Protective styling on natural hair is crucial for maintaining the moisture, length, and longevity of a hairstyle. When done correctly, protective styles have been known to show massive improvements on the hair and scalp. As well as maintaining and defining curl patterns. Many women also see massive improvements in the growth and thickness of the hair. On the other hand, when done incorrectly protective styles can cause extreme hair loss. The reason protective styles don’t grow your hair is that they are often too tight, require too much manipulation to the hair, and promote lazy hair care practices.
Tight hairstyles cause a slew of issues on natural hair. The first being that they are extremely uncomfortable. For many years women were under the impression that if the hairstyle was tight it was right. Have you ever heard the impression “If it ain’t tight it ain’t right”? I sure you have, and I myself have even heard my fellow hairstylist say it as well. Insert cringe face. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable trying to look cute. Again, I’ve been there. Secondly, tight hairstyles cause scalp irritation and hair loss.
Traction Alopecia is hair loss attributed to pulling and tugging of the hair. This includes styles like ponytails, braids, extensions, and more. This is the number one reason I have requested consultations for hair loss at my salon. The consent pulling and tugging on the hair causes the hair to break at the roots. In many cases, traction alopecia can be permanent due to the damage of the hair follicle. Be mindful of this when selecting your next protective hairstyle.
As a stylist I love to change up my look quite often to experiment and express myself creatively. There is something therapeutic about changing your hair to fit your mood or even your outfit of the day. So I completely understand the need to switch it up. Just make sure you don’t switch it up too much or you will also snatch it up also. Your edges that is. When protective styling one must be cautious to avoid over styling. Too much manipulation can cause excess tension and breakage on the hair.
This is due to the hair becoming dry and the scalp becoming sore. Also, the excessive combing and brushing of the hair leaves your strands prone to breakage as the hair dries out from all the styling products. For natural hair protective styles I recommend you style once a week. This includes finger detangling, retwisting, co washing, and applying moisturizer to the hair. If you are someone who prefers to wash and style every two weeks then I would recommend you restyle and hydrate your hair 2-3 times within a two week period.
Don’t Be Lazy
Natural hair has a tendency to make you become a bit lazy when it comes to hair and scalp health. It’s very easy to forget to moisturize your hair when in a protective style or even neglect your hair all together. Think about how often you wash your hair with braids or two strand twists. Do you wash and moisturize your hair each week? When I ask my clients this question in most cases the answer is no. Because these styles are low maintenance you become very lax in the treatment of your hair and scalp. This is a huge no no.
Let’s not get lazy with our protective styling. The goal is always to grow healthy hair as well as sustain the growth we already have. In order to do this we must become regimented in our haircare. This means creating a schedule of when you’re going to washm condition, and moisturize your protective style. I have even gone as far as to set alarms on my phone to help remind myself to apply scalp treats and conditioners to my hair while protective styling. It has helped me stay on track with my hair care. You will be surprised what you neglect when busy, stressed, or tired. It’s usually your own self care. Now is not the time to get lazy.
This also takes me to my next point. Do not leave your hairstyles in for extended periods of time. Not only is it unsanitary. It can cause so many scalp issues from overgrowth of bacteria to hair loss. SEE HERE. You may also see an excessive amount of hair loss due to breakage while detangling. Matting of natural hair is real and if I can give you just one tip in this post it would be. Detangle your hair completely before shampooing. TRUST ME. Natural hair can matte up quickly and I have seen women who leave their hairstyles in for too long and try to remove them and boom. Matting and breakage have occurred. You spent months trying to grow your hair and in a matter of minutes, it starts to break off.
Another great practice when removing your protective style is to rehydrate the hair. I wouldn’t suggest water for this step. I recommend hair oil or butter. It works great to provide the hair with enough slip to unravel the hair as well as provide a protective coating to the hair while detangling. In many cases, the breakage is experienced when removing a protective style id due to the hair being overly dry and brittle. Hair oils and butters rehydrate your strands for safe style removal.
The key takeaway is protective styling is not a miracle to hair growth. You must still have a hair regime in place to help nourish your hair and scalp. As well as maintaining balance while styling your hair. Protective hairstyles that are too tight, done too often, and left in too long will short-change your hair growth results.