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by Adeola of The Mane Captain

“Want long hair? Try protective styling!” Many hair gurus would recommend this time and time again. But before you call up your stylist, you should know protective styling is not a 100% guaranteed path to long hair. Protective styling can be a hit or miss; it could also be beneficial or detrimental depending on the individual and/or style chosen.

So when is protective styling not protective?

1. You don’t take care of your hair while it’s being “protected”. 
I can say that the main reason MOST Black women wear synthetic hair is convenience.  Some women live by the mantra of: “I’d rather wear a wig or weave because I won’t have to deal with my hair for the next 3 months.” To that I say, I’m sorry but your hair still needs care (wash, deep condition, and moisturize) while it’s being protected.

2. Your REAL hair takes a back seat so your synthetic hair can shine. 
It’s not uncommon for women to purchase all sorts of products to help with the maintenance of their braids and weave and almost nothing for their own hair. They think as long as the weave or braids look okay, then their hair underneath is okay.

It’s important to acknowledge the weave on your head is not YOUR hair. The hair that’s growing out of your body should take precedence over what’s wrapped around it or what’s worn on top of it. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t wash, condition and moisturize your hair while it’s under a weave. The end result of failing to do this can result in dry and weak hair which will easily break off when the style is being taken down.

3. Your stylist trims the hair that’s sticking out of a braid (corn rows, singles, twists e.t.c) to give  your style a more polished look. 
Please DO NOT let your stylist do this to your hair! Instead, tell her to take her time to braid the hair so she won’t have to “fix it” later on. When your stylist trims the hair that’s sticking out, they’re actually giving you a messy haircut which might be noticeable after you take the style down. She’s also putting the aesthetics of your style over the health of your hair. To avoid this, you could stretch your hair out with African threading or do a blow-out so your hair is less frizzy and ready to be styled.

4. Your braids are too heavy. 
I still don’t understand why anyone would carry 20 pounds of hair on their head and think it’s stylish. When the hair is parted in very small sections and braided with a heavy piece of synthetic hair, your hair will end up being pulled from your scalp, thus resulting in bald spots.  Long box braids are okay if your hair is parted in large sections. If you must do long and chunky braids, I suggest you opt for lighter hair such as Marley hair.

5. Your braids are too tiny
Again, who needs a million braids? Personally, I’ve never found the style stylish, but quite frightening. Hair that is parted in very tiny sections and braided with a heavy braid can be easily pulled and uprooted each time the braid is manipulated and put into different styles. Additionally, depending on how long you keep the braids in and the amount of care you give your hair while it’s braided, it might be difficult to detangle the hair and remove build up when it’s time to take down the style.

6. Your braids are too tight
We all know the consequences of tight hairstyles, so I don’t need to elaborate on this.

7. You cut off your own hair when taking down your braid<

I still remember the time one of my sisters gave herself a messy haircut when she cut off her hair with the braid, with the hopes of reducing the time spent on loosening her braid. If you don’t know the length of your hair, it’s best to probably cut only a few inches of the braid off and spend the extra time loosening your hair. Besides, you saved a lot of time dealing with your hair during the weeks you had your hair put away. No need to be lazy 🙂

8. You have an impatient and ignorant Stylist
There is nothing more detrimental to the hair than an impatient and ignorant hair stylist who insists on combing dry coily hair with a fine tooth comb or thinks it’s ok to do a blow out on dry hair with the wrong tool and without a heat protectant. How about when they are so impatient with our coils that they would rip through the hair when parting and styling it only because we chose to wear our hair in its coily state?  To avoid any hair tragedy, it’s best to AVOID these type of hair stylists. And if you are visiting a stylist for the first time, (even with a reference from another natural) I recommend you stretch your hair before going so it’s easier and faster to work with.

9. You do the same style each time
While there’s no scientific proof for this, I’ve noticed that installing Ghana cornrows, box braids, million twists, and any other type of braided hairstyles every single time you style your hair can weaken the strandsCornrows don’t pull on the hair or weigh it down as much as single braids does, so its best to rotate between these types of hairstyles.

10. You keep the style in for way too long!
Hair kept in braids, particularly heavy and tiny ones for a long period of time will eventually be weakened and thus shed in chunks or even break. This is especially true when cleansing, conditioning and moisturizing is not performed whilst the hair was in braids. The length of time your hair can handle a protective style will vary from person to person. I have found that I achieve the greatest benefits with protective styling when my hair is left in braids no longer than 5 weeks. Anything after this time frame often results in excessive breakage regardless of me being diligent with cleansing and moisturizing.

