Box braids, senegalese twists, butterfly locs, crochet braids, you name it, we love them all. Like you, we’re a sucker for a good protective style. Not only do they offer variety, they can offer a well needed break from styling your natural hair, as well as protecting your ends, making it easier to retain length.
With all those benefits, you would think there were no downsides to protective styling. However, sometimes you have to ask yourself if your protective style is actually protecting your hair. Things like tight braids or twists, heavy extensions, and allergic reactions are just a few of the ways a protective style can be quite damaging, not to mention uncomfortable. Here are a few signs that your protective style is not protecting your hair.
A little itching may be normal, especially for those of us with the proverbial “tender heads”. But if you find yourself patting your scalp a little too much, it might be your first clue that there is a problem. This excessive itching could be a symptom of a style that is too tight. It could also be an allergic reaction to the hair extensions used in your protective style. This could also be a result of dehydrated or dirty scalp. If this is the cause, all you need to do is wash your scalp with a diluted shampoo solution followed by a diluted conditioning solution. We recommend using our Detox Clarifying & Detoxifying Shampoo paired with our Indulge Deep Conditioner. Dilute them individually in a spray bottle with warm water and you should be good to go. You should also maintain a regular moisture routine with your favorite leave-in conditioner/oil combo. Our favorites are the Boost Hydrating Curl Refresher & Leave-In Spray paired with our Polished Hair & Scalp Oil.
If the problems persist, the issue may be a bit more serious. The itching and scratching can cause breakage at the root and severe damage to the scalp. If you’re noticing that your scalp has become red and inflamed, it may be time to consider removing the style.
Excessive Pain or Pressure
Perhaps one of the more obvious signals that something is wrong, excessive pain and/or pressure is never a good sign. Like excessive itching, this could mean your style was installed too tightly. It could also mean the style is simply too heavy. This can be particularly damaging if you have fine natural hair or if you have small sections holding large extensions. If you are finding yourself in prolonged and excruciating pain after installs, that's a pretty clear cut sign that it’s time to remove the style and examine your (or your stylist’s) installation methods.
When you take down your styles and wash your hair, are you often struck by how much hair is sitting at the bottom of your shower? A bit of shedding is normal, or course. With protective styles, your hair is often put away for weeks at a time. This means any shedding of your hair won't be visible until the style comes out. However, there is such a thing as too much shedding. This is normally a sign of breakage.
You can also have visible breakage while your style is still installed. This can be a particular problem around the edges of your hair, but can affect you anywhere your hair is weaker or thinner. This is normally caused by a style that is too tight or too heavy. This could also become an issue if you leave your styles in for too long, as leaving styles in for an excessive amount of time can lead to dryness and weaken your strands. The friction and pulling on your roots could cause a lot of damage. If you’re noticing a lot of breakage or excessive shedding, your protective style may not be so protective.
A truly protective style is one that is not too tight, not too heavy, and only kept in for an appropriate amount of time. When done right, protective styling can be an amazing tool for length retention. As long as you keep an eye out for these warning signs, you should be good to go.
What are your favorite and least favorite protective styles? Share with us in the comments.