Stretching Natural Hair

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When I first started my natural hair journey, I heard and read a lot about “stretching” on the hair boards and various websites that I frequented.  At the time, I didn’t really know or understand what that meant.  I wasn’t sure if it was something that I needed to be doing to help achieve my hair goals.  When you first start out in this journey, I think that almost everyone feels this slight panic that they may not be doing something right or missing some important step.  Because of this, you are always afraid that you may not get the growth you want, retain the length you think you need, or have to start all over again, because you didn’t do it “right” the first time.  “Stretching” was one of those things for me.  “Oh, no,” I thought, “I should be stretching my hair.”  As panic ensued, I turned to the internet to search for “stretching natural hair.”  At this point in time, I probably only had about 2 inches of hair at the most…yeah…

So, for the newbie’s: If you have 3 inches of hair or less, you don’t need to fret about stretching your hair. The quick and dirty of stretching natural hair is that it can provide the following:

  • A more accurate look of length in appearance
  • Faster/Greater ease during detangling
  • Less tangles
  • Help to combat single strand knots (SSK)

When your hair is 3 inches or less, more than likely you are not experiencing a heap of grief with any of those things except maybe a desire for less shrinkage.  Unfortunately, with such short hair, it is very difficult to use many of the stretching methods and could prove to be more time consuming than the aesthetic is worth.

For those with more than 3 inches: If you find that you experience a fair share of single strand knots (SSK), see your hair shrink down to 50% or less of it’s actual length, or have excessive tangling and hair loss during detangling sessions, then stretching your natural hair might be a great option to consider. Stretching your hair basically means keeping it from shrinking down during the drying process after being wet.  This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  You can flat twist, cornrow, Bantu knot, braid and two strand twist your hair while wet or damp and allow to dry before taking apart.  “Twist-out” & “Braid-out” styles are considered to be stretched styles.  You can also roller set your hair, and either rock the curls or twist/braid on top of the all ready stretched hair to achieve the ultimate length for a Twist-out” or “Braid-out” style.

By extending the length of the hair strands through “stretching,” you help to keep the strands from curling and twisting back on each other as they tighten and shrink down during the drying process.  Less curling and twisting back on themselves, helps to prevent tangles which helps to prevent knots.  Less tangles means easier detangling and less hair loss due to breakage.  Less hair loss due to breakage means more length retention…you get the picture.

In general, it can help to make your life easier.  It does however, require more time during the styling process after washing.  If you are a true Wash ‘n Go (WNG) type of person, you may not want to spend extra time, twisting, braiding or roller setting as this can be time consuming.

My thoughts: At this stage in my journey (1 year in), I find stretching to be almost essential to keep me from losing my mind on wash day.  When my hair has been in a stretched style all week, detangling is easy peasy, even if the weather or exercising has caused some shrinkage to happen during the week.  When I’m lazy and let it shrink after washing with my version of a WNG (I truly just wash…and go), I am left with a dense forest of tangled hair by the time wash day rolls around.







Freelance Graphic Designer, Lifestyle Blogger, Natural Hair Enthusiast and Fitness Convert...yeah, I wear a lot of hats. :)

  • Michelle

    Perfect description of the reasons for stretching! I didn’t realize this during my first natural hair journey years ago and ended up relaxing my hair because I couldn’t stand to face wash day one more time. This time around, I get it. No puffs and keep it stretched. Even twists done on wet hair spell trouble for me on wash day so stretched hair it is. I am confident that this will help me to retain far more length than I did the first time and keep my ends in good shape. Thanks for writing this! I’ll be sharing it with some folks after they complete their transition!

  • NaturalArtMaven

    Thanks for stopping by and the compliment, soror. :) Yes, I didn’t quite get it either at first when my hair was a lot shorter in the beginning of my journey. Now that it’s longer, I’ve had that “ahhhh, I see” moment. Stretched hair = less stress and frustration for me.