One of the reasons I decided to follow a protective styling and low maintenance regime was because of the overwhelmingly positive effects I saw on women who used this method. Over the past five years, I have largely found that protective styling is indeed very effective in retaining length and allows for easy styling once hair has reached one’s desired length goals.
However I have also learned that NOT ALL PROTECTIVE STYLES ARE CREATED EQUAL. Both the styles you wear and how your care for your hair in certain styles can influence the extent to which your protective style leads to hair health or hair breakage.
Mini Braids That are Too Small and Tight
These styles are a favorite option among some women because it allows for long term protection, while also allowing for one to display length. I have worn this style and experienced mixed results. Mini braids, for example, were a “one and done” style for me mainly because they were extremely difficult for me to unravel after a few weeks.
While taking down my mini braids I had to use a bobby pin to undo some of the braids because the hair was so tightly braided. In this case the style had diminishing returns. In the future I might braid hair in significantly larger sections to make the style more effective.
Mini Twists on Hair that Hasn’t Been Stretched
Overall, I’ve had better experiences with mini twists than with mini braids and can generally say that they meet the goals of protective styling. However, for my tightly coiled hair, twisting the hair without blow drying first can lead to tangles galore. In my experience mini twists on my hair without heat stretching first, can lead to breakage caused by the excessive knots I encounter during the take down process. This is in part due to my current length (a bit above waist length after a recent trim) and my tightly coiled hair type.
Braid Extensions that Tangle and Take Long to Install
One of the protective styling options I get the most questions about via email are braid extensions. Extensions and weaves can be damaging or beneficial depending on how they style is installed. I am not a professional stylist and I don’t personally have much experience with weaves or extensions, so I can’t give directed advice on how they should be installed. However, if you are wearing a long term protective style using your hair, be sure to take the following into consideration:
1) Possibility of tangling
2) Time cost benefits of the style (the length of time it takes to complete the style vs. how much time you save in weekly styling).
Although long term protective styles like mini braids or twists (with natural hair), can make your hair regimen a breeze for a few weeks, it can ultimately lead to a setback.
What are your favorite long term protective styles? Which long term protective styles help you to retain the most length?