One of the challenges of having natural hair is keeping it healthy and free from breakage. Split ends and dry brittle hair will definitely put a stop to the growth process. For this reason many turn to protective styling during their transition or right after their big chop. Where did this idea come from? And why are so many newbie naturals turning to this method?
First let’s explore protective hairstyles – it keeps your ends protected, shielded away, and invisible to outside elements like rain, snow, sun and wind. Styles include buns, braids, cornrows, wigs, weaves, lace fronts, French braids, up-dos, phony ponies etc. The purpose? Well, the idea is if you protect your hair, eliminate split ends and stop breakage, then your hair grows and thus gives you the ability to reach a longer hair length. Logically, that makes sense right? For some this method fails them miserably and the reasons are quite obvious.
Take cornrows for instance. Back in the day, I’d get a fresh pair of cornrows and wake-up the next day with tiny bumps around my hairline. They were entirely too tight. And before you say “well just don’t get them that tight”, all that pulling and manipulation is never good for the edges of your hairline. Single braids can do just as much damage if not taken care of properly. I could always tell when someone (relaxed or natural) had damage to their hairline due to improperly cared for braid styles. Seems like there’s a risk for breakage with these styles, so wouldn’t that contradict the protective style logic (no breakage therefore longer hair)? Or what about keeping your strands moisturized? Kinda hard to do that with your hair kept in a chastity box.
Some protective styles are so “convenient” that you forget you have to take care of your own hair. Wigs are the biggest culprit of this, you put it on and bam, instant diva. Eventually, some will stop taking care of what’s under the hair hat and end up with matted, dry, unhealthy hair.
Low manipulation styles, unlike protective hairstyles, do not require you to keep your hair hidden in a chastity box. The idea behind low manipulation is, if you do simple styles and minimize manipulation of your hair, then your hair grows and thus gives you the ability to reach a longer hair length. Seems logical as well.
Styles include Wash n Go’s, Twist-outs, Braid-outs, Afro’s etc. One thing to understand, protective styles can be considered low manipulation styles; however, low manipulation styles are not protective styles. Did I confuse you? A wash n go is a low manipulation style but is not considered a protective style because your hair is not tucked away and shielded from the environment. However a wash n go requires less manipulation during styling, which minimizes the damage to your hair. Less damage, more growth!
Okay, some of you have growled, cursed me out and haven’t even made down to this paragraph in disgust of the crazy idea to challenge the method of “Protective Styling” us natural gals hold so high on a pedestal. Rule of thumb, do what’s best for your hair. My transition consisted of 100% low manipulation styles with the twist-out as my go to style. After my big chop, I rocked wash n go’s. I’ve experienced minimal shedding and my hair is growing at rapid speed (even without my favorite Nioxin vitamins). In no way, shape or form am I saying protective styling is bad, however before getting a protective style, think about whether the manipulation will cause more damage than the expected protection.