Over the last few weeks we have posted quite a few articles on protective styling techniques complete with tips on how you can use them to retain maximum length in your journey to long hair.
I have a confession to make. I rarely retain length myself when I don’t protective style. Low manipulation styling is great and all but it simply doesn’t work for everyone as a length retention tool and it certainly didn’t work for me.
When you find that your painstakingly created low manipulation regimen is no longer helping your hair get longer, it may not be something small that needs to be adjusted but rather a complete rethinking of your regimen.
Your moisture-protein balance may be as great as it’s ever going to be but if you are not having any length gains then at some point you have to admit that your hair may simply not be able to withstand the weekly manipulation that is your wash day. You will just continue to maintain your current length.
Now I certainly don’t want to condemn anyone to years of twists and braids but there is an easy way of protective styling while still enjoying your own hair often enough to keep boredom at bay.
The Staggered Protective Styling Regimen
If you were able to wash your hair just once a month while keeping manipulation like combing or styling down in the interim you would undoubtedly retain length. But most of us don’t have hair and scalps that can go through extended periods of non cleansing without our hair suffering from dryness or getting terribly itchy scalps. Not to mention that many of us are plagued with Hand In The Hair Syndrome which is very real and afflicts millions of women worldwide 🙂
I realized very early on in my hair journey that I get bored of hairstyles very quickly. I would install a new weave with every intention of keeping it in for at least two months. I would absolutely be in love with the style in the first week, less so in the second and by the third week I was wistfully dreaming of my own hair and itching to take the weave off!
This same pattern presented itself regardless of which protective style I chose; a sew in, a wig* or in fact even mini braids with my own hair. One could argue that I was just being a flake and I needed to man up and go the full 8 weeks with each protective style. But I noticed something unexpected during those on again off again protective styling stints. I was still retaining a lot of length!
I wasn’t using this regimen consciously having just stumbled on it because of my inability to keep my styles in for reasonably long periods.
Even so this short term or ‘staggered’ way of protective styling still worked wonderfully for me.Truthfully even now when I stray too far from this formula, I simply don’t retain length.
You see where many of us lose the most length to breakage is during the detangling session and regardless how wide the spaces are between your wide tooth comb*, breakage cannot be completely eradicated.
The staggered protective styling approach helps you by taking away 3 detangling sessions in every 4 thereby reducing your manipulation load and saving you a great deal of length.
The name of the regimen may sound fancy and difficult to master but it really isn’t. I just figured that Staggered protective styling regimen sounded catchier than Three weeks on, one week off regimen!
Yes, protective styling is not so much about how long you can go without touching your hair in one spell, although the longer you can go the faster you will see the benefits. Protective styling is more about cutting the number of times that you manipulate your hair over extended periods of time.
So here is an overview of what your staggered protective styling regimen should look like:
1. Protein deep condition your hair in preparation for your protective styling stretch.
2. Pick a protective style that you like and can keep in for at least 3 weeks without having to restyle. Sew in’s, braids, twists cornrows, just pick something that you actually like the look of. No point in installing mini braids if you hate being able to see your scalp.
3. Install your protective style, not too tight, and if you have any issues with your edges at all (thinning or bald spots) then forget about braided styles.
4. Keep your hair moisturized daily during the week.
5. Wash and condition your hair on your usual wash day for 3 weeks.
6. On the 4th week, take your protective style down, detangle your hair carefully, wash and deep condition with a moisturizing conditioner*. This will be your cheat or rest week!
7. Wear your hair as you please for 1 week. Go with heat free styles but hooded dryers are ok.
I would urge you to experiment with styles during your week off as it will give you a chance to really enjoy your hair. So if there’s a technique, style or product that you have been dying to try, here’s your chance.
8. After your week of freedom, go back to step 1.
Simple right? Be aware though that what I give above is a formula. A lot of it’s success will depend on how you actually execute it. Braiding techniques vary from person to person and as such you must be sure that your hair is not kept under high tension for the duration of the style.
Unless you can afford to go to a stylist every few weeks for the install and removal of your protective style, I would highly suggest that majority of this regimen be a home hair care regimen. There are literally hundreds of tutorials on YouTube that can teach you how to install your own sew ins, make your own u-part wigs* or install mini braids and twists. You can save yourself hundreds of dollars a year by learning a few things about styling your own hair.
This regimen will help lots of hair obsessed ladies like myself who actually prefer to have our own hair free. It is also a great regimen for a newbie who wants to start protective styling but has never been able to retain significant length with these styles in the past.
It will teach you self discipline, get you to miss your own hair while it remains protected and force accelerated learning of your own hair because you will have to handle it for one week out of every month. Gone are the days of installing a protective style and forgetting about your own hair for a couple of months!
I have no doubt that as it worked for me, it will work for you. Join our Protective Styling Challenge 2013 to realize the full potential of your hair!
Happy hair growing.