Home All Things Natural Hair Tension Method | Stretching Natural Hair

Tension Method | Stretching Natural Hair

by Kristal C

Recently, I installed Z’s second set of box braids. The process went so much faster this time around than the first set of braids. To prepare her hair for the box parting, I made sure to stretch it considerably from root to tip. Z’s hair is very long so getting a good stretch without imposing too much heat and manipulation is a task these days. I used the tension method, which continues to produce consistent results. I have gotten better with stretching her hair close to her roots without having direct heat so close to her scalp/hair. Z is still very tender headed. Therefore, she appreciates not having a comb constantly running through her hair and scalp.

Stretching Natural Hair Using the Tension Method

Why the Tension Method versus Banding and African Threading?

I do not stretch Z’s hair often because her styles have been pretty much damp friendly like twists and mini-afro puffs. African threading I use once in a blue moon to put her hair into a bun. Threading and banding worked better for us when Z was younger and had shorter hair. Plus with these methods, I would have to wait overnight for her hair to dry before styling it in its stretched form. Therefore, of the three stretching methods, the tension method has been the most efficient and effective for our stretching needs. {Update May 24, 2019: We just added another method of stretching natural hair that is much quicker and efficient than the tension method. Check this post here to find out what it is.}

Difference in Stretching Methods Gallery

The Process

I typically use the tension method on freshly washed and deep conditioned hair. Learning from my own experiences, applying heat on already dried and dirty hair is a formula for breakage and damage. Lesson learned. Here is an infographic of the steps I use for the stretching process:

Stretching Natural Hair Using the Tension Method

Important Advice to Literally Prevent a Headache

Before applying heat, it is pertinent that the hair is completely detangled from tip to root. Using the tension method with partially detangled hair makes working through the hair afterwards potentially a tough job (depending on hair type and thickness). This was evident the first time I tried this method on Z’s head back in 2015. Although I purposefully was avoiding heat to her ends, they ended up curling and tangling a bit. Not a super big deal at the ends. However, tangled and partially stretched roots make for a painful styling session for Z. Therefore, making sure the hair is thoroughly detangled makes the tension method go so much smoother. We shoot for stretched AND properly detangled hair on the first go round after using this method.

Hope this helps give you an idea of the different stretching methods for natural hair and why we like the tension method. In short, banding and threading give a no heat good stretch but require overnight drying. The tension method provides a more “instant” stretching results but obviously requires heat. You have to make the choice based on your specific need. Nevertheless, stretched hair makes styling so much easier especially for cornrowing, braiding, and flat-ironing natural hair.

What stretching methods work for you? Do you have a method I did not mention? Please do share below! After all these years, we still enjoy learning new things about natural hair!

Update: We Just Found a Tool that Out Beats the Tension Method!

We actually found another stretching method for natural hair that we like even better than the tension method! We stumbled across a tool that actually speeds up the stretching process greatly. Check out this post here for details of what we used and let us know what you think!

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