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Curly Nikki

The Big Hair Dilemma: Volume or Length?

By January 27th, 202126 Comments

Confession: I’m addicted to hair porn. I look at hair blogs and tumblrs alllll the time. I adore big, huge, kinky, wavy, curly hair. Unfortunately, I feel like I don’t get my big hair rocks off as much as I would like to when styling my own hair.

Why not? Well, I can’t wear it obnoxiously big to work everyday because I work in a conservative environment. But even when I’m going out on weekends, I hesitate because the bigger my hairstyle, the more detangling and knotting I’m going to have to deal with afterward. I’m trying to retain length, so I have to consider this. I don’t think I’d care so much if I wasn’t working towards a hair length goal.

o for now, I’m sticking with protective styling most of the time and modestly big hairstyles when I feel like wearing it down. I’ll save the super orgasmically big hair for only super special occasions.

Does anyone else struggle with this dilemma? If you’re trying to retain length, are you able to wear your hair super big without the tangling and knots? Share your secrets with me!


  • Anonymous says:

    I am SO in this boat! I want to rock some big, delicious hair, but I'm trying to get to a length goal, and the knots I'd have to fight with in the aftermath of a fro (or even a twist out) would be a major setback. 🙁

  • bludini1 says:

    I Love volume, volume, volume…. me likey big hair. Ilove to watch my hair swell after a couple of days. It can't be big enough. I also feel with volume, comes length so they really go hand in hand.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, it's exactly the opposite for me. The bigger and more stretched out my hair is the less tangles and knots I get. My hair is fine and dense. Braidouts, twistouts (to a lesser degree), and wash and gos take away about 80% of my volume, particularly when I start out with full shrunken hair. But, like you, I can't wear the ridiculous fro to work, my clients and colleagues alike are drawn to touch and ask questions. I wear updos most of the week (which streches out the hair) and comb it with a wide tooth tool on the weekends for a nice fluffy fro.

  • Anonymous says:

    Volume is big for me (no pun intended). I *heart* big hair and I feel that my hair is growing and thriving even if I were to bun it 7 days a week (how boring). To me retention is due to mainly keeping your ends moisturized. I love my natural hair and I want to show off all my curls and coils. That's the reason I choose to go natural; because I love the texture of my hair and the many styles that enhance it.

  • Unknown says:

    I want volume! The more the better, but since I've been natural I've been able to grow my hair longer than I can ever remember. (ya-ya!) That being said, I don't have one hair goal I have about seven and every time that I've met a goal I do a big dramatic hairstyle that I can sport. But, the detangling is a challenge. What I do is right after my dramatic style I was my hair, which means i'll style it friday, wear it our saturday, and wash sunday. Then on sunday/wash day I take a widetooth comb in the shower with me. After shampooing, I condition and while I'm conditioning I finger comb. Once I feel like I can get through my whole head no problems, I start to comb (hold root and comb tip, then comb root.) Usually detangling's a breeze, but I've found knots to be unavoidable (I'm 4c… it happens), but usually I get knots at the very tip where I trim anyway so it's not that big of a deal overall. Hope that help!!


  • Tasha says:

    I'm a huge volume fan! Ok so Monday, I flat ironed my hair for the first time since I've been natural. (It's been almost two years). It's not bone straight and that makes for good volume. When I say my hair is full of volume I do not exaggerate! I'm going to go back to my curls soon because I don't like having to worry about rain and all that but I'm really enjoying the volume of my puffy semi straight hair. I haven't put heat on it since the initial flat iron. I've gone back to 80s roller head nights…but it's sooo worth the look the next day.

