Are Protective Hairstyles Truly As Protective?

Styling natural hair is exciting and fun, but just if you wish to take a break, there is always the option of protective hairstyles. When women opt for a protective hair-do, their primary intention is to shield the mane from the inevitable wear and tear of daily life. An added plus point is the reprieve from the struggle of trying to make your hair look presentable every day. That being said, not all women endorse protective hairstyles as the saviors they are touted to be.

Donning a protective hair-do implies ‘doing’ your hair in a particular way such that it remains safe from environmental elements and other forms of damage. Standard techniques entail tucking away the ends and styling the mane to suffer the least amount of stress. Imagine going through the day without having to tug, pull, struggle, or handle your hair multiple times a day – that explains in a nutshell why protective hairstyles are such a rage. 

But dig a little deeper, and there might turn out to be more than a single catch. 

Fact Check On Protective Hairstyles

Given the warnings about protective hairstyles, it is but natural to wonder if these work. When in doubt, the best option is to dig deeper, and to this effect, discussed as follows are some essential facts that could help you to make the most of this hair-do – 

Not As Protective – Contrary to the common impression, protective hairstyles may not always live up to your expectations. It is indeed a proven fact that despite all the time and effort that goes in, some of them may end up causing more harm. For example, if your hair has been braided too tight or weaved too long, the chances are that it would tug too much at your scalp and lead to breakage and hair loss. Here, in the pictures below, is a protective style I recently paid to have done on me. Unfortunately, as you can see, my temple area’s hair broke off, leaving me bald in that spot.

The trick here is to identify a style that would work well for you in the long run, especially in maintenance and strand health. For a hair-do to be genuinely protective, it should be sufficiently comfortable to continue long-term without causing damage or demanding too much maintenance.  My cornrow braid hairstyle up above was braided extremely tight, which caused small red bumps and soreness. I was very disappointed because I felt the stylist who braided my hair knew all about hair and scalp health. She told me that she started braiding hair at thirteen, so I trusted her. I highly advise you to research the stylist and the style that will work best for your hair.

Regular Moisturizing – If your decision to don a protective hairstyle was meant to cut down on moisturizing, then you could not have been more wrong. Regardless of the style, dryness is a universal problem that afflicts hair, and unless attended to, it can cause the strands to become brittle and eventually break. 

To make the most of your protective hairstyle, ensure that it is moisturized well during the styling and later. Water is an efficient moisturizer. You can also add a hair oil/hair gel for a more prolonged impact before tucking, braiding, tweaking, or twisting so that breakage is minimal and strands also remain well-hydrated.

Types of Hair-do – Protective hairstyles could range from being elaborate to minimalist and everything in between, debunking the myth that these are usually simple. Your choice of style would depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to spend and how you intend to handle the mane later on. 

While choosing a protective hairstyle, you must remember that it should not be tight to the point of pulling at the roots, tuck the ends inward, and maintained with ease.

Scalp Maintenance – scalp hygiene can never be stressed enough, and this entails frequent cleaning and moisturizing. The scalp is where your hair’s roots reside, which is why its health has a direct bearing on the strands. For your protective hairstyle to appear as neat as intended, follow a scalp maintenance routine wherein it is frequently cleaned and duly moisturized, rather than being left to dry and collect dust. 

Versatile – A versatile hair-do is one that you can sport at any time, and for any occasion, protective hairstyles fit the bill in multiple ways. Not only can these be manipulated in the split of a second to suit the circumstances, but they also keep the ends and the strands safe. 

Braids are universally regarded as being one of the most versatile protective hair-dos. Besides enhancing your style quotient, these benefit your mane in the long run by limiting damage, enabling the scalp to breathe and rejuvenate itself. 

Ripping – When choosing a protective hairstyle, you must guard against one that could cause the strands to stretch beyond their capacity and suffer breakage. Ripping is a genuine danger when it comes to a protective hair-do, and much of it occurs due to excess tension and pulling. Unfortunately, it also leaves the strands frizzy, thus defeating the entire purpose of the exercise. 

Rather than opt for a complicated hair-do that harms your mane instead of protecting it, you would do well to play it safe with a style that does not tug, pull or stretch too much.  

Hair Growth – Doubtful though it might seem, protective hairstyles foster new hair growth, although it might take a bit of time. Demanding that this hair-do is cleansed, frequent moisturizing and minimal tugging provide the scalp with a much-needed break to rejuvenate itself. As a result, a healthy and breathing scalp soon becomes a breeding ground for new growth, which in turn adds to your mane. 

Time-Saving – Indeed, one of the most attractive aspects of protective hairstyles is that they require minimal handling. After the initial effort of having been put in place, these can be tied up in a bun, held by a clasp, or gathered in a ponytail within a matter of seconds. The lesser you handle your hair, the safer it is from damage, and the more you save on time both in the short term and in the long run.   

Protective Hairstyles – Pros and Cons

So, which protective hairstyle would you choose for yourself? Before taking the plunge, you must explore the various options in terms of their pros, cons, and maintenance, and compiled as follows a list to help you with the task –

Crochet Braids

To achieve this protective hairstyle, you need to systematically crochet the hair extensions onto the strands to appear natural and blend seamlessly. Moisturizing is a must with this hair-do, as is the importance of spacing your hair and judging the thickness while installing the extensions. 

