If you have naturally kinky or coily hair, protective styles are probably your go to when you want to put your hair away for awhile and give yourself a break from the stress of daily styling.
Whether you’re using protective styles to grow your hair to longer lengths, or you just don’t want to deal with it for a few weeks, protective styles like braids and wigs have long been a staple for naturalistas with a variety of different hair care goals.
But what happens when the style that’s supposed to be protecting your hair from damage is actually destroying your hair? Thinning edges, hair loss at the crown, breakage, shedding, and dryness can all occur as a result of improper protective styling.
What is a protective style?
A protective style is any hair style that keeps your hair from having to be combed, brushed, or styled daily. These styles are intended to last for 2 – 6 weeks, usually with hair added, and include braids, cornrows, twists, wigs, and weaves.
Here are 5 mistakes you may be making with your protective styles and how you can fix them.
1. Your styles are too tight
One of the main problems with protective styles is that the hair is pulled so tightly that your hair follicles are being damaged. This leads to thinning or hair loss, most commonly around the hairline and crown. If your hair is repeatedly pulled in this way, the hair loss can be permanent.
Talk to your stylist beforehand and remind them not to braid your hair too tightly. Speak up if you feel like your hair is being braided or pulled too tightly while your stylist is working. Take the style out if you are getting headaches or noticing that small bumps are starting to form on your scalp.
You should be able to turn your head in any direction without feeling your hair being pulled. If you can’t, that means your style is too tight and needs to be taken down.
2. You neglect your hair while it’s in a protective style
While protective styles do give you a break from daily styling, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything at all to your hair for weeks at a time. Your hair still needs to be moisturized and your scalp still needs to be cleaned.
If your hair is neglected while you wear your protective style, you will find that you have significant dryness and breakage once you take the style down.
Yes, protective styles do allow you to see how much your hair has grown from the roots since the style has been in, but if your hair is breaking at the ends, your overall hair length will not change.
Moisturize your hair at least every 3 days while your hair is in a protective style. Add some conditioner or leave in conditioner to a spray bottle with water and mist your hair to keep it soft and hydrated. Do not go overboard with heavy oils and butters as this can increase dryness and product buildup.
Wash your hair at least every 2 weeks while in a protective style to prevent odors, product buildup, and excessive dryness.
3. You can’t access your hair or scalp while it’s in a protective style
We’ve covered how important it is to maintain your hair while it’s in a protective style, but what if you’re wearing a style that doesn’t allow you to access your hair at all?
Wigs that have been professionally installed can remain adhered to your scalp for weeks without being removed, and once you remove them you won’t be able to reinstall them yourself unless you have a special skill set.
Sew in weaves offer a little more access, but moisturizing your hair regularly can be very difficult.
If hair growth and hair health are your main priorities, stick with styles that can be easily washed and allow you to moisturize your hair a few times a week.
Go for shorter braids that will be easier to wash and take less time to dry. Opt for a wig that is secured with combs, clips, or a headband instead of glue so that you can remove it in the evenings to moisturize your hair and scalp.
Try clip in hairpieces instead of a sew in so that you can easily wash and condition your hair and then style it yourself instead of having it done by a professional.
4. Glues and adhesives are damaging your hairline
The glue and adhesives used to secure wigs can be extremely damaging to your hair. They cause the hair to become dry and brittle and sometimes they can pull the hair out altogether. These types of adhesives are made with harsh chemicals that can wreak havoc on your hair and cause irritation to your skin.
There are many other styling options that don't require glue at all. But if wigs are your go to style, try to avoid this method of securing your wig. Use clips, pins, or combs instead.
If you do choose to use glue, make sure that you are not applying it directly to your hair and be very careful when removing it.
5. You leave your protective style in for too long
Protective styles can be expensive when installed properly by a professional. If you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a hairstyle, you want it to last as long as possible.
But even if you are washing your hair and moisturizing it as recommended, at the end of the day, you’re never going to be able to clean and moisturize your hair completely while it’s in a protective style. After 4 or 5 weeks, you need to take the style down and give you hair a deep treatment and a thorough detangling.
Plan to keep your styles in for a maximum of 4 weeks. Give your hair a thorough shampoo and deep cleaning with our Ayurvedic Clay Wash and Honey Hibiscus Deep Conditioner after you’ve taken your protective style down, and give your hair a break for at least a week or two before getting another long term style.
Alternatives for protective styles
If you’ve realized that the hair care mistakes apply to you and you want to get started on a healthy hair growth journey, there are other styles that you can try that are less damaging for your hair.
Styles like two strand twists, braids, and cornrows with no hair added are easy to do yourself and will last for up to two weeks without needing to be redone.
Ponytails, buns, and twist outs or braid outs are all easy low maintenance styles that look professional and polished without the damaging effects of long term protective styles.
Headbands, clip in hairpieces, and head wraps can all help you camouflage areas of hair loss while your nurture your hair back to health.
Got questions? Email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to help!