B4E91458-0494-4E2E-AE25-0C6A83C172EC

Image Source: Getty Images/Rodney Brooks and EyeEm

Protective styles are awesome. Full stop. They are the remedy for hair growth, they help us to achieve they desire for a low-maintenance-yet-still-gorgeous hairstyle and, they also have a way of letting us tap into our creative side. Plus, is it just me or is there something that’s super-empowering about wearing braids or twists? Yeah, without question, there has not been one time when I have gotten a protective style and regretted it.

However, there have been certain things that I have done while wearing a protective style that I wish I had done differently. Those are the things that have inspired me to pen this piece for you. Whether you’re thinking about getting some box braids, goddess locs, Senegalese twists, feed-in braids or any other kind of braid-or-twist-related protective style, if you want them to last and your own hair to remain healthy in the process, here are some things that you absolutely should NOT do.

DO NOT use non-water based products. I adore my hair braiders; I really do. I go to a shop that is filled with nothing but happy Kenyan women. It’s a beautiful and soul-uplifting experience every time. In fact, there is really only one thing that I would change and it’s the Let’s Jam gel that they put on my hair as they are braiding it. I get that it smooths my natural texture down so that it blends in with the extensions. But, after a couple of weeks, it tends to create build-up. What that has taught me is if I decide to put any kind of other product in my hair (which is pretty rare, to tell you the truth), I make sure that it’s water-based. That way, it penetrates my hair without caking up as much. What’s a good example of what I’m talking about? A spritz bottle that contains witch hazel and a little bit of tea tree and lavender essential oil. It protects my scalp without any flaking or build-up.

DO NOT avoid wrapping your hair up at night. I don’t know what makes us think that just because we’ve got some fly braids or twists that we can just go to bed without anything on our head. If you want to keep lint from getting into your hairstyle and/or from accumulating fly-aways from the extensions or your own hair, it’s important to wrap up your braids or twists just like you would with your own hair. Trust me, this tip alone will keep your protective style looking like new for weeks on end.

Image:@alannanicolex

DO NOT leave your protective style in too long. When it comes to protective styles, if there’s one question that’s consistently asked, it’s “How long can I keep mine in?” Although some stylists say four weeks and others say as much as 12, the standard is 6-8. Typically, if you leave it in for longer than that, not only is there going to be a considerable amount of build-up (even if you do wash it every few weeks or so), but the new growth can cause your braids/twists to put too much pressure on your hair; that can result in breakage. Remember, a protective style is designed to help, not harm your hair. If it’s in forever, it’s going to be working against, not for you.

DO NOT try and make it last by “rigging it”. YouTube has quite a few videos featuring women who have found ways to make their braids and twists last for three months or more. A lot of them consists of twisting the new growth with original braids or twists still intact, so that each braid or twist looks like it’s been freshly done. While visually the results are pretty impressive, I still would avoid doing that if I were you. The breakage thing that I just mentioned? That can still happen. Another result from “rigging” your hair is it can lock up over time because, basically what you are doing, is twisting your hair…just like people who want to lock their own hair do.

DO NOT rush while taking your protective style down. This is the kind of mistake that happens that isn’t discussed nearly enough. One of the benefits of having a protective style is being able to take it down and seeing how much longer and thicker your hair is. Well, that can easily—pardon the pun—get cut short if you’re so in a rush to take your hair down that you end up cutting your own natural hair in the process. Listen, I know how tedious it can be to “dismantle” a protective style. But you’d be much better off binge-watching something on Netflix or Hulu as you do it than flying through the take out process and having absolutely no progress to show for it. You’ve been warned.

Image:@halfricanbeaute

DO NOT immediately get another protective style. Most stylists will advise that once you take a protective style down, you should wait at least a week before putting another one in. Why? It’s so that you can pamper your natural hair and also give your scalp some time to breathe. I personally think that 3-4 weeks is even better because it gives you time to truly see what state your hair is naturally in (for instance, do you need a trim or a protein treatment?) so that once you do return to a protective style, you can be confident that your natural hair is in the best shape possible.

DO NOT do the same style over and over again. Sometimes people will take out a protective style and see more growth in certain parts of their hair than others. While some of that is due to how fast various sections of their naturally hair grows, it also could be because they continuously get the same style of braids and/or because they style their braids in the same way. Cornrows that are always pulling on your edges could lead to hair loss. Pulling twists up into a high bun could cause breakage in your crown area. That’s why it’s also a good idea to switch up your kind of protective style and how you style it once you have it. It will take some of the pressure and tension off of your hair, so that once you take your braids or twists out, your natural hair ends up looking better than ever!

Know of any other protective style mistakes we might have missed? Share them in the comments!