What is a protective style? There is some controversy over what counts and what doesn’t, but simply put, a protective style is any style that protects your hair from physical, chemical, or environmental damage.
What factors cause damage or wear and tear on your hair?
- Physical manipulation from daily styling, combing, detangling, stretching, updos, or just touching your hair in general
- Chemicals, color treatments, or high heat
- Environmental pollutants in the air
- Excessive moisture from swimming or sweat
- Environmental/climate factors such as dry air, cold air, frost, wind, snow, etc.
All of these factors put stress on your hair. Over time, this stress can cause noticeable damage: your hair will look less healthy, feel more dry, or be more prone to breakage, and shedding. While some factors are completely within your control to eliminate, others are hard to avoid.
How do protective styles help? Protective styles allow your hair to rest from daily physical or chemical manipulation. They also tuck the majority of your hair strands safely away from environmental damage.
Protective styles range vastly in the amount of manipulation it takes to install them, and in the amount of manipulation required once they are installed. Here is a common and simple breakdown:
- No-manipulation styles don’t require daily attention. For example, box braids and weaves can take quite a bit of manipulation to install, but once installed, your real hair is virtually out of sight.
- Low-manipulation styles are usually easier to install, but require some attention every day. For example, twists and buns don’t take much time, but they require a low amount of manipulation on a daily or weekly basis.
Who should use protective styles? We recommend protective styles to everyone with curly/kinky hair. Your hair needs to rest every once in a while. However, some individuals might need to use protective styles more often. Some examples might include:
- If you have hair that is fine or prone to breakage, reduce breakage with protective styles.
- If you live in a cold, windy, highly-polluted, or otherwise harsh environment, your walk to work or school alone could be damaging your hair, so give it more rest than normal.
- If you’re busy, an athlete, traveling, or otherwise struggle to style your hair everyday, protective styles can be a lifesaver for you.
There are a lot of misconceptions about protective styles. Here’s the truth.
- Protective styles are not the only way to grow your hair. Your hair is still growing when it’s not in a protective style. The true keys to growth are care and consistency, which you can give your hair no matter what style it’s in.
- Protective styles are not automatically good for your hair! In order for a protective style to do its work, it has to be carefully installed, maintained, and refreshed.
- Don’t tie up your hair too tightly (this can happen with cornrows, flat twists, box braids, etc.) Tight styles cause breakage and hair loss over time.
- Don’t forget about your actual hair, especially if you wear a wig, crochet braids, or hair extensions. It still needs to be moisturized, washed, and taken care of regularly.
- Don’t leave a protective style in too long. While it can be tempting to put your hair in braids and forget about it, this can cause tangling, dryness, and breakage if you don’t switch up the style. We recommend leaving protective styles in for about two weeks on average- and never push more than two months.
- No protective style is necessarily better or worse than any other, but whatever you choose should actually protect your hair. You can find people out there with every sort of opinion. (Ex: “It’s not a protective style if it involves hair that’s not your own,” “It doesn’t count if any of your ends are exposed,” or “You don’t love your real hair if you use certain protective styles.”) Don’t let these opinions concern you. The only thing that should cause concern is taking out a protective style to find excessive shedding, breakage, tangles, or hair loss.
How do you care for your hair while it’s in a protective style? This will be different depending on the style, but we have three rules of thumb.
- Keep your hair moisturized! You might not have to use moisturizers as often as normal when your hair is in a protective style, but do not neglect moisture. Use moisturizers and oils to prevent dry and brittle hair. We recommend our JBCO Growth Serum.
- Keep your hair clean. Dirt, grease, and product will build up whether or not your hair is in a protective style, so wash it regularly.
- Don’t leave the style in too long. As we mentioned above, this will eventually lead to hair damage, tangling, and hair loss. Just like you need to let your hair rest from being styled, you need to let it breathe from protective styles.