By Chinwe (pictured above) of Hair and Health
For many of us, protective styles are a great method for length retention. Some of us have mastered wearing them for one week or even two or three. Then you have those of us who wear them for the long term — four, five, six, or even more weeks. So, the question is: How do we do it? How can you master long-term protective styling? Well, here are six tips to get you started:
1. Take baby steps
If you currently wear a protective style for one week, don’t immediately jump to a four-week routine. Take baby steps. Gradually increment your style duration by one week at a time and monitor your hair (especially your edges) along the way. You have to learn what your hair can actually handle before jumping deep into it a long-term protective style. Otherwise, you could do more harm to your tresses than good.
2. Part in small sections
When wearing twists or braids as a long-term protective style, it is better to make them small or miniature. Bigger twists and bigger braids tend to frizz faster, thus reducing the duration of the style. Do you love the look of mini twists but hate the single-strand knots that come with them? Well, keep your hair stretched while wearing them or opt for mini braids instead; single-strand knots are not as prevalent with these alternatives. There is also the option of doing your twists slightly bigger – not too big, but not miniature.
3. Redo the perimeter only
Redoing the twists or braids along your hairline and nape is essential especially if your hair tends to loc easily in those regions. This habit will help to reduce breakage and thinning edges by inhibiting meshing. An added benefit of redoing the perimeter is that it will give your overall style a fresher appearance. Making this method a weekly or biweekly habit will help you maintain healthy edges.
4. Use the rope/Senegalese twist method
For long-term twists, coil each of the two strands upon itself as you twist. The coiling makes for smoother, tighter twists that last longer. For a tutorial of the rope/Senegalese twist method, check out this video by BlackOnyx77. Also, be sure to make your twists strong and tight as opposed to loose and weak. Naptural85 describes the “strong” twist method in further detail in the video below (starting at 1:18).
5. Keep washes to a minimum
Depending on the type, some protective styles can survive one or two washes (e.g., twists) while others can survive three or more (e.g., braids). If you are a frequent washer, you may want to choose box braids over twists or decrease your washing frequency altogether. The less the washing, the longer the style will last and the less likely your hair will mesh and loc. You can keep your scalp fresh by using witch hazel or a mixture of water and an essential oil (such as tea tree or grapefruit). Additionally, keep product usage to a minimum so that you can go longer between washes. NOTE: If you are pregnant or have health concerns, please consult with your doctor before using an essential oil.
6. Braid your twists/braids before washing
When you do wash, performing this step will help to keep your style intact and reduce frizzing. Just put your twists or braids into several big plaits prior to washing. Some naturals also cover their twists or braids with a panty hose prior to washing in order to maintain their style.
Now, long-term protective styling is not for every natural, but for those who can benefit from it, these tips will hopefully come in handy.
Do you wear long-term protective styles? Share your tips!