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Protective styling and defensive hair care management define my hair care regimen. I used to assume that my hair would always be effortlessly beautiful and I paid it very little attention above and beyond a quick weekly wash and condition. That all changed early in 2011 when I incurred severe breakage and was forced to pay it lots of TLC; I kicked relaxer to the curb and went natural.
Protective styling is in my opinion the key to retaining length. Everyone’s hair is constantly growing, some faster than others, but what sets those that achieve great length apart from those that do not is the ability to prevent breakage.
There are two types:
Completely protective styles hide the ends of hair from view. Hair ends are the oldest segment of hair on your head and also the weakest. Hiding them from view can help to reduce breakage.
Low manipulation protective styles may have the ends exposed but they require little day-to-day hair handling. Handling such as combing and styling hair is when breakage occurs. The less you have to touch your hair the better.
Some styles are both completely protective and low manipulation. These are my favourite. Examples of protective styles include:
When your hair is pulled together it’s much less vulnerable. Think about it this way: is it easier to break one toothpick or ten bunched up together? The answer is the same for hair.
When my hair was short I could put a comb through it with little resistance. Now tangling is such a big issue for me. Frequently with a twist/braid-out or a roller set you can go two or three days without having to restyle thus giving your hair a break.
When your hair is plaited in some way it gets a proper break and you completely forget about whether or not it’s “growing”. Ideally, I want to spend most of next year in braids. My only worry is that I have to comb my hair properly to get it plaited and I don’t usually do that; I enjoy far less breakage under a comb-free regime – my fingers are my comb.
This is a subcategory of completely protective styling. For most of 2011 my hair was too short to be pinned down so I wore hats and scarves over my head whenever I was outside. This is especially useful when it’s extremely windy, cold or hot.
So, the whole aim of protective styling is to reduce opportunities for breakage. Those opportunities increase when hair strands are isolated, i.e. not tied up, when hair ends are exposed to environmental elements (sun, wind, cold) and when you’re “handling” your hair. If you are trying to grow long, healthy hair consider using protective styling more often.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward of nenonatural.com