Whether natural or relaxed, summer or winter, protective styling is a year-round activity for women of many hair types. However, recently several debates have popped up discussing the merits of protective styling and if it actually is protective.
I personally have found that healthy protective styling has improved the health (and length) of my hair over the years. However, the key to protective styling is to know your hair, what it likes, and what will lead to its destruction. Short lived protective styles may end up not serving any purpose while excessive protective styling can be damaging to the strands and follicles in the long run. Here are 10 tips for spicing up and staying protected on your protective style journey.
10 tips to Revive- & Maintain- Your Protective Style Journey:
1. Make a plan
Instead of indefinitely saying “I want to protective style,” set a realistic and healthy timeline for yourself. Work toward a goal date as opposed to keeping your end date up in the air and possibly ending prematurely. What I often do is set up a general timeline with cycles within that timeline (e.g. Protective style for 3 months: Have a style in for 1 month; take a break for 2 weeks. Repeat.). This way I have defined periods and milestones that I can adhere to and look forward to meeting.
2. Start a challenge
If you know others who are interested in protective styling, start a challenge in which you all protective style under certain conditions for a certain amount of time. For instance, you can all pledge to protective style for 3 months while deep conditioning every 2 weeks and trying at least 3 new styles from start to finish. Including others in your journey can help you stay on track and focus on your goal.
3. Reward yourself at different milestones
When you are able to healthily and successfully protective style for 2 weeks, 1 month, etc., reward yourself. Buy a new deep conditioner. Splurge over dinner. You can even create a reward jar in which you put a certain amount of money in every week that you successfully protective style and then spend that money at different milestones. However you choose to do it, make sure that you are celebrating your healthy success points throughout the process.
4. Stay off of YouTube
While YouTube can be a great source of information and encouragement, try your best to stay off of it during your protective style journey- specifically when it comes to hair videos. What can often happen is you get “Manipulate My Hair” fever and want to wash, style, deep condition, braid, twist, bantu and a bunch of other manipulation activities that make you want to quit your journey. Don’t get me wrong, if you feel the time is right to release your tresses and end your journey, do what you got to do. But I’ve found in the past that YouTube has been one of the main causes of my short-lived protective style journeys.
5. Listen to your hair
Do not protective style your hair to death. Some styles over certain periods of time are not healthy nor protective. At the end of the day, you know what is best for your hair. Some people’s hair thrives under braids, weaves and wigs for healthy amounts of time while other’s hair does better under “natural” protective styles (e.g. buns, twists). At the end of the day, your hair is your hair and you should treat it with love.
6. Take pictures at different milestones
Taking pictures at different points in your protective style journey can be a major motivator. It is so satisfying to compare how far you have come after 1 month, 2 months, 6 months, etc. of your protective style journey. Having a photo archive can also help you discover what works for your hair and what doesn’t when you look back and see areas of great or little development. Either way, photo records help you to see your progression.
7. Take breaks
Going for unhealthy amounts of time under one protective style is just that- unhealthy. To combat excessively long protective styles, I take breaks throughout my journey to give my hair time to breathe. For example, if I keep a style in for one month, I will leave my hair out for 2 weeks before putting in a new style just to give it a resting period. Keeping your hair locked up style after style can be stressful to your tresses and follicles. Take some time to let your hair out and enjoy your progress.
8. Have multiple styles
Along with making a chronological plan, also try and plan out what styles you’d like to do throughout your journey. While some people do the same style throughout their journey for consistency, some may find that boring and opt to quit their journey because they get tired of the repetition. If this is you, make a list of styles you want to try during your protective style journey ahead of time so that you can check them off as you do them and stay on track.
9. Practice a healthy diet and water intake
You are what you intake. And your hair is definitely affected by what you put in your body. Having a stable and healthy diet as well as taking in the appropriate amount of water can really support hair health during your protective style journey. Since hair follicles are one of the last areas to receive nutrients, making sure the body is fully and healthily equipped can aid your healthy hair journey.
10. Do not compare your success to others
While others may serve as inspiration for us, it is important to remember that all crowns are not made the same. Comparing one’s rate of growth, density, and so forth to someone else’s during a protective style journey can be detrimental and may lead to unhealthy decisions and/or quitting prematurely. Love and understand your hair for its God-given nature. Such a mindset can improve the outcome of your protective style journey.
Different women’s hair thrives under different conditions. Some may never need to protective style while others may see protective styling a great option for hair health. Wherever you may fall,
know thy tresses, respect thy tresses, love thy tresses.
Cover Photo: Nappy.Co