When you have natural hair, you know that shrinkage is a package deal. And although you understand that the arrangement of your DNA dictates how hair grows out of your head, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to change up your look every once in a while.
Sometimes you may also want to stretch out your texture to see growth progression as a reward for all the hard work you’ve put in. Luckily, there are several ways to make this wish a reality. Even better, there are plenty of stretching methods that can be done without the damage of heat.
Ahead, see nine ways to safely stretch your natural hair without heat.
Comb It Out
Possibly the easiest way to stretch out your natural hair is with the comb (or brush) you already have in your home. Alternatively, you can also use your fingers to gently comb through your tresses if that’s what you prefer.
This method is most noticeable when it is applied on dry hair; however, it will more than likely cause noticeable frizz. If that’s a no-no for you, then a comb out wouldn’t be ideal for stretching your hair.
The more you comb your hair, the more it will be stretched. Fewer strokes will allow at least a part of your natural texture to show through.
Try the Pineapple Method
As it would turn out, the nighttime high ponytail naturals have come to adopt to preserve their natural hairstyle can also be used to elongate kinks, curls and coils. When you want to extend your length, pull your hair to the front of your head and secure it with a hair tie.
Depending on the effect you’re going for, you can apply the pineapple method for as little as 15 minutes or a whole 24 hours. The longer your hair is in a pineapple, the more substantial your results will be. Make sure to give your hair a nice, gentle pull before you head out the door to maximize your stretch.
Buns and Bantu Knots
Buns have been a method for adding body and curls to straight hair, but it can also be used to loosen natural hair. A single ballerina bun can provide soft, beachy waves after your locks get washed, dried, and unraveled. If you’d like to get symmetrical definition, you can also do this with high or low pigtail buns.
When you’ve gone beyond two buns, you begin entering bantu knot territory. The style has a history that traces back to the Zulu people (under the larger Bantu umbrella) of Southern Africa. To achieve this head full of knots, make sure to section your cleansed and detangled hair into even and clearly defined diamond, triangle or square shapes. Each section should be twirled until the hair looks similar to a dreadlock, and then it should be wrapped around itself until it creates a "knot."
Larger sections will create larger curls, while smaller sections will create smaller curls. You’ll be able to see the results for yourself when your hair is fully dried. Be careful to not unravel your hair when it is still wet, or you may not get the defined curls you were hoping for. Bantu knots generally have a springy bounce to their look.
You know those crisp waves you get whenever you take out your braid extensions? Yeah, you can get that same effect when you braid your natural hair. The process is simple: Just section out your washed and detangled hair and go to town braiding it all.
Smaller braids that have some tension applied will end up having a tight, Z-shaped curl or wave. Larger braids can have a similar look depending on how much tension is applied, but if a looser texture is what you seek, make sure to offer some slack every time you weave these strands together. Once your hair is all braided, you just have to wait until it dries to unravel and style them.
You can do this process on dry hair as well; however, your results won’t be as defined as a wet-to-dry braid out.
Twist-outs are another way to stretch your natural hair and play with different curl shapes. The process is nearly identical to that of a braid out, but instead of working with three strands, you’ll be working with two (unless you prefer the look of the more involved three-strand twist out)–which provides an S-shaped curl or wave.
This method is best done on wet hair that can withstand air drying. Twist-outs follow the same general rule of thumb: Smaller twists with tension applied with have a more defined shape than larger or looser twists.
If you have extra hair ties on hand, you can stretch out your natural hair Princess Jasmine style. After you wash, detangle, and section your hair, you can wrap those ties around each designated section to form mini ponytails. Gather tufts of hair throughout the length of those ponytails and tie your additional bands around them.
Make sure to space out each band at least an inch and stay away from your ends if you want to maintain some of your natural texture. If you'd rather have maximum stretch, you can use more bands.
This stretching method can be applied to wet or dry hair, but if you’re going for the former, you don’t want your hair to be soaked or else you might risk damaging or growing mold with these bands. You can attempt this style when your hair is about 80 percent dry.
Unlike the other form of hair threading most people know about for removing unwanted growths, the threading used for hair stretching is somewhat similar to banding. Instead of using all the hair ties you have lying around your house, you’ll just have to grab your sewing kit and use thread instead.
This method also has a cultural significance for those who have roots in the African diaspora. In several sub-Saharan African communities, hair threading is a protective style that is left on hair for an extended period for length retention and stretching.
How much hair is covered in the thread is ultimately up to the individual and their desired look, but throughout the process, fun gravity-defying styles can be achieved until you unravel the thread. The more your hair sections are wrapped, the more your hair will appear straightened.
The official Curlformers by HairFlair is a multi-piece set that transforms kinky-coily manes into loose spiral curls that are very Shirley Temple-esque. The kit comes with 40 Curlformers—which are essentially soft fabric rollers.
Sectioning out your freshly washed and detangled hair and using the kit’s included styling hooks for locking each Curlformer at the root is all you need to do. Air drying your hair will do the rest. Once your hair has dried and you’ve removed the Curlformers, you can part your finished curls any way you desire.
There are three Curlformer varieties, so naturalistas can play around with corkscrew, spiral, or extra-wide barrel curls.
It might have taken a few years after the inception of its curly sister (CurlFormers) but natural hair enthusiasts have been able to stretch their hair further with HairFlair’s official WaveFormers. It works in the same way, but instead of curls, you get to unravel loose waves. Two variants are available for people who are looking to achieve tighter or looser curls.