5 Errors that Can Cause Breakage in Protective Styles

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By Cipriana of Urbanbushbabes.com

Protective styling has been my saving grace and my genie in a bottle for retaining length in the 5 years I have been natural, but like anything in life, good can be used for evil. Ok, maybe that is a little dramatic but you get what I mean. With all the advantages that protective styling brings, the disadvantages can be just as potent! Here are five huge mistakes to avoid when it comes to protective styling.

1. Excessive Manipulation

Trying to achieve the frizz free twist and braid by re-twisting/braiding every day or every other day simply defeats the purpose of protective styling. If you are finding it hard to like your twists or braids after 2-3 days and your hair is at least medium length, a loose updo style such as a bun or french twists may work better for you versus braids or twists, since the latter cause much more manipulation to redo every couple of days.

2. Too Much Protection

As the saying goes “too much of a good thing is bad”. This could not ring more true when it comes to protective styling. Leaving your protective style in for too long can wreak havoc on your strands. Not only is more time and patience required for detangling, detangling also becomes more difficult because of the accumulation of shed hair and buildup.

3. Neglect

Sometimes people forget that protection is nothing without upkeep. Making sure your hair is moisturized with water, you are keeping scalp/hair buildup at a minimum and sealing in moisture. These preventative measures help retain length and keep breakage at bay.

4. Tension Overload

Something as simple as pulling your hair too tight with hair bands can cause breakage. Excessive pulling on the roots while putting in a protective style can cause temporary to irreparable damage like traction alopecia. Also watch the amount of human or synthetic hair you are adding to your hair if braiding or twisting. Too much bulk creates tension that can cause breakage to your edges and other areas.

5. Size Does Matter

When it comes to braids and twists left to idle for an extended amount of time, size most certainly matters! The smaller the braid or twist the easier it is for the strands to tangle in smaller sections, leading to faster locing and buildup accumulation. If you’re planning on rocking a protective style for a couple of months, be sure to stick with medium sized or large braids or twists. It will have you praising the heavens above when it comes to detangling time.

Ladies, what errors do you try to avoid when protective styling?

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23 thoughts on “5 Errors that Can Cause Breakage in Protective Styles

  1. #2 is the big one I try to avoid. Protective styles that are left in too long result in locking/meshing for me. Thus, when I take down the style, breakage can occur. It then defeats the purpose of “protective” styling.

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  2. Am too lazy for #1 and i have to wash my hair atleast once a week or my scalp will wreak havoc so #2 is out the way….i think i do more of #3….i guess i didnt think it was necessary since my hair usually feel dehydrated 1-2 days before my wash day….i usually just spritz my hair when feels that way but i never seal again only be cuz i dont feel like oil the ends of all 30-40 twists >_> lol good info tho and ill def keep that in mind

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  3. Off topic but I curious
    Is twist and braids consider protective style even without extensions? Because the ends aren’t protected. Wouldn’t the extension free version be consider low manipulation styles because once they styled you don’t really have to do restyle them for a while?

    More thing what do people really consider low manipulation? Because I almost certain out that braids and twists (and newly introduced, but classic African Threading) are take the most time and manipulation of the hair than any other then any other way of styling natural hair, really what else really takes longer then those type of styles? (No really, I am genuinely asking these questions out curiosity and clarification)

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    • wow messed up the last paragraph, lets try this again shall we.

      One more thing, what do people really consider low manipulation style? Because I am almost certain that braids and twists (and newly introduced, but classic African Threading) take the most time and manipulation than any other way of styling natural hair. Really what else really takes longer then Twist, Braids, and African Threading? (No really, I am genuinely asking these questions out curiosity and clarification)

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      • I think its because once your hair is styled in twists or braids (and assuming you dont braid/twist out then re twist every day) its low manipulation because the day you styled is the only time you would really be manipulating your hair until your next wash day. Like for me my twists lasts a week so thats one week of not touching my hair other than spritzing when it gets dry

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      • i think how many twists/plaits/braids you put your hair into matter as well. i redo my plaits in the morning every other day because i don’t put that many in to start with. if you’re only doing four big plaits or twists just to give your hair shape, you probly aren’t losing that much hair, maybe just one broken hair, maybe two? at least for me. i don’t put 16-24 or even more than about ten in because that would take me too much time and i’m very much lo-manip.

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    • I consider twists and braids to be low manipulation, but if you style the braids or twists with the ends hidden (like a bun) then it is also a protective style. Even though braids and twists may take longer to complete, if you leave them in for a few days or longer then it prevents unnecessary manipulation and breakage.

      I know for me personally, finger detangling and twisting my hair into about 16-24 twists (depending on how tired I feel) takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Even though it takes that long to do them, it saves me time in the long run because I just spritz with water at night and then do a five minute style in the morning. Before I started twisting I would have to moisturize and twist my hair every night, then in the morning take the twists out and style (my night and morning routine took about 45 minutes combined). Also the finger detangling has prevented unnecessary breakage that I experience with a comb.

      So I guess it depends on the person, but for me, I experience less breakage.

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  4. i currently have medium sized box braids but im more worried about taking them down when the time comes. i would love to see an article on natural hair post-braids so i know if im detangling/washing/trimming it right after such a long time braided up.

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  5. What about keeping your hair in a protective for a week or so? Then taking it down and washing it? Is that too long? Also, I am one of those folks who sees fuzz after the second day of wearing my hair in twist. After day 6, when I go to wash my hair, I see a lot of shedding. Am I damaging my hair? Should I take my hair down as soon as I see fuzz to protect it from damage?

