If you follow my personal blog you will know that I have recently given up wet braid outs as a length retention hairstyle. Let me start by saying that I have always preferred myself with curly hair, what’s not to like? However, length retention is more, shall we say, ‘challenging’ when you allow your hair to shrink up, and yes ladies, braid outs on wet hair=shrinkage.
But we have a conundrum, there are some natural ladies who happily wear braid/twist outs week in week out and they have outstanding length retention. How do they do it?
Take for instance the popular Vlogger Haircrush below. She has got fabulous hair that lots of us ladies drool over(yeah I know you do!) but there is a danger in blindly following the regimen of another successful natural girl without first knowing how your own hair is going to react.
In this video, she talks about her hair type that she describes as soft, kinda wavy when wet but dries to kinky* fluffiness. It sounds and looks like 4a/4b hair. However, it doesnt shrink much probably only about 15-20% shrinkage by my estimation.
Even though my hair looks similar to hers when wet, we dry very differently! I get about 50-60%% shrinkage so my hair looks half it’s true length when shrunken than when it is fully stretched. Unlike Haircrush, I wouldn’t dare let my hair air dry in front of a fan like she has, I would end up with a very tight tangled ‘fro. Not a good look!
Below are two images of myself with fully straightened vs hair ‘stretched’ in a braidout. I have used a alkaline ph stretch enhancing product but my shrinkage remains stubbornly at around roughly 50%.
This staunch difference is what makes hairtyping a very useless system. Shrinkage on the other hand goes a long way to explaining what your retention would be depending on how you wear your hair when your it’s is worn out. And yes I consider even my braid out above to be an unstretched style due to the amount of shrinkage I get. With unstretched styles you get more breakage during detangling, do the sink test to prove it to yourself. This obviously does not apply to protective styles like twists or box braids for which shrinkage makes little difference.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you can never wear a wet set braid out or twist out again if you have high shrinkage, all I am saying is that you cannot make them the mainstay hairstyle of your regimen if length retention is your goal and I know some of us get up to 75% shrinkage. I have seen various vloggers and bloggers who’s hair has essentially remained the same length since I began my transition 31/2 years ago because of this oversight.
The good news is that with a bit of inventiveness, braid outs can remain in your regimen. You just have to pre-stretch your hair prior to braiding. Either banding or a stetch blow dry on a warm, not hot, setting will do the trick. You can set you braid out with a little leave in conditioner or moisturizer. The definition will not be as great as with a wet braid out but for length retention, the style is a winner! Here are my results:
Have you had any challenges with your braid outs?