Pros:

  • These are cost-effective because, firstly, crocheting your hair does not cost much. Secondly, it is possible to get good bargains on hair extensions without compromising on the quality if you look around slightly. Overall, it is possible to rock this impressive protective hairstyle without burning a massive hole in your pocket;
  • Because extensions somewhat cover your hair, it remains shielded from all the various weather elements;
  • Depending on the braids, these can last over several months even with minimal maintenance;
  • It is one of the protective hairstyles that does not damage hair and can also spur new growth over some time;
  • One of the most significant advantages is the variety of styles that this hair-do renders possible;

Cons:

  • Regular washing is a must, and in case of extra dryness, you might need some additional products;
  • For your hair-do to have a uniform texture, it might be necessary to use softeners;

Twists

Just in case braids give you a headache, twists come across as being the next best alternatives. First, take a small portion of your hair and twist till you reach the tip. Next, wrap it around another part of the hair and twist them around each other until the end. Having handled your entire mane, you will have acquired a sassy hairdo, which is also protective. 

Pros:

  • Comfort is the most significant plus point of this protective hairstyle. Initially, you might feel a bit heavy, but this is likely to pass over in a day or two, leaving you looking smart and entirely at ease;
  • Twists could take a variety of forms, like Senegalese, Havana, Marley, and so on, which means you are likely to be spoiled for choice in terms of style;
  • Cost varies as per the thickness of the twists as also the quality of hair extensions used, which implies that you can go as high or as low as you wish to;

Cons:

  • This protective hair-do is as time-consuming as can be, wherein the duration can stretch up to 12 hours or more;
  • Twists do not hold up well to regular washing and become frizzy from being exposed to water regularly. Therefore, hydration and cleansing routine might pose a problem;
  • Edges tend to get damaged when the hair is styled in twists;
  • Unraveling of twists is an authentic problem, and one that puts a question mark on the longevity of this protective hairstyle;

Cornrows

In this protective hairstyle, portions of hair are braided close to the scalp in an upward motion in straight lines or as per a geometric design, forming rows or patterns. Because each row of braids appears somewhat raised, hence the name ‘cornrows,’ these could assume many different forms.

Pros:

  • The braids being flat and running along the scalp, this hair-do is truly protective in terms of retaining moisture and cushioning the edges;
  • Braiding in place does not take more than a couple of hours, thus rendering this hair-do a time-saving option;
  • Using extensions is a choice with this hair-do, as the braids can turn out fine with just natural hair too, making the entire exercise economical;

Cons:

  • The method of braiding, cornrows lack the flexibility of being manipulated into different styles;
  • These also do not take well to washing and often end up becoming frizzy;
  • Scalp cleanliness might prove to be an issue in the long run;

Buns

Hair protection assumes priority for someone who is always on the go and cannot dedicate much time or attention to hairstyling or upkeep. A bun comes across as a savior in such a situation, wherein it adds a neat touch to your appearance while protecting the ends from the daily rough and tumble. Tying a bun entails detangling your hair and circling it at the back of your head till the ends are tucked in. 

Pros:

  • With hardly any brushing, braiding, or twisting, a bun is one of the protective hairstyles that are the simplest and fastest to achieve;
  • Making a bun entails tucking the ends, which in turn prevents them from rubbing on your clothes and losing moisture;
  • All that a bun requires is a rubber-band, or maybe a bobby pin or two, thus proving to be the cheapest possible protective hair-do;

Cons:

  • Piling up a bun at the same spot every day causes stress on the strands, the outcome being breakage;
  • Buns do not work well if your hair is tangled – on being tied up, the tangles get worse and severely damage the strands;
  • Unless your hair is thoroughly moisturized, a bun could cause excessive dryness;
  • It is applicable only in the case of long hair;
  • They do tug at the roots and may even cause a headache if pulled too tightly;

Bantu Knots

Very useful as a protective hairstyle, Bantu knots entail segregating your mane into sections and twisting each section into a knot. At the end of the exercise, your crown would appear to be dotted with a neat stack of rings, with the ends tucked in. You can sport Bantu knots for days and weeks at a stretch or keep them overnight and unravel in the morning to enjoy curly hair. 

Pros:

  • Bantu knots provide you with two options, wherein you can either sport them as knots or open them up into a lovely set of bouncy curls;
  • This protective hairstyle is a great DIY option – any time you want, style your hair into Bantu knots without requiring a professional stylist;
  • Due to being placed at the lower end of the price spectrum, Bantu knots come under the ‘easily affordable’ category of protective hairstyles, which means you can enjoy a cute hair-do without spending anything;

Cons:

  • Cute though it is, this hair-do is challenging to sleep in as the knots would most likely poke into your scalp;
  • While it is a great short-term option, the maximum that you can continue with it is a week, after which it will defeat the purpose;
  • There is a good chance that Bantu knots may get tangled, and when they do, the next stage is breakage and damage;

Final Thoughts

Rather than take a hairstyle at face value, a better idea would be to complete thorough research of what it entails, pros, cons, and preparation. More importantly, follow the pre-and post-installation protocols, wherein you must shampoo, condition, and moisturize your mane regardless of the style. 

Ultimately, your objective is to protect the mane. So, the onus is on you to figure out a protective hairstyle that would serve the purpose and provide the best possible results.  

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