Dermatologist Dr. Yolanda Lenzy says that where women go wrong with the beloved protective style is that they believe the only thing they need to worry about is that their braids aren’t tight when they also need to be more worried about keeping them in too long. When that happens, the weight of the braids begins to put tension on the new growth, which can weaken our hair.
“Where I’m concerned is when people leave braids in for a long period of time, like two, three months. As you get the new growth, that added hair is just weighing down those follicles and you can kind of see it pulling,” she says. “That’s where a lot of people run into problems, leaving the braids in too long.”
Dr. Lenzy recommends that you wear your braids for shorter time lengths. If your hair is recovering from say postpartum hair loss for example, four weeks is the longest you should wear them. Whatever the state of your hair health, once braids come down, she says it’s best to give your hair an extended break.
“A lot of people talk about tight braids, but it’s not just the tightness, it’s as it grows out, that added hair is a lot of weight on the follicles,” she says. “That’s why I recommend if you take braids out, you need to take a holiday and give your scalp a rest before putting them right back in. A lot of people they take them out, they’ll shampoo and then in another day or two, they put them right back. That’s not a good thing. That’s definitely not a good thing.”
Breaks are necessary according to Dr. Lenzy to help us show our actual hair some tender loving care. You need to touch your hair, deep condition it, and just let it have a break.
“I usually say if you had them in for four weeks you need to let your hair rest for four weeks. It’s definitely needed to rotate just to kind of give your scalp a breath,” she said. “You want to rotate for sure.”
During the winter, as you give your hair a breather, she recommends truly protecting your hair by using hydrating shampoos and conditioners to combat the cold, as well as integrating steam into your wash day regimen.
But overall, she says don’t buy into relying on protective styles.
“A lot of us talk about ‘protective styles.’ I kind of don’t really love the term because it makes people think if it’s ‘protected’ you can leave it,” she says. “But we need to take breaks. So I’m not a big fan of doing protective styles forever and on to leave your hair alone. We need to love on our hair and make sure it’s doing well. Just having it tied up or braided up all the time is not necessarily good.”