The nights are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler and that means it is protective style season. Protective styling is a great way to retain length since you are not manipulating your hair, but can also cause hair damage if done incorrectly. I usually do protective styles for vacations, but as you know 2020 hasn’t been the best year for international travel. If you’re doing a natural hair protective style challenge this fall or winter or are not sure how to prepare your hair for a protective style, keep on reading.
What is a Protective Style?
A protective style is any hairstyle that minimizes manipulation and usually keeps ends moisturized and tucked away. Since it gives your hair a break, protective styles are a great way to retain length. One of the most popular protective styles is box braids which can be styled in various lengths from short to long or sizes from micro to jumbo. The good thing about protective styles is you have the choice to style them with or without adding synthetic hair. Protective styles include but are not limited to braids, twists, buns, Bantu knots, crochet braids, weaves, and faux locs.
How to Prep Hair for Braids
Can you believe I haven’t done braids since doing bob box braids for my trip to Iceland? Since they cause less tension to your hair avoid alopecia and are easier to manipulate, I decided to do knotless box braids this time around. If you’re wondering what to do before getting box braids or any other protective style, here are four easy steps to follow.
Wash Your Hair
Whether you’re going to a professional or doing it yourself at home, the first thing you should do before applying a protective style is to wash and condition your hair. Use a clarifying shampoo to remove any dirt and product buildup that might have accumulated from previous styles. Below are some of my favorite sulfate-free clarifying shampoos for kinky natural hair.
Apply a Deep Treatment
The second step to preparing your hair for a protective style is to apply a deep conditioner or protein treatment. Applying a protein treatment before braids will help strengthen your hair to avoid breakage while a deep conditioner will help your hair retain moisture. Cover your hair with a plastic cap (or plastic bag) for 15-20 minutes and rinse out completely when you’re done. Here are recommendations of deep treatments that add a protein and moisture balance.
Moisturize and Seal
After applying a deep treatment, make sure to add the moisture back to your hair. When styling your hair in a protective style, adding synthetic hair will cause your hair to dry out faster. Moisturizing with a cream or butter and sealing with oil will help you retain that moisture. If you have low porosity hair, you may want to do the L.C.O. (leave-in, cream, oil) method instead of the L.O.C. (leave-in, oil, cream) method since your hair absorbs less liquid.
Stretch Your Hair
The last step to prep your hair for braids or any other protective style is to stretch your hair. If you’re using synthetic hair for braids or twists, use a heat protectant and blow dryer to stretch your hair. This will help make the installation easier. You can also stretch your hair without heat using braids, twists, banding, and other methods. If you notice your hair needs a trim, make sure to do it before applying the protective style. There is no need to blow dry your hair before braiding your hair for crochet braids or a wig unless you plan to have a leave-out.
Those are my tips to prepare your hair for a protective style in four simple steps. If you’re looking for a method to help with length retention or just don’t have the time to do your natural hair, or just need a break for your hair, I suggest protective styling.
It is important to know that protective styling doesn’t mean you avoid hair maintenance. If you experience dryness or product buildup, wash your hair. Protective styles also aren’t forever. If you’re wearing the style for over two months, it means it is time for a takedown or a retouch.