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Protective styling is a term every natural hair woman, or pretty much every woman, hears on the daily. It’s said that protective styling is the way to go when focusing on healthy hair growth. But what exactly qualifies a hairstyle as protective? Does a weave qualify as a protective hairstyle? And do all protective hairstyles have to look so…boring?

A true protective hairstyle is at its base simply a style that protects the ends of your hair, helping to decrease tangling, shedding and breakage. A protective hairstyle hides your ends from exposure but should leave them in a detangled state. For example, once you have properly detangled your hair and pull it into a ponytail, you can then twist down your ponytail and pin it into a bun. This helps to promote hair growth as the idea is to actually retain your length rather than the very ineffective idea of speeding up hair growth.

A bun or braids easily falls into the protective hairstyle category. And yes, at its core, so does a weave. But without careful installation and maintenance those can go horribly awry. Some will debate that pulling hair tightly back into a bun and slathering on a pound of gel does NOT qualify as a protective hairstyle, although your ends are tucked in and “protected.” The amount of tension you are placing on your hairline and the product buildup is counter-intuitive to what you are actually trying to achieve. The same can be said for braids or extensions that are installed too tightly and wear on the hairline. Remember that the root word is protect, and so while the hairstyle should take good care of your ends, it needs to protect all aspects of the hair ensuring that you have strong follicles to promote retention of length.

A lot of people, myself included, have often been dismayed at the idea that in order to promote healthy hair growth, we have to be relegated to boring protective hairstyles. The school teacher bun ‘do or the pinned up twists can be a bit dull for the bevvy of women who like to showcase their hair in a bigger manner. Protective styling eliminates the idea of blow-drying or adding direct heat to your hair, but you can still get creative with protective styles by adding a bouffant (à la Janelle Monae) to your pinned up ‘do. Or switch up the braided style with fishtail braids. There’s plenty of tutorials on YouTube for both looks. If you are going the braids/weave route, make sure that your braids aren’t too tight and you hair is properly moisturized. Box braids are a great alternative to micros, as they don’t put as much tension on your hair (and they take half the time to do). Do NOT keep your weave/braids in over more than two months at a time, because your hair does need time and space to breath.

Here’s a definite quick tip for protective hairstyles: bobby pins are a girl’s best friend, especially for those who don’t know how to braid.  Just remember that you’re goal is to decrease tangling and eliminate breakage by enclosing your ends in a detangled state. If you keep that in mind, you and your protective style should be all good to go!

Jouelzy offers tutorials on all aspects of Black hair care via her YouTube channel, focusing on women with tight budgets. You can also find her daily hair tips and inspirations on Facebook.

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