Many sisters know the struggle with shrinkage. You want to show off your inches more often, but sacrificing your curls by reaching for the blow dryer is a no-go for you. Good news? Stretching your strands sans the heat is possible. Plus, “the purpose of stretching your hair is to see how much it has grown,” says celebrity hairstylist Tamara Johnson, who’s worked with LisaRaye McCoy and NeNe Leakes. “You’re also able to see if you need a good trimming.” Additionally, it’s a great way to prep your tresses for an elegant updo or a loose style. Consider these easy techniques:
Band your strands.
Banding involves tying metal-free (to avoid tangling) ponytail holders around sections of hair to elongate your curls. This method is typically applied on hair that is damp (not soaking wet), which allows the curls to dry in a stretched position. Also, taking the time to thoroughly detangle and moisturize your mane first will ensure smoother results. Start by sectioning off your hair, tying the base of each section to form individual ponytails. Then, tie the rest of the bands at intervals along the length of the ponytails, leaving the ends open to maintain definition. The more hair ties you use along the length of each section, the more elongated your curls will be.
“Knot” it up.
We appreciate Bantu knots for the beautiful protective style it is. Another reason to love this regal-looking do? It can extend the length of your mane while creating bouncy, voluminous curls. After washing, moisturizing and detangling your hair, begin sectioning. Level up your parting game with some geometrics. Simply part the back of your hair horizontally, and use a rat tail comb to create diagonal lines along the part for a triangle-shaped pattern. Then, twirl a section of hair and wrap it around the base of your scalp until a knot is formed. Secure with a bobby pin, and continue this process throughout your entire head. “Wear it in that style for a few days until [your] hair is totally dry,” says Johnson. “Take that down and now you have a head full of fluffy curls — and it’s not as tight, it’s more relaxed.” To speed up the drying process, licensed cosmetologist Mindy Green suggests sitting under a hooded dryer on the cool setting, or working on damp hair. “If the hair gets too dry, [you] can use a mist bottle to rewet the hair as needed,” says Green. If your mane is on the thicker side, Green advises working in smaller sections.
Plait or twist.
Braid-outs and twist-outs are some of the most common ways to bring your length to life while offering maximum definition. And when these styles get older, your hair appears to be longer, according to Johnson. All it takes is some basic braiding and twisting skills. For optimal results, begin either method on clean, wet and detangled hair. Divide your hair into multiple sections — smaller sections for tighter curls; larger sections for looser curls. You can also achieve a looser look by applying less tension while braiding or twisting. Then, go in with your favorite moisturizing products and begin braiding or twisting. One caveat: Though twist-outs can stretch your tresses, some shrinkage may still occur. If this is the case for you, consider opting for braid-outs instead.
Try the pineapple.
Naturalistas love the pineapple for preserving their curls at night. But don’t “sleep” on its ability to stretch out a fresh wash and go. Simply bend forward and gather your tresses to the front of your head to stretch your roots. Then, loosely secure with a large satin scrunchie, and throw on a satin scarf or bonnet to keep your style intact. To maximize your results, consider rocking your pineapple all day as a protective style and taking it down the next morning.