As someone who is somewhat lazy when it comes to regular hair maintenance, protective styling is my middle name. You can tell from the collage, that my hair has been through many phases and in-between all these phases, I used A LOT of protective styles. But I have managed to keep it healthy all these years, because I make sure I care for my hair before/during/after the protective styling.
Before we move forward, I feel like we should be in the same page on what a protective style is. Thirsty roots defines a protective style as “a style that tucks the ends of your hair away from being exposed to damaging agents such as sun, heat, and constant manipulation. Protecting hair is beneficial to all types of hair textures, relaxed, and natural.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The reason why we do this is to make our hair grow healthier and longer (if you want) and to reduce knotting, split ends, and damage.
One thing to keep in mind is that a large part of having healthy, long hair comes down to genetics. I think it’s important to get to YOUR own hair, not compare it to someone else’s length and texture, and love it as it is. I fell into that trap earlier but I’ve since been delivered lol, and now I love my hair (in all its forms) and honestly don’t take it seriously at all. So, that’s my advice to you. Just let it be!
Okay, let’s get back to business
There is no point in getting a “protective” style if you do not optimize hair health and growth while your strands are “resting”. That’s kinda the point. Since I am the only one who has touched my hair over the years, I’ve picked up some useful tips. So, whether you’re thinking of getting braids, locs, or sew-ins, I’ve got you!
I am going to split this into two main parts: (1) The prep: Before the style, and (2) Maintenance. You should also note that it’s advised that you let your hair rest for at least a week or two between protective styles.
The Prep: Before the style
After picking your hairstyle, the first thing you want to do is:
- Cleanse: preferable with a good sulphate-free cleansing shampoo. You want a clean slate with no product or scalp build up before you get your hair done.
NB: I’ve read/seen people do a rinse with apple cider vinegar to fully clean the scalp. And so far I’ve only heard good things, especially claims that it helps reduce itchiness and scalp flaking. I’ve personally never had to use it, but I think it’s worth looking into. Here are some of my favorite shampoos.
- Deep Condition + Protein Treatment: This is a great – and necessary – step for strengthening your hair strands. Overtime your hair loses some keratin, so this steps helps replenish that, especially after cleansing.
You could easily buy a protein-based deep conditioning product (link garnier) or use a homemade concoction mix of egg, honey, deep conditioner and olive oil. Just apply the product/mix, leave on for 30 minutes (or 15 minutes + heat) and then rinse it out properly.
- Blow outs: This is optional, depending on your style. If your style requires blowing out hair before. Use a leave-in and heat protectant before applying heat (especially for my naturalistas) and use a routine that works FOR YOU.
If you are going to a professional, please go to one that you know and trust to care for your tresses.
maintenance: While protective styling
Protective styling doesn’t mean abandoning your natural hair underneath. As a matter of fact, caring for your hair is THE POING of protective styling and is a huge part of maintaining the style.
- Clean. This can be a little difficult depending on your style. But using a spray bottle with a little shampoo and water mix will help to target the product onto your scalp, and the water will just flow down.
- Moisturize at least every other day. I suggest using a spray bottle containing a mix of leave-in conditioner and oils to lock in that moisture.
- Reduce Frizz by using/sleeping with a satin or silk-lined bonnet or pillowcase. I personally prefer pillowcases because I like my hair out when I sleep. This will help to reduce frizz and keep your protective style longer.
I prefer to keep things pretty simple, and I’ve found that keeping my routine and products minimal is the best way to keep your hair healthy. It always helps to keep smaller routines so you can give yourself a chance of maintaining them over time.
I hope you found this helpful, and if you’d like more questions answered like: do you HAVE to use protective styles, what types of styles are best, or anything else in detail, you may find this article helpful.
Stay safe. x