Take Home Point
Whatever style you choose to protect your hair in, be sure to give your hair a break in between styles. These breaks will allow you to properly wash and deep condition your hair while it’s out and free. You’ll also be able to try out different hair care recipes, techniques, styles and products in your hair. Most importantly, it will allow you to get to know YOUR hair at its current length. It wouldn’t make sense to finally achieve your hair length goal and not know what to do with it.

What would you add to the list?

The Mane Captain is a blog run by Adeola, a Toronto based natural hair advocate who empowers women with the knowledge needed to take control of their hair. She also holds regular meet ups in and around Toronto where Naturals can network and support each other while on the journey. 

Adeola @ The Mane Captain

A Toronto based natural hair blogger. Born & half raised in Nigeria, and now currently residing in Canada. To keep busy, I frequent my local library where I go to borrow non fiction books, particularly personal and spiritual development books. I also organize Toronto natural hair events, attend meetup groups and I'm working hard to be a polyglot.

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50 Comments on "10 Reasons Your Protective Style is NOT Protecting Your Hair"

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Fabihan Khan

I’m thinking of getting a protective style done for now, mainly because its so hot, id rather have my hair braided so my scalp is exposed. i have 3a/3b hair so it will need hair ties as its not long enough too hold a braid on its own without being secured yet

Zzpop
Zzpop "The French Rebel Queen"

I take VERY good care of my natural hair and it is a past shoulder length, however my hair is extremely soft and tears easily no matter what I do. Protective styles used to work but now it seems like whether my hair is super soft and moisturized or dry and brittle, it breaks off. I have retained my normal length but I don’t see an growth.

TekSysta
I have experienced the same thing and it was very frustrating given all of my effort to take very good care of my hair. But, recently I discovered henna treatments and I’m amazed at the difference in the amount of hair that I see in the comb or the drain catcher when washing, handling, and styling my hair. The difference was so dramatic that I had to keep testing my hair to see if it was real. I make a henna tea that I got from Youtuber ‘Curly Proverbz’ and the results have been amazing. I have only used the… Read more »
EmpressZombie

Can you use this tea while your hair is in braids?

B Mishon Anderson Reed
B Mishon Anderson Reed

Apparently my comment about how protective styles DO work wasn’t “approved”

B Mishon Anderson Reed
B Mishon Anderson Reed
This is just funny to me… Protective styles DO work if done right. If you’re the idiot who cuts your own hair out taking braids down well you technically just gave yourself a trim that you probably needed ANY way lol I’ve had box braids for about 4 months (that I did myself & have re-do a few times) & my hair has grown alot. You CAN wash & moisturize your hair in a protective style, if you don’t that’s on YOU not your stylist. People fail to realize protective styles STILL required some maintenance. Sounds like somebody thought braids… Read more »
Nikki

Ummm not being smart but I think that was the point of the article…. telling what NOT to do to prevent your protective from benefiting you.
Basically saying protective styles work if done/cared for properly! You basically said the same thing the article said except she did it with a bit more tact and not insulting to those who may not know better.

Yaya

You are right! Protective styling Sucks big time. Thanks 4 pointing out the truth

Dami

Hi, I want to know if ghana cornrows look nice with yarn braids and for how long would you recommend I keep it in? Is it a good protective style for the winter period?
Also, which size of corn rows is better for protecting our edges? Thanks

Customer
These kinds of articles are a trip, like customers have any say in how stylists plan to damage thier hair. I wore braids, and only the person who did them the first time didn’t cut after the style was done – but on the flip side, she made them too heavy. I had the owner of a shop, after I complained about braids being too tight, say she only knows how to braid one way. Oh, and the shops that let you know they are not a braid shop – what does that mean?? Women are in an interesting pickle… Read more »
TriniMixChic
this was a great article, but i can say that it doesnt only apply to naturals, but to those of us with straightened hair who are either trying to give our hair a break or transitioning.for example i use half wigs that are similar to my naturally curly long locks,but i do neglect my own hair and focus so much on the half wig that by the time i decided to take better care of my hair underneath, my ends were dry, brittle and frayed.but im taking much better care of it now.coconut oil is my best friend when it… Read more »
PATRICIA ELSTON

my hair grows the best when its in braids, for some reason since i got out of the braids my hair grew some and it stopped or i haven’t noticed any growth especially the sides. I’m going back to braids then month on month off.

leigh

The article sounded a bit judgemental and a little too personal opinionated than just focusing on giving helpful advice. The information given here was still very helpful and informative however.

Reli

That’s exactly what I was thinking. While I appreciate the information the author gave I didn’t understand her need to throw shade at the way some people choose to wear their hair. It made the article less enjoyable, and if I wore one of those styles I’d have been offended.

