The vast majority of us Black women, whether natural or relaxed LOVE a good protective style.I'm talking about wigs, sew-ins, box braids, feed-in braids, crochet braids, faux locs, senegalese, mini twists and etc! They provide a much needed break fthe rom daily/weekly manipulation, along with helping to "speed" up the growth process. I say that it quotations because it only seems like its growing faster because you're notlooking at your hair every day. It's tucked away and hidden. A watched pot never boils y'all.
Let me tell you this though, as beautiful as protective styles are, it's NOT a protective style if your hair is being ignored honey, here are six reasons as proof.
It's not a Protective Style If:
1. You neglect your strands and scalp.
Protective styles are meant to give you a break but they are by no means a reason to ignore the needs of your hair and scalp. That is not protective, or a healthy hair habit. Blocked/clogged follicles on your scalp from irregular cleansing and product build-up only lead to more problems such as dry hair and dandruff. It's necessary to continue a maintenenace schedule close to, if not the same type of care that you would use on your loose hair. All you would need to do is just modify it to suit your style. If you're not a fan of shampooing your hair with long extensions in then opting for a liquid dry shampoo is your next option. Also make sure your hair and scalp are being nourished properly, use some sort of braid spray, leave-in conditioner spray and scalp oil. (If you're unsure of which to purchase, check out my Ultimate Hair Product Guide!)
2. Your hair is drier than the Sahara Desert.
African-American hair thrives on moisture. I mean thrives, your hair is a plant and it needs water to grow. It loves being thoroughly and properly nourished from the inside and the outside. Remember, you aren't doing a thing to moisturize your hair if you are just dousing water or a water based product on without sealing. SEAL SEAL SEAL. That is key in a proper hair care regimen. You might have heard of the LCO/LOC Method. Well I like to take that a step further.
Liquid: Always start with some for of liquid leave-in conditioner. Liquid leave-in conditioners are ones that have a base of water, aloe vera juice, some sort of hair milk, rose water or etc. (It should always be the first ingredient, if not the second).
Oil: Instead of just choosing any old oil here, I recommend to choose a PENETRATING oil. This is an oil with lipids molecules small enough to penetrate your cuticle layer of your hair strand to feed your hair from the inside out.
Cream: This is where you would bust out that butter! You also can just opt for a hair lotion or cream. This all depends on your Hair's Personality. If you hair happens to fall in the super dry category apply a lotion and then applying an oil lotion works wonders.
3. When you take down the protective style, you hear strands popping left and right.
This is a tell-tale sign that your hair was more than likely either not properly taken care of while in a protective style or not completely detangled and stretched before installation. Your hair should not so dry to the point that you hear it snapping off when you are in the process of removing a style. It's also important to detangle and stretch your hair prior to installing a protective style. If by chance you do end up in this situation, apply conditioner or an oil first and then remove your protective. This is doing double duty because that oil or conditioner can serve as a prepoo. Which if your hair is that dry, trust me you'll need it.
4. Your hair looks dull and sad.
Lack of sheen and shine? Your hair is literally crying for attention, although our hair falls more into a sheen category than a shine category. When you notice your hair looking dull and lackluster, there may be some aspect of your regimen that you might need to tweak. Properly moisturized hair has a sheen, a bounce/spring to it, and is soft to the touch. Dry hair has a tendency to be dry, rough, brittle and not as reflective. This is why proper moisturization and hydration is so important while you have your hair tucked away.
5. It's been longer than a "normal" timeframe.
No protective style should really stay in longer than a few weeks to two months. At most the longest should be three months and that's if you follow a proper cleansing and hydration maintenance schedule. The length of time for protective styles is also sometimes dependent on your hair type and style that is being installed. Take for instance, mini twists on hair that is kinkier than most. Those mini twists(when done without additional extension hair) should not be kept in much longer than one month. Kinky hair is the perfect condition for locing, which unless this is your aim, you may want to avoid. Sew-ins are another style that can sometimes be installed way (keyword WAY) too long past their expiration date. In the most severe cases, this neglect has led to infections and hair loss due to unhealthy and dirty scalp conditions.
6. Your strands/ends are rough and ragged to the touch.
When a protective style is removed your hair should still be moisturized with ends are not splitting or knotting, or overly dry. Caring for your hair while it's in the protective style is so important. One way that a protective style helps you to retain growth is by protecting your ends. Your ends are the most fragile part of your hair and extra TLC should go towards maintaining them. Removing a protective style and discovering brittle, splitting and worn ends is a no-no. When the ends of are hair are visibly a lighter color and "see though" that indicates the are worn down. Now it is definitely time for a trim. Keep in mind trimming before long term protective styles is a great way to maintain your hair health.
Remember these 4 things when you're wearing
your hair in protective style
1. Scalp Nourishment - a light oil to feed your scalp and a scalp massage will do wonders for your growth while it's tucked away.
2. Hydration - Have a daily moisturizing spray on deck to keep your hair well hydrated. (Following with a light lotion or cream is great!)
3. Cleansing - Diluted shampoo in an applicator bottle, normal shampooing or a liquid dry shampoo. Your choice, but make sure you are cleansing to avoid product build-up clogging your scalp.
4.Conditioning - Following your cleansing with a conditioning spray or cream is a great way to maintain Healthy Hair Habits. You can condition with a rinse-off conditioner, or use a heavy duty leave-in conditioner. Don't forget to moisturize and seal afterwards!
So, next time you are thinking about a protective style, remember
it's not a protective style if you or your hair fall into any of those 6 categories listed above!
Go forth and flourish curlfriend!