This article is aimed at readers who require protective styling and minimal manipulation to be able to see and gain length. To be clear, this means keeping hair in twists, braids etc for a period of 3–4 weeks before undoing and reinstalling the style. People in this category will typically continuously have a braided or twisted style 95% or more of the time and the benefit of the protective style is only reaped as a result of spending a prolonged time (3–4 weeks) without undoing the hair.
This type of routine is best suited to people who are patient and who do not mind developing a fuzz halo (where the shorter hair starts to stick out and make braids or twists look frizzy). Sometimes, however, people need a break or indeed get bored of the routine, so what would happen if you decided to stop this protective styling routine?
1. You are very unlikely to lose length
If you stop protective styling, your hair is very unlikely to lose length unless you do something drastic to cause breakage. This could be heat styling frequently or at high heat, combing your hair daily when you never used to, start washing your hair free when you never used to, etc. If you are sensible and mindful of how you handle your hair, you will be perfectly able to keep your current length at the very least.
2. You are likely to gain little to no length.
If your hair is reliant on protective styling to gain length, you will be aware that more frequent handling is likely to impact your hair ends. For some hair, even low manipulation styles, for example, finger detangling to put hair in a bun, will actually cause some minor damage and breakage. However, what is likely to happen is that the hair growth rate will equal the breakage rate and therefore your hair length stays stagnant. For others, the breakage rate is slightly lower than the growth rate and therefore hair will gain length but not anywhere close to the retention rate seen while in the protective style routine.
3. You are highly likely to enjoy your hair.
The greatest advantage with not sticking firmly to a protective styling routine is the ability to switch styles more often. You are more flexible because your hair can be styled free or you can obviously opt to put in large twists or braids and style those. Enjoying your hair is not something that is often emphasised but it is a great way to know what hair length you enjoy managing, how your hair behaves in humidity and also how to manage your hair with weather changes. You may think that you want waist length hair but find out that actually at shoulder length, your hair is much easier to handle and style. You will never know unless you stop protective styling for a short time at various lengths.
4. A mini trim or dusting may be beneficial when you go back to protective styling
If your hair typically experiences some minor breakage when not in a protective style, it may be useful to do a mini dusting (cutting off a few millimetres at the ends) when you are ready to go back to protective styling. This mini dusting allows you to cut off damaged ends which may help split ends to form or propagate. Sometimes, you do not have visible split ends but this does not mean you are damage free. Taking the precautionary route and assuming there is damage will save you from doing a major trim later on.
Ladies, do you take breaks from protective styling? If so, why? How do you adjust your regimen when you’re on a protective styling break?