Are all protective styles created equal?
Weaves and braid extensions are a hit with black women allowing for dramatic style changes and added length at the drop of a hat.
Although extensions look great, here at BHI we are more concerned here with the health of your real hair. So is growing your hair out with any type of extension ever a good idea in the long run?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of braids, weaves and wigs*.
► Braids allow freedom in as much as they leave your scalp free to breath and your hair is protected within the braid so unlikely to break. Human hair braids give the freedom of style as they can be curled or straightened and they are much lighter on the head than their synthetic counterparts.
Individual tree/crotchet braids can give the look of gorgeous free flowing hair while your own hair is completely braided up underneath.
► Weaves can give you a natural look depending on the skill of the stylist and the quality of the hair while your hair is protected in cornrows underneath. There is also the added advantage of being able to change your hairstyle from a curly to straight weave quite easily.
Another advantage is being able to wear a texture that is similar to your own so that nobody knows that anything is different except for you (never a bad thing in my book).
► Depending on the quality of the wig*, you can achieve an extremely natural look without all the hassle of sewing tracks into your hair. Wigs also allow full access to your own hair when you remove it nightly.
► Synthetic hair braids tend to rob moisture from your own strands so will require daily moisture with a strengthening leave in spray but still some people may struggle to retain length with the use of synthetic hair.
Human hair braids can be quite expensive and threaten to slip out at the first sign of moisture so are not ideal for healthy hair regimens that require regular moisturization. Also depending on the type of braids installed, they can also be quite high maintenance.
► Excessively tight braiding either for weaves, wigs* or just individual braids are responsible for thinning edges in many black women. Truth be told, many of us have strands that will never be able to withstand the stress of braiding.
► Weaves do not allow for much access to your scalp so there is increased chance of matted hair and it’s not easy to wash and condition your own hair thoroughly which means that any length gains may be negated by breakage due to your hair being dry, brittle or matted.
► Your own hair also takes quite a while to dry after being washed in a weave which can lead to fungal infections and mildew on your scalp. These infections actually slow down your hair growth.
► Some wig* combs can be rough on your roots and some women have claimed that they essentially “saw” through your strands when applied day after day.
► The major problem with extensions particularly braids and weaves is that they lead to neglect of your own hair. If you have paid a lot of money to have a beautiful style installed, you may opt to avoid washing your hair to avoid frizz. Others will avoid washing weaves because it loosens the braids underneath and the weave will not last as long.
Another problem is that these protective styles can lead to complacency as it relates to daily moisturization and weekly grooming of your own hair which means that the benefits of the protective style are negated in the end.
The cons need not spell disaster for your hopes to wear extensions but a touch of realism is required. A lot of black women wear weaves, braids and wigs all year round yet not many black women have long hair. Does that tell you something? Simply that a protective style is only as good as the person wearing it!
If your hair regimen needs work then in spite of constant protective styling, your ends will keep on breaking and hair will appear not to grow. On the other hand, if you have a sound hair care regimen, you could go all year round with only basic protective styling like buns and keep all your length!
It is very important to learn how to look after your own hair from day to day while retaining length, essentially; get to know your own hair. Running to braids, weaves and wigs to protect your length is sometimes counterproductive.
I am aware of a lady who grew her hair to mid back length with box braids for about 3 years. She rarely gave her hair a break from the braids and even though she retained majority of her length over the years, she didn’t know how to retain length without the braids.
When she eventually stopped using extensions*, she noticed to her horror that she lost almost a year’s worth of growth in just a few months simply because she didn’t know how to care for her own hair!
The lesson here is to learn how to look after your own hair first and use extensions* to compliment your regimen. Trust me, you will get more satisfaction from knowing that you grew your hair through sheer hard work rather than just hiding your hair away!