Elongate Your Curls: 8 Ways

The shrinkage you get with having natural hair often interferes with how you ultimately want your hairstyle to look like. So when it comes to styling, the look you are seeking to achieve may require you to elongate your curls. As a matter of fact, you can change your natural hair definition to look a certain way by simply stretching your curls out.

Once (OK, probably a lot more than once), I woke up after sleeping with my hair in a pineapple (high ponytail) which was done on freshly washed and air dried hair. In fact, the pineapple is one way the you can get your curls to elongate. It won’t be stretched as much all around because it typically stretches the back more than the front.

Anyway, my curls were poppin’ but because shrinkage was still trying to overtake my life, my hair didn’t fall the way I wanted it to (Styling natural hair can be so unpredictible!). I had to elongate my curls in a uniform way and usually have to do so more times than not.

Here’s a list of 8 ways to elongate your curls:

(I use all of these hair stretching methods at one point in time. It just depends on the mood)

Banding

banding to stretch natural hair

By far one of the most popular methods (and similar to African threading), the banding method does a great job of stretching out your curls. It can even change the appearance of natural hair definition. The good Lord may have designed your curls to naturally appear a certain way but He made it so that we have some flexibility. Thank you Jesus.

Depending on how much you are looking to elongate your curls, you’ll place the bands really close together for very stretched hair or with large spaces between the placed bands for less of a stretch.

CWK Girls SSS Plates

stretching fine natural hair

One of the lesser known ways to stretch out your curls, these funny looking hair plates are capable of changing the entire look of your natural hair. All that’s required is that you snap sections of hair down onto the plates while the hair is wet. Then, don’t remove until dry. Air drying is the preferred method for the most kind treatment of fine strands especially, but if you are short on time (or just plain ole impatient), sitting under a hooded dryer can accelerate the process. Check out this video demonstrating use of the SSS plates to elongate curls.

Braiding

braids on fine natural hair

When choosing to elongate curls using the method of braiding, do so on damp hair vs wet hair. The finer your hair, the less braids you need to do. 2-4 large braids is usually sufficient to stretch fine natural hair. You get bonus points if the braids are actually cornrows.  For more stretch, create more braids. Just be aware that the results will be a drastic change in the natural definition of your curl pattern, leaving your hair with a more crinkled look once the braids are removed. Also, too many braids requires additional manipulation of your strands so keep that in mind if you are working on length retention goals.

Stretching with CurlFormers

curlformers on fine natural hair

Stretching your curls with Curlformers will be the most time consuming process of all the methods shared to elongate curls. BUT, it’s also the most effective. After removing these spiral curlers, you’ll find that your hair is really close to looking like a press and curl (especially, if you have fine hair that’s lower in density).  Once you’ve installed Curlformers on wet hair, do not remove them until your hair is completely dry. Otherwise, you are asking for a frizzy matted mess. Just like with the SSS plates, you can air dry all day to overnight (although, they are hell to sleep in) or sit under a hooded dryer.

Bantu Knots

prepoo'd hair in bantu kots

Bantu knots are great for stretching damp hair. If you do them wet, you’ll find they take 5 years to dry. OK, not that long but you get the picture. Besides, the time it takes for your hair to dry in the knots, the results may be less than desirable depending on how you are seeking to change the look of your natural curl pattern. Bantu knots tend to yield a curly body wave sort of look. Use this method to stretch your hair as a base to prep for another elongated style like a twist out or braid out.

Bunning

protective styling with a bun

Very similar to bantu knots, bunning your hair in one or two buns is an effective way of stretching your curls over a longer period of time. For example, I’ve worn my hair in a bun for an entire week and by the end of the week my curls were so elongated, there was no visible curl pattern left. Buns are also a good base for converting your hair to a stretched twist out or braid out. Plus, while you are rocking them as the texture is stretching your hair looks super cute! The placement of your bun is entirely up to you but the higher the bun, the more the stretch.

Cold Air Tension Drying

cold air tension drying

Not as effective as some of the other methods for elongating curls, using a blow dryer on cold air using the tension method is another means to stretch out your hair. It takes longer than blow drying on warm or hot but it’s kinder to your strands. You will however, need to run the blow dryer up and down the section of hair you are holding at the ends multiple times. The results will be that of a blow out look more or less. The amount of tension and how many times you release your hair to check it’s “stretchness” will determine that. So, patience is definitely a virtue when using this method to elongate your curls.

Twisting & Pinning

Naptural85 on Youtube made this popular in today’s natural hair circles but it was actually a technique used way before both of our times. All you do is twist sections of wet/damp hair (usually 8-10) and then stretch those twists across the scalp so that the curls will elongate while drying. Hold each twist in place with a bobbypin or two, leaving the ends slightly exposed if you want a more natural looking stretch for a twist out. NOTE: The image above is of large, stretched twists and flat twists. This method is typically done on regular two strand twists.

As you can see, there are multiple methods available to help elongate curls if even just to prep for styling natural hair. If you don’t like your hair’s natural definition or just want to switch things up a bit, try one of these methods to stretch your hair.

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Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

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