands that were too short to be part of the plaits and will shrink up if left out.

-Pineapple, plait or flat twist hair overnight for stretched twists.
I plait my twists in about 2 sections because I like the spirally look the plaits give my twists the next day. But you can also pineapple in one or two sections. This will help to keep your twists from shrinking due to humidity or any moisture your hair may experience during the day or night so you can enjoy the length you have while your hair is twisted and also gives you more length to place your hair in ponytails etc if you do updos in twists like I do.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I will add some pics of my hair in plaits, twists and pineappled to give you guys a better idea of my technique. In the meantime I hope this breakdown is helpful. Please let me know either way. Feedback motivates me to keep doing these posts and helps me know what's worth elaborating on more or less.

Later, Curlies