We’ve all heard how great protective styles can be for our hair – they protect your hair, they help you retain length and moisture and they can give you a much needed break from your hair. Plus there are so many cute styles you can do, from box braids to two strand twists to buns. But the same styles that help your hair flourish and grow can have some unintended consequences for your hair. There are certain mistakes that people make when protective styling that can actually lead to breakage, excessive shedding, dryness and hair loss.
So to define it, a protective style is a hair style that protects your hair from the elements, physical damage and general wear and tear. The aim of these styles is to help your hair retain moisture and, therefore, retain length and potentially even gain thickness. We ALL love the convenience of getting braids or having your hair neatly woven into cornrows under your wig, knowing you won’t have to comb and detangle for the next couple of weeks but where do we cross the line into ‘destructive style’ territory? As the name suggests, a destructive style is a style that causes damage to the hair, usually in the form of breakage, excessive shedding, hair loss and even heat damage.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid a destructive style:
- Don’t keep your protective styles in for too long – I know we all love the extra time we save in the mornings from having our hair braided up but keeping your protective style in for too long is a recipe for disaster, particularly if your hair style involves synthetic hair. The hair tends to get extremely dry and the prolonged tension on the strands can cause severe breakage – this is worsened when your hair is woven with synthetic hair because it tends to absorb a lot of the moisture in your hair as well as weighing the hair down. Of course, you know your hair best, but when it comes to box braids, I suggest a maximum of 4-6 weeks to maintain optimum hair health.
- Don’t make your styles too tight – yes, your braids may last longer and look neater when you braid tightly or your wig may lay more nicely but it can wreak havoc on your hair, ESPECIALLY your edges. Traction alopecia (the loss of hair due to tension on the scalp) is real and VERY common – and in some cases, it can be permanent. So loosen up!
- Remember to moisturise your hair – your protective style is not an excuse to completely forget about and neglect your hair. You still need to moisturise your hair and keep your scalp clean even with that protective style. All it takes is a spray bottle with water, your favourite leave in conditioner and a few drops of oil – spray it on a few times a week and off you go! Don’t forget to protect while you sleep – as I said in the last point, a protective style doesn’t mean you should forget all about your healthy hair care practices. You should still sleep with a satin pillowcase, scarf or bonnet regardless of the style your hair is in. This will keep your hair neat and prevent dryness.
- Size matters – okay so this one is always up for debate but the size of your twists/braids/cornrows do matter. If you make the braids too big and the extensions are heavy, it can literally rip out strands of your hair. If your twists or braids are too small, it can cause problems for your edges. This is particularly a problem for the wig/weave-wearing ladies – try not to make those cornrows too small. It really puts a lot of pressure on your edges!
There we have it guys! Just a few tips to make sure that protective style doesn’t ruin all your progress.