6 Signs That It’s Time to Take Down Your Protective Style


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 Urbanbushbabes.com, 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

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, 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 thoughts on “6 Signs That It’s Time to Take Down Your Protective Style

  1. 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”

  2. 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.

      • Thank you so much! I’ll be sure to try this time span. I tried to keep my hair twisted or braided 6 weeks at a time, and that was too much. I even tried to lessen it to 5, and that was still too much. 3 weeks sounds accurate for when I start to notice the symptoms listed in this article.

    • 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 weekly washes) but that’s pushing it; 3 weeks is safer. I’m currently challenging myself to keep this current set in until Labor Day, redoing (one twist at a time, not the whole head) every 3 weeks.

    • 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 :)

  3. 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!!!

  4. 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 will definitely not wear them for longer than 3 weeks. When I took down my last set, I noticed slight dirt accumulation.

  5. 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 don’t have a problem with tangled roots, broken ends or matting. And I don’t mind “fuzz” but I re-braid the edges after three weeks.
    Hope that helps,

  6. 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 if you have very porous hair but I think protective styling may not be good for low porosity hair. Our hair stays wet longer after applying moisturizers which can over soften it once it is tucked away and cause the strands to be too moist and weak. Plus our hair holds onto moisture really well if we can effectively get the moisture into our hair in the first place, so tucking it away could easily over do how much our hair needs. It would be like over conditioning. That was my experience anyway and it is worth saying so that other ppl are aware.

  7. 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 time I have been reading :)

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