Last year I had my first actual protective style experience when I wore box braids for a month--and I loved it.
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Protective style enthusiast @GerilynHayes | Photography by Dahlia Dandashi

As a natural curly girl, hair care requires a lot of time and effort, so having the chance to skip refreshing, defining and styling your curls is a well-deserved treat. If you want to practice less manipulation, protective styles are also a great way to encourage hair growth.

However, protective styling is not always smooth sailing,  I have put together my personal list of dos and don’ts of wearing box braids, twists, bantu knots, braid outs or any other protective style.

The Dos of Protective Styling

Do moisturize on the regular

This point is aimed at long-term protective styles. If your hair is tucked away, you may assume you don’t need to moisturise it, but that is far from the truth. As your curls are still prone to dryness, use a detangling moisturizer or leave-in conditioner that is water-based in a spray bottle so that it is easy to get to the roots between your braids or twists. When I had my protective style installed, I did this once a day or every other day.

Do try an apple cider vinegar rinse

If you suffer from sensitive skin, this is very important. The shop-bought hair you add to your protective style is sprayed with chemicals to preserve it whilst in packaging, which may irritate your scalp or skin (I had an itchy neck and face at times). This can be prevented if you cleanse the hair in apple cider vinegar (as you would your own hair) and dry before applying. Read how NC's video producer uses ACV to cleanse her hair.

Do keep them in long enough

It is important to keep your box braids or twists in for over 4 weeks as your scalp needs to adjust to the style; when you take them down too soon, you are putting a ton of pressure on the scalp, which causes damage and breakage. Allow your hair to grow over the month or so--this will naturally make the protective style looser. Over-manipulation is a huge culprit for hair loss, so avoid this at all costs.

Do use the LOC/LCO Method

I make sure to apply as much moisture as possible when wearing a protective style. The best way to do this is by following the LOC/LCO method. I find that my braids or twist-outs hold much longer this way, and I can prolong the style for a week straight!

Do a pre-treatment

The night before putting my hair into a protective style I always make sure to give my hair an in-depth wash day, including cleansing with a clarifying shampoo, protein treatment, and deep conditioner with my heated cap. I style in loose twists with a very light water based leave-in--you do not want oily, product build-up hair before installing your style.

Do enjoy your protective style

Take a huge amount of pictures and show off this style! You may be like me and do not plan on having a protective style for a while so try out different styles, go to events to show off your new look and enjoy the break from your curls.

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NaturallyCurly Sr. Copywriter@GerilynHayes | Photography by Dahlia Dandashi

The Don'ts of Protective Styling

Don't forget about your edges

Protect those edge, girls! When you are getting your braids or twists done by a stylist, make sure you tell them to leave your edges out. I once felt some burning and told the stylist; she happily loosened the braid and reinforced that I tell her again if I ever feel like they are too tight. I have seen protective styles cause major hair loss and thinning in other women because of this. Looking for an edge tamer? This one is a top seller in Shop NaturallyCurly.

Don't allow product to build up

Product build-up is caused when you use too much conditioner and stylers, which can cause a white, thick film (or flakes) on the scalp and can often look like dandruff. While wearing a protective style, avoid using a heavy gel; I only used liquid leave-ins with a spray top to avoid heavy-handed application.

Don't sleep without protecting your hair

This is essential, as it will be the most important factor to keep your protective style looking fresh and neater as long as possible. I always sleep on my satin pillowcase and make sure to wrap the top of my head with a satin scarf (to keep my edges in tact). Without taking these steps, you will end up with the style loosening quicker and frizzies popping out of the protective style.

Don't take down your style while it's wet

This is always an issue when trying to get the perfect twist-out or braid out--I have made this mistake many times. As I was in a rush, the result comes with much less definition and way more frizz. When the hair is completely dry, it allows time for the hair to soak up product and form to the texture that the twists or braids will create.

Don't forget to wash your hair

Even though your hair is nicely tucked away--out of sight, out of mind--you still need to wash your hair! Do not leave your poor tresses for weeks on end without a cleanse; carefully wash your scalp using a spray bottle to control how wet the rest of the hair gets.

Don't listen to ignorant and negative comments

Going to the workplace with a protective style can cause a stir; I noticed that when I had my box braids in everyone at work was amazed at how my "hair grew over night." I literally had to explain to the whole office what box braids were, how they worked and fielded constant questions and comments on the hair change every minute! Most were positive, but I did have a worker at my local hair shop tell me that he prefers me without braids (which isn’t nice to hear when you know you like them and you will be wearing them for a long while). I just advise you to ignore the comments and rock your protective style with confidence--head to the net and look at all of the naturals around the world who are also rocking the same style as you. You will feel much better!

To sum it up

Overall, when done correctly, wearing a protective style is such a great experience. You will feel like a new woman, and all without causing damage and while promoting healthy hair growth!

Want more?

Read next What Makes a Protective Style ACTUALLY Protective

Read Where to Get Your Afro Textured Hair Braided in London

Follow Shannon on Instagram @UKCurlyGirl

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