Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I failed at bunning as a protective style

A few years ago I took on a temporary work assignment that required me to wear my hair in a bun on a daily basis.  "Great!" I thought.."this is going to help my hair journey so much!"  You see, prior to that, I wasn't much for protective styling although I was well aware of the potential benefits.  This eight week assignment was the perfect scenerio for me to experience the wonders of daily protective styling for myself.

The assignment lasted a little longer than eight weeks and, once it was over, daily bunning had turned into a habit.  It's been over two years and I'm just now realizing that bunning may not have helped my hair journey the way I imagined it would.
Action shot taken while at a work function wearing my daily bun
The realization came to me, the other day, as I was taking my bun down to refresh it for the day ahead.  Prior to that, I was on vacation for a couple weeks and hadn't worn a bun at all.  Overall my hair was doing well. I just dusted my ends and deep conditioned a few days before.  All was right with the world.  Then, after wearing a simple bun all day, I noticed a few broken strands as I was getting ready to moisturize and seal.  Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Have I been experiencing this type of breakage regularly for the last few years?  Why is my hair breaking when I hadn't even touched it all day? Mind you, it wasn't a ton of breakage, but it was enough to cause alarm as I thought about the long term impact if it continued to happen on a daily basis.

Immediately, my mind started racing with ideas of what may have caused the damage not just from the night before, but over the past couple of years.  First thought that came to me was about how neglectful I became when bunning.  The section where my hair is struggling the most is the back/middle part of my hair.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I barely focus on that area when I bun.  Sometimes, when I was feeling really lazy or if days became exceptionally long, I would do the bare minimum to keep the hair moisturized. The basic bun hid a multitude of sins (or so I thought).

I also think the way I tucked my hair away wasn't the best technique.  Looking back, I probably should have worn a looser bun. I would create a ponytail, then  grab the remaining hair and would twist it around, kinda like a cinnamon roll.  This, I believe, caused way too much tension on my ends which contributed to breakage.  I also experienced breakage when my top knot was too tight or if I wore my hair up for a couple of days without taking it down.

On the day of my epiphany, I decided to wear my hair in a loose side braid instead of a bun.  I made sure my braid was well lubricated with Gleau oil blend and went about my day. My braid was a bit frayed from rubbing against my sweater, but when I took the braid down at the end of the day, there were no broken pieces of hair.  At that point, I decided to break out of my daily bunning habit and try other styles to see how my hair responds.

Here all the things I did "wrong" when I was bunning. Maybe I can save someone from making all the mistakes I made.

+Not being consistent with moisturizing/sealing while wearing buns.
+Not alternating the direction of the twist.
+Sleeping in buns
+Not moving the bun around (wearing it in the same place day after day).
+Twisting the hair too tightly.
+Not alternating styles. Wearing buns too frequently.

Don't get me wrong, some people are able to do buns right and experience a world of retention.  For me, unfortunately, it wasn't as effective.....most of it was my fault.  I don't think buns are inherently wrong, I just was a bit negligent at times. So what I'm going to do differently is wear different styles on a daily basis.  If I need to wear my hair up, I will leverage the use of my Good Hair Day pins and my Modern Updo Pin mentioned in a previous post.  Over time, I think my hair will thrive again.  With all the lessons I've been learning from my Happy Endings series, I feel more confident wearing my hair down then continuing with daily buns.  When I do wear buns consistently again, it will be very different from the way I've been doing it before.

Do you have some tips for me on creating healthy buns?  Please share.
  1. This post came just in time. I took down my bun yesterday coz my hair felt a bit itchy which came as a surprise since I shampoo once a week. I had the bun for about 5 days coz I didn't want my hands to have access to my hair. In that time I did M&S everyday but only on parts of my hair that were out. I noticed when I took the bun down that the parts that were not out were sooooo dry. So i was wondering if I should be taking down buns everyday to M&S. This is the first winter of my life.
    Sorry for the epistle.

  2. I agree that bunning is not the end all be all of successful hair journeys although forums will have you believe otherwise! I don't knock bunning entirely but I follow a few simple guidelines, some of which I have learned from Caucasian bloggers/forums, and some through trial and error.
    -Alternate location of bun. This is something that white people have long understood, but seems to be less known in our community. And while alternating location of the bun is important, for me it's only effective as long as the location changes after washing and not between wash days (it can be too much manipulation and lead to breakage if hair is not freshly washed if the location is drastically changed [i.e low bun to high bun]).
    -Not leaving the bun in more 2-3 days. Even with efforts to M&S, you can't really get at the middle part if hair is left in a bun.
    -Being careful with how ends are tucked. I never place an elastic on the most fragile part of my hair to keep my bun in tact. By the same token, I never use bobby pins either. I opt for hair pins, which give a looser hold.
    -The takedown of the bun is the most critical step, and can be easily overlooked. This is especially true if bun has been in place more than 2 days. I find using a spray moisturizer to lightly mist the entire head, particularly the bunned section, letting it sit for a few minutes, then proceeding to gently take hair pins out, before gently unraveling the ends from the bun, is optimal. Keep in mind that the tucked ends may not have been touched by the spray and may be driest if hair has been in a bun for a couple days, so you want to be especially careful with how you handle the ends until you can be sure they are adequately moisturized.
    -If I'm not particularly concerned with a sleek look, I will forgo elastics altogether and opt for a bun secured using only pins or clips. Alternatively, I will use a doughnut only and loosely tuck ends with no elastic.
    -Lastly, alternating hairstyles is still key, because bunning day in day out even when you're careful can still be problematic. I will alternate with using jaw clips to secure hair up and off my clothes and shoulders.

  3. Thanks for the info... I'm just realizing I am no longer a fan of buns anymore. I seem to always experience tangles right where the bun is. Especially if it's a loose bun.

  4. I grew to dislike cinnamon buns because they caused too much tension and breakage for me too. My relationship with bunning has been a love/hate one in general. Right now I bun frequently but in a different style that's easier on my strands. Like some of the other commentators, I avoid pinning my ends directly--instead I use other parts of the bun and pin them down to cover the ends. Like you mentioned, leaving my hair in a bun for more than a couple of days is just asking for trouble. I'm glad you were able to pinpoint the causes of your breakage from bunning. Great post :)

  5. This post is super helpful..I am going on a 30 day bun challenge so perfect tips for me.thank u..are u Stil Bunning?