By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
Long term protective styles which are kept in place for several weeks are excellent for promoting hair growth retention. After keeping a style for that long, the horror story is to end up having a difficult time taking down the style and ending up with hair on the floor rather than on your head. Here are my tips on how to minimise breakage from long term protective styles and keep the hair that you worked hard to retain.
1. Know your limits: Do not keep the style for too long
Depending on your hair texture (whether it is kinky or curly or both , whether individual strands tend to mesh or not, whether your strands are fine or average or thick, whether your hair shrinks when washed or not), you will have a limit as to how long you can keep the protective style. For most textures this is 2-4 weeks for twists or cornrows, it is important to remember that the hair is not as tightly compacted with twists and therefore if your hair tends to mesh , it is important not to keep the style for overly long especially if you are regularly wetting the hair. For braids this can extend to 8 weeks depending on the hair texture (kinky hair usually handles braids better), braid size (small braids usually last longer than thicker ones), installation and care for the hair around the perimeter (redoing the perimeter every 2-3 weeks is usually advised).
2. Condition your hair before the take down
Most naturals tend to wait to take down the protective style before giving hair a proper wash and condition. My tip is to do this on the day before the takedown. If you normally condition your hair for 10-20 minutes, then try to go for 20 minutes. If you like to deep condition with heat, then do so. The reason for conditioning prior to taking down is to essentially use the hair conditioner to soften hair and add moisture to it. The day immediately after conditioning, hair will be flexible but strong as it will be moisturised but not wet. It will also have deposits on the surface from the conditioner which soften the strands which further allow them to bend easily. Hair is therefore in the most ideal state to resist breakage from the comb stabbing at the braid/twist and also any stretching and pulling. You can wash and condition your hair again once the style has been taken down especially if you have smaller twists or braids and may therefore not have accessed your scalp properly.
3. Unravel rather than comb
You can use a rat tail comb to undo your protective style but if your twists or braids were properly installed it is often much kinder and gentler to unravel your hair. In a good installation the two strands that are wrapped around each to make a twist or the three strands for braiding are kept separate without needing to feed some hair from one into the other . This minimises meshing of hair which can be further aggravated by washing and shrinkage of the protective style. If you find yourself needing to use a rat tail comb quite often beyond 2 inches of your ends (often it is hard to avoid meshing at the very end), you should consider practising and perfecting your installation technique.
4. The usual suspects
Slip is essential especially at the ends of twists or braids. Use whatever is your favourite product which will allow your hair to feel slippery and let strands glide past each other . This can be oil, leave in conditioner, diluted rinse out conditioner, spray bottle with water and oil or a concoction of your choice.
Ladies, do you lose hair when taking down long-term styles? How do you deal?