Protective styling to retain length for longer natural hair

Protective styling for hair growth

This is a practice that I have done for years though not properly, long before I knew of the benefits of protective styling. Most of us within the natural hair community know protective styling to be done using hair extensions only (braids, twists, wigs, weaves etc.). However, you may protective style your hair without adding any extensions.

You might be like me, and simply can’t keep your hands out of your hair. I have really improved over the past few months and I am really proud of this achievement. I became intentional about retaining length and I am now careful with the way I manipulate my hair.

photo by; god is able jacob
A cute and playful style 🙂

What is a protective style?

It is a creative versatile style that protects the ends of your hair to avoid shedding, split-ends and breakage. The idea behind this is to avoid continuous manipulation. I started protective styling regularly to encourage hair growth but mostly to save time during my morning routine. Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to sleep worried about waking up earlier to style your hair? Even worse! What hairstyle to do?

The downside to protective styling is how long it actually takes to achieve one. Patience is key to a natural hair journey, there’s no other option. On the bright side, once it is done you are worry free and  have more time on your hands.

protective styling; photo by jessica felicio
Bigger sections when braiding avoids stress on the hairline

Why you need a protective style?

The importance of protecting your hair is to protect it against manipulation. You might be unaware, that your hair “isn’t growing” ,because your hair is breaking at a faster rate than it’s growing.This is where most people don’t realize that their potential length gain actually lies here.

What you need to watch out for?

1. More harm than good

Have you ever left a salon feeling like your head is on fire? You can’t blink or even laugh out loud for the next week or so because the pain is unbearable leading you to take a couple of painkillers and maybe an awkward sleep position! This right here is definitely a problem. Yes, it might have been beautifully braided and some might console themselves saying “beauty knows no pain”.

The danger with this is that after week one, you start to see your poor roots sticking out or you might experience skin bumps mostly on the hairline. This might lead to traction alopecia, which can lead to hair loss. I have had to take out my braids after day 2 because I couldn’t stand the pain.

The solution here is to be that ‘annoying’ customer and keep remind the person braiding that they shouldn’t pull too tight. Some people are not even aware that they are braiding too tight. You could opt to braid yourself, though this is usually a no-go area for many. If you have the time to learn and the patience, go for it.

2. Moisture is key

If this practice is neglected, your hair is vulnerable to dryness and breakage. It is vital to moisturize before tucking your hair away into a protective style and while it is in a protective style. Otherwise, your hair might become more brittle and fragile. One usually notices the damage as they unravel the style. Keep in mind that some breakage is expected and this is normal.  We lose 50 -100 strands per day. So, don’t be alarmed when you do see some hair lost after your protective style period. If you use extensions, there is friction between your hair and the extension, which contributes to breakage and therefore, hydrating and moisturizing is very important to reduce this friction

3. A clean scalp and hair is golden

The last thing you want is bad odor emanating from your hair. It is extremely unpleasant. Unfortunately, many neglect this. Others continuously apply braids spray with the hope of getting rid of the odor and sadly, some people are not even aware that their hair is giving off steer clear signals. Majority don’t wash hair when in a protective style due to fear of the hair looking very old, but it is the price you pay if you want to keep the style for longer.

Since protective styles are usually kept for long periods, one experiences product and residue buildup. Buildup can damage your hair since it clogs hair follicles, impeding hair growth. Use a regular shampoo to remove dirt and excess buildup from your hair. A clarifying shampoo will specifically remove buildup. Clean hair and scalp are key to hair growth.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

I was actually inspired by my sister who always keeps her daughter’s hair in a protective style bi-weekly. This has changed my niece’s hair game by far. It’s called length retention. She realized that prior to protective styling her daughter was losing so much more hair on a daily basis from all the combing.

Yes, it does take time to braid even when you are not using extensions, but it is worth it. Use this time to watch a movie as you work on your hair. There are plenty of beautiful styles that you can do to protect your precious hair. I use extensions once in a while but keeping a protective style simple with just your hair, you get the full benefits of a protective style with less breakage and your hairline intact. Opt for a low maintenance style and be creative. Natural hair is versatile and you can have so much fun with it, when you take time to learn and observe your hair. All you need is patience and a good hair care regimen. Pinterest is a great source for ideas you can try out.

*Remember you are marked by flawless craftsmanship*




2 thoughts on “Protective styling to retain length for longer natural hair

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