The last few years have seen more and more people of color embrace their natural curls and coils.
However, any honest naturalist will tell you that maintaining healthy long hair isn’t a walk in the park.
From the numerous hacks and tips on the internet, like rice water rinses to rubbing watermelon on your scalp, a person can quickly lose their marbles.
Amidst all the social media banter, there’s one tip that most people recommend, and this is braiding or weaving your hair for extended periods as protective styling.
And while different people keep their weaves and braids in for a long time, is there proof that the longer you keep the style, the longer your hair will be?
Most hair and scalp professionals recommend keeping your protective style for between 4-8 weeks.
Any longer than that, you risk damaging your hairline, thinning out your mane, and triggering bald spots.
Additionally, if you aren’t careful, you can develop a fungal or bacterial infection, not to mention the nasty product buildup you’ll be encouraging.
To ensure you get the most from your protective style, we recommend keeping the following things in mind:
Let Your Hair Breathe Before Your Next Install
Protective styles are beautiful and give you a time-out because you aren’t constantly detangling and deep conditioning your strands. However, it isn’t advisable to wear these styles back to back.
After taking out your mini twists, braids, or sew-ins, consider leaving your hair out for at least a week. It allows the hair to breathe. Additionally, you can use this time to moisturize, trim off any split ends and just love on your curls.
Wraps Are Your Hair’s Love Language
To keep your hair looking neat for longer without getting it redone, invest in some silk/ satin hair scarfs, hair ties, and bonnets, and wear this when going to bed or even just chilling in the house.
The texture of the satin/ silk minimizes friction, which can lead to breakage, while also preventing frizzing by helping your hair retain some moisture.
Take A Break from Heavy Bundles & 14-Inch Long Weaves
Most people love voluminous hair – hello, big hair, don’t care, gang. However, to achieve this with protective styles, you might have to opt for weaves with many long bundles for that glamorous look, which undoubtedly feels incredible.
But, as much as these bundles help you get that ‘Queen owning her crown look,’ the longer the bundles you have on, the more tension you’re putting on your hair and scalp, leading to inflammation on the scalp and breakage.
We aren’t suggesting you completely shuck the 20-inch bundles or the long jumbo-sized braids, but maybe have them installed rarely and only for short periods. If wigs are your protective style, ensure you get one that fits well without being too tight.
The tension and friction from repeatedly gluing down a wig can also seriously damage your hairline.
Keep Your Scalp Healthy & Nourished
Protective styles are supposed to give your natural hair a break. However, it is also easy to forget to take care of your scalp because you’re not dealing with your curls daily.
To have healthy hair, you also need to have a healthy scalp. Therefore, while the sew-in might be giving your hair time to grow, if you aren’t regularly cleaning and moisturizing your scalp, you’ll barely notice any changes when you take the style out. Scalp treatments and masks will definitely come in handy here.
Don’t Skip Your Wash Days – Yes, Even with Your Braids & Weaves On
Most naturalistas have wash days at least once a week. However, when protective styles come into play, most people throw this routine out the window.
When you have weaves, wigs, or braids, your hair will still produce sebum, your scalp will still get dirty, and because you’ll be applying products, buildup is even more likely to occur.
To keep your hair and scalp clean, ensure to co-wash at least weekly. Doing so gets rid of dirt and sufficiently hydrates your strands.
And to ensure your hair is completely dry (because we all know waiting it out during this economy can be a tad bit annoying), you can always resort to using highly-effective tools like this ionic bonnet one from Gold’ N’ Hot ($49).
And, if this is too much of a hustle for you (we get it, boo), you can always have it done professionally.
Never, Never, Take Out Your Weaves Yourself
Self-reliance is fantastic but for the love of your hair, resist the urge to take out your weaves at home. Getting an experienced stylist to take out your braids and weaves minimizes breakage, which is the archenemy of hair length retention.
If you need to take out your protective style at home, gently unravel the hair and deep condition using a product like the Garnier Whole Blends Honey Treasures Miracle Nectar Repairing Leave-in Treatment ($9) makes detangling easier.
After this, you can wash your sectioned hair with a clarifying shampoo. For an extra cleanse, throw in a healthy scalp cleanse to remove all the gunk and buildup from your scalp and hair.
You can then condition, add a protein treatment as an extra measure, and show love for your beautiful hair.