As a curly girl, you’ve styled your hair perfectly. You look in the mirror in your air-conditioned bathroom, the twist-out, spiral curls, or waves are just the way you want them. You have the volume and length you want, but what happens when you leave that safe space and you venture outdoors?
Shrinkage is curly, coily, or kinky hair in its natural state………. with no manipulation. Hair in its shrunken state can be considerably shorter than when curls are fully stretched. The amount of shrinkage can range anywhere from 20% to 80 % of its actual length. Yes, it can be significant.
Is this really a problem? Well no, other than the fact that you are unable to see the true volume and or length of your curly hair. But there are ways to mitigate and overcome shrinkage by stretching out your curls and allowing them to dry in a stretched out state.
When curly hair is dry, stretched or contracted the hydrogen molecular bonds are in an arranged structure. When moisture or water comes into contact with the hair shaft again the hydrogen bonds are rearranged the hair expands and curls into its original form.
It’s important to know that unless you are in a climate where there is zero humidity, there are water molecules in the air. The amount of humidity is going to have a significant impact on your curls and consequently your curly hairstyle.
You leave home with your curly hair styled perfectly the weather forecast says 80% relative humidity. What does that mean? It means there is water vapour in the air to 80% saturation at a certain air temperature. Given the right cloud formation and conditions with an increase of only 20% more water vapor………… it would rain.
So when there is 80% relative humidity there is so much water vapor, it’s almost like standing in the rain. Your stretched, dry, defined curls are unlikely to withstand that level of moisture without reversion.
What can you do about it? Check the weather forecast and on days of high humidity, style your hair accordingly. When humidity levels are high wear more protective styles, braids, buns, and puffs. And on drier, less humid days you can create voluminous curls, afros, stretched twist-outs, and braid outs.
Fun Fact – Hair and Humidity
Interestingly, hair strands have been used to accurately measure the humidity in the air using a hygrometer. Hair reverts,
There are ways to wear your curly hair if shrinkage is an issue e.g. buns and puffs they will provide volume and density. Braids or twist can also be worn and will give hair additional stretch.
Just know that as your hair grows, the longer your strands the more volume you’ll have. In the long term your curly hair will have the length you’re looking for.
Curly hair is less likely to revert and shrink if when styling your curls you use products e.g. gels or moisturizers that contain silicones, petroleum, carbomer and mineral oils that coat the hair. These products and ingredients trap moisture inside the hair and prevent additional moisture through the cuticle layer.
One of the biggest frustrations you hear is “yeah my hair is great but this shrinkage” especially for curly girls that live in humid climates.
Maybe, curly girls need to embrace the reduced length and accept it for what it is. Your hair is healthy…………..the optimal objective. How about changing the narrative around curly hair in circumstances when it does not show its true length.
You know, that you have inches upon inches of curly hair…………. that’s all that matters!!
Get notified about our upcoming post 7 Ways To Combat Shrinkage and Stretch Curly Hair Without Heat