Part I, Part II & Part III
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 (all methods in 1 place!!!)
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
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 sections of this size. 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, with a section size that matches the curl size you're aiming for. You can then set your hair as normal.
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 with bantu knots is to recycle the curl; by reusing the stretch from a recently turned stale curly 'do.
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 maybe..."
stretching prior to setting II
This is a stretch method ideally for single plait braids or twists out. It is quite simple; all that it entails is cornrowing freshly made plaits/twists into no more than 4/5 giant cornrows, while still damp. Be sure section off your cornrows how you want your hair to fall, parting et al. We recommend your cornrows on both sides to run parallel to your hairline from your parting, e.g. from the left side to run down the top of your head/parting downwards to your ear. Your hair should be left to dry like this in the cornrows.
the drawback: This will stretch your hair out, but it will also augment your curl pattern, from traditional patterns of braid/twist outs, and the result is like Marmite -you either love it or you don't.
Hairbands placed along the length of the twists or braids can help elongate the curl pattern, preventing the shrinking that usually occurs when sets on natural hair dries. In order to maximise the stretch, the covered hairbands should be placed at regular lengths apart, at minimum two inches between bands along the entire stretch of the hair, immediately after twisting or braiding starting from the root to the last band being on the tip of you hair. Doing this whilst damp allows your hair to stretch to its maximum, and dry minimising the shrinking, particularly at the roots.
the drawback: Careful with placing the hairbands too tightly, you may cause your hair to snap mid-length, just like with a ponytail, excessive stress, too tightly wound causes hair too break off. There also may be some distortion to the curl pattern as the twist/braid out takes on a bubbled lock effect from the intermittent hairbands.
One of the simpler and easier ways to stretch your set, is to braid your freshly done twists or single plaits into jumbo braids that are braided firmly to lay flat at the roots, minimising root shrinkage and extending the length of the set. five plaits should be more than enough to secure your hair to whilst drying your set. try to avoid lifting your hair up to braid and maintain root area as flat as possible. Always remember to braid down how you would like your hair to sit once your hair is dry and you undo your set; revealing your final style.
the drawback: Style distortion is the main drawback, and perhaps the only one. You can limit this by plaiting and stretching your twists/braids when your set is no longer so thoroughly wet, but has already started to dry, then the twist /braid curl pattern should have already be formed, and plaiting will more stretch than distort, however distortion will still occur and you might not achieve the length extension you would have on freshly set twists/braids.
There is also, no big threat of over manipulation, on account that plaits are so easy to do you'll most likely be able to succeed at your first attempt of plaiting your damp freshly formed twists or single braids, and won't have to re-plait and redo which tends to cause flakes.
Using perm rods
Here, perm rods are wounded around the ends of your hair weighs your hair down preventing it from shrinking up and also has the added benefit of ensuring that your hair ends are always neat curled in a cute spiral formation.
the drawback: Weighing your hair down when it is vulnerable, in this case wet, can cause damage. On top of that most perm rods are not smooth, making the use of end paper necessary to avoid the perm rods tiny spikes snagging hair strands. Clumsily and awkward as end papers maybe to apply; they can permit the smooth forming of spiral, mid-length and ends.
"be careful with ALL stretching, but particularly after-set-stretching, as too much manipulation usually causes generally 'no-flakes' products to flake, and distort your newly set curl patterns."
Stretch After You Set
The final part of The Stretch Series: Part 3. After reading this post you will be a stretching sets Queen savant! Completing the three-part-course of stretching to successfully elongate your curly lengths.
When shrinkage causes the finished style length to be way shorter than you expected, Part III, Stretch after you Set will show you the ways to gain length. This is the final piece of the natural girls' set-wearing tool kit, from stretching before wet sets to all the methods for gaining length after, on completed styles. We must be ready for whatever your curls decide to do. So let's get to it...
This is one of the most versatile methods of stretching as it's done after the set, you are free to set your hair however you choose roller, straws, you name it. So, set your hair let it dry and once your style is fully revealed, add extra length by using a concentrator nozzle, firmly yet gently pull your strands down whilst gliding the blowdryer down long ways from root to tips, repeatedly. A general rule of thumb is after every five swoops of the blowdryer down your curl set, release your hair and see if you've achieved the stretch you desired. If not then continue, but stop and move on to the next section once you no longer see any improvement in length.
the drawback: This blowdry method of stretching should really only be done on wet sets to limit heat damage, which of course is the main drawback of using a blowdryer, but tends to be used as the final step on dry hair set by rollers, rods, braids, cornrows or twists. Another the creation of flakes are likely if you are not careful with your handling, product choice and if you keep blowdrying and pulling past your hair's drying point.
Once your set hair is revealed; pULL , Pull, pULL then hold. You should also massage your roots to allow them to flow, and your hair to fall more freely. For those of us with heavy root shrinkage, applying a thick styling product to the root area only, will help to weigh your roots down, giving you a flatter root area elongating your curls.
the drawback: You are not likely to get much stretch with just this method usually around an inch or two, but it is great when combined with a stretch before you set method. And you get more control with ordinary tension, so it is easier to avoid over manipulation, all you have to do is hold yourself back.
DHA's DIY recommends, that 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.
The Two Schools of Stretching Out Your Curls Are:
DHA Hair Care Experts