Protective Hairstyles: 5 Ways They Damage Your Hair and Hurt Hair Growth
Have you heard this one before?
"Protective hairstyles grow your hair. It's protecting your hair from the elements."
That's funny because most of the people I know with long hair wearing their out...While the people I know with short hair have been wearing protective styles for ages.
In this post, I will show you how protective hairstyles can ultimately result in damage to your hair in its natural state.
Let's get started!
- Tension is the number one reason to avoid protective styles.
- Adding hair or hair extensions causes excess friction in the hair.
- Protective styles trap shed hair which causes tangles and single strand knots.
- Protective styles limit your ability to clean your hair.
- These issues build up and ultimately result in breakage.
Funny how protective styles aren't so protective.
This will be a great read if you have textured hair, curly hair, tightly curled hair, or kinky hair. Here's a YouTube video if you don't feel like reading.
#1 Tension is the number one reason to avoid protective styles.
Tension and strain from the pulling of braids and cornrows can cause significant damage to your hair over time.
In order to achieve these styles, your follicles get seriously stressed as the hair is pulled into place.
More often than not, this stress is concentrated on the most sensitive parts of your scalp like your edges.
Your precious edges are getting the most tension because they are short, soft, fine, brittle hair that doesn't want to be tamed.
This brings me to my personal war on edge control but I digress. Leave your edges alone.
Tension can be worse when you have short natural hair because the braider has to pull tighter to get all of your hair into the braid.
Braids can seem like a better alternative to straightening your hair because there is less risk of ruining your natural texture but that doesn't mean there is no risk.
And many styles even go a step further by adding extra weight.
The excessive use of ponytails weaves, and extensions are working double-time to give you tension damage.
And what happens when your hair is pulled tightly and something heavy like extensions is weighing on it?
You guessed it, BREAKAGE.
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#2 Adding hair or hair extensions cause excess friction in the hair.
Often times protective styles don't simply mean, braiding or twisting your hair, they usually mean you are adding some type of extension to your hair.
Protective styling with extensions was popular even before the natural hair movement.
Here are some examples of protective styles with extensions:
- Box Braids
- Marley Twists
- Senegalese Twists
These are the styles people refer to as protective but many of the extensions added to the hair rub against your natural hair.
Regardless of whether you use real or synthetic hair, this friction can cause the cuticle layer of the hair to lift. And too much friction can lead to split ends.
The friction will mostly occur with box braids, twists, kinky curly twists, and Senegalese twists since the added fibers come in direct contact with your natural hair.
You are also probably not cleansing your hair weekly like you would if you wore a Wash + Go.
#3 Protective styles trap shed hair which causes tangles and single strand knots.
Ask any black woman who has gone through postpartum shedding, that shedding produces a TON of single strand knots, as well as multiple strand knots and its the worst.
What is shedding vs breakage?
- Shedding means your hair is falling out in full-length strands with the white bulb on the end. They are coming from the root (your scalp), so you should see a white bulb on the end of the hair strand.
- Breakage means your hair is falling out due to damage, in small short pieces of hair. They aren't coming from the root, so you don't see a white bulb on the end of the hair strand.
How often do you shed natural hair?
When you are wearing a protective style for 2 months (60 days x 100 pieces = up to 6,000 pieces), you are combing out up to 3,000 to 6,000 pieces of shed hair.
That sounds like a detangling nightmare.
Surely some healthy strands get caught up in this process and can result in an excessive loss of hair, preventing hair growth.
Many black women wear protective styles to grow their natural hair long, but a lot of the results will hinder growth.
I am not sure why we think these styles grow our hair, perhaps growing up in the black community, this information had been handed down through the ages.
I do think protective styles without extensions can actually be protective and they are usually MUCH cheaper when you don't get extensions added. I appreciate a good conrow with natural hair.
When it comes to protective styling, we are spending money, too much money on something that is so damaging.
#4 Protective styles limit your ability to clean your hair.
My normal hair routine includes a weekly shampoo and conditioner, and sometimes deep conditioning. I use very few hair care products because I use CurlMix.
My favorite line is the Vanilla Berry Wash and Go System with Organic Castor Oil.
