Friday, 12 July 2013

Protective Styling: A Beginner's Guide

Hello guys :D

I’ve been using “Protective Styling” for a very long time now but to some people it’s still a bit of a mystery. To be honest, it’s pretty straightforward and is often used (as the name suggests) to protect your hair from things such as the weather, styling tools - like combs and pins - and also your little mitts! (I can never stop touching my hair. ‘Hand in Hair Syndrome’ is alive and kicking!) Protective styling is incredibly important when trying to retain length and moisture as afro hair doesn’t retain moisture as well as other hair types. Not protecting afro hair from damaging actions such as those mentioned above can cause the strands to become brittle and snap off – more commonly known as breakage. 

Like many women (and men) with afro hair types, my edges are my main concern! After a Jheri-curl that went horribly wrong back in 1996, the hair at my temples has always been incredibly fine. It’s sparse, drier and breaks off more easily than the hair on the rest of my head. It’s a problem that I’ve seen far too much here in the UK and within the black community as a whole. Regardless of whether hair is natural or relaxed, it seems that edges are always the first to bounce. This is usually down to overuse of gel on the hairline, pulling from tight hairstyles (such as braids and weaves) and sometimes... it just happens! :’( My loss was a mixture of pulling my hair in all sorts of directions (ah primary school days. I had lots of gel and NO CLUE what I was doing majority of the time), overuse of chemicals (the Jheri curl was the first straw, frequent and subsequent relaxers just took away the few sparse hairs I had left!), and also just lack of knowledge. In this sense, going natural and including protective styling in my regimen was the best option for me. 

So, spill the beans! What is Protective Styling?!

Put simply, all you have to do is make sure your ends are covered in some way. That’s it! The ends of your hair (as I’m sure you’ve heard many times) are the oldest parts of your hair, and for this reason they can dry out easily preventing you from getting the long, luscious and healthy locks you’ve always desired. Here are some tips on how you can use protective styling and still enjoy your hair: 
Oooh yeah, looking good :P
  1. You can try twisting your hair in sections and pinning these into an up-do. This helps your ends stay covered and still allows you to leave the house without looking like a rag doll. I aim to do this once or twice a month. It also means I can put my deep conditioner in and run errands. Yay for multi-tasking!
  2. Using extensions are my all-time favourite! Braids, micro-braids, Senegalese twists, kinky twists, Havana/Marley twists… You name it. There are so many styles to try and with the extensions in, you can achieve a completely different look. I recently just discovered that 6 weeks is the perfect length of time to leave my braids in. No breakage occurred and there were no tangles, plus it was just the right time before I started missing my own hair lol. (I leave the braids in for 6 weeks and leave my own hair out for 6-8 weeks. I can review my new growth, try some new styles and then protect it again before the windy weather comes back to attack.)
  3. My favourite of all... The turban! The silk scarf is a woman’s best friend. The silk has anti-ageing properties for the skin, keeps hair moisturised and prevents tangling. My turban is used on days where my hair is getting on my wick or days when I haven’t got much to do but still want to look after the fro. 
  4. Other extensions such as wigs, weaves and tracks. Although I haven’t worn a weave for a while, they were very good to me for a long time. My hair underneath always managed to stay moisturised because the weave creates such a warm environment (That sentence makes me sound a bit like David Attenborough). Again, I wouldn’t exceed 6-8 weeks with a kinky hair texture like mine. I’d be inviting back the breakage!
  5. General styling can also be protective. For example, high buns/topknots, and roll tuck and pins protect the ends of the hair. My hair isn’t quite long enough to do a bun, but I’m getting there! All I’d say is, if gel is used, keep it minimal or be prepared to wash it out. (Remember, excessive gel products can lead to hardening and breakage of the hair shaft.)
So, there are loads of ways to style in a protective way. Mine is the roll, tuck and pin as well as my beloved braids and the turban. Mariama loves her top-knot (especially with all her new found length.) Find your favourite way and protect those ends! You can thank us later ;P 

Zee xx

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