I am an unapologetic advocate of protective styling as a method of retaining length. Not only does protective styling allow me to keep up with my busy lifestyle without worrying about my hair; it also helps me keep my breakage-prone hair moisturized and damage free. If you are also a fan of protective styling or have explored it as an option, you’ve likely compared a number of styles that work best for your lifestyle. I know the challenges associated with choosing a style that meets my personal taste and hair goals, so in this article I relay some of the pros and cons of different methods of protective styling.
Whether it’s a wig, weave or extensions, using added hair can be a great option for women on the go. While the type of hair will influence the price of the style, wigs are generally the least expensive option. Even if you purchase one comprised of human hair you can avoid the cost of installation which often makes the cost of sewing in a weave or extensions more costly. Wigs also have the added advantage of allowing you to change your style frequently which can be a great option for women who get bored easily. I loved wearing wigs and half wigs because it allowed me to envision how longer hair would frame my face. In fact, I eventually decided that I no longer wanted experience longer hair vicariously through my wigs and made the decision to grow and retain my own natural hair. A word of caution: If you use glue with lace front wigs be sure that you are not allergic to the glue. A negative reaction can cause hair loss, something discussed by celebrities like actress Countess Vaughn from Moesha.
Weaves are another great option if you want to wear a style with loose hair (not braided or twisted) but want to keep you natural hair protected. I would caution you to keep in mind that some weaved styles require that you to keep a portion of your hair out and keep it straightened if you are blending with a straight weave. After weeks you may find that you have heat damage to that small section of hair. Also, be mindful that you do not have the weave sewn in too tightly, as it may cause traction alopecia.
Braids & Twists Extensions
I came of age in the 1990s and just about every little girl I knew had braid extensions. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I had my first set of extensions (Senegalese twists) installed. Extensions are low maintenance and carefree in a way that wigs and weaves are not. For example, a day at the beach may be a bit tricky to maneuver if you want to keep you weave intact, not so with braid/twist extensions. With braided extensions water may lead to a little frizz but won’t have nearly the same effect on the style. I also found that with extensions I was able to directly moisturize my hair using braid spray because by hair was exposed along the length of the twist and not under the hair, as would be the case with weaves.
Protective Styling Using Natural Hair
Wearing protective styles using your own hair in my opinion is a great way for you to learn how to style your hair in a way that makes it uniquely tailored to you. If you feel that you are style challenged then you may consider alternating between protective styles with added hair until you perfect a style with which you feel comfortable. I recommend that even if you love your weaves or braid extensions you give your hair a break for a few weeks in order to prevent breakage or damage. I have seen over and over again the effects of continual weave/extension wearing among women that I know. Unfortunately, some of the damage can be permanent. I also find that styles using my natural hair allow me to get a good sense of the needs of my hair in terms of dryness and moisture.
When deciding which protective style works best for you consider your lifestyle and the time you have at your disposal. Make decisions that work best for YOU and fit the goals that you have set for your hair.
Which type of protective styles do you like best?