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How to Stretch Out Curls

by S.R. Becker

Whether you're transitioning from relaxed to natural hair or just want to lengthen springy curls, stretching gives you both length and definition. Because curly hair tends to be dry, it can tangle, mat and break if you don't stretch it. (ref 3) Twisting your curls right after you wash, whether into a bun or two-strand twists, not only stretches your hair, it helps retain moisture (ref 1) and gives you a cute protective style in the meantime. If you don't have time to let your hair air dry, you can stretch with a blow dryer.

Stretching Without Heat

Wash your hair with sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo and condition it with either deep conditioner or rinse-out conditioner. Apply a leave-in conditioner while your hair is still soaking wet, and work it through your curls with your fingers or a wide-toothed shower comb.

Apply an emulsifying cream containing lecithin, natural butters and oils or both, to your curls to help retain moisture. Gently work the emulsifying cream into your hair with your fingers.

Twist your hair into two-strand twists or a bun. To do two-strand twists, take two sections of hair -- smaller sections make tighter curls, while larger ones make looser curls -- and twist them around each other from roots to tips. If the ends of your twists don't hold naturally, clip them with a bobby pin. To make a bun, gather all your hair to the nape of your neck and twist it to the ends, gently pulling as you twist. Pin the bun against your head with bobby pins.

Cover your hair with a silk scarf. Tie the scarf on the back or top of your head and allow your hair to air dry. You might choose to wash and twist at night, so your hair dries while you sleep.

Wear the twists or bun for a day or two, then untwist it and apply more leave-in conditioner or natural oils such as jojoba, olive, coconut or avocado.

Stretching With Heat

Wash your hair with sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo and condition it with either deep conditioner or rinse-out conditioner. Apply a leave-in conditioner while your hair is still soaking wet, and work it through your curls with your fingers or a wide-toothed shower comb.

Apply an emulsifying cream containing lecithin, natural butters and oils or both, to your curls to help retain moisture. Gently work the emulsifying cream into your hair with your fingers.

Twist a strand of your hair loosely from roots to ends. Put a diffuser on your blow dryer, hold the ends of your hair and give them a gentle tug as you dry the strand.

Untwist the strand and repeat the process around your head. After drying each strand, untwist it and apply more leave-in conditioner or natural oils such as jojoba, olive, coconut or avocado.

Items you will need
  • Sulfate-free shampoo
  • Deep conditioner or rinse-out conditioner
  • Leave-in conditioner
  • Emulsifying cream
  • Bobby pins
  • Jojoba, olive, coconut or avocado oil
  • Blow dryer (optional)

Tips

  • Emulsifying creams are also known as puddings, meringues and souffles.
  • To dry two-strand twists faster without a blow dryer, sit under a hood dryer.

About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images