by Adeola of The Mane Captain
“Want long hair? Try protective styling!” Many hair gurus would recommend this time and time again. But before you call up your stylist, you should know protective styling is not a 100% guaranteed path to long hair. Protective styling can be a hit or miss; it could also be beneficial or detrimental depending on the individual and/or style chosen.
So when is protective styling not protective?
1. You don’t take care of your hair while it’s being “protected”.
I can say that the main reason MOST Black women wear synthetic hair is convenience. Some women live by the mantra of: “I’d rather wear a wig or weave because I won’t have to deal with my hair for the next 3 months.” To that I say, I’m sorry but your hair still needs care (wash, deep condition, and moisturize) while it’s being protected.
2. Your REAL hair takes a back seat so your synthetic hair can shine.
It’s not uncommon for women to purchase all sorts of products to help with the maintenance of their braids and weave and almost nothing for their own hair. They think as long as the weave or braids look okay, then their hair underneath is okay.
It’s important to acknowledge the weave on your head is not YOUR hair. The hair that’s growing out of your body should take precedence over what’s wrapped around it or what’s worn on top of it. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t wash, condition and moisturize your hair while it’s under a weave. The end result of failing to do this can result in dry and weak hair which will easily break off when the style is being taken down.
3. Your stylist trims the hair that’s sticking out of a braid (corn rows, singles, twists e.t.c) to give your style a more polished look.
Please DO NOT let your stylist do this to your hair! Instead, tell her to take her time to braid the hair so she won’t have to “fix it” later on. When your stylist trims the hair that’s sticking out, they’re actually giving you a messy haircut which might be noticeable after you take the style down. She’s also putting the aesthetics of your style over the health of your hair. To avoid this, you could stretch your hair out with African threading or do a blow‐out so your hair is less frizzy and ready to be styled.
4. Your braids are too heavy.
I still don’t understand why anyone would carry 20 pounds of hair on their head and think it’s stylish. When the hair is parted in very small sections and braided with a heavy piece of synthetic hair, your hair will end up being pulled from your scalp, thus resulting in bald spots. Long box braids are okay if your hair is parted in large sections. If you must do long and chunky braids, I suggest you opt for lighter hair such as Marley hair.
5. Your braids are too tiny
Again, who needs a million braids? Personally, I’ve never found the style stylish, but quite frightening. Hair that is parted in very tiny sections and braided with a heavy braid can be easily pulled and uprooted each time the braid is manipulated and put into different styles. Additionally, depending on how long you keep the braids in and the amount of care you give your hair while it’s braided, it might be difficult to detangle the hair and remove build up when it’s time to take down the style.
6. Your braids are too tight
We all know the consequences of tight hairstyles, so I don’t need to elaborate on this.
7. You cut off your own hair when taking down your braid<
I still remember the time one of my sisters gave herself a messy haircut when she cut off her hair with the braid, with the hopes of reducing the time spent on loosening her braid. If you don’t know the length of your hair, it’s best to probably cut only a few inches of the braid off and spend the extra time loosening your hair. Besides, you saved a lot of time dealing with your hair during the weeks you had your hair put away. No need to be lazy 🙂
8. You have an impatient and ignorant Stylist
There is nothing more detrimental to the hair than an impatient and ignorant hair stylist who insists on combing dry coily hair with a fine tooth comb or thinks it’s ok to do a blow out on dry hair with the wrong tool and without a heat protectant. How about when they are so impatient with our coils that they would rip through the hair when parting and styling it only because we chose to wear our hair in its coily state? To avoid any hair tragedy, it’s best to AVOID these type of hair stylists. And if you are visiting a stylist for the first time, (even with a reference from another natural) I recommend you stretch your hair before going so it’s easier and faster to work with.
9. You do the same style each time
While there’s no scientific proof for this, I’ve noticed that installing Ghana cornrows, box braids, million twists, and any other type of braided hairstyles every single time you style your hair can weaken the strands. Cornrows don’t pull on the hair or weigh it down as much as single braids does, so its best to rotate between these types of hairstyles.
10. You keep the style in for way too long!
Hair kept in braids, particularly heavy and tiny ones for a long period of time will eventually be weakened and thus shed in chunks or even break. This is especially true when cleansing, conditioning and moisturizing is not performed whilst the hair was in braids. The length of time your hair can handle a protective style will vary from person to person. I have found that I achieve the greatest benefits with protective styling when my hair is left in braids no longer than 5 weeks. Anything after this time frame often results in excessive breakage regardless of me being diligent with cleansing and moisturizing.
Take Home Point
Whatever style you choose to protect your hair in, be sure to give your hair a break in between styles. These breaks will allow you to properly wash and deep condition your hair while it’s out and free. You’ll also be able to try out different hair care recipes, techniques, styles and products in your hair. Most importantly, it will allow you to get to know YOUR hair at its current length. It wouldn’t make sense to finally achieve your hair length goal and not know what to do with it.
What would you add to the list?
The Mane Captain is a blog run by Adeola, a Toronto based natural hair advocate who empowers women with the knowledge needed to take control of their hair. She also holds regular meet ups in and around Toronto where Naturals can network and support each other while on the journey.