To be honest, I love protective styling. I hate dealing with the two different textures in my transitioning hair sometimes, and protective styles help me blend them while keeping my hands out of my hair. When I was a kid though, I literally had no idea how to keep my braids looking fresh. They would last about a week before starting to look fuzzy and old. Below are a few tips to to help braids and twists last as long as they can.
Sleep with a satin scarf, bonnet, or pillowcase
I don’t think I can stress how important this is. As a kid, I always had problems with scarves. That’s why my braids would start to look fuzzy as a child. The hair rubs against the material of the pillow, making the hair drier and causing it to lose its neatness. If you have chronic ‘scarf falling off in the middle of the night’ syndrome like I do, it’s a good idea to maybe use two or all three items to keep the hair fresh. It’s hardly even an extra step before going to bed.
A common misconception is that because hair is in a protective style, it can just be left alone until it’s time to uninstall. Utterly and completely false. A dirty scalp can block follicles and prevented hair from growing. And it’s just not a good idea to go weeks or months on end without washing hair. It’s important to continue to wash hair. I try to wash my hair at least once a week, even with braids or twists. I try to deep condition the same time as well.
For braids and twists, it’s a good idea to invest in a small spray bottle. These styles, especially if they’re long, can take FOREVER to dry, and it’s pointless to really wash the entire length of the hair. Fill a spray bottle with water and shampoo or water and cowash. Spritz mixture into scalp and massage. Fill the same spray bottle with pure water to wash out the product. Repeat with conditioner. This way you won’t have wet braids for hours on end.
To deep condition, rub into roots and slap on a shower cap (a plastic bag might be better equipped to hold all of that hair). Rinse it out with the spray bottle. Viola!
Seal hair from roots to end of YOUR hair
The same spray bottle used to wash hair can also be used to hold a leave in conditioner mix for hair. I use the same products that I use when my hair is not in a protective style. The mixture can contain something like water, leave in conditioner, and an oil of your choice. Coconut oil is like my absolute fav, so I use that the majority of the time. I’ve also been using Alikay Naturals Shea Moisturizer. Use the products to seal from roots to end of YOUR hair. We still want our ends to be taken care of, because they are the oldest part of our hair. It’s pointless to seal all the way to the bottom of the braiding hair, because 9/10 I personally know that I’m going to cut those ends during the uninstall anyway.
Don’t pull too tight when styling
It’s important to still be gentle even when hair is in braids. Pulling too tight on the braids or twists can cause the hair to pull prematurely. The base of the braid where the extension hair connects to your real hair will start to pull, especially if the braids are heavy. It’ll give the appearance of new growth, but the hair is actually being pulled backwards. This can lead to thinning edges and a bunch of other things that defeat the whole purpose of protective styling. I try to refrain from too many buns and ponytails, but when I absolutely have to, I make sure that I’m very gentle with my hair and that I don’t secure the style too tight with a scrunchie.
Get the edges redone for longer wear
New growth getting ridiculous, but don’t want to uninstall and reinstall the entire style? Take out the edges, about the first two rows, and get them re-braided/twisted. This gives the appearance that the style is brand new, and nobody knows the difference but you and your hairdresser. This also saves time and money, because you aren’t getting the entire style reinstalled. After taking out the edges, take extra care to detangle and deep condition before getting the braids again. These are your edges, which are already fragile, so they need a little TLC. Doing this can make a protective style last long, taking a style from one month to two. I wouldn’t suggest leaving braids or twists in for longer than 2 1/2 months. After that I would uninstall, let my hair breathe, then get the style again or do something differently.
I hope these tips help! These are things that I’ve learned through trial and error during my protective styling adventures. Try protective styling with braids or twists and see how much growth you can achieve!
Until next time… Xoxo