When I wear protective styles, I, like most women, don't shampoo my hair for weeks and sometimes months.
This causes oil, dirt, and dandruff to build-up on your hair, preventing it from receiving water and water is such an important factor in hair growth.
When your hair doesn't receive water, it becomes overly dry and results in breakage. Women who wear sew-ins and wigs often avoid shampooing as well.
Most of us need to shampoo and condition our natural curls weekly. Just make sure the shampoo doesn't have harsh chemicals or anything that will completely strip your hair. You can review the ingredients on the Environmental Working Group to check their toxicity.
#5 These issues ultimately result in breakage.
The worst part about protective styles is that all of the issues I mentioned before can be happening in your head all at once.
And you might only realize it when its time to take them down.
Just think about the last time you took out braids. Shed hair and dandruff litter the floor, lint and dirtballs flying out, and worse of all those bald and low patches that you can't cover-up.
It's like a scene straight out of your nightmares.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you have a lot of breakage from "Protective styles", you just have to be patient and avoid those styles in the future.
Bonus: How to prevent damage from protective styles.
Take out any excess weight and let your hair be free.
Go back to a regular hair routine of shampooing and conditioning weekly.
And make sure you are wearing styles that don't have tension.
And if you MUST wear them make sure the braider isn't pulling tightly on your hair and don't wear them longer than 2 weeks
I love the way box braids and Senegalese twists look but once your hair is damaged, the only thing to nurse it back to health is patience.
The risk is too great, so I just don't wear them.
But before you go...I want to hear from you
If you used protective styles in the past, was your hair better or worse when you took it down?
Leave a comment and let us know!
wearing wash and goes along with just your hair out causes it to dry out faster along with single strand knots. Shed hair will accumulate no matter if your hair is out or braided whether you are curly, coily or kinky. The nature of our hair not being straight the shed hair doesn’t slide out. I do agree you need to cleanse, add moisture to your hair regularly. I think the issue to be addressed maybe individuals see proetctive styling as I can be lazy and do nothing to my hair. Nope! I think eveyone has an agenda. The agenda should be whatever helps that individual keep their hair in a state that makes them happy. We get a lot as black woman about our hair. Eveyone has an answer for an easy way there is no magic product or routine. Just do what works for you.
just read this article and although it is true that shedding is a natural process and protective styles holds these hairs that could lead to tangles. letting your natural hair breathe can also lead to tangles. I’ve wore protective styles for a few years and I have gained such a healthy length of hair. no I don’t wash as often as I would if my hair was out however I use a cleansing foam in my hair every other week to cut down on build up. I’m also in my masters program and work full time so my time is very limited. I appreciate the viewpoint of the article. However, regardless of how you choose to style it, you have to maintain the health of your hair by cleaning the scalp, moisture and oil. To much of anything is damaging for our fragile hair. happy hair lengths!
send me the product that will help my hair grow Thank you
I have worn my hair in protective styles off and on for years, box braids and mini box braids when I want to achieve a length goal. I do not add hair at all and wash it with shampoo and deep condition weekly. i also rinse my hair or cowash during the week when my hair needs it. I have used Curl Mix 4 step system on my braided styles and it worked well. I leave it in for no longer than 4 to 6 weeks, I then take this syle down do a protein trearment, wash, deep condition and trim if needed. I let it rest for a few days and redo my mini or box braids. I have never lost my edged as i have no added weight and it is not braided tightly. I only wear my hair in this stlye after I have done something stupid like color my hair hate the way my curl pattern changed and cut it off. This is my start over style until I get my length back.
I did the big chop to my hair in 2018 due to my hair being chemically damaged from relaxers and when I did the big chop, it was a process and a big change for me. I really didnt care for the short natural look so I did one sew inn, and then after that I had my hair crocheted three times in a year before I let my hair finally breathe. I saw a difference in my growth pattern, but I did see the breakage and shedding as well. But now its at a length to where I am staying away from the protective styles and just doing daily routines by washing it and conditioning my hair and doing my own natural deep condition as well. Last but not least, I did learn that its okay to keep braids, crochets, etc in your hair, just dont keep them in longer than two weeks. I was a victim of the long time wearing protective styles, not any more. I love the natural hair life style.
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