Protective styling is one of the best ways to help grow and retain long, healthy natural hair. Protective styling is also great if you want to manipulate and style your own hair less, like during the summer months or when you may be busy with other responsibilities.
Even though protective styling keeps your hair out of the way, you still need to take care of it so that it can grow and flourish while it’s tucked away. Here a few tips for preserving your natural hair while protective styling:
Wash hair underneath
Protective styling is NOT an excuse to not wash your hair. In fact, if you go weeks or months without removing dirt and build up, your hair will actually stop growing because your scalp and hair follicle have been blocked.
While it may seem harder to wash your hair while protective styling, it can still be done. If you have a weave, fill an applicator bottle with water and shampoo/conditioner and apply it between your tracks and braids. Rub the mixture into your scalp to cleanse before refilling the applicator bottle* with pure water and rinsing your scalp clean.
If you have braids or twists, you can use an applicator bottle, or you can use a spray bottle filled with water and shampoo/conditioner. Rub into your scalp to cleanse before washing clean. With braids and twists it’s easier to do this method instead of standing in the shower and wetting your entire head, because otherwise the style will be heavier (which can start to pull at your edges), and it will take MUCH longer to dry.
Moisturize hair underneath
Moisturizing your hair is just as important as washing it while you have a protective style. Your natural hair should be moisturized before you install a style, and it should be re-moisturized often the entire time you protective style.
The extension hair that’s sometimes used when installing a style can be drying to natural hair, which is why it’s even more important to remember to moisturize.
With weaves, fill an applicator bottle with a little water, some leave in conditioner*, and oil. Apply it between your tracks and massage it in every few days.
With braids and twists, you can again either use an applicator bottle* or spray bottle filled with the same mix. When moisturizing these styles, try to apply product down the length to where your natural hair stops. Otherwise, it’s a little pointless to moisturize synthetic braiding hair that you’re going to cut off.
When choosing a leave in conditioner* or other moisturizing product, try to look for something that doesn’t contain ingredients like dimethicone. Most ingredients that end in -cone are used to provide slip but they lead to more product build up that can only be washed away with harsh shampoos that contain sulfates.