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!
I feel like there are more cons than pros in this article. It struck a cord with me. For nearly 2 years, I've worn sewn-in weaves. First because I was pregnant and my hair was super short. I did not want to deal with chemicals. I took the weave out after 1.5 years, to see what I had underneath. I am natural with a full head of hair. Not wanting to relax it, I got a press & curl from a former stylist. That lead to heat damage. I still have length, but my issue is that I really do not know HOW to care for my natural hair. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I can't wear popular natural styles at work, regardless of what blogs, websites, magazines and the like say. I know my workplace. It's liberal, but not that liberal. So, I opted for the sew in weave again. I only wore my natural hair our for about two months. I like weaves, too. I like to change it up a bit. But I don't like articles, blogs, etc… that chastise women for not going natural. We know full & well that relaxers are not good for our hair. The constant heat/pressing to natural hair, and also chemicals to relaxed hair ultimately lead to damage. In the end, I think we have to do what's right for ourselves.
Alma Ruddock says
You know, I totally agree with you. Lets be honest here, many many many black women wear weaves or wigs etc but they hair underneath never seems to grow. I think its important to learn about taking care of your own hair first before delving into extensions. Sorry about your workplace though, most workplaces these days won't even bat an eyelid when you walk in with a huge fro but it seems that you are not so lucky. The only thing I can suggest is to learn to straighten your own hair at home without heat damage. There are plenty of natural ladies who straighten on a regular basis and still retain mid back lengths and longer. Technique is everything and I'm sorry to say that most, not all, stylists are the enemy! You can then add clip in extensions to give you extra length but at least this way you are forced to deal with your hair on a regular basis. Practice makes perfect.
This is a silly question, but how do other ladies straighten their hair on a regular basis w/o extensive damage?
Is regular weekly, bi-weekly? I alsow work out, so that's another issue for me with the natural hair vs. sewn-in weave.
I returned to the weave after –
1. Not being able to maintain my natural hair – Or, thinking I can't, and
2. The stylist ( not the one who installed the weave) basically broke a small portion of my hair.
Plus it's summer in Georgia and I did not want to deal with the humidity, fluffiness & puffiness of my natural. Sorry but it's true.
Alma Ruddock says
I straighten every couple of weeks and wear a natural style on the week I don't straighten (a bun slicked back with gel). Some naturals do straighten weekly without problems but I would imagine that it would be too much heat if you don't know what you are doinng.
I have to say however, if you don't straighten regularly (your hair is not heat trained), you are not likely to get more than a few hours wear of straight hair in humid weather! It will puff up almost immediately, I've had it happen to me. Lol. But the more you straighten, the longer you can keep the style in spite of weather, working out, etc. I could probably keep my hair straight for 2 weeks but I have to wash and con weekly.
Christina Walker-Moore says
No I don’t use it to fake till i make it!!! Its just a hairstyle!!
Sherry Royer says
Yes! I do use It 2 fake Till I made It! 🙂
Chantal McDonald says
2 jobs and school, it’s convenient
Diamond Williams-Davis says
Chantal McDonald I know thats right!!
I wear wigs so I can access my hair when I need to. Edges suffer, but there doesn’t seem to be a fool proof solution, so you pick your poison. I would rock my natural hair, but I really don’t have the skill for styling my hair no matter how much I practice. Going to a hairstylist every week is impractical and finding a good stylist is like finding a needle in a haystack. So far, I seem to be retaining length, so I will keep my regime up for as long as it works.