For many women, protective styling forms part of their successful healthy hair care regimens. Protective styling can take many forms, some of the most common being buns, braids, twists, wigs, weaves and the increasingly popular crochet braids.
Amongst the many great reasons to protective style your hair are:
Length retention – Wearing your hair in a protective style keeps the ends of your hair tucked away and less likely to experience breakage from cold, dry weather and getting caught on clothes, and other fabrics.
Time saving – Having a get-up-and-go style is great and means you can spend the time on other things (namely sleep!).
Low manipulation – Curly hair often works better when left alone. Breakage can be caused by over manipulation of your tresses when styling daily. Protective styles remove the need to regularly manipulate hair and in turn reduces the risk of breakage.
All sounds great, right? It is! However, there can come a point where your protective style is no longer protecting your hair but in fact doing the exact opposite, damaging it.
So let's discuss these commons pitfalls and more importantly how to avoid them.
1. Hairstyle is too tight
The tension from hair pulled, braided or sewn in too tightly can lead to hair loss and this is the primary cause of traction alopecia. It may not seem dramatic at first but over time, as more and more hair is lost, this can progress from thinning edges to a patchy crown – eek!
Your style should never feel overly or uncomfortably tight, so if you feel pain or two much tension as your hairdresser does her thing, let her know. A good hairdresser won't be offended and will adjust the tightness for your comfort (and hairline). A not-so-good hairdresser will tell you “It will settle down later” or "That’s the only way you make it neat". Needless to say both are incorrect.
To avoid potential hair loss from overly tight protective styling, just remember, “If it's too tight, it ain't right! “.
2. Style kept in too long
The question of how long you can keep a protective style will vary according to the particular style and person concerned. What can be said for sure, is that keeping a protective style in for too long can be detrimental to healthy hair. Where hair is kept in a protective style for extended periods of time, you are more likely to experience dirt and product build up at the roots of your hair. This build up can prevent moisture being absorbed into the hair and lead to hair becoming dry and brittle – not cute!
The problem can be exacerbated when hair is neglected when in a protective style. It’s a myth that you don’t have to do anything to your hair when it’s in a protective style. Where protective styles are kept in for more than a few weeks, it’s important to ensure that you are cleansing and moisturising hair where possible. Hairstyles such as braids and twists can be more easily cleansed and moisturised, whereas hair is much harder to access, cleanse and moisture in styles such as buns and tucks.
In order to avoid these issues, take time to assess your hair when you take it out of a protective style. What does it look, feel and even smell like? This will start to give you an indication of whether your hair has been in the style for too long or could possibly have been in for a day or week longer.
3. No break between protective styles
Even if you’ve taken care to make sure your style isn’t too tight and you’re looking after your hair whilst it’s in protective style, it’s still important to give yourself a break between protective styles and wear your hair loose.
Your hair needs to have some time where it’s not being pulled, pinned and bound in a million different directions. Over time the cumulative effect of even mild tension can start of show in the hair, particularly around the hairline. Having a break between styles gives the hair and scalp a break from having any tension.
Taking breaks between protective styles also allows you time to properly assess the needs of your hair, how it reacts to different products/ingredients and address any issues you may discover.
And obviously sometimes it’s just nice to walk down the street with you fro out feeling like a superstar.
What are your views on protective styling? How does it work for you and what do you do to make sure your protective style stays on your side?