How To Stretch Your Natural Hair Safely

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Straight (or straighter) hair, within our community, is a very polarizing conversation right now.On one hand, some women are saying that they are tired of being natural all of the time, so they have returned to relaxers. At the same time, our country is taking note of how potentially damaging the white lye can be and so they are close toputting a ban on some of the ingredients that are in it.


One of my friends recently said, “What would people really do if relaxing their hair was no longer a real option?” I mean, flat ironing and silk presses exist. However, the first thing that came to my mind was that they should do what I’ve been doing for quite some time now — stretching their locks out.

If you get how that’s a viable option yet you’ve never really been fully sold on it because it hasn’t exactly worked out brilliantly for you, this article might be of interest to you. Why do I say that? Because something tells me that it’s not so much the method that may be the challenge — it just might be your approach.

Read on, and let’s see.

Why Should You Stretch Your Hair Out, Anyway?

*le sigh* Even though I am well aware of the fact that some people in the natural hair world frown upon stretching natural hair because, in their eyes, it’s a form of low-key self-hatred because they think it means that we’re not happy with our unstretched curly texture — I absolutely do not subscribe to any of that. As someone with a hybrid of 4a and 4b hair, I actually like the texture that comes from my hair being unstretched (especially now that I’ve finally found the products that complement my curls the most!).

For me, stretching my hair is about using it as a way to keep the damage down that comes with day-to-day styling (when it’s not in a protective style, of course). After all, it’s been proven that when natural hair is stretched, that decreases detangling issues, fairy knot problems, and applying unnecessary pressure on your hair to the point where it leads to potential breakage.

Plus, if you’re someone who struggles with keeping all of your strands — from the roots to the ends — fully moisturized, stretching your tresses can make that a lot easier to do, too.

So, if someone tries to heckle or debate you on why stretching natural hair should be an option, share this article with them. If they choose not to see all of these points as valid, they are intentionally choosing not to, chile.

The Various Ways to Stretch Your Hair Out

Something that’s really cool about hair stretching is there are several approaches that you can take to doing it. The following technically eight are the most popular and, honestly, the safest when it comes to protecting the integrity of your locks.

Blowout. I’m a huge fan of blowouts. Even though they sometimes get a bad rap, I’m not someone who thinks that heat is not our friend. It’s all about making sure your hair has its proper moisture, that you apply a thermal heat protectant, and that you use a blow dryer that doesn’t zap your hair of hydration or damage your strands (you can read about thathere and watch a video on the topichere). A blowout is not only one of the quickest and longer-lasting ways to stretch your hair, but it can also make some of the other stretch methods so much easier to do.

Cornrows. My hair is stretched out most of the time. What I will do on wash days is blow out my hair (if you want to reduce the potential for damage, make sure that your tresses are at least 50 percent dry before doing so), and then I will put my hair in cornrows at night (or underneath a headwrap). Not only do cornrows help to keep my stretched hair without the need for heat, but they are also a really cute style if you want to keep your hair stretched and your ends tucked at the same time.

Bantu knots. Personally, I’ve always liked the fact thatBantu knots hail from central and South Africa. A part of the reason why I dig it is because I know that Zulu means “of/from the heavens” (or a variation of that like “sky”). Anyway, something that is awesome about Bantu knots is you can wear the knots as a hairstyle and then take them down and use the results as a heat-free way to obtain stretched-out hair.

Braid-outs or (African)twist-outs. A common form of stretching out your natural texture of curls without straightening them all the way is to do a braid-out or a twist-out. These consist of applying product to your hair (usually while it’s still wet or damp) in sections as small as you want your wavy look to be. Then, you braid or twist each section, allow your hair to dry completely, and unravel each braid or curl with your fingers. While I’m on this one, hands down, the best cream that I’ve come across to achieve this look isTaliah Waajid Curly Curl Cream. It’ll change y’all life, chile. No exaggeration!

