HAIR | Protective styles

22 Jan 2015

Firstly - what is a protective style?

A protective style according to Lade from Rehairducation is 'a hair style that protects hair ends from everyday exposure to the elements of sun, wind etc.  A protective style should not require heat or too much manipulation (combing, brushing, pulling)  to create.  It should keep hair ends/tips off the shoulders.' 

Knowing the above why is a protective style beneficial to your hair?

It protects the ends of your hair (which are the oldest/weakest parts of our hair) - allows the hair to recover from over-manipulation, gives you a break from styling your hair everyday and allows your hair the space to do what it does with results - grow!

What styles are considered protective?

Literally anything ranging from buns to braids, weaves or wigs, two strand twists etc. These styles can be achieved on your natural hair or with extensions. I would emphasise that protective styles are only beneficial when less pressure is put on the hair. Eg. Braids do not have to be extremely tight - if they are they could do more harm than good and result in loss of hair rather than growth.

What is the difference between low manipulation styles and protective styles?

Low manipulation styles can be best described as twist/braid outs, wash n gos. They do not require the ends of your hair to be tucked away. The aim of low manipulation styles is for the hair to be manipulated as little as possible and with minimal styling time/effort required.

These styles are beneficial as low manipulation can allow a person to retain their length. For me, personally, I do not like low manipulation styles. Every time I've tried a braid/twist out I never get as much definition as I would like and the amount of knots I have to deal with makes the whole process tedious for me. It does depend on each persons' preference - see what works for you and how your hair reacts to each style.

You wear protective styles but your hair is still damaged?

I would seriously review why your hair is still damaged - most people assume that protective styles will magically correct the state of their hair and this is far from the truth. I'm mostly talking about weaves/braids here but if your hair is damaged and you have not tried to rectify/assess the cause - a protective style may just add more damage (e.g fragile edges). I have worn braids as my protective style from the moment I big chopped and even though my hair grew a lot my edges suffered as a result of the constant braiding. I'm now working to rectify this and do not wear braids as much as I used to.

How long can I wear a protective style for?

This answer is subjective. It really depends on the style and the person. I wouldn't suggest continuously bunning your hair in the exact same position for a long period of time - the tension could cause damage to your hair follicles. The same with weaves (did you see the picture that went viral of the woman who had mould in her hair *yuck*) I would say at most 2 months. Again, this is subjective. I know people who can maintain a weave for 3 months and are able to retain their length with no damage. Assess the style and the potential damage it could do to your hair and take it from there. I cannot manage braids for more than a month - it gets messy, the hair around my temples thins out and my scalp gets irritated. Some people don't have these issues and can maintain braids for 2+ months whilst re-doing their edges to prevent damage.

The key thing to note here is that protective styling/low manipulation styles should reduce the stress you put on your hair allowing you to retain length. If you want inspiration on different hairstyles to do - search Youtube, blogs, hair care forums - there is so much material available now there is no reason why you can't achieve your healthy hair goals.

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