Renee Smith

THANK YOU! I’ve been trying to tell people do not leave their hair in longer than a month! You real can get dirty no matter if you do wash it or not and the ends of hair become very dry. I only wear my hair for exactly 4 weeks then I take it out and it alone for two-three months.

Danay
I accidentally gave myself a little bit of a messy haircut last night, taking out my sew-in weave. I had a really stubborn thread knot that I tried to cut and ended up snipping a tiny chunk of hair. I realized that tiny chunk cost me a whole 2 inches of a curl once I took my braids out. At least it was just that one curl and not my whole head! It blended in with the rest of my hair and chose not to fret about it. On another note, I have found that I may not be able… Read more »
curlyBlue
I am still trying to understand the premise of protective styling. I wore braids last summer for about a month and a half and all I got out of that was a waste of money and time consuming. I did moisture my hair and oil my scalp but since I have LP hair I got tons of buildup and a smelly scalp. I tried wearing two strained twists for two weeks at a time within those two weeks the first week looked like the second week. The frizz it felt dry and dirty. So, what is the protective style protecting?… Read more »
more

U would like to know to. I use xpression hair first time but its heavy!!!!! I doubt my experience will be different from yours

SmilingFace

I know about cutting hair with extensions. I accidentally cut my sister’s real hair as I was taking out her weave. I couldn’t tell the difference! Thankfully, she didn’t see me do it and I quickly put the clump of hair in my pocket.
Even when someone else is doing the removal, it can be difficult to avoid cutting the real hair!

hair care

finally need to a good decision maker regarding our hair related issues and other things.

LaNyra

Loved this article! I find myself in this situation now and my hair just is not doing what it has done before with protective styling. Plus I’m in my “awkward” phase and have not found my style yet. This article was extremely helpful and I think I know what my mistakes are.

Erika

The images I posted were hands clapping.

Erika

On behalf of Healthy Hair Stylist everywhere THANK YOU! ????????????????????????????????

Shari_Danielle85

Great article! I’ve been doing protective styles with wigs as so I can maintain my hair underneath. & it’s been working out very well! I chose to do wigs because, personally, I HAVE to be able to wash, comb & run my fingers through my own hair…otherwise, I get very annoyed with an expensive hairstyle that will be taken out too soon. But that’s just me???? again, great article!
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stephanieb

I’ve been doing the same thing, and my hair has been doing great. I did BC in June of last year and now have several inches of hair and even a bald spot that has almost filled in, praise God!! I normally do cornrows under my wig, but not ones that are too tight.

Genia

I was getting flat twists for two months straight . Now I have a little spot in the middle of my head that I’m babying so it can grow back. It’s growing a little slow , but it’s growing. Any suggestions?

Adeola @ The Mane Captain

HI Genia, may be the flat twists were too tight? I recommend doing low manipulation styles such as twists with your hair only. And try to do those styles yourself. I recently noticed that my temple has been tender lately, so I can’t even have anyone touch my hair now.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. I have a few other posts on protective styling on my blog. you’re welcome to check them out.
themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

CoilyByNature

Excellent article. I think we just make the assumption that putting our hair up will make our hair grow. This is typical of many women I know. I used Ayurveda powders or Herbal Ayurveda Oils (especially Henna and Amla). Try http://www.KeraVada.com

CoilyByNature.com

lablooplah

i’m too lazy to protective style. I just wear ponytails lol (not tight ones) the ones where u stretch the band and it gives off the illusion of one huge, puffy, ponytail. my go-to style. never fails. can also turn into a bun, wear a hair band, bandana, front braid.

iluvedges

#8 is a problem

stephanieb

I totally agree, #8 is the reason why my hair broke off multiple times, due to the crappy, unknowledgable stylists that I went to. Thank God I have found a MUCH better stylist who knows alot about hair and truly doesn’t mind doing natural hair, unlike a lot of people.

Caramelcurls
I just took down senegalese twist that I had up about 6 weeks. I didn’t realize how heavy they were until I took them down! Thankfully my edges didn’t suffer. However when I had the twists installed the stylist washed and conditioned my hair and I had to stop her from trying to detangle it with a brush! I asked her to get a wide tooth comb and I proceeded to detangle it myself. She also used a fine tooth rat tail comb in each section prior to twisting it and I cringed when I heard the comb going through.… Read more »
Telaysha

I notice more breakage when I don’t protective style. As long as you keep your moisture/protein balance correct you shouldn’t have any problems. The key to braids, sew ins etc is the take down. That’s where most people lose hair if not done correctly.

