I can’t stress how important it is to protective style… but it is even more important to protective style the right way. Protective styling can be a great source of length retention but can be an even bigger source of hair damage! There are necessary steps or precautions you should take not only with your protective style installed, or when you remove it, but also before you put another protective style back in.
First things first, you should never leave a protective style in for more than 8 weeks. Why? Because no matter how well you take care of the hair underneath it is not getting the full TLC that it should get and after 8 weeks of what I like to call as “half/care” your hair will become frustrated with you. Also your hair will begin to loc and make detangling a bigger chore than it already is. I also notice that keeping protective styles in for longer than 8 weeks always leaves me with way more “shed hair” then I am comfortable with leading me to believe that some of that hair is more than just shed hair and is actually damaged/weakened hair breaking off. And we all saw in one of the most extreme cases where a woman kept her weave in for far too long and wound up growing mold under the weave on her real hair. This was a mix of keeping the protective style in for far too long as well as not allowing the hair underneath to fully dry on wash days.
Here are a few steps/tips to remember to take before you install that next protective style:
1. Take Breaks In Between: After protective styling for 3-8 weeks (I recommend some where along the 4-6 week time frame) you should take 2-4 weeks to give your hair some TLC and a break. I like to have 2-3 deep conditioning sessions before I install a new protective style. I deep condition once a week on wash day so this usually means I take about three weeks in between protective styling.
2.Deep Condition: It is important to deep condition prior to installing your next protective style. Keep in mind what your hair is saying to you. I notice that after I take down braids or twists my hair is in desperate need of moisture rich deep conditioning treatments therefore I focus on replenishing the moisture that may have been stripped from the artificial hair. When I have had a sew in installed for a few weeks I like to do a protein/moisture balanced treatment for a few weeks as I find my hair is limp most often after a sew in has been removed. It takes an extra punch to rejuvenate and revive the life back into my hair.
3.Trim your ends (if needed): Before installing a protective style you should examine your ends or have them professionally examined if you choose not to cut your own hair. I don’t personally trim my hair every time I install a protective style but I do always analyze the life/health of my ends. It is also important to do so when taking down a protective style. It is pointless to hold on to ends that are fried and split. Its even more pointless and dangerous to keep installing protective styles with severely damaged ends. This may cause the shaft to split even further during the take down especially with sew in weaves, braids, and twists. Make sure your ends are in good shape, and moisturizing & sealing them before install is always a great idea!
4.Start With A Fresh Palette: This step is a bit controversial for some but there are always ways around it. You should always make sure your hair is cleansed before installing a new protective style. You should absolutely not install on dirty hair (that should be an obvious). I tend to have wash days on the weekends so I’m okay with installing a new protective style sometime during the week, but I get weary if too many days pass by because I feel that I have added too much product to just install a protective style and hide my hair for a few weeks. Personal preference of course. However the methods of cleansing are completely up to you. I’m not an avid shampooer therefore I believe co washing and using a no-poo method to clarify is perfectly fine such as an ACV rinse, baking soda, or bentonite clay. Some people believe shampoo is the only way to start off with a fresh start but that is a matter of discussion for another time.
5. Moisturize: After you have cleansed your hair you want to add a light moisturizing cream to your hair to make sure that it isn’t tucked away in a dry state. Since I like to install my protective styles a few days after wash day I usually just stick to a light leave in conditioner like Giovanni that isn’t going to make my hair heavy or leave any residue.
6. Choose what works best for you: Many times I see alot of naturalistas heading to Instagram or Youtube for protective styles which is perfectly fine because I do the same. However just because a style looks awesome on someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you, or be the best protective style for you. You have to take into consideration your life style, your hair , and the time you are willing to spend for upkeep. For example just speaking from personal experience I love love love box braids and marley twists they are my top two favorite protective styles and I love how they look on me. They dont take much up keep at all, but as a runner they do kind of get in the way when I go for my runs no matter how I tie them up. I also love crochet braids and dont interfere with my runs, but I get a bit bored sometimes because it is artificial hair and I can’t do many different things with it. I recently had a high maintenance natural hair sew in that looked amazing, but I only could keep it in for three weeks because it took too long to prepare in the morning before work, and at night before bed. These are some things you may want to think about before jumping into a protective style, especially one you haven’t tried before.
Good luck with your protective styling this winter ladies! How are you preparing and what are you planning on doing?