This is one issue you may not have thought about before. When hair is wet, it’s very elastic and can stretch out much further than it can when it is dry.
As hair dries, it shrinks back to its normal length. This is a problem if you style your hair into a fixed style while it’s wet.
Ponytails / Buns / Puffs
For example, if you pull your natural hair into a ponytail, bun or puff while it’s wet in a way that it can’t shrink back easily then as the hair dries and shrinks it could pull on the edges so much that the roots are weakened and could be pulled out more easily with additional styling.
The area where you band/tie your hair may also weaken because it’s prevented from shrinking back to position. Over time, if you always tie your hair in exactly the same place, this hair will weaken because it’s always restricted from shrinking and ultimately break. This is called “wet holder stress” (The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy).
Use twists and plaits to stretch and dry your hair, these styles are flexible and don’t completely hold hair back when it’s trying to shrink back, they simply limit how much it can shrink.
Cornrows and Flat Twists
Cornrows and flat twists have the potential to be very restrictive in allowing hair to shrink back. My solution? I dry my hair in twists then when it’s dried or just damp I release the hair and plait the cornrows. This way it is stretched enough to style but wet holder stress is avoided.
Kinky and curly hair is a lot more stretchy than already straight hair so the stresses we impose on kinky-curly hair when it’s wet compared to when it is dry have more consequences.
Have you had experience with wet holder stress? Comment and tell me about it.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I was a natural hair blogger and mixtress living between London & Chicago from 2012 to 2017. I always thought I was 4C but some say 4B; images below - you decide! Heather xx