Seven Steps to Finding Your Perfect Protective Style 🙆🏾

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In the last post, we learned the basics of what constitutes a protective style. Now that you're familiar with the concept, you're probably wondering which style is best suited for you. Before you spend nine hours in a chair getting a hairdo that you'll be committed to for the next six weeks, first ask yourself the following:
  1. How much time will it take to install?
  2. Can I afford it?
  3. What kind of upkeep does it require?
  4. Is it versatile?
  5. How long do I want to keep this style?
  6. Will I be able to take it down easily?
  7. And most importantly: how healthy is it for my natural hair?

If you're running on a tight schedule, a protective style that takes a full day to install (such as micro-braids) is an unwise choice. Unless your stylist is able to do a portion of your hair over the course of several days, it simply may not be realistic without taking time off work, finding a babysitter, etc. Instead, opt for less time-intensive styles such as jumbo twists and crochet braids.

Not all stylists and salons charge the same price for the same service. Do your research and ensure that you stay within budget. Typically the longer a style takes to install, the more it costs, and independent stylists tend to charge less than brick-and-mortar salons.

Some protective styles are a lot more work to maintain than others. I'm lazy, so box braids and Senegalese twists are my go-to's. Even though they take far longer to install than, say, a weave, I can wake up in the morning and head out the door without touching my hair at all. This is because those styles incorporate all of my natural hair; not a single strand is left loose. If you get a weave done, odds are you'll have to re-straighten your own hair every few days. You'll also have to comb out the weave itself so it doesn't get tangled. If you're prepared for daily maintenance, though, these styles can be fabulous too!

Even though I'm low maintenance I still like to put my hair into different styles from time to time. Again, that's what makes box braids / twists so perfect: they can be worn up in a bun or ponytail, down to the shoulders, and anywhere in between! On the other hand, more static styles like cornrows are great for when you don't have a lot of time to fix your hair (hello, final exams!).

Not all protective styles can be left in for the same amount of time. If you're getting extensions (synthetic/human hair added in), they will likely hold longer than if the style only incorporates your own hair. Similarly, a hairdo that utilizes smaller sections of your hair, such as small box braids, will survive longer than large cornrows. Think about your lifestyle and your finances. If you can afford to be redoing your hair every couple of weeks, go for the shorter-term looks.

Removing a protective style can be tedious, especially if it involves extensions. Do you know how to take down a weave by yourself, or will you need help? How much time do you have? Some stylists charge a fee for taking out a style, and many more flat out refuse to do it. One trick I've learned is that you don't need to finish it all in one night. Strategically start from the back and sides, then work your way in toward the middle. If you need to stop, you can always leave the remainder down to hide what's gone. Another alternative is to simply use a headwrap -- no one has to know what's going on underneath!

This is the most critical component of your choice to protectively style your hair. Make sure your stylist doesn't install the hairdo too tightly and refrains from placing undue stress on your hairline. This will lead to breakage and even baldness over time. If you're getting a weave, learn how to cleanse and moisturize your hair underneath. Many people assume they can abandon their hair regimen if they have a protective style, but the truth is your natural hair is still growing and needs to be cared for!

One last thing you might want to consider is how appropriate the style is for your work or school environment. Hopefully they're open-minded enough to realize that the way a person chooses to style her hair has nothing to do with her competence and ability, but unfortunately not all employers are that considerate. For instance, there has been a lot of press lately surrounding the US armed forces and their racists regulations pertaining to natural hair. If the rules in your workplace are unreasonable, I encourage you to stand up for your natural hair! Show your employer that when done properly, dreadlocks can - and do - look professional. Wear your cornrows neatly, and work hard so the company has absolutely no reason to fire you.

What factors do you consider when protective styling? Let us know in a comment below!


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