Is protective styling a dirty word? I think that there are some women who think of protective styles as boring and even unattractive. There are a second set of women who regard protective styles as a necessarily evil on the way to longer hair. There is the third set who regard protective styles as quick and low maintenance.
No matter where you stand, I think that protective styling has its benefits and can work for you if you let it.
1. DO: Choose the correct style
In order for a protective style to be effective in retaining length it has to
- Eliminate breakage (ideally) or severely reduce it
- Eliminate knotting and tangling (ideally) or severely reduce it
Naturals will often class protective styles into LOW manipulation or NO manipulation styles. Low manipulation styles are those that will require some regular daily handling. Examples include braid or twist outs which are rebraided or retwisted at night. Buns and tucked in styles (french rolls, cinnabuns etc) where hair is free but kept tucked away and off the shoulders are also low manipulation styles.
No manipulation styles are those where free strands of hair are not handled. Examples include twists, braids , cornrows, flat twists, sew in weaves and wigs where hair is braided or twisted underneath and does not require daily combing.
Without any combing (finger or actual comb) of free strands, the no manipulation styles are the most effective in terms of eliminating breakage, knotting and tangling. Low manipulation styles may result in some breakage, knotting and tangling but when performed correctly this damage should be reduced and dependant on hair type, eliminated.
DON’T: Ignore tension or go too small
The big DON’T is never to pull hair too tight when styling it in any manner (buns, twists or braids). This can result in breakage and traction alopecia around the hairline.
The second big DON’T is micro braids and twists. These can look very beautiful but are more often than not terrible for the hairline. If you or your hairdresser has sufficient experience in installing and taking down micros, they are perfectly fine. The big risk is usually at the take down stage where if you have insufficient skill or patience you may end up breaking a lot of the length that you were attempting to retain.