As we get deeper into autumn, many of you may start thinking about putting your hair away in a long-term protective style like box braids, Havana Twists or possibly a crochet weave (aka crochet braids). Here are a few things things to keep in mind to get the most out of those styles and maintain the health of your hair. But first…
What IS a Protective Style?
It’s all in the name! Basically, they are styles which require little to no daily manipulation. The less you have to mess with your hair, the less chance of damage. The idea is to tuck away the ends (the oldest part of the hair which is more prone to dryness, breakage and splits) to reduce the possibility of damage thereby protecting your hair while it retains moisture.
With this description in mind, know that you’re not limited to sitting for hours to install braids, twists and such if you wanna rock a protective style. While they may not last as long, buns, updos, “roll, tuck & pin” styles and cornrows also accomplish the same goal. You’d be surprised how much good a week or two without having to manipulate your hair will do!
1. Handle With Care
We’re trying to protect the hair, right? So, it should go without saying that you want to be gentle when installing your styles (or having them installed) or else, what’s the point? Don’t be afraid to speak up if your stylist is braiding your hair too tight!
You should not only be concerned with the amount of tension being used during the install but also afterwards when you begin styling your braids, twists or weaves. Yes, even if you were careful about the initial style going in too tight, you can still do some damage if you pull and tug on those braids, etc. a little too much.
2. Moisturize Regularly
Protective styles can definitely cut down on your morning/nightly routine and make life a little easier but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to touch your hair AT ALL for the duration of the style. Just the way you’d moisturize your loose hair on a regular basis (I hope you do!), you should be moisturizing your hair while wearing your protective ‘do. I’m currently wearing some Marley Twists so I find it easiest to use my spray bottle concoction of water, a few carrier and essentials oils and a leave-in to moisturize my hair every other day. I spray directly on my scalp and on the length of my hair.
As you take down your style, you will have some shedding… don’t be scurred! This is natural.
3. Gently Cleanse
Cleansing is also possible and highly recommended while wearing long-term protective styles. Methods will vary from person to person but I do just fine stepping into the shower to cleanse my scalp while wearing Marley Twists. Sometimes I dilute my shampoo with water in an applicator bottle, sometimes I don’t. In either case, I apply directly to my scalp first, let it sit a few minutes, gently massage between the parts, thoroughly rinse with warm water and repeat if needed.
At night, tie your hair down with a satin/silk (not cotton) bonnet or scarf OR if you fancy (huh?!), sleep on a satin pillowcase.
4. The Take-Down
Don’t rush this. We can be so ready to get that hair out or take those cornrows down that we go ripping through the hair just to get it done quicker. Take your time. Use your fingers to gently detangle. In some cases, you may need to add a little water to the equation to make the hair a bit more pliable. You’ll find that if you’ve been moisturizing your hair regularly while wearing the style, you’ll have a much easier and productive take-down session.
As you take down your style, you will have some shedding… don’t be scurred! This is natural. Every human being sheds, on average, somewhere around 100 individual strands of hair per day. Strands fall out at the end of their growth cycle to make room for new strands. So, if you’ve had some Havana Twists in for a month, well, you do the math. It’s gonna look like you can make a whole wig out of what comes out but know that it’s just all the shed hair that has accumulated over time. Make sure you get as much of that out before washing to prevent unnecessary tangles. Deep conditioning at this point might also be a good idea.
So, ladies, it all boils down to maintaining good, healthy hair care practices. Only then will your hair grow and thrive to reach its fullest potential!