Saturday, September 19, 2015

Understanding the difference between protective styling and neglect.

Last year, I listed a few intentions that I wanted to realize in 2015.  One of them was to improve the health of my hair.  Since I was no longer burdened down with traveling and hectic work schedules, I felt confident that this would be the year.

But my business required more attention than I first imagined.  And instead of placing lots of focus on my regimen, I rationalized that I could just leave my hair alone, while focusing on other more important tasks.  By leaving the hair alone, I thought I'd wake up at the end of the year having gained multiple inches of length.  

It wasn't until recently that I finally woke up and and seen the light.  What I was doing was not at all protective styling.  It was neglect, plain and simple.  And my hair paid for it.  It's easy to think that only good things can come from leaving the hair alone. But's that's not always the case. That's why I want to have a conversation about the difference between the two.  That way, whenever we put our hair in a protective style, we actually reap the benefits and it doesn't turn into a set back.

Tip #1: 
Prepare the hair before hand.
Protective styles can serve two purposes.  First, you retain major length if done correctly.  Secondly, you can nurse your hair from damage, restoring it back to health.    But in order two realized these outcomes, you've got to plan ahead of time.  Are you trying to thicken your ends?  Is your goal to regrow your edges? Or are you trying manage breakage?  Whatever the answer, you want to ask yourself "how do I make sure that weeks/months from now, I'll have what I want?"  Don't be like me and just put your hair out of the way out of convenience. Be thoughtful in the process and you'll be glad you did.

Tip #2:
Choose the right style 
Bunning, for me, isn't the ideal protective style.  You can read more about it here.  But for some, bunning will bring about multiple inches of additional length.  It doesn't work for me because I tend to go into neglect mode, once my hair is a bun.  But, last week, I tried cornrows as a protective style and loved it!  I kept the braids nice and hydrated and I had zero urge to take down the cornrows until wash day.  Best of all, there were no major pre-wash tangles to contend with.  I look forward to repeating this style over and over again.  I still wear a bun, but I realized that this isn't an effective protective style (for me) so I don't over do it. 

The rule of thumb that one could use to determine if the style is right for you is this:  If the negative impact to the hair is minimal during the take down, you've chosen a  great protective style.  

Tip #3:  How long is too long?
Last week, I completed a successful 7 day protective style. That's wonderful but I really need to find something that lasts a little longer.  A style that could effectively last 2-3 weeks would be ideal.  If you have some protective styles that can last a month or more, go for it!  But be wary of crossing that fine line into the land of regret.  Matted hair will rob you of your progress in a blink of an eye (believe me, I know).  There will always lots of shed hair after weeks of protective styling, but if you let it get to the point of matting, you've either chosen  the wrong style, or left the style in way longer than you should've.

We've got a little over 90 days left in year.  That's plenty of time to retain a bit more length. If there's one skill we need to master this year, let it be the ability our ability to maximize the art of protective styling. That is officially my top priority for the remainder of 2015.  And I look forward the results of doing so.  



  1. I've been protective styling (braids under a wig) consistently since April and my hair has seen some growth. Since I workout several times a week, I love being able to get up and go without the daily manipulation. However, I have to wash my hair every week! My scalp freaks out if I go past 7 days.

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  2. I got senegalese twist twice last year and saw a significant decline in breakage. Next time around I'll definitely cleanse my scalp more often and use some sort of moisturizing spray for the twists. I didn't keep them in longer than 8 weeks and took special care around the edges -I know that tends to be a problem area when wearing this style. I visited my stylist after taking them out to get a treatment and trim just to ensure all was well with my hair. I gave myself a month long break between twists as well. I'll probably get them again next month after my next visit to my regular stylist. alreafy. I love the time it saves in daily grooming and they look fabulous. I've been wearing a bun for the last few weeks and am already seeing breakage issues.

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  3. This post it very helpful! Often when I get my hair braided it ends up becoming damaged when the purpose is to protect it.

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