Banding orthreading. Banding is something that I’ve only tried a couple of times; it does work, though. If you’re not familiar, it’s all about using hair ties along sections of your hair in order to stretch your hair as you let it dry (preferably air dry). Threading (more specifically,African threading) is actually seen as a protective style and a way to stretch your hair by using black thread (or any color you wish, actually) to wrap the sections of your hair from the root down to the ends.

Roller sets. Putting your hair in rollers after washing and (deep) conditioning it is another way to stretch your hair out. For this, some people use traditional rollers, while others opt forspiral curlers. The main thing to remember with this method is, that if you want to reduce frizzing, you definitely should apply a setting lotion first. And please make sure that your ends are wrapped well. Ain’t nothin’ like some curls that have straight ends. Ugh. And SMDH.

5 Hair
Stretching Hacks That Can Get You the Results You Want 

Okay, so now that we’ve unpacked what hair stretching is and some of the most popular ways that you can go about stretching out your own tresses, let me get into some things that, if you’re not doing them, could prevent you from getting the results that you’ve been looking for. Ready?

1. Make sure your hair has protein and (high) moisture. When you decide to stretch your hair, you are pulling on your hair strands; there’s no way around the fact that, if you’re not careful, that type of manipulation could lead to breakage. That’s why it’s important that yougive your hair a protein treatment approximately every 4-6 weeks and that you deep condition your hair on every wash day. Protein will help to keep your hair strong. Hydration will help your hair to have elasticity and reduce frizz.

2. Keep heat to a minimum. Again, for the skeptics in the back, I am absolutely not the person who is anti-heat. Honestly, back when I was trying to be like the YouTube naturalistas and go without any at all, that is when I was having the most trouble with styling my hair. For me, what has worked is blowing my hair out on wash days to stretch it and then keeping my hair in some sort of cornrow style whenever I’m not wearing my hair out. In between wash days (which is like every 11-21 days), I might apply heat once more, and that’s it.

The moral to the story here: whatever stretching method you decide to go with, the less heat, the better because your hair needs to maintain as much moisture as possible and heat has a way of zapping it off that.

3. Baby your ends. Something that I really had to learn the hard way was that if I wanted to get some real length retention, I needed to be super intentional about giving my ends some TLC on a consistent basis. This includes keeping your ends even (whether that’s by cutting, trimming, or, my personal favorite,dusting), moisturized (I try and apply a bit of leave-in conditioner to my ends every night), and sealing them on wash days (you can learn more about how to do thathere).

Please hear me loud and clear when I say that if you omit this, you will struggle with getting (or maintaining) inches because if your edges aren’t in good shape, they will probably snap off or turn into split ends if you keep stretching them out (because they will either become too dry or too weak).

4. Use hair stretching products. Out of all of the things that I’ve said thus far, hands down, the biggest “mistake” that (many) people make when they set out to stretch out their hair is they don’t consider applying products that are specifically designed to help them out in that department. For instance, one of my absolute faves is COLOR WOW’s Dream Coat. Although I used to think it was for “them” (LOL), it actually works really well on “us” too as a straightening serum and anti-frizz spray.

A few others that I have tried that have given humidity a finger as far as frizz goes includeNexxus’s Ultralight Smooth Hair Serum,L’Oreal’s Paris Blow Dry Primer, andNexxus’s Smooth & Full Blow Dry Balm. Although there are PLENTY of others out here, those are the ones that I can personally vouch for that help to smooth out your cuticles, keep your hair manageable, and are able to “weigh your strands down” a bit, so that you’re able to stretch your hair out with ease and maintain the look for much longer than without any product use at all.

5. Remember that “the excess of a virtue is a vice.” Probably, for the rest of my life, one of my favorite quotes will be an Aristotle one that basically says that the excess of a virtue is a vice. What that boils down to is even good things done in excess can ultimately end up working against you in the long run. Keeping that very valid point in mind, even if you are a fan of stretching your hair, just make sure that you are manipulating your hair as little as possible, and sometimes you do give it a break with some protective styling or awash ‘n go.

That way, your hair will remain strong in between stretches — so that the “elongated look” will always be both beautiful and hair-beneficial as well. Happy stretching, sis!

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Featured image by AzmanJaka/Getty Images

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