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  6. I have fine hair that’s a little more wavy than tightly curled, so twists and twists don’t look good on me all the time. Right now my protective style is my hair parted down the middle and braided in two, with the braids pinned up. It looks good enough with my big earrings, lol. I don’t care too much for extensions, and I wash/condition once a week.

    But I’m curious what other women with hair like mine do for protective styling. So if anyone with hair similar to mine is reading this, what do you do? Which protective styles do you prefer?

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    • My hair is like yours, but I never realized it until recently. I always thought my hair was thick just because of how poofy and big it would get when in the humidity or when blown dry. But I can not wear my own hair in twists or braids as a protective style because I really see how fine my hair looks. They make me look bald, like the twists show more scalp than hair. : (

      So, my “go to” protective style is definitely a wide series of updos. Now I don’t know where ppl get the idea that protective styles are boring and that you are limited to a puff, a bun, or some granny-looking french roll twist.

      My updos are inventive, unique, maybe sometimes classic, but hardly ever boring. I always start out with either a fresh or an old twist out and I have my large bobby pins ready. Then you just start grabbing sections of hair, rolling and tucking and pinning as you go! It is a very fun experience and it always comes out different every time. I leave these styles in from 3-4 days and then take them out to moisturize and put it in another updo for the rest of the week.

      Have fun and just experience. I don’t know how long your hair is, but I am sure you can find some styles that work for you. You would be amazed at what a handful of bobby pins and some hair bands can do! Good luck

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      • Know what CurvyCurlyGirl? I shall try your suggestions, thank you!

        I’d love to see some pictures of your styles, I hope you’ll post some sometime.

        :)

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        • my looser textures do not like to stay twisted and they tend to look scalpy especially since my hair is short. I also feel limited because of my length (not yet long enough to bun). Most twisted updos i see that i can achieve with my length are not my style. There are others that, no matter how many times i try them, do not come out a success. I’ve spent countless hours during the week trying to do protective styles to cut down on manipulation, because I can tell that it is taking a toll on my hair. none of them turn out right so i, basically, wasted time that I could have spent doing school work or studying. I just recently did a twisted updo that I got from a youtuber, simplyounique, that I kind of like and is holding up well until i get my micro braids next weekend. Just know that u are def not alone. I am getting very frustrated with my hair right now so i am about to give my hair and myself a break for a minute so I can focus on school.

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    • I wear a bun. I have really fine, long hair and the key to wearing a bun is as follows:

      1. Use good judgment. If your bun feels tight or hurting at all, you need to adjust it.

      2. Sometimes wear a high bun, sometimes wear a low bun.

      3. Use gentle bobby pins to secure your hair and be gentle when inserting them.

      4. Make sure your hair is moisturized. Now that I use glycerin and wear a bun, I don’t have to moisturize my hair constantly to no avail. You don’t want to over moisturize because that can cause weak hair and breakage.

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    • idk i usually give mine a break in between. plus i’m usually too lazy to put them in again rt after taking them down. depends on how healthy/resistent your hair is. mine i don’t think could take that too well but yours maybe could

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  7. I found number 1 to be interesting…I braid and seal my hair every night, to prevent tangling and to protect my ends. The braids are medium sized and loose, so hopefully my “routine” is still ok. If I’m wrong let me know, open to suggestions:)

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  8. I wear protective styles all the time and wash once a week. When I’m going out I add moisture like a leave in conditioner (spray) and hair lotion. Is there anything else I should be doing? Ive seen people talk about spraying water, does the leave in take the place of that or should I use water as well? Everyday? Thanks :)

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  9. Well my hair is so fine and soft I think I have to give up on protective styling all together. I have never seen so much breakage and midshaft splitting and I wear hair friendly accessories, like silk scrunchies and clips. I have finally decided today to let my hair loose because it seems like every day I am dusting out midshaft splits, then they look like they are fairly gone. I put my hair up in a loose bun to “protect” it and when I take it down I see new ones. I think that with all the conditioner my hair needs that adds an extra coating of softness to my hair which makes it easily break when it is even loosely twisted or turned. Especially right now.

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  10. Love your tips – practical and accurate! I think this also serves as an eye-opener because most people do not pay too much attention to whether they are getting their protective styling done.

    If you or your readers are interested, we got more practical hair care tips at http://www.myhaircare.com.au/blog. Hope to see you there!

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  11. I get my hair plaited with extensions now that i’m 9 months post relaxer, i keep my braids in for a minimum of 2 months but make sure my hair gets at least 2 months breather when i take them out. To me braids are low manipulation, and i get them done because i was manipulating my hair way too much, which is not good for transitioning hair which is weak. And twist outs lead to soo many knots. But i’ve never had any problem with breakage or hair loss, probably coz i never tie my hair up when having braids in.

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  12. Whooo reason #1 gave me so much trouble last year! I decided to wear a flat twist updo for about a month last summer (summer school at 8 a.m. to 12 then work right after. Who has time to do hair??)

    Rather than leave my hair alone, I re-twisted it EVERY morning, to achieve that “just finished” look. Imagine doing this for 2 months ladies….

    Once August came, my hair was so brittle, so dry, and so ugly. I’ve never seen so many split ends before in my life.

    I wish I read this article before attempting my old style!

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