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FEATURES Apr 21 2012 10:30PM

Protective Styling: 3 Easy Ways to Do It

by Christina S. Brown, LoveBrownSugar

As someone new to transitioning, you’ll probably find yourself frustrated from time to time with your newfound hair texture and the difficulties of managing two textures at once. This is when protective styles come to the rescue. An important part of your transition will be leaving your hair alone so that it will grow out longer and stronger being under the constant stress of manipulation. I know you love running your fingers through those new curls but, believe me, keeping your hands out of your hair for weeks on end can truly do wonders for maintaining new growth. So what’s a protective style? Well, it normally involves hiding your hair from the elements, especially your ends, so that your strands can rest and simply grow. Here we’ll discuss the top three most popular ways to look effortlessly chic while transitioning from relaxed to natural. And all-natural girls, don’t underestimate the power of a protective style for your own strands. It helps with all stages of the hair journey, not just for transitioning.
1. Box Braids
Whether you rock them long and slender like bohemian princess Solange or short and chunky like Maxine Waters from A Different World, box braids can do wonders for preserving your new growth. They can be styled multiple ways offering day to day versatility and they’re pretty simple to maintain.
2. Weaves
Weaves are the perfect option for you if you who want a fuss-free protective style with the ability to manipulate it like your own hair. Depending on what texture you opt for and the quality of the hair you use, you’ll be able to comb, crimp, and curl it to your heart’s desire without worrying about damaging your own strands. So go on and “Pat your weave,” like Beyonce says. Just not in public please.
3. Wigs
Wigs are you’re best bet if ultimate versatility is your top priority. You have the flexibility of wearing an amazing wig during the day, and massaging your own curls at night. You can also switch up your style instantly. Wear it long and wavy one day and short and flipped the next. You can also experiment with half-wigs that are close to your own hair’s texture so you can blend and extend. The trick with wigs is making sure they are secured properly to your head, and virtually undetected.
Many protective style newbies make the mistake of assuming that once they have braids or a weave or a new wig, they can be hands-off for weeks on end. But beware, every style (protective or not) requires proper maintenance. Follow these key steps to avoid hair breakage and to keep your protective style as healthy as possible.
•   Install with care. This is an important one. Have conversations with your stylist leading up to your installation to make sure braids and weaves are installed comfortably, with no pain or pulling around your hairline. For many, the hair around the temple and nape is delicate and has the softest and least resistant strands, making it very easy for the hair around your edges to fall out when under constant tension. You should never feel pulling or pain when your style is installed. If you do, alert your stylist immediately.
•   Shampoo & condition regularly. While your hair is safe from the harsh environmental elements, your scalp is still exposed and will undoubtedly accumulate dirt, sweat and anything else in the air. Make a point to rinse your scalp at least weekly, or however often your scalp requires it. If you work out regularly, for example, you may find a biweekly wash insufficient. Do what works for you but be sure to use a gentle cleanser for your scalp or co-wash with your favorite conditioner. If you opt for extensions,talk to your stylist to find out which products suit the hair type installed. More often than not, if the hair texture is different from your natural hair, you’ll have to treat it using different products.
•   Remove on time. Though the ease of protective styling might be comforting and convenient, don’t allow it to stay in for too long after installation. The healthy period of time for box braids and weaves is around 4-6 weeks. Anything longer than that, and you risk potential breakage, knotting, extreme tangling and worse - hair loss. Your natural hair needs a break from protective styling too, so plan to have your protective style carefully removed in a timely manner.
Follow these simple tips and try out a protective style for the season. Because the easiest way to retain your healthy, beautiful curls is to make protective styling a regular part of your hair regimen.


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