“Shrinkage” has become a four-letter word within the natural hair community and, quite frankly, I fail to understand what the huge fuss is about. Phrases like “shrinkage is the devil” or “I hate shrinkage” show up in photo captions on social media daily, usually in hashtag form.
Why, girls… why?
Okay… I can see why we (as naturals) may not really care for shrinkage. We wanna show off our “real” length, or at least something close to it. I get it. Here’s the thing, though: it’s simply the nature of textured hair, people. It comes with the territory. It’s just what our hair does (how many ways can I say it?) and definitely not the worst thing that can happen! Some make comments in jest but then some seem genuinely upset that once some moisture touches their hair, they go from shoulder length to a Florida Evans type fro in seconds.
But you see, the way our strands (ultimately, our follicles) are set up… usually, the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage it’ll have and the shorter it’ll appear. It’s a beautiful, unique trait of natural hair. You pull it, release it and it goes <
Shrinkage = Hair Health
You read correctly! The fact that your natural hair is able to shrink back to its normal state after being stretched by whatever means indicates that there’s a measure of health and strength in those strands. Isn’t that what we want?
Sure, it doesn’t really help when you’ve spent all night achieving a fierce blow-out and here comes a day of 99% humidity to shrivel up those kinks! I’ve been there. But you’d better be glad your hair snapped back the way it did!
Consider This Example
If you straighten your natural hair on occasion, don’t you hold your breath just a lil bit when you dip your head under that water on wash day, hoping your curls come back? You may even clasp your hands together and say a little prayer! Why? Because if it DOESN’T revert back, that means your hair has suffered heat damage (unless you’re “heat-training” and you don’t care, which is another topic for another time) and now you’ll either have to live with stringy ends or cut those jokaz off.
Bet you’d be wishing for some shrinkage then!
It’s like a tee shirt. It has a certain shape when it’s new. Once you put it on, it stretches to fit your body. When you wash it, it shrinks back to normal. If it’s made from poor, cheap (unhealthy) material, wear it and wash it enough and it may not shrink back at all. Now it’s fitting all cray and you don’t want it anymore. But a shirt made of good quality (healthy) material will last much longer.
That’s the best non-hair analogy I could think of but I’m sure you get the point.
Things That Make Me Go, “Hmmm…”
Here’s what I don’t get: we complain about shrinkage which is essentially our hair in its completely natural state. Do people with straight hair complain about their hair being so… straight? I dunno. Maybe some do. But could there be something a little deeper here?
For decades, women of color have been told that straighter and longer is better. We’ve conquered the mountain of returning to our natural textures- great! But it seems many of us are still stuck on this length thing. Setting goals are fine and all but are we setting the right goals for our hair? I can’t stress enough that focusing on hair health is far more important than being so length-conscious. Maybe that’s where all this shrinkage “hate” stems from, this need for length… at least on some level. I’m not even sure where this word came from. Lemme ask my mother if they were complaining about shrinkage in the 70s.
For the record, I’m by no means anti-stretched hair! As a matter of fact, here are some ways to stretch your hair if you so choose.
Bottom line: If your hair is healthy, it will grow to whatever length it’s gonna! In the meantime, embrace your hair- ALL of the beautiful characteristics of your God-given mane whether coily, curly or kinky- and rock what you got. You know this is what our hair does. Accept it. You’d be a much happier natural.
Shrinkage happens. Stop cussin it!