A protective style is one that helps prevent mechanical and environmental damage to your hair. Mechanical damage can be caused by over-manipulation through daily combing and styling while environmental damage can be caused by excessive exposure to the sun or even chlorine if you are an avid swimmer.
That said, protective styles can easily become counterproductive, causing more harm than good in the long run. Many naturalistas have admitted to experiencing breakage and dryness after wearing protective styles. Oftentimes, it is for the following reasons.
When protective styles become counterproductive
They were not properly installed
In my experience, I have found that protective styles with extensions are more likely to be detrimental to the health of my hair, particularly if they are not properly installed. I am talking about styles such as weaves, box or crotchet braids, and even sew-in wigs.
Some hairstylists may install up to ten packs of hair on a client’s head in order to achieve the desired style. While it may look cute when you walk out the door, chances are the extensions may place too much stress on your hair due to their weight. Upon removal, one may experience excessive breakage.
They were left in too long
Believe it or not, I have heard of situations in which a weave has been worn for up to six months. That’s half a year! This type of protective styling can be very detrimental to the overall health of one’s hair. One may even have some mold growing on their scalp at the end of it all. I do not mean to gross you out, but these type of incidents in which hair is poorly maintained beneath a protective style occur way too often.
How NOT to fall into the trap
If you have box or crotchet braids
Wash them weekly with a conditioner and every other week with a cleansing shampoo. Dab a little olive oil along the length of your hair in the braid and gently massage it into your scalp. I advise against heavy pomades and butters as these can cause buildup and give your braids a really funky stench.
If you have a weave
Like crotchet braids, keeping your hair in weaves requires lots of care although nurturing your strands may be a little trickier depending on whether or not the weave is glued or sewed on. Either way, in order to maintain the health of your natural hair you will need to wash your weave wefts frequently. The best washing techniques will allow you to cleanse your scalp thoroughly of any buildup. You will need to ensure your scalp and natural hair are fully dry after every wash to avoid the chances of mildew. Lastly, ensure you only wear your weaves for 4-6 weeks and then give your hair a break.
Keep it simple
While the creativity within the natural hair community is outstanding, I have come to realize my hair doesn’t like too much manipulation. If your protective style of choice is too complicated and time-consuming to install, not to mention counterproductive in the long run, you may want to keep it simple. For example, you may want to try a few protective styles that don’t require synthetic hair – buns and ‘roll & tucks’ are a few good ones. Either way at the end of the day, if the goal is healthy hair be sure to install protective styles that are not counterproductive.