Protective styling for winter
As the mercury drops, the idea of putting your hair away in a protective style seems an increasingly alluring option. After all, you just don't have the energy to play around with it like you did in the summer, and the cold air is already biting away at your ends.
Protective styling has certainly earned its reputation as a hair saver. When it's done right, it helps your hair in two main ways. First, it reduces manipulation. Since you don't have to style every day, the inevitable damage caused by even the most painstaking, low-impact grooming simply doesn't happen.
Without being pulled, combed, rubbed or twisted, your strands are free to flourish; sans microscopic and not-so-microscopic pieces being broken off by styling stress.
Then there's the exposure factor: In the colder, less humid months, the amount of moisture in the air can actually be lower than the amount in your hair.
When that happens, your hair loses precious hydration to the air around it, leaving it weaker, more brittle and prone to damage. The dry, hot air from central heating systems inside only makes bad matters worse.
With protective styling, your hair is less exposed, so moisture is less able to diffuse or be rubbed away.
With all that going for it, it's little wonder that a good round of protective styling can yield serious length for many a head of tightly-curled hair – as evidenced by several natural hair inspirations with long, natural, odds-defying hair. Many of whom struggled to get their hair to “grow”, or maintain length before going the protective route.
Typically, the more fragile your strands, the more you stand to gain lengthwise
from protective styling. If you get it right, that is. Here are some of the ways people get it wrong. Ignore them at your peril.
Overtwisting your protective style
The main mechanical ways hair breaks are through torsion, tension and friction.
Torsion is the twisting force. Overtwist your hair and it will simply break off – right at the point that took the brunt of the force.
Given that it's so easy to overtwist hair, the breakage it causes often goes unnoticed or gets attributed to some other source.
If you're wearing a twisted protective style and notice a lot of short hairs by the roots (and you haven’t recently singed them off with a blow-dryer or flat iron), you're probably twisting your hair too much.
The styles most vulnerable to this sort of breakage are bunning, coiling, Bantu knots and, of course, twists (the flat and Senegalese varieties). Try limiting the number of times you wind your hair to the absolute minimum required for the style. Watch how tightly you twist as well. Which brings us to. . .
Letting your protective style get too dry
Here's the mistake most people make when wearing a protective style. They put their hair away and simply forget about it. But your hair's not going to take care of itself. Even if you're not actively styling it, actively maintaining your mane's moisture levels is a must.
Start by lavishing your hair with moisture before you style. Layer your products to seal in moisture – the maximum amount of moisture – then style. Not only will your hair stay moisturised for longer, it will also be more flexible and easy to style if it's well-hydrated. During the life of the style, be sure to reinsulate your hair, too, though be careful with the amount to prevent buildup.
And don't be tempted to leave a style in beyond the
point of dryness just because it still looks good. After a certain amount of time, your hair will need to be cleansed and rehydrated, no matter how well the style is holding up.
Adequate moisture levels are the decisive factor in your hair's strength and resiliency. No amount of leave in or spray can make up for that.
If you can't wash and deep condition your hair in the style, it's best to take it down, wash, deep condition, moisturise and seal, and then put it back in again.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance