Protective styles are styles that can be worn for a period of time without being manipulated i.e. handled, combed, brushed… Styles such as twists, braids, and updos are considered to be protective styles. Protective styles such as these can be created with natural hair and added extensions.
The purpose of protective styles is to give your hair a break from daily styling which will result in less stress put on your hair strands. Less stress on hair strands helps with length retention. Therefore, wearing protective styles is beneficial to the health of your hair.
Even while wearing protective styles, you must take care of your hair and scalp. Twists, braids and updos, especially those created with extensions, should be washed regularly.
When worn over a period of time, these styles will attract dirt and debris which will mix with your scalp’s natural oils and cause buildup on your hair and scalp. This buildup can clog hair follicles and prevent healthy hair growth, which would defeat the purpose of wearing the protective style.
Some people shy away from washing protective styles in fear that they may damage the style. But, in the long run, a clean scalp is more beneficial to overall hair health than an itchy – most likely smelly – scalp that can result in long term damage.
So keep in mind that while wearing protective styles, washing your hair during the duration of wearing the style helps to keep your hair and scalp healthy.
The key to washing extension styles is not to wait until the last minute to do so. The longer dirt and debris sits and collects on hair, the harder it is to remove without disturbing the braids or twists. And when braids or twist styles are finally taken down, the built up dirt and debris can get matted into new growth making it difficult to detangle and cause breakage. Again, this will defeat the purpose of wearing a protective style.
Twists and braids can be washed without being taken down. By gently pouring water over the twists/briads over a sink or using the shower head on a low stream to wet hair. Next, shampoo can be applied, lathered and the scalp can be massaged with the palms of your fingers to cleanse.
The suds from the shampoo can be gently squeezed down the length of the twists or braids from root to ends, then the hair can be rinsed by the same method it was wet. After washing, gently blot excess water so it wont be dripping wet, and if possible let your hair air dry. If it is not possible to air dry, use a hooded dryer or handheld dryer with a diffuser attachment on low heat.
Also after washing, apply a little oil or pomade to your hair and scalp while still damp to seal in the moisture from the water. To smooth down frizziness that may occur during washing and drying, cover the twists/braids with a silk or satin scarf or cap until hair is fully dry.
Updos created with twists or braids can be taken down, but the braids or twists do not need to be unraveled to be washed and once dry they can be put back into the updo. Updos created with loose hair must be taken down and redone after washing, and therefore can not be worn as long as those created with braids or twists.
Also, be sure that when wearing updos that they are not done so tight that they pull and cause stress on your hairline/edges which can result in permanent hair loss.
As far as daily maintenance, protective styles are fairly easy to take care of. Cover your protective style at night with a silk or satin scarf and/or sleep on a silk or satin pillow case. Scalp massages can be done during the week with natural oils in between washing as well.
All in all, to get the full benefits of wearing protective styles such as less stress on hair strands, and length retention, be sure to keep your hair and scalp clean, and make sure styles are not too tight, causing stress around your hairline.