Proper Etiquette for Long-term Protective Styles

Hello!  I hope everything has been okay in your world.  This week I think it’s a good idea to go over natural hair protective styling etiquette.  The natural styles I am referring to are box braids, Havana Twist, Senegalese twist, crochet braids, and so on.  I love these hairstyles more than any other hairstyle besides my curls.  These protective styles are less maintenance but that does not mean we should not do anything to keep our hair healthy while it is in the protective style.  Let’s discuss my perspective on good protective style etiquette.

  1. Wash the extension before styling hair. This is more specific for the loose hair styles like box braids.  Extensions are processed with tons of chemicals.  The scalp can start to itch really badly (like mine) if the hair isn’t wash prior to styling.  How to:  Remove the hair from the plastic bag and paper.  Leave the rubber band ON.  Mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar (feel free to use white vinegar) with water in a bucket or large bowl.  Push the hair down in the bucket a few times to ensure the hair is fully soaked.  Let the hair stay in the mixture for at least an hour.  Dump the mixture and rinse the hair under the faucet.  Hang the hair to dry.
  1. Deep condition your hair prior to styling. These protective styles are worn for several weeks so a deep condition is a must to prevent hair from drying.
  2. Hair should not be pulled tight around all edges of the head including the back and nape area. Don’t pull hair tightly around the edges because extensions are heavier than our natural hair weight and can cause breakage around our edges. If someone else is doing your hair, please tell them not to braid tight around your edges.  Remember you are paying them for their services so you should get exactly what you want.
  3. Keep scalp moisturized with a light oil. I use jojoba oil.  Don’t use a heavy oil (like coconut oil) because after a while the pores will become clogged.  Clogged pores will make hair dirty, smelly, and will not allow hair to fully grow.
  4. Moisturize braids (where your real hair is). This is important to prevent hair ends from becoming dull and breaking.  The whole point of a protective style for most people is length retention.
  5. Keep hair protected while resting or sleeping. Besides crotchet braids (your real hair is still exposed) in a protective style.  Therefore, still sleep on a silk or satin pillow case or wear a silk or satin scarf to bed.  Regardless, you may want to wear a scarf while sleeping to keep front edges under control.
  6. Do not apply too much gel or edge control on edges. Applying gel or edge control all of the time will cause buildup, which can cause breakage around edges.  This the reason why I said sleep with a scarf in the last tip.
  7. Do not keep style in too long. I know some people like to keep their styles in for at least 8 weeks.  If it works for them, great!  However, I don’t think it’s healthy.  As our hair starts to get dirty we scratch it more causing inflammation in the scalp.  Inflammation in the scalp can lead to more hair shedding, which defeats the purpose of the protective style.  I usually keep my style in for 3 to 4 weeks at the most.  Judge how long you can keep your style in by how your hair start to react.  If your hair starts to itch a lot on week 4 you should not keep the style past week 5.
  8. Deep condition your hair with a repair (or protein) deep conditioner after style is removed. Similar to my blog post about straightening our hair, doing a repair deep conditioning will bring the hair back to where it was before the style.
  9. After protective style is removed, style hair in a low tension manipulation hairstyle. This etiquette tip is a reminder to let the hair rest after a long protective style.

These etiquette tips are not one size fit all.  You may find some tips useful and others not so useful.  However, I believe these are great tips if you love these style as much as I do or if you want to try these styles out for the first time.  Thanks for reading!

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