She tells us that braiding afro/curly hair, won’t necessarily serve as a protective style as they can cause more harm than the general environmental damage, or traction via brushing you would get, from simply leaving your hair naked and free.
However, it’s unrealistic to expect all textured hair women to abandon their trusty braids, locs and twists, in exchange for longer hair. The up-keep is demanding so it’s clear that, for as long as there will be textured hair, there will be protective styles.
We have rounded up seven protective hairstyles that if done correctly can be gentle enough on the hair follicles, still promote hair growth and make you look and feel beautiful and powerful.
The history of protective hairstyles for textured hair dates back 30,000 years. In fact, according to The Root, even though wigs and weaves seem like a contemporary beauty regimen, archaeologists have documented finding a buried woman in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago with an elaborate design of 70 weave extensions attached to her hair.
There is some debate on what is considered as protective styles and which ones are most gentle to your hair follicles. In fact, Eleanor Richardson, who is a consultant trichologist at the Fulham Scalp Hair Clinic warns us against the dangers of choosing braiding: “The most common damage that we end up seeing in the clinic is traction. So that’s a pulling force that’s been applied, because of a very tight style. Maybe due to very chunky braids, or extensions, or weave-in and styles that have been there for a while as well.”
These are classic go-tos as they are so versitible. Box braids come in different shapes and sizes, from jumbo-sized, to the ones as thin as string, and the length can also vary widely. Although knotless braids have proven to be very popular in recent times, it is safer to opt for braids with a knot, as they won’t put as much pressure on the hair follicles to hold the extensions and will naturally help to avoid traction.
Bantu knots are a traditional African style that have been made popular from over 100 years ago. The style has played centre stage in many cultural appropriation arguments but has been popularised by cyclical fashion trends. Although Bantu Knots have been re-invented as a cultural and fashion statement, it has been historically documented as being used as a protective style for both natural and relaxed hair and commonly used in overnight routines to preserve longer lasting and more defined curly styles.
Twist outs can be used as a protective style but also to create defined curls without manipulating hair with heat. Whether you just like the look of the spirals wrapping around one another, or you’re looking to achieve natural curls the following day or two when they’re unravelled, here are some tips to create the best twist outs.
Hydrate – with water-based leave-in conditioner, follow up with a moisture locking oil and use wide tooth comb or fingers to detangle.
Wigs have evolved so much from the ones that were more fibre like, to ones that looked so realistic they would be mistaken as something that grew from your scalp. The versatility that comes with wigs, plus the ease of application (in comparison to braids, which requires a particular skill set to be executed properly) make it an extremely popular choice for protective styles amongst millennial women.
A top tip when styling a wig is to spray it with dry shampoo if it looks too shiny when straight out of the package, to give it a more realistic hair finish – (this is specially useful if it’s a synthetic hair wig).
Faux locs are dreads without the lifetime commitment and are a very contemporary style that has been made more and more popular along the years. It gives you the option of sporting the style, without permanently backcombing your natural hair into irreversible dreads, as you can simply use extensions.
Although faux locs have come with controversy (as with many protective hairstyles) for not being accepted as professional styles for school or the workplace in western societies, Black people are starting to defy those ideologies. Faux locs are not only being used by people in school and work, but also in red carpets and professional events, unapologetically.
Cornrows are amongst the most popularised protective styles for a reason, they can go under wigs or they can be used naked. They can keep the hair out of your face and depending on designs they can be a great canvas to express different levels of artistic skill sets. You can do infinite things with cornrows, so long as they are not so tight that they cause damaging tension on your scalp and on your edges/baby hairs.
They are an appropriate protective style option, for textured hair men and women of all ages. Top tip to keep your cornrows neat for longer is to sleep with a silk bonnet in order to reduce frizz from the contact with the pillow.
Space buns on afro hair can mean different things. They can either mean wrapping the hair into a bun or simply tying it. They are also versatile in that sense that you can personalise them by how you part the hair, or by doing fringes, or a braid running from the edge of the hair to the bun, etc.
The possibilities are endless. For those whom the protective styles above cause just far too much traction between their hair and scalp, then neatly tying the hair into two clean buns might be a good alternative. The important part to remember when doing space buns is to still protect the hair from environmental damage, so keeping hair hydrated and moisturised is key.