Since I decided to “big chop” and rock my natural hair six years ago, I always wanted to conquer the coveted wash and go style. The idea of just being able to wash, and go, sounded too good to be true. And that it was. What I learned along the way is that what is commonly known as the wash and go, is really just defining your curls. The looser your curl pattern, the easier to define your curls. The tighter the curls, better known as coils or kinks, the harder it is to define those tiny curls. The main culprit that denies many naturals from rocking the wash n go look is shrinkage.
It’s important to understand how shrinkage works. Even notice how a plant will grow in the direction of the sunlight? Curly hair is drawn to moisture, just like a plant is drawn to sunlight. Our hair is the same way. As our hair air-dries, the ends dry faster than our roots. As the hair at the end dries, it draws closer to the moisture still present at the roots, causing shrinkage. Now that we know how shrinkage works, here are three tricks to avoid major shrinkage.
1. Use a hooded dryer or blow dryer to dry your roots.
Since the ends drawing closer to the moisture at the roots as they dry cause shrinkage, the trick is to dry the roots simultaneously. After applying your styling product, sit under a hooded dryer for 20-30 minutes. This helps the hair dry evenly and a lot faster than air-drying. Don’t have a hooded dryer? Not a problem. Use a blow dryer, preferably with a diffuser attachment for more even airflow. It doesn’t work as well as a hooded dryer since it can only dry small sections of the hair at a time, but it will do the job.
2. Use something to create tension and keep the hair stretched while drying.
The opposite of shrinking is stretching. If you can keep the hair stretched while drying, this then helps to combat shrinkage. The easiest thing to use would be a hair clip placed on the ends of the hair. They will weigh the hair down just enough to create some tension and stretch the hair without totally stretching out the curl definition. Combine this trick with the hooded dryer or blow dryer to avoid even more shrinkage.
3. Use products that have stronger hold.
When a product is said to have more hold, it means just that, it holds the hair in place. For avoiding shrinkage, the higher the level of hold a product has – the better. As the product dries, it hardens, which makes it more difficult for the hair to continue to shrink. Sometimes high hold products can leave the hair feeling dry and crunchy, so applying a moisturizer or leave-in conditioner first can help with that.
Even though it’s impossible to completely avoid shrinkage, these are tricks that I’ve used to keep shrinkage at bay. Use one, two or all three of these tricks to get more hang time from your curl defining looks and wash n go styles.