If you know me, or you’ve been following along with Trials N’ Tresses for some time you know that I am the self proclaimed queen of protective styling. At this point in my natural hair career I’d like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what I should and should not be doing when protective styling. However it is still quite possible and easy to get wrapped up in the beauty or convenience of a protective style and make poor protective styling mistakes that can cause some major damage. Let’s get started discussing the top 5 protective styling mistakes we have all made at some point in our natural hair journey, and hope to avoid making in the future.
Protective Styling Mistakes
1. Keeping style in too long
It seems sometimes that our protective styles can last forever and a day, however there are some serious repercussions that come along with keeping in your protective style for too long. The normal wear and tear of a protective style should fall safely between 2-8 weeks tops. Even if your style looks great by week 8, and you think you can push it for another 2-4 weeks, it is in your best interest to remove it within the 8 week time frame. This is one of the biggest protective styling mistakes us naturalistas make! Your hair will start to mat and loc, causing more damage and shed hair thus causing you to lose the new growth you have just gained and retained. Let us never forget the woman who kept her protective style in for 6 months and grew mold on her hair… Though that was a mix of WAY too much time protected, and poor drying methods… the 6 month time span was way above and beyond the healthy limit which caused her to have to start over from scratch.
2. Forgetting about your real hair
Many times we think we can just set it and forget it. I have been guilty of the same mistake (most recently when I had my faux locs in) even when I knew better. Sometimes it just happens, and it is a common misconception that braiding, twisting, or crocheting your hair away into a protective style means it is safe and sound & doesn’t need to be bothered with. False! Your protective style helps to hide your ends and decrease manipulation to increase length retention. It does not mean you can take a vacation from taking care of your hair underneath the protective style. It may be a less time constraining wash day, but you still need to make sure your hair is moisturized and your scalp is cleansed. After all your scalp is the basis of your healthy hair growth, if your scalp isn’t doing well then your hair growth will suffer.
3. Too tight/ too much tension
Oh my … I can’t even believe this mistake still has to be mentioned but I am still seeing and hearing the horror stories of women suffering from traction alopecia because, their protective style was installed way too tight causing too much stress/tension on the hair follicles. Not only will this cause immense amounts of shedding and breakage, this will also cause the hair to stop growing in those specific spots. The worst offending areas of the head are usually the nape and edges which are the most sensitive and difficult to grow back once they suffer damage. If you see white little pimples forming in a specific area that is your cue that that protective stele is installed too tightly, and must be removed immediately. Consistent headaches is another key thing to watch out for. If you notice four/five days you still have a headache because your hair feels tight like the first day it was installed… that is a clear sign you need to remove the protective style as well. Yes it is going to suck losing the time, money, and effort that went into the style but it is way better to preserve your hair for further styling, growth, and prevention of damage.
4. Too loose/ or too heavy
On the flip side protective styles that are too loose or heavy can also be damaging to the hair. If your protective style such as box braids, marley twists, or faux locs are installed too loosely they will be dangling/pulling on your hair the entire time of installation which is a major cause for concern and can also cause issues with the scalp. Same goes for giant sized twists or braids. Yes they do look awesome, but because of the addition of the extra hair you are putting extra weight (which can be awful for the neck as well) that may be too much for your natural hair to carry. With aded length comes in more hair which adds to the weight, so when adding in a protective style you want to make sure not to go too big or too long. Especially if you are trying to give your hair a break/rejuvenate it, you will be doing just the opposite in choosing a style that is too loose or heavy, no matter how great you think it looks.
5. Over use of Protection
This mistake many naturals make because they feel that keeping their hair in constant protective styles makes it more beneficial to length. It is important not to become length obsessesed but more so health and retention obsessed. You can grow as much hair as you’d like but if it is all breaking off before you can see the true fruits of your labor then what is the point. That is why it is important to give the protective styling a break every now and then. My personal opinion (as I am no where near a professional or expert) is to give yourself 2-3 weeks in between your major protective styles. If you have worn a style for several weeks, give your hair some time to breath. I give myself 2-3 weeks so I can cycle in 2-3 deep conditioning treatments in my weekly wash days. Once I fee that my hair has gotten a good amount of TLC to prepare itself for more hiding, that is when I install my next protective style. Plus it is important to realize and remember that protective styling can occur every day/frequently and doesnt have to incorporate the addition of hair. Constantly protective styling using additional hair without allowing your hair to breath in between can cause thinning and dryness. If you want to give your hair a break from the braids, weaves, or twists for a few weeks you can still protect by altering your styles with buns, mini twists, updos…etc. On our Youtube channel I provide two simply quick 5 minute protective styles that do not incorporate adding hair, and still allow your hair to breath while still being protected. If you are looking for a way to transform your short to medium length hair into a giant textured mega bun this tutorial may be for you. Or for a quick elegant roll tuck pin updo check out this 3 minute tutorial.
What protective styles have you had great success with and what did you do to make sure you avoided mistakes that would cause breakage? Share your thoughts below!
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