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FEATURES Oct 11 2012 9:26AM

The Benefits of Keeping Your Hair Stretched

by Precious Henshaw of Precious Curls

Most natural hair has a pretty great shrinkage factor. After we wash our hair, it can shrink 25%, 50%, even 75% of its actual length! While shrinkage is very cool and definitely something to embrace, it can have a few devastating effects. Shrunken hair tends to tangle up pretty badly, and can cause matting, single-strand knots, and breakage once you attempt to comb or brush the hair. Shrunken hair can also be very difficult to manage and style. Stretching out natural hair keeps it from tangling and can greatly reduce breakage from manipulation. Stretching out the hair is also ideal for those who want to elongate their hair – a.k.a., make it look longer!
The best time to stretch the hair out is after you’ve washed and conditioned it, since it is in its wettest state and prone to shrinking. Stretching out the hair not only makes the hair elongated and easy to manage, but some methods of stretching can even turn into a cool hairstyle! There are several ways to stretch out the hair that don’t require any flatirons, blow driers, or any type of heat. Here are some ways to keep your hair stretched out.

Twisting the hair is one of the simplest ways to stretch the hair out. Twists are easy to put in, and easy to take out! Simply take two sections of hair and continually twist them around each other all the way to the ends. Twirl the ends around with your finger to keep them from unraveling. If you have very fine, slippery hair, twists may not stay in easily. Use a cloth hair band at the ends of your hair to keep your twists from unraveling.
The more sections of hair you twist with, the more stretched out your hair will be. Try doing 10-20 twists, depending on your hair thickness. The thicker your hair is, the more sections you should twist. Twists can shrink a little too when wet, so you can stretch them out more by pinning them around your head as they dry.
When the twists are dry, you can unravel them for a twist out! Twist outs are super cute and a great natural hairstyle to wear!

Braiding is another great way to stretch out your hair. Braiding takes a little longer to do and take out than twists, but they stretch out your hair better than twists do. Some great ways to use braids to stretch are by braiding in 10-20 sections, or by doing some straight-back cornrows.
You can also take braids or cornrows out for a braid out. These are also cute!

Bantu Knots
Bantu knots are easy to do, and look great once taken out! To do a bantu knot, take a section of hair and wind it in one direction. Take the wound section and continuously wrap it around and around, forming the “knot.” Tuck the very ends of the hair underneath the knot to secure it. For finer hair textures, use a bobby pin to hold the knot in place and to keep it from unraveling.
Bantu knots on their own don’t elongate the hair a whole lot, but they still reduce the effects of leaving the hair shrunken. To elongate the hair a little more, twist or braid sections of hair, then make a bantu knot with the twist or the braid!

Banding the hair is an easy way to stretch your hair without needing to manipulate your hair in any way. Using cloth hair bands, take a small section of hair and wrap the band around it. Use another band underneath the last one and do the same thing. Continue until that section of hair is fully banded down to the last inch or so of hair. Then, make a two-strand twist. This makes it a little easier to take out the bands. You can do the bands in 10-20 sections as well. For very coily/kinky hair textures, use smaller (more) sections and more bands to really stretch out your curl pattern. When I take out my bands, it gives me kind of a wavy look, and when I comb out the waves, it kind of looks like blow-dried hair! Banding is a great substitute for blow drying the hair because you don’t have to worry about heat damage.

Threading the hair is very similar to banding it, except you use a piece of thread. You wrap the thread around the base of the section of hair, then wrap the entire section of hair until you get to the end. Tie a loose knot at the end of your hair. Threading is used a lot in African countries, not only for stretching the hair, but for styling too!
I love using heatless methods of stretching my natural hair out! What’s your favorite method of stretching out your hair?


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