2. Braiding technique
Suffice to say, tight braiding along the delicate front hairline leads to hair loss known as traction alopecia. Along the same lines, tight braiding along the shaft of the hair keeps the hair under intense tension for the duration of the style after which during take down you will notice intense breakage and thinning.
In this case protective styling will have done you more harm than good. If you braid your own hair learn to use a light hand while braiding or if you cannot then get someone else to do the braiding for you.
Be very careful when getting your hair braided even by a professional and don’t be afraid to speak up if you think that they are braiding too tight.
3. How long?
A friend of mine told me a while ago that she’d had major breakage and matting after her last weave. When I asked her how long she’d had the weave in for, without batting a eyelid she said 5 months.
Come on now, it’s not difficult to see the problem there is it? When you keep a weave in for that long, the shed hair that is not able to fall out combined with the build up from months of sweat, natural oils* and products cause extreme matting.
The breakage you are likely to experience while detangling that mess will likely offset any growth you gained while ‘protecting’ your hair hence it will seem like your growth has stagnated.
For most people I would suggest 6-8 weeks as an absolute maximum for any braided protective style and only 6 weeks if you have very kinky* high shrinkage hair as this hair type is quite prone to matting.
When you braid your hair is every bit as important as how long you keep the braided style in for. For example, braiding immediately after relaxing your hair is a huge no no. After a relaxer your hair has lost a lot of amino acids, notably cysteine during the chemical process and until this is restored by way of a hard protein treatment, don’t even think about braiding your hair.
Natural ladies should also make sure that their moisture-protein balance is in check before braiding. Personally I like to do a light protein deep conditioning* treatment before every braiding session. Your hair is going to go through stress during braiding and fortifying it beforehand makes perfect sense.
5. Your hair type
No I don’t mean the 4a, 4b, 3c hair typing thing. I mean the thickness of your individual strands. If you have fine hair, the minimum of manipulation is what’s needed to get your hair to grow long so you may find that braided protective styles just won’t help you retain length.
If you choose braided styles, make the braids big and relatively loose and keep them in for at least a few weeks at a time to avoid excessive installs & take downs. If you have thicker strands, your hair can withstand more manipulation without excessive breakage so you will be able to get away with shorter periods between re-styling sessions.
Braided protective styles are the best at keeping the ‘hand in hair syndrome’ at bay for a few weeks at a time and as such allows you to retain the most length. But if you are still experiencing breakage or thinning after braided protective styling, then low manipulation styles may be the best way forward.
Think high buns, braid outs & twist outs, faux bobs, ponytails or updo’s. You won’t be able to retain as much length as you can with braided styles so you may not be able to reach your own terminal length but you can still achieve wonderful length retention if you use low manipulation styling wisely in your regimen.