  • Unknown says:

    I love the volume and length of my hair, but it didn't become an issue until I wanted to start wearing my hair after living in protective styles for a long time and I didn't know about braid outs or stretched styles. I was in the middle of tangle city and on the corner of knots. Personally, I don't wear my hair out as much as I used to for this reason and buns have become my staple style. I braid my hair in two long pig tails at night and pull my hair back in a bun in the morning.
    When I wear my hair in a big beautiful style, I am usually going to the dancehall with my Hubby and if my hair shrinks, it is still a pretty big afro. I can truly appreciate when people say that wearing their hair out is a treat and my favorite treat is big beautiful healthy hair. In regards to detangling, Conditioner, Conditioner, Conditioner and my fingers are my best friend. Love post and appreciate info on battling tangles that come with volume and length. LLP~OGC

  • Anonymous says:

    I do a twist n' curl inspired by curlynikki. I detangle my hair every night and redo my twist to get the best curl possible. Even though I have a lot of hair and it is thick I have to detangle everyday because if not I'll be cutting out the knots.

  • Anonymous says:

    Try experimenting with half curly wigs and ponyails. They are so much fun and you can wear them as big as you want and protect your hair. i have 3 beautiful wigs and they loo very natural. Good for winter and spring styling during this crazy weather.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have discovered that water is a true friend, and a product that comes in a spray called Doo Gro,detangler is wonderful for no breakage comb outs. I love sporting my big ol fro. This product with a blow out from the roots but don't go to the ends of your hair, on medium heat is the way I go big. If you want a little texture rub your hands around and around and you might get little chiney bumps on the ends of your hair, I do. Hope this helps. In Winter just got to stay covered.

  • Luscious Mahogany says:

    GG I am the same way, I absolutely love big, ignorant blocking someone at the movies kinky, curly HAIR….guess I'm addicted too LOL!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Girl me too!! I'm waiting for this weather to warm up so I can get Jesse Boykin-esque! Lol I wear protective styled all wk and wear it out maybe part of the wknd. Wearing it out @ work creates alot of amazement about shrinkage, size, springy-ness…I don't love the attention much.

  • Joyce says:

    Adrien, i am also wearing my hair in braids b/c of the weather to retain length. what exactly are you doing that is helping it flourish length wise. I am currently at chin length (straightened) and my goal is shoulder length by summer's time.

    Sorry for the lack of advice…but I hope Adrein's advice is helpful to someone else as well. (=

  • The Retro Natural says:

    Wearing my hair out causes many tangles so I don't do it. It's not really a bad thing for me though because I really love wearing my hair pinned up and when it's down (few times each month) it's not as difficult to detangle.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm so sad 🙁 I've decided to deny myself from wearing my hair out because I too am trying to retain length. Plus with all this frigid air, wearing it out would be WAY to drying. I miss my fro. I'm sorry I have nothing to add in answering the questions above. Sorry but I wanted to share that. (sniffling a little)

  • Anonymous says:

    Fortunate or not, I also have not had to chose between length and volume. The longer it gets, the bigger it gets. LOL
    Keeping my ends PROFESSIONALLY trimmed has helped prevent tangling issues. I recently had several inches cut off and my hair feels very good. No tangling.
    I attempted to trim it myself for about a yr and a half and that kept things under some degree of control, but nothing has helped as much as having it trimmed by someone you trust and who know how to cut curly hair. I will do that at least once a year. No doubt.

    Stretching my hair by wearing a bun for 1-2 days after washing with a sulfate free shampoo or conditioner, then doing a twist out tends to help reduce extreme shrinkage in the kinkier areas, reduce tangling and give uniformity to the look. No heat necessary.

    Regular Moisture also helps tremendously.

  • shamigreen says:

    VOLUME VOLUME VOLUME! the bigger the better baby

  • mangomadness says:

    I don't struggle w/ volume vs. length at all.

    I wear my hair out in stretched styles 99% of the time. Stretched styles help prevent excessive tangles and knotting. They also make detangling easier–detangling damp, stretched hair before shampooing is a breeze.

