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5 Ways Protective Styles Can Damage Your Hair

Protective styles, from my professional observation are styles that protect your hair from mechanical and environmental damage. Additionally, it aids in length retention resulting in longer hair over time.

Mechanical damage is damage that occurs due to improper manipulation of your hair while shampooing, drying and detangling . These repeated actions can all lead to hair breakage over time. Also, the routine use of scrunchies and clips, may damage the cuticle layer of your hair. Once the cuticle is damaged, your hair shaft would begin splitting and breaking.

UV rays, salt and chlorine are forms of environmental damage. Repeated exposure to these elements can result in wear and tear on your hair over time. Working in a cold environment can also lead to dry and brittle hair making it prone to breakage.

Protective styles gained popularity during the rise of the natural hair movement. At this time, women began ditching relaxers in favour of wearing their natural hair. The main reason women started wearing protective styles was to protect their natural hair from breakage, but here are a few other reasons that protective styles became popular:

  • Protective styles are an easy and stylish way for women with relaxed hair to transition to natural hair.

  • Women who are growing out a short style may opt for braids or weaves to avoid styling their hair during that awkward in-between length.

  • Protective styles are convenient styles, especially for vacation. Some women who wear their natural hair sometimes struggle to style their hair daily. This means that if they vacation and plan on frequenting the pool or beach, a protective style makes for a hassle-free hair routine.

  • Sometimes women want a change of style with the added benefit of not having to style their hair daily.

  • Some women may opt for a protective style to stretch their relaxer, so they won't have to relax their hair as often.

  • Protective styles are low maintenance and may be a way for women to cut salon visits to save money.

Protective styling can be beneficial once done right but here are five reasons why these styles may be damaging your hair.

You're Trying To Protect Damaged Hair

Some women resort to braiding their damaged hair hoping that it will stop breaking. Unfortunately, once the hair is already damaged, protective styling cannot restore or revive the damaged hair. The only option is to cut the damaged hair and focus on developing a proper hair care regimen for your hair to thrive.

The Hairstyle Is Not Protective

There are always trending hairstyles that are are seen in viral photos on Pinterest . Though popular, these hairstyles may not be suitable for everyone. An example of this is persons with thin or fine hair requesting a 'full' braid look. This is done to avoid their braids from looking too scanty, but, can lead to the braid style being too heavy for their hair. Heavy braids can cause their hair follicles to become damaged and inflamed and can lead to hair loss.

Heavy or tight braids can result in bumps on the scalp especially along the hairline. The hair at the hairline is often times weaker and thinner and this is where the most tension occurs. A few days after the appearance of those bumps on the scalp, small white bulbs appear in the area that had the bumps. These white bulbs are the result of prolonged tension from the weight of the braid on the hair. Continuous wear of these high tension styles can lead to traction alopecia.

Once hair loss occurs as a direct result of a 'protective style', the style ceases to be protective.

You Keep Your Braids In Too Long

Braids should not be worn past a 6-8 week period since it can do more harm than good. When your hair braid style is kept in for too long, the hair starts matting at the starting point of the braid. This is due to product buildup, dirt and shed hair becoming tangled over time. When removing the braids after extended wear, extreme matting can occur and results in the hair either bursting or breaking during the detangling process.

Your Maintenance Routine Is Counterproductive

Your maintenance routine can either hurt or help your protective styling efforts. Overuse of edge control and gel while wearing protective styles can lead to breakage at the hairline. This is due to the drying effects of some gels coupled with the over-manipulation of the fragile hairs at your hairline. On the other hand, neglecting to care for your hair while in a protective style hurts more than it helps. Not shampooing or moisturizing with a braid spray while wearing a protective style may result in breakage over time.

Tangle Takedown

Even after doing everything right from installing the protective style, to having a good hair care routine for the duration of wear, it can all fall apart during the removal process. As mentioned above, the hair may become a bit matted at the starting point of the braid the older the style gets. You need to ensure that your hair is thoroughly detangled before shampooing. Shampooing your hair immediately after removing braids can lead to your hair becoming even more matted and tangled. This may result in hair breakage or if the matting is very bad, cutting the tangles out.

There is a misconception that protective styles encourage or stimulate hair growth and this is not true. With proper nutrition and hydration your hair will grow but one of the most overlooked parts of hair care is length retention. Protective styles once installed, maintained and taken out the right way, can indeed aid in length retention. As the name suggests, the styles are meant to protect the hair not necessarily grow the hair.

Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts!


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