BGLH Gallery Mem­ber Khy­la

The key to effec­tive pro­tec­tive styling is hav­ing the patience to keep a style in for an extend­ed peri­od of time. But it’s just as impor­tant to know when to take it down. Here are 6 signs that you’re due for a re-set:

1. Your ends are snap­ping. The objec­tive of pro­tec­tive styling is to pre­serve your ends, so if they start break­ing you are defeat­ing the pur­pose. Ends break­age typ­i­cal­ly hap­pens when your pro­tec­tive style is too dry. Try pulling light­ly on your twists or braids from root to tip. If there are bro­ken ends in your hands, then it’s time for a re-do. Note: If you are wear­ing a corn­rowed or flat twist updo style, your are par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to ends break­age, as most of the hair is hid­den and tucked away, and can’t be prop­er­ly mois­tur­ized by a spritz.

2. Your hair is tan­gling. Your hair is con­stant­ly shed­ding and those detached hairs can some­times get tan­gled with oth­ers and lead to mat­ting, tan­gling and shed­ding. Feel your pro­tec­tive style for any bumps or incon­sis­ten­cy — that could be a sign of a clump of tangled/shed hair. Note: Tan­gles due to shed hair typ­i­cal­ly hap­pen clos­er to your ends. 

3. You no longer feel good about the way the style looks. The length retention/protective styling jour­ney can be a chal­leng­ing one. It takes focus and dis­ci­pline, so it’s impor­tant that you keep your­self moti­vat­ed. If you are hang­ing on to a style that is no longer attrac­tive for the sake of reten­tion, you are mak­ing an already chal­leng­ing jour­ney more dif­fi­cult. If pos­si­ble, try re-doing your edges to get them crisp again. But if you are rock­ing a style, like a bun or cornrow/twist updo that can’t be par­tial­ly re-done, just let it go. Feel­ing bad about the way you look for the sake of length reten­tion is not worth it. Note: A lit­tle fuzzi­ness does not mean a style is unat­trac­tive. It is impor­tant for long-term pro­tec­tive stylers to learn how to tol­er­ate a lit­tle fuzz. 

4. The style is not retain­ing mois­ture. Nat­ur­al hair needs immer­sion in water to be prop­er­ly mois­tur­ized, and spritz­ing can only do so much. If you are sleep­ing with a satin bon­net, and spritz­ing reg­u­lar­ly but your style still feels dry, then you need a re-boot. If your twists or braids can tol­er­ate a week­ly or bi-week­ly deep con­di­tion, incor­po­rate that into your pro­tec­tive styling reg­i­men. But if you’re wear­ing a style that can’t be immersed in water with­out being ruined, you’ll need a re-boot. Note: Lack of mois­ture leads to break­age. So no mois­ture, no length.

5. Your roots are tan­gled. It’s excit­ing to feel your roots get­ting loos­er as the new growth comes in, but keep in mind that the new growth is com­ing in tan­gled. If your roots have grown out in excess of a half inch, you might con­sid­er tak­ing your style down so you can detan­gle the new growth.

6. You can see lint and feel prod­uct buildup. Lint accu­mu­la­tion typ­i­cal­ly hap­pens around the nape, or wher­ev­er your strands are finest. And prod­uct buildup can pre­vent prop­er mois­tur­iza­tion. Both things lead to mat­ting and tan­gling. If your style can tol­er­ate it, try incor­po­rat­ing a week­ly or bi-week­ly cleanse into your pro­tec­tive styling reg­i­men. Oth­er­wise, take the style down.

So how long is too long?
As with most things relat­ed to nat­ur­al hair care, it varies from per­son to per­son. But many ‘pro­tec­tive styling gurus’ like Cipri­ana of, do so for one month at a time. ‘Extreme pro­tec­tive styling’ gurus like Chin­we of Hair and Health and Domineque of Long­Hair­Dont­Care2011 keep pro­tec­tive styles in for months at a time, but do styles like box braids and twists that are good for long stretch­es. They also reg­u­lar­ly re-braid or re-twist their edges. The six fac­tors above come most into play beyond the 1 month mark, so if you plan on keep­ing a style in for longer than that, make sure you have a game plan.