  • adrien says:

    i'm in the EXACT same dilemma! i've been really good this fall/winter. my hair has been in braids four months out of the 6 that it's been cold. but geez louise! i can't wait till it gets warmer so i can be a fro exhibitionist lol. i am retaining so much length with protective styling, it CRAZY. but i want to show it off. i think the key to less tangles with wearing it out is to stretch it. either with blow outs or more preferably (for me) flat braids or buns. or jumbo twist/braid outs.

  • Anonymous says:

    I wear my hair out every day, and it is not short, but I don't have a problem with tangling/knots or dryness or anything like that.
    I keep my hair "lubed up" alternating between creamy leave-ins and hair butters basically. That balance works really well.
    I try to avoid wool sweaters though since my hair would rub against it and get caught or dry. If I wore wool, I'd definitely probably try to keep my hair away from it.
    And I comb my hair out and twist it or pin curl it every night. My hair grows at a good pace and my retention is good and I don't notice much beyond normal hair shedding (most of that hair come out when I wash b/c my comb has really thick, smooth teeth that don't really pull out the shed hairs very well).
    Oh, but I don't touch my hair much once it's done in the morning either. I think that helps.
    But my routine is what my mom did to my hair…excluding pigtails of course. We always had great results combing out hair daily and reapplying grease as needed.

  • T says:

    I can relate. Since my hair has gotten so much longer, I've found it impossible to wear it out in all its glory, without having to worry about the hours I will have to spend detangling afterward without breakage. I told myself it's one or the other. I get super excited to bring out the big hair on the weekends though.

  • april says:

    I'm working towards length as well, and my staple style is twists. However, more and more I'm doing a wash and go and using a curl defining cream. To get big hair, or extra fluffy hair, I ususally twist my hair loosely instead of tightly while its still wet, then of of course I fluff when I take them out. But the first thing I do before styling is co wash and detangle my hair, most likely wash out the conditioner, add a butter and then style. Another way for me to get big hair is untwist my hair when it is 98% dry. I avoid the frizzies by putting some oil on my hands first or if not that, then being really careful when untwisting. But my first method of twisting loosely is my favorite way to achieve a thick, fluffy twistout. But my hair usually doesn't detangle because I don't wear twistouts for more than a day. I co wash every morning. I know this might not help if you don't have the time or the desire to do that. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

  • Anonymous says:

    My heart goes out to you, I feel so confined into wearing my hair in very conservative styles during my work week (Twists, tucked in FroHawks, Updos…very conservative) But I love my big hair, and I wear it big on Friday Nights and all day Saturday…

    Funny story, when my office had a holiday party this past Holiday Season, I wore my hair out and they were super surprised to see my hair big and bold! It was the talk of the office. They always ask me to wear my hair out, but I too hate those tumultuous detangling sessions…

  • Na says:

    I personally care more about volume rather than length. Length will always be there, retaining volume shows in your twists, twist outs, even if u decide to straighten. Volume shows healthier hair, and everything else will fall into place.

  • LBell says:

    I hear you…I am a big bushy hair stan. One of the reasons I got rid of my locs was because I'm not a fan of long straight (looking) hanging hair.

    Historically, the only way I've been able to get noticeable volume and have a style that doesn't get too knotted or look too odd (as in, different textures going their own way) is via a blow-dryer. Think "1970s blow-out kit" minus the chemicals, lol.

    Heat comes with its own set of problems, of course. But because my hair shrinks a LOT (over 80% in the front and top) I always loved the reactions I'd get when I'd step out with a blown-out BAA. Right now my hair is short but when it gets longer I will indulge myself on rare and most likely special occasions.

  • LaNeshe says:

    I generally keep my hair in twists, but I do have those times when I see women with big afros on tumblr or blogs and I'm like "I want my hair big!" so I'll wear it in a fro for two or three days, then twist it back up. Maybe you could make Saturday your "fro" day and then go back to your usual routine on Sunday to prepare for the week. Having my hair out for just a few days vs. a whole week lessens tangles.

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