Curls and shrinkage. . .
Among those – the majority on the planet – who have a curl or wave pattern in their hair, shrinkage is an inevitability; if your hair wasn't shrunken, it would be straight. Hair with a wave pattern folds upon itself, making itself look shorter than the actual length of the fibre of which it is composed. Shrinking is curling. And the shrinkage you notice is simply your hair curling more than you usually allow it to curl.
Then there are the weaker salt and hydrogen bonds which can be broken temporarily by water, heat, or mere manipulation. Since very few of us truly “wash 'n go” in the fullest meaning of the term, the salt and hydrogen bonds which structure our strands are subject to distortion when our hair is in a wet and pliable state with its bonds weakened.
This new, temporary set-up is what allows us to hold a style for its duration. Once the water molecules get back, however, whether through washing, products or simply the moisture in the atmosphere, our hair returns to its natural state. Often, this natural state is a lot more shrunken than what we are used to seeing, even on those with completely virgin hair.
The natural order?
Getting our hair into what we often think is its natural order can be a subtle source of stress to our strands, given the amount of styling pressure we can exert – even when giving it a "break" from straightening or chemicals. The constant pulling and tugging, arranging and rearranging it takes to maintain certain looks that are a stretch for your hair – even if they are technically "natural" – is an often overlooked source of strain.
Avoiding this sort of hidden damage is essential to healthy hair. It ensures that when you think you are letting your hair rest, you really are. This makes it more resilient when you do decide to go all out with styling. To do so, it's best to have in place a clear awareness of how far you truly are taking your hair each time you style it.
The best way to achieve this level of awareness? Realise that the shrunken form is the way your hair, by design, was intended to be. When you accept your hair is supposed to be a certain kind of way, it makes it easier not to battle with it all the time, especially if you are trying to keep it in the best possible condition.
This type of shrinkage is not to be confused with the super compressed shrinkage plus root tangles your hair goes into when it's dehydrated and in desperate need of moisture. When your hair shrinks in that way, it's a warning sign that your strands are on the cusp of breakage because its moisture and lubrication levels are dangerously low.
You can avert the brittle form of shrinkage (and the tangles that come with it) by moisture training your hair. DHA has a simple guide on moisture training you can check out if your hair is prone to this type of 'distress shrinkage'.
Coming up: How to reveal what your hair truly looks like, in its purest, uninterrupted, most natural state.
DHA Hair Care Experts