Sophie
I’ve just learned how to do a good protective style that’s convenient and good for my hair. I used to get my hair braided by a lady my mom knows but when my hair got longer she got rougher with it and grumbled about it being “too thick” while she yanked a comb through it. I stopped getting it done for a while but in the winter with sweaters and scarves rubbing on my hair I was noticing some really serious breakage. I decided to do yarn twists on myself and I’m really happy with it! I spritz them every… Read more »
Laetitia

It’s true that when I m wearing protective style as braid i care less of my hair which underneath but I need to remerber myself still need the same care if they are out.
That’s why as well i dont keep my braids more than 3 weeks.

Tyler

Well, synthetic braids aren’t the only protective style. I’d say that keeping my hair in natural two-strand twists actually does protect it. If the article was titled “Why Your Synthetic Braids Aren’t a Protective Style” I would whole-heartedly agree with everything 🙂

Tyler
http://www.onelittleblackdress.com

Adeola @ The Mane Captain

Hi Tyler, I agree that protective styling with synthetic hair isnt the only type of protective styling that one can do. It’s just that most people tend to think of braided extensions and weaves as protective styling. Nevertheless, majority of the points can still be taken into consideration while your hair is twisted or braided up with only your hair.
Also, there’s a difference between low manipulation styles and protective styling. I guess that’s a post for another day.
themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

JazzWife
After reading this post, which I thought was well-written and helpful . . . to those who wear synthetic hair. It implies, through the omission of any other examples of protective styling, that the only protective styles are those with fake hair. So, I guess I would add that protective styles can include just one’s natural hair with no additional hair added. That would include braids, buns, and twists . . . anything creative styles with your ends tucked in. Many of the points included are terrific. It is a really good post . . . even though I don’t… Read more »
MsKat
Here’s one-don’t go to a braider of weaver who acts like they do not understand when you say either, “don’t braid it overly tight” or “that one is too tight”. I have slippery curly hair, and when I do my own individual braids, I put them in just tight enough to be neat and at the scalp, and they will last me 3 months, including shampoo, conditioner, and possibly a styling aid for maintenance-I went to a braider once (to treat myself), and I told her before she began not to do them overly tight-she tried to ignore me, until… Read more »
Brittany.L

These are all some good points when I last got Senegalese twist it was soooooo heavy like I can’t even explain she really took her time with my hair none of the parts were really big but I could not handle all that hair, and yes when she started cutting the messy hair I was like it’s ok lol

Check out http://www.curlskinksfashion.com for Fashion & natural hair all in one!!!

Jasmine

How about 3 months? I am getting senegalese twist tomorrow and I thought about keeping the in for about 2 months at least..

Tee
Nice article! I love point #1. Before I learned healthy hair practices I would keep my styles in for weeks and not wash my hair because I wanted to preserve the style. *SMH* All the while my hair was a dry and scalp clogged mess underneath. I don’t believe that our hair needs breaks and that it has to be styled differently to prevent breakage. As long as you are taking care of your hair and not pulling it to tight, you can wear the same style parted the same way over and over again. I think that the notion… Read more »
Ugonna Wosu

how is switching it up taking a break?

Protective styling is taking a break, because it keeps your hands out of your hair and hides it from the elements, and this has worked on MANY women including myself. Just because it doesn’t work on you doesn’t mean its a “myth”.

Tee
Hi Ugonna! Thanks for commenting. I agree with you regarding protective styling and I probably could have worded my comment more clearly. I was referring to the reasoning that we have to switch up our protective styles, change direction of our parts for protective styles, rotate styles, or take a break from protective styling in order to PREVENT BREAKAGE. Some of what I commented on the author touched on but most of my response was in regards to what has been said over the years about hair care. Before I made my statement about it being a myth I put… Read more »
Tee

*too

Margaret

I would say its important to take into consideration the density and thickness of your hair when deciding on a protective style. I have fine hair which means a weak hairline so I modified some of my favourite hairstyles (I crochet all braids i.e. Micro braids, box braids and twists) and stear clear of others e.g. ghana braids.

Tracienatural
I really enjoyed this article. I’m currently growing my hair out with kinky twists as a protective style. I’m guilty of doing the same style too often. But since I do them myself, I try change up the size of the parts every now and again. I also take care of my hair as if the twists were my own hair. So, I use the LOC method 1-2x/day, wash and deep condition weekly, etc. I did get some breakage a few months ago, but I think it was because I tried diamond parting; won’t be doing that again.
Ugonna Wosu

Also, your style may be too tight, overcomplicated, or redone too often, all of which defeat the purpose of protecting and giving your hair a break.

Miss Elisa K.

I agree and I noticed all of this when I used to get braids. And that was over 5 years ago when I would get them regularly. My edges aren’t non-existent but I can tell they are weaker than the rest of my hair. I would say take time and do your own protective styling, go easy on yourself not to have a heavy hand, and be sensitive to how you know your hair behaves on a daily.

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