Natural Hair Styles: 11 Easy Ways to Stretch Black Hair
by Jacqueline Samaroo
Shrinkage is a natural part of having textured hair. But, while naturalistas love their coils, kinks, curls, and waves, there are times when those beautiful textures get in the way of how we want to style our hair.
Luckily, there are several ways in which you can stretch Black hair to achieve the longer natural hair styles you are after. We’ve got 11 methods for stretching hair lined up for you but first, let’s take a quick look at shrinkage – what it is, why it happens, and what it means for Black hair.
What Is Shrinkage?
Shrinkage is when your natural curl pattern gets tighter and your hair becomes more compacted. Black hair that has a kinkier or coiler curl pattern can see shrinkage of up to 75% and over.
Why Does Shrinkage Happen?
Shrinkage occurs as hair loses moisture. When your strands are hydrated, they plump up and the weight of the water in them helps to stretch them out. As the hair dries, the curls contract until you moisturize them again.
What Does Shrinkage Mean for Black Hair?
Thanks to shrinkage, you are better able to tell when your hair is lacking moisture and needs to be hydrated. Plus, maintaining the moisture-protein balance in textured hair is important for keeping it healthy.
Shrinkage in Black hair can also be an indication of whether you have high, low, or medium porosity hair. High porosity hair dries out quicker and needs to be moisturized more often to keep its curls healthy and bouncy.
11 Ways to Stretch Black Hair
Our 11 methods for stretching your hair include seven protective natural hair styles that many of us have worn at some point. They are a great way to let your styles multitask. You can rock the style for a while – a day or two or even longer. Then, when you undo them, you have stretched hair that you can style and flaunt as you wish!
1. Bantu knots
Do a few large knots for larger, wavier curls or plenty of small knots for smaller, tighter curls. Once you undo your knots, you will see that while a Bantu knot out doesn’t stretch your hair straight, it does give you visibly straighter hair in soft, springy curls.
Need some ideas of how to style your hair in Bantu knots? Check our article: 25 Bad-Ass Bantu Knots Inspiration Pics. And, ‘cause we simply can’t leave you hangin’ – see Perfecting and Maintaining the Bantu Knot Out for tips on keeping your stretched style looking awesome for days!
A single bun, whether high or low, can help to stretch your hair. A high bun, however, will be better for stretching the hair at the back of your head. You can choose whether to braid, twist, or twirl your hair before wrapping it into a bun. Each will give different characteristics to your stretched curls.
If you have shorter hair, consider doing two buns – one high at the front of your head and the other about midway for the hair at the back.
3. Ponytails and Pigtails
Just like buns, ponytails are good for stretching the roots of your hair. To stretch the ends as well, twist or braid your ponytail into a pigtail.
Doing up your hair in a pineapple style is often advised as a way to protect your curls while you sleep. It’s also a good way to stretch natural Black hair. Once again, you can do this style front and back if you have shorter hair. This quick video posted by ShekinahShazaam shows you how:
5. Twist out
Your stretched twist out curls may not be as springy as the ones you get with a Bantu knot out, but they will be longer. Do chunky twists if you want your hair to have a more wavy appearance. Do smaller twists if having more defined ringlets is the look you are going for.
Plus, get some “before and after” twist out advice from 12 Tips to Keep Twist Outs Looking Awesome Overnight and Longer.
6. Braid out
Braiding your hair (plaits done with three or more sections) has long been one of the natural hair styles used to stretch Black hair. After undoing your braid, simply separate your curls as much as you like, then transform your hair into the updo or loose style of your choice.
Are you good at doing cornrows in your own hair? If you are, that’s fantastic as you can now repurpose your cornrows into one of your stretched natural hair styles.
Next up are a couple of natural hair style tricks you may not have tried but they are definitely worth considering.
Banding is REALLY easy to do! All you need is a bunch of soft hair ties – which you probably already have. Separate your hair into sections and wrap ties around each section, going down the length of your hair.
Check out this video as Ty’Jalayah Robertson shows you the amazing amount of stretch banding can give to super tight curls.
9. African Threading
African threading is very similar to banding but you use a single thread to wrap the length of the hair instead of multiple hair ties. The stretch this no-heat method can achieve is pretty astounding. See for yourself how African threading is done as shown by YouTuber Pure Estrogen.
10. Roller Sets
Whether you use magnetic rollers, flexi rods, or some other type of curlers in your hair, a roller set can stretch natural Black hair a little or a lot – depending on how it’s done. What’s more, it can be done without heat (if you are trying to go heat-free).
Our article, How to Use Flexi Rods On Natural Hair for Best Results – 10 Tips, includes an easy-to-follow step-by-step video.
11. Tension Method
Our final look at how to stretch Black hair involves the use of a blow dryer set to COOL. Of course, you can stretch your hair straight using the heat from a blow dryer but be sure to read How to Use a Blow Dryer (the Right Way!) to Dry Natural Hair – 10 Tips first.
Cold air takes longer to dry your curls and will not give you as much stretch or sleekness as warmer air, but as Mz Kegz shows, it’s definitely worth a no-heat try!
How about you? How do you stretch your hair for your natural hair styles? Tell us!