The Downside of Protective Styling

Protective styling is a practice in which you wear your hair in style that helps protect and minimize stress on the hair from styling, the elements and detangling.  Common protective styles include 2-strand twists, braids, or wearing a wig/weave.  Wearing a protective style does not make your hair grow, but doing so has been known to help retain length by reducing breakage, single-strand knots and mechanical/heat damage.

So whats the problem?  The issue is that you still need to take care of your hair while it is in a protective style.  That means maintaining moisture to the hair and scalp, keeping the scalp clean, and avoiding further damage from tension or rubbing.  No matter which protective styling method you use make sure you have access to your scalp.  To moisturize your scalp use a braid spray, spritz moisturizer, or create your own DIY mix.  As for cleansing the scalp that can be a little tricky as some styles to not lend to getting the whole head wet.  You can use a washcloth with a soapy mix to scrub the scalp or put a little witch hazel on a cotton ball.  If you have added great length to your locs you may want to use a net to keep them in place.

The ninja bun was one of my favorite hairstyle when I was rocking waist length yarn locs. They helped keep my long hair up and out of the way when doing everyday things like brushing my teeth, lounging on the couch or washing dishes.  Here are a few other things I had to get used to when wearing longer hair: make sure all your hair is in the car before closing the door, pull your hair forward in front of your shoulders before using the restroom, make sure you are not laying on your hair before jerking your head in the opposite direction, and make sure you tie back your hair before eating.

The most inevitable downside to protective styling is that you will miss your curls.  For most curlies it takes about 7-10 days before the excitement of a new protective style wears off and you actually miss the care and upkeep of your own curls.  The longest I can keep a protective style in is about 4 weeks, as my hair needs a good thorough cleansing and soaking in the shower that can only come with loose natural hair.

So what are your thoughts? What are your tips for surviving protective styling?

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16 thoughts on “The Downside of Protective Styling

  1. Excellent tips! Right now I have my hair in a protective style and I moisturize almost everyday but I still don’t know of a way to wash my hair without it getting that “hair coming out of your braids/old” look. And I have less than a month to go before I take these braids out but I am sooo ready to take them out, YESTERDAY. LOL

  2. I can’t make it past 2 weeks with a protective style of any type. I cowash with the protective style (usually 2 strand twists) but it is a struggle to make it to the 2 week mark. As I type this, it will be 2 weeks on Thur for these gorgeous 2 strand twists with flat twists in the front and last night I untwisted the 2 strands and left the front flat twisted. Please believe, Thur a.m. it will be fully out and getting a fabulous wash…only to be retwisted and locked away for another 2 weeks lol. I definitely miss my curls and fro during this time, but as I live in the Allegheny Mountains here in PA, my hair would shrivel up and die in this wet/cold/crazy crosswinds air.

  3. I wig it up often to keep my hair protected with cornrows braided backward underneath. While braided I condition daily and add moisture and leave-in every night on wet hair. At night, I usually do this at night, laying on a heavy layer of moisturisers so when I wake up, my hair is already soft….wig it up then go! Come home then repeat!

  4. You all have different issues from me… my hair is fine and thin, as well as gray. I have been natural 1 1/2 yrs. After the bc it has grown about 6 in. my twists are few and far apart, my twist out was bad until I saw a post suggesting gathering a bunch and twists are repeat retwisting. that worked well but this time not so good, I won’t give up I will retwist the twist out with product tonite to see how it goes…wish me luck.

    • what is wrong with your twist outs? is it that you don’t have much volume b/c fine strands? If so, I would suggest using a pic to lift the roots to give a thicker appearance. This will also get rid of the partings. I would also recommend using the bricklay method when twisting to minimalize gaps and spaces.

  5. Pingback: Be-Witched: All About Witch Hazel | derby city naturals

  6. Loved this blog. Very well-written. I’m book-marking it for reference!!! I love the photos.
    There were some great tips, insights and thoughtful points about what to do with longer hair ( keeping it from food, not slamming it in the car door etc, etc! It seems so obvious, and yet we don’t realise ). Personally I love protective styling(although it’s not for everyone) and I wear mini twists for up to four weeks at a time, 99% of the time.
    I moisturize and cleanse with them in, then re-twist. I only twist, after the hair is washed and well-conditioned, so my fingers glide through the hair. No breakage.
    I think, through trial and error ( lots of trial and error !!!!) , I’ve found out what works and doesn’t work for my hair. I’ve been natural for most of my life, except when I relaxed it for three years.

    After I transitioned fully, I tried many styles, and started leaving my hair in braids for two weeks, then extended it to three weeks When my hair really grew, to just above my shoulders. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, next: a friend suggested two strand twists.
    Because I knew my hair was very happy, being braided up for three weeks, I started two strand twists ( since 1995) and I already knew they would last four weeks, or even five weeks at a stretch. I have very, very fine hair, so it would take a while for my hair to lock- I don’t have a fear of my hair locking.( I envy those with thick, thick hair, you are so lucky!) I try not to twist tightly, and I check my hair lines and re-twist any loose twists, as and when.
    `Larger , chunkier twists fall out of my hair, so I’ve settled for smaller/tinier/mini twists.

    Yes, plenty of moisturizing, moisturizing, conditioning, conditioning. My hair around bra strap length, which I give great credit to the twists , for retaining the length. When I used to do twist outs, I noticed my ends started breaking off ( it may have been the products or environment or hormones at the times- don’t know!), so i went back to twists. This style is very versatile, for me, and can be styled like loose hair. Interestingly enough, as I twist my hair when wet, the small twists look like small curls or ringlets and I can get quite a lot of volume on them, too. Yes, for me, the two strand twist has been incredibly protective.

    So thanks for sharing with us :D

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