For more on pro­tec­tive styling, check out these links.

Ladies, how do you know it’s time to take down your pro­tec­tive style?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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12 Comments on "6 Signs That It’s Time to Take Down Your Protective Style"

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I used to keep my weaves in for 3months at a time, I would notice alot of hair growth but a ton of mesh­ing and shed­ding prob­a­bly break­age. Being lazy I nev­er realised it was because my hair need­ed to be tidied up and low den­si­ty and tex­ture might’ve had a part to play. I have kept twist in for a week max my hair is fine 4c cur­rent rep is sin­gle twists that i wear up but I would like to try a dif­fer­ent styles. Thanks for the info I love this blog I have learnt so much in the short… Read more »
I guess every­one is dif­fer­ent. I might have loose curls but my hair is dry and very long and my hair is much health­i­er when I just leave it loose and free. If I start braid­ing it up I get scalp itch­ing, shed­ding, split ends, and break­age. If I wear buns I get break­age too. I think ppl need to assess whether this is nec­es­sary for their hair growth before jump­ing into it, espe­cial­ly when a lot of these styles look tight and itchy. My hair just grows. Isn’t that what hair does? Maybe this would be hard­er to do… Read more »

My hair gets super frizzy and extra dry in 2 weeks of nat­ur­al mini twist 3 weeks is real­ly push­ing it.

My hair is basi­cal­ly per­ma­nent­ly in box braids (with exten­sions) which I redo every four to six weeks (eight max). To avoid flakes and lint, I wash week­ly with dilut­ed sham­poo (just the roots). It helps to add a cou­ple drops of tea tree oil which keeps flakes away longer. This also helps remove prod­uct buildup and lets the hair look fresh­er, in my opin­ion. To retain mois­ture, I spray dai­ly with a mix­ture of water, leave-in con­di­tion­er (Gio­van­ni or Kinky­Curly), glyc­erin and a few drops of essen­tial oil. My hair always feels super soft in the take-down. Oth­er­wise, I… Read more »
I am wear­ing Havana/marley twists (that I do myself)and I recent­ly redid my twists after three weeks in order to get a good wash and deep con­di­tion. I’m still decid­ing whether I want to do two weeks or three between refresh­es. By two weeks, I begin to get self con­scious about the fuzzi­ness, but I am able to push it to three if I’m busy. I also want­ed to alter­nate between deep con­di­tion­ers and light pro­tein treat­ments every two weeks. Espe­cial­ly since I plan on wear­ing twists for a while. I will like­ly just go with how I feel. I… Read more »

This came just in time,I’ve kept my sene­galese twists in for way too long,9 weeks to be exact *hides*

I’ll take them out this week­end!!!


Does any­one have any rec­om­men­da­tions on how long to keep in a pro­tec­tive style for fine or porous hair? We all know fine hair mats up/ tan­gles much eas­i­er than oth­er tex­tures.


I have fine hair and I man­age to keep braids in for sev­er­al months. It just requires a lit­tle reg­u­lar upkeep. I put the braids in, then after 2/3 weeks, I start redo­ing the braids. I’ll just take down and re-do 3 or 4 braids a day for a week or so until they’re all re-done. And then I’ll do it again a few weeks lat­er. That allows me to keep braids for 3–4 months at a time :)

For me and my fine strands, mini-rope twists have been a great com­pro­mise between reg­u­lar twists and braids. I can’t wet reg­u­lar twists at all unless I want them to mesh. (That’s why, when I decid­ed to loc back in the day, I start­ed with reg­u­lar twists and wet them every day for over a year.) Braids can be washed but they’re hell to put in and triple-hell to take out. Mini-rope twists still take a long time to put in but I can wash them with­out (too much) mesh­ing. I’ve been able to wear them up to 4 weeks (with… Read more »

When I start to see flakes I know it’s time to refresh my edges or hair over­all. This is a great arti­cle!

And I love this part, “A lit­tle fuzzi­ness does not mean a style is unat­trac­tive. It is impor­tant for long-term pro­tec­tive stylers to learn how to tol­er­ate a lit­tle fuzz”