Back when I hit my 1 year afro-versary in October 2016 I was excited to see how far my hair had come in that period of time because during the first year of my journey I wore protective styles 95% of the time. I stuck to protective styling mostly because my hair was very short and it took forever to get it in an acceptable style to wear to work. I retained 6 inches of hair in most parts of my head (the front grows slower than the rest), so I can say that protective styling worked very well for me. But while rocking my styles I ensured that my natural hair was cared for properly and consistently underneath the braids in order to prevent dryness and breakage. It is important to know how to prep your hair for protective styling, how to care for it while wearing a style, and how to properly remove your style to minimize damage.
In one of my recent posts (Read article here) I shared some tips on how to properly prepare your natural hair for a protective style in a manner to prevent breakage, so in this post I am excited to share with you a few tips on how you can maintain your natural hair while protective styling to prevent dryness and ultimately breakage. I wear protective styles about 80% of the time these days (less than before) because my hair is longer and I enjoy wearing out a little more, but what I realize is that I have a lot more single strand knots now than before (I’ll talk about knots in another article). Length retention is the ultimate goal for many of us, but what’s the sense of protective styling if we can’t keep our curls from drying out or breaking off?
There are a few steps that I always take whenever I’m rocking box braids or kinky twist to keep my hair healthy and moisturized, and I have reaped great results in the form of length retention and moisturized hair. Let’s take a look!
- Moisturize your hair often
I cannot stress enough how important it is to moisturize our afro-textured hair consistently according to the needs of our hair. I had to learn this the hard way! Due to my negligence in moisturizing my hair for an entire two weeks of wearing a protective style I suffered dryness and I had to snip my ends. After removing said style my hair was super dry and brittle, and my ends felt like hay. I had to remove a few centimeters of my ends because regardless of what I did they did not return to being soft and manageable.
When rocking a protective style many of us tend to neglect moisturizing our hair because we want to maintain that fresh look for a longer period of time. But do you want to sacrifice the health of your natural hair just to keep a weave looking fresh? Find out how often your hair needs moisture and stick to that regimen to avoid damage in the long run. If you aren’t sure how often your hair needs moisture I would suggest starting out with every 2 days and assess from there to see how your hair reacts. You may adjust to daily or every 2-3 days based on how your hair feels.
How I moisturize my hair while protective styling (box braids).
- I section my braids in workable sections (for me that’s about 6 sections).
- I fill my spray bottle with water, get my leave-in conditioner and my oil mix, and I use the L.C.O method on each section to maintain the moisture in my hair.
- I then lightly oil my scalp to keep it from drying out and becoming itchy, and be on my way.
It doesn’t have to be complicated ladies! It’s that easy.
2. Maintain Scalp Health
One important part of hair growth and maintenance is maintaining a healthy scalp. The follicles and scalp play crucial roles in how your well your hair grows, and damage caused to them may lead to some sort of hair loss (alopecia). I love to care for my scalp using my very own DIY oil mix. This blend of oils is anti-bacterial, promotes hair growth, etc, but most importantly it keeps my scalp clean. Oils such tea tree EO, Lavender EO, coconut oil, and neem oil help to maintain the balance in the scalp to prevent dandruff or scalp psoriasis (This is just my experience based on the oils I’ve used). I usually lightly oil my scalp 4x per week to keep it moisturized while wearing a protective style, but how often you do it should be based on your preference and how much your scalp can manage.
Maintaining scalp health is very important when wearing protective styles because most times our styles prevents thorough cleansing of the hair and scalp. Thus is it quite crucial to find ways to eliminate any bacteria that may build up in the scalp and cause dandruff or possibly hair loss. The first step to maintaining scalp health is to cleanse your hair and scalp according to how much products you use (how much build-up you acquire). I clean my scalp once per week while protective styling simply because I use oils on my scalp often, but you have to find the perfect balance for your hair which may be cleansing every 2-3 weeks or every 4 days.
Here an article discussing scalp health and tips on how to keep your scalp clean.
3. Protect your hair at nights
This is a crucial part of the puzzle that many overlook simply because they are rocking a weave or braids, but I have to say that to neglect this aspect is a mistake. Personally I follow the same principle and regimen when protective styling as when I’m wearing my natural hair out because my hair gets dried out if I sleep on cotton even when it’s protected. I refer to this phenomenon as moisture transfer. So here’s what I mean.
Say you’re wearing braids right now and you’ve just added some wonderful moisture into your curls, you know you’re utilizing your L.O.C method, and being all fancy, and all of a sudden you’re too tired to stay up and you decide to go bed. You didn’t wear a silk/satin bonnet/scarf nor are you sleeping on a satin pillow case. What starts to happen once your head hit that cotton material is moisture transfer. The moisture from your protective style is transferred to the pillow and in a little while it will all be gone. The protective style will then draw moisture from your natural hair to replace the moisture that was lost, and the cotton will then draw that moisture out again rendering both your style and hair dry. So please ensure that you’re protecting your hair at nights to retain moisture in your curls.
There are many more ways that you can care for your hair while rocking style, but these are my most important tips. What is your regimen while protective styling?