The most popular protective styles are usually two strand twists, weaves, braids, flat twists and cornrows. Styles where your ends are put away and protected from the elements are considered protective. Regular protective styling is regarded as essential for retaining length if you have Afro textured hair. Afro textured strands are usually finer than Asian or European hair strands, which can be up to three times thicker. So many of us have learned to retain length with protective styling as well as; avoiding chemical relaxers, which weaken the hair, keeping our hair stretched, and regularly moisturizing it.
Twist outs and braid outs
These require your hair to be left out and the ends are usually exposed. Therefore they would not be considered protective styles. However, there are many vloggers with waist length hair who rarely do protective styles but usually wear their hair in braid outs, twist outs or other stretched styles. The reason why these styles can still be protective to a degree, is because they require the hair to be stretched and therefore tangles and knots occur less. Also, if you regularly do twist outs, chances are your hair will remain moisturized. Few people wear twist outs for longer than 5 days or so and wash day usually occurs within a week. Then the hair is simply re-twisted or re-braided.
Women who do regular twist outs usually deep condition their hair as well as wash it once a week. This regular infusion of moisture will keep the hair supple and less prone to breakage. Hair left in traditional protective styles long-term may end up dryer than hair that is regularly put into stretched styles. Hair put away in a protective style is unlikely to be washed once a week and many will avoid it to keep their braids, twists or weave neat for as long as possible. Unfortunately leaving a protective style in for long periods of time can also lead to more knots and tangles upon take down as shed hair may entwine with the other hair strands. Even the process of taking your hair out of a protective style can cause more harm than leaving your hair out, especially if it is not done with care and patience. Dry hair is also more prone to breakage, especially at the ends.
Wash and gos
Yes! Wash and gos can be protective for a number of reasons. Again women who regularly do wash and gos moisturize their hair with water and conditioner probably more regularly than those who do long-term protective styling. Wash and gos if done with a good technique result in hair that is shrunken but still in order, as opposed to shrunken fros where the strands may intertwine around each other. Even with my 4b hair I still consider wash and gos to be protective.
Using gel clumps the strands together, which reinforces them and strengthens them. Defining your curls or kinks also encourages the strands to fall in their own place, rather than knot and tangle around each other. During the process I can run my fingers through my hair and even when the hair dries and shrinks it does so in uniformity, so tangles are kept to a minimum. Also, my hair doesn’t touch my shoulders when I do wash and gos. This in itself protects my ends, a reason why shrinkage can actually be beneficial.
If your hair is short such as a TWA (teeny-weeny afro) you already have a protective style, says author Audrey Davis-Sivasothy in her book; The Science of Black Hair. The ends of short hair do not rub against the shoulders and weather as a result. Short hair will also tangle less than longer hair. The hair seems to grow quicker when it has been cut, as opposed to when it is long and possibly reached its terminal length. This is simply because it is easier for short hair to retain length, and there is nothing hindering it from keeping all of its growth. So don’t stress about wearing your short hair in a protective style in order to retain length and grow it faster. It’s already doing what it is supposed to do.
What works for your hair?
Some hair types require more protective styling than others. If the hair strands are fine they will be more prone to breakage if left out for too long. However, thicker strands are more durable and can be left out for longer without hindering length retention. It is important to do what is best for your hair but still enjoy it. Your hair may benefit more from regular moisture and being kept stretched as opposed to long-term protective styling. Protective styles can also become detrimental if done perpetually. It is recommended that regular breaks are taken from protective styling to prevent the hair strands being placed under constant pressure from tight twists, braids and weaves. Simply taking a low manipulation approach can be just as effective for some hair types. This is where twist outs, braid outs and wash and gos can help to retain length.
Do you do protective styling regularly? Or, you may not find it necessary. Share below.