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Have you been trying to fight the shrinkage and keep your natural hair voluminous, healthy and full – even on the most humid of days? I’ll be honest. My favorite times of the year to wear my natural hair all-the-way-out is the spring and the fall. The temperatures are mild and the humidity levels aren’t super ridiculous, so my hair doesn’t shrink up or frizz out as much as it does the rest of the time. Still, that doesn’t mean that when it’s blazing outside (or when it’s snowing; some of us forget that wintertime can get pretty humid too”> that I won’t rock a blowout. I just have to find some creative workarounds so that I won’t have big-and-glorious hair when I step out of the door and then three steps away from a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro”> about an hour-and-a-half later.
If you just read all of that and found yourself shaking your head because you totally can relate, I’ve got some suggestions for you.
For the record, I’m pretty sure that you’ve heard of some of these before, but the key is to apply a little trial and error with the tips and handle your hair with care in the process. If you’re determined to figure out what works best for you, I’m confident that you will.
1. Experiment with bentonite clay
If you pay attention to hair trends, you’ve probably heard about the bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar hair definition combo. I’ve tried it a few times and yep, it works. Not only does it define natural curls, it elongates them too! Plus, if you add some hydrogenated castor oil, melted shea butter, coconut oil or olive oil to the mixture, it is a great way to have longer curls that won’t shrink up (as much”> due to the moisture to the hair. (If you’ve never tried this DIY product before, click here, here andhere for some tips and cool visual results.”>
2. Or try some silicone or beeswax
In the never-ending effort to keep shrinkage at bay, a grave mistake that a lot of us make is using the wrong kind of hair products—the ones that actually attract humidity instead of repelling it. So which ones are no-nos? Glycerin, hydrolyzed wheat protein, any form of glycol, flax seeds, mango butter and products that contain honey definitely top the list because they are all humectants (they pull moisture from the air”>. What’s an ingredient that doesn’t draw humidity in? Silicone or beeswax. Both have the kind of properties that will seal your hair, reduce frizz and yes, help to prevent shrinkage.
3. Try an anti-frizz serum
Something that lots of professional stylists believe that all of us should have in our possession is one (or 10″> bottles of an anti-frizz serum (because frizz is usually the result of humidity”>. It works well because it’s another product that will effectively seal your hair so that humidity isn’t able to get to it (as much”>. What are some good ones to try? Top-rated serums include Mizani Thermastrength Heat Protecting Serum, Curls Cashmere + Cavia Hair Serum and Lubricity Labs S-Total Finish Perfecting Serum.
4. Try an elongating styler
Aunt Jackie’s Don’t Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel or the Long Aid Naturals Manuka Honey & Coconut Shrink Away Elongating Curl Cream.
Something that we naturalistas have that we didn’t 15-20 years ago is YouTube. I can personally vouch for the fact that if you’re looking for tips on how to take care of your naturally curly hair, there is a wealth of knowledge on there. Anyway, there’s a totally self-professed quirky naturalista who goes by the name Star Puppy, whose channel I find to be cute, memorable and entertaining. On one video, she broke down a way that she handles her own hair shrinkage; it’s with the help of Aunt Jackie’s curling gel. If you want to try a new product, but you’d like to see if/ how it worked for someone else, click here for her very detailed review (it seemed to go well for her, by the way”>.
5. Break the cast
If you use gel for a wash-n-go, make sure to “break the cast.” If you’re going for a wash-n-go look, applying some gel (even if it’s just Aloe Vera gel”> to your hair while it’s wet is a great way to give your curls a good amount of definition. But if after it dries, your hair appears shorter, a good thing to do is to break the cast (the hardness that the gel has caused”> of your hair with a little bit of oil. Two that hold up pretty well in humidity are sweet almond oil and grapeseed oil. As a bonus, they both are light, so your hair won’t feel greasy to the touch. All you have to do is pour a little bit into your hands, rub your hands together and then gently rub your hands down your hair from root to tip like this:
6. Blow your roots
Although you should be careful about how much heat that you apply to your hair, if you’re using a good dryer, you apply a heat protectant (a creamy one is better than a spray if your hair is both curly and thick”> and you set it on cool, you should be fine. As far as avoiding shrinkage goes, make sure that you’re intentional about blow drying your roots. The “straighter” they are, the longer your hair will look and the less shrinkage that you will have throughout the day. Speaking of blow drying, if you want a longer look without straightening your curls in the process, a diffuser is definitely what you should attach to your dryer. Use it after your hair had air-dried halfway in order to get the best results.
7. Test out some natural stretching techniques
If you absolutely do not want to apply heat to your hair, pretty much ever, there are some natural stretching methods that you can try. For the sake of time and space, I’ll hyperlink them—banding, threading and stretch plates are what immediately come to mind. All work on even the tightest of curls and will give your hair at least a few inches.
8. Braid your hair (or pineapple it”> at night
Whether you want your blowout to last longer or you want to stretch out your natural texture a bit, something that can help you to achieve that is if you braid your hair up at night. I’m not saying that it needs to be perfectly parted small braids. In fact, I think it’s best if your hair is finger-parted (so that you’ll decrease the amount of tension you put on your hair”> and that the braids are on the bigger side. The goal is to do something that will keep your hair from shrinking up and/or matting as you rest. Or, if you’re in a rush, pulling your hair up in a pineapple can help to achieve this too. Just make sure that once you’re done with either route that you wrap your hair up with a silk or satin scarf. That way, when you wake up, your hair will be stretched out a pretty good amount, even if you sweated some. And your hair will be ready to take on a full day of humidity!
Read next: 13 Photos of Shrinkage You Need to See