Wearing your natural hair in a curly do, usually means having to forfeit length. Styling your natural hair through any of the sets, (twist, braids, rods, straws, rollers) tends to make your natural curl pattern curl up shorter. But there are ways to fight the shrinkage on natural hair, to show its length whilst keeping it curly, and here they are...
...Welcome in the stretch series
There are two schools of stretching out your curls, the first, suggests stretching before you set, boasting the benefits of reducing the likelihood of flakes. Whilst the other, recommends stretching your hair after setting, once your hair is dry, to complete your styling. This gives you more control as you can see the effect as it happens, allowing you to get the desired length, but it also has its drawback as too rough or too much stretching may tamper your freshly set curls into array. The stretch series, go through each method in both schools, we detail best ways of doing each technique, its drawbacks, advantages and the situations that make a particular stretching method more suitable than the next. So all in all, what does DHA's DIY recommend, ideally your stretching technique should change with each kind of set, but a mixture of the two schools should lead you to maximising your curly length.
Let's begin with stretching Before You Set, Part 1
Stretch Before You Set
Double set 1
Using bantu knots to stretch out your curl is fairly simple. To use this technique, your hair should be fresh and ready to set. You should use a maximum of four big sections across your hairline, depending on the length of your hair; the idea is to stretch your hair and get it used to a larger/ flatter curl pattern that will retain more length.
The longer your hair, the bigger the sections should be, and as a consequence the lower number of bantu knots. It doesn't matter if the curl size you want in the end is actually smaller than the size that would usually result from your bantu knot sections. The point of pre-setting your hair with bantu knots is just to reduce the shrinkage, getting your hair used to being being longer rather than shrunken up before you actually style it.
The technique can be performed on hair that is dry or wet, though you should note that less shrinkage will typically result from setting dry hair. Simply take a section of freshly-washed hair, apply your first layer of product, and work it through your hair before you bantu knot and secure it. You shouldn't have to leave your hair bantu knotted for more than 15 minutes for this to work. Do this throughout and more than likely, by the time you finish bantu-knotting your entire head, your first section will be ready, stretched out and waiting for the final set. Now you can then set your hair as normal, using a section size that matches the curl size you're aiming for.
the drawback: Besides the additional time it takes to double-set, you have to be careful to use products that allow for your hair to be retwisted or redirected to avoid flaking or the stiffness than can develop after your dries in the bantu knots. But hey, that's what applying a second layer of product is for.
Another way to double-set is to recycle the curl; by reusing the stretch from a recently turned stale curly 'do.
Double set 2
Taking an old set and restyling it allows you to regain the length that you usually lose in shrinkage. This is because the previous set has already stretched out your natural curl pattern. So, provided that the products you use are not too watery, you can bypass the shrinkage that usually occurs on fresh hair (and particularly wet hair), taking advantage of the extra weight on your strands to lengthen your set.
the drawback: You would have to have foreknowledge of how the products you use mix. Most importantly: how well the product you already have present on your hair works with the products you'll use to reset your hair. Products that clash will produce flakes, make your hair appear dull and coated, or cause your hair to react awkwardly. Applying a small amount of water to each section when re-setting, before you apply new product may help to limit this. Don't add too much water, though, or you might get too much shrinkage.
"less watery your setting products tend to be, then the less shrinkage prone your hair may be..."
Check daily for more stretching techniques. More to come on using rods, tension, heat, plaits and more to elongate your sets.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance