From time to time I get an email that sounds something like this: "I need some advice. I recently took out my weave but my hair is thin, tangled and damaged." I don't know what happened, I've been protective styling for months, why does my hair look so bad?"
As a matter of fact, I had the exact same conversation the other day with a woman I met at a social event the other day.
Normally, when we decide to hide our hair with extensions or braids, our end goal is to retain length and promote thickness. So let's talk a little bit about how we can make sure that happens. I'll first start off by saying that protective styling with weave isn't something I normally do so technically, I'm not an expert on this subject. I have worn sewed in extensions once but it was a horrible experience that I would never forget. Looking back, if I could get the chance to make that decision again, there's a lot I would do differently.
First, I would think about my goals. Am I protective styling to give my hair a break or promote growth? Do I want to create thicker hair when it's all said and done? How will I do it?
Start by addressing any current issues
Normally, when we opt for extensions, we come to a place where we no longer want to deal with our hair and so we seek out a way escape our current situation. Here's the problem with that logic, if your hair was damaged or weak prior to the install, chances are you might find the same issues staring you in the face when the extensions come out. Now let's talk about what to do before your weave install. Putting first things first, the absolute best thing to do (weeks) before your weave install is to identify and address all hair issues. Simply putting your hair in a weave won't suddenly make spilt ends disappear. Prior to protective styling with weave, see if your hair requires any of the following:
-A thorough detangle
-Deep conditioning/hot oil or steam treatment
- A protein treatment
-A trim or a mini-cut
-A clarifying scalp treatment
Opt for weave styles that work with your goals
Once you've got some of the hair issues under control, then you can focus on and decide what type of weave you will be wearing. All extensions are not created equal. There are various methods of installing from using glue, crochet needles, sewing in, braiding, twisting, etc. If your end in mind is to create health and thickness, go with an option where the installation method works with your goals not against them. You don't want glue in tracks if your intention is to create healthier hair. You also want to avoid weave styles that add a bunch of tension on the hair strand. Styles that require beaucoup bags of weave that add 25 lbs of extra weight on your head will do you no favors. If your edges are a concern, getting micro braids isn't an option. There are a multitude of hairstyles available to you so take time to learn about the pros and cons of your hair styling options.
Don't forget about your hair
I'll never forget the time I wore braids back in the day, my morning preparation time was cut in half. I didn't have to do anything to my hair before walking out the door. Luckily for me, 6 weeks was probably the longest I could stand to wear a weave. I can't imagine what the condition of my hair would be if I went 3-5 months or longer without having any access to my hair. When we get extensions, we tend to do things that we normally wouldn't do like go swimming everyday in a chlorine filled pool or start gelling edges down to match the weave texture or go longer without washing, etc. These actions are out of the ordinary us. We sometime use extensions as an
excuse opportunity to do things that are not so good for the health of our hair. Even leaving the hair alone and not moisturizing or washing for 2 months is cruel and unusual punishment for your hair. Before choosing your protective weave style, think about how you will care for it during the time when your hair is hidden. That way you avoid any surprises when the weave comes out.
Feed your hair and scalp
Often, when we protective style with weave. We just leave our hair alone and let it do it's thing. I think this is a huge mistake. To me, this is the perfect time to proactively focus on promoting growth. Knowing that every inch of hair will be retained is even more motivation to focus on our growth. If I were to protective style with extensions, I would make certain that I maintained my habit of taking vitamins or continued with healthy scalp massages and so on. The weave will take care of preserving your ends, now you've gotta make sure you are ramping up the growth to maximize your experience. Also, don't forget to do things like moisturizing and sealing whenever possible. Everything will dry out if left along including the hair that is protected under the extensions. Sometimes moisturizing and sealing will be easy, like when you are wearing braids. Other times, it might get a little tricky and you may have to find creative ways to get to your hair (like using a spray mister to moisturize your cornrows). Either way, make sure you still do it from time to time.
Start the healthy hair process again as soon as you have access to your hair
So after hiding your hair for months, you've finally decided to see how your hard work paid off. You take the weave out and "ta-da" you've gained and retained some length. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is start (excessively) playing with your hair, using heat constantly to show off your newfound length, etc. Yes, I understand how exciting it is to enjoy your hair, especially, when you are seeing some viable growth. One thing you must remember is that a seed is most vulnerable when it first sprouts. The same thing goes for the length achieved after weave styling. This type of retention is a bit "un-natural" because it occurred under special circumstances. Your hair thrived under an ideal environment so your job is to continue to create the ideal environment even after the weave is gone.