Summer is in full swing! That means many of us are in some phase of protective styling- be it transitioning from one style to the next, thinking about whether or not to get braids this year, or itching to remove your current protective style. No matter which stage you’re in, there are certain feelings we all experience when it comes to styling to protect those curls.
Goodie gumdrops - you’re getting new hair! People are going to look at you in awe. They’ll say “Wow! You look great! Did you change your hair?” and you will reply “Why, yes! It’s my new summer ‘do.” The sun will shine upon you and you shall glisten for approximately one month or until your style gets too fuzzy to wear outside.
Wait, fuzzy? The hair will get fuzzy? And what happens if you don’t like your new style when you get home, five hours, hundreds of dollars, and seven bags of hair later? Let’s not think that way. Everything will be perfect! Right? RIGHT.
OK, you know everything will be perfect. That’s settled. But now it’s just a waiting game. You’re not sure what to do with your hair for the days leading up to braiding or twisting because the only styles you are researching are protective ones. You do a protein treatment. You do a moisturizing treatment. You get your hair ready for braid jail - err, um protective summer camp. The days seem to drag and you start to wonder if you’ll even recognize yourself with new hair.
As you continue to work on your hair, preparing for the new style, you fall in love with your curls again. Oh those lovely curls! They are popping these days! Even your wash and go looks flawless! And look how the curls on top of your head are ever so slightly different than the curls near the nape of your neck. Beautiful hair, how you will be missed!
Then you start to wonder if you’re making the right decision to protective style. You won’t be able to reach up and touch those soft coils for several weeks. You’ll have a head covered in impostor hair. Curses! Curls need to breathe! They are made to be loved, caressed, and cherished! But they are also made to be cared for, and through the harsh summer sun, wind, and salt or chlorine-filled water, a protective style could be just the gift your tresses deserve.
Unless you scored a killer deal, your feelings are a bit hurt by the money and time you’re shelling out for this protective style. You have to sit still for hours, live through the slight pulling pain when your stylist braids near your temple, and then you have to pay. You shed a tear because all of that combined is a bit too much to handle all at once.
That anger subsides immediately once you get a glance at your new ‘do. Good LAWD you look good! You flip the braids or twists to one side. Then the other. You pull them up on top of your head. The versatility is astounding. The change in appearance is spectacular. You’re ready to take on the world! Well, after some deep stretching, considering you’ve been stuck in a seated position for hours.
You love your new hair, but what will everyone else think? What will your significant other/employer/cute grocery store bagger say when you step in with this updated style? Not that you care really. It’s your hair not theirs.
OK, maybe you do care. It’s a big change! And, unless you want to throw all that time and money down the drain, it’s a change that’s going to stick around for awhile.
Pretty soon you realize you had nothing to worry about. People think you’re gorge. You’re killin’ it these days. You can’t walk down the street without being hit on. In fact, you can’t walk down the street at all. You strut these days. There is a new air about you. Everything is beautiful, fresh, and new. Especially you with that hair. The possibilities are endless! Man it’s going to be a great summer!
Just like Icarus, too much strutting has brought you a bit too close to the sun. All that extra on top of your head throws you off balance. You lift into standing splits in yoga class and almost topple to the ground. You successfully achieve an updo only to knock it clean over getting out of your car. Yeah, this hair is a bit different, and sometimes you look a fool just trying to hold it together. It gets in your way. You lay on it or someone else lays on it and you pull one of the weaker braids out. Or, worse, your a bit hard-handed pulling it up into a bun and you pull out a braid IN PUBLIC. You hide it in your purse and cover the open spot as best you can, vowing to be gentler. Just because it’s fake doesn’t mean you treat it like crap.
You turn a new leaf. You remember: hey, your hair is in there! You take better care of your scalp and the braids themselves with oils and braid sprays. You wash your hair carefully, using soft fingers or a small brush to clean near the scalp, and paying attention to wash out all product and let your hair dry straight to avoid creases. You want this love to last, and now you and the new hair are finally getting along with each other.
Now you look into the mirror and you’re used to what you see. Those braids or twists have become part of you. But wait. They’re not part of you. One day soon they’ll have to go. You look back at pictures trying to remember what your hair looks like IRL. Too many “Oh my gosh I LOVE your hair!” compliments followed by “I mean, not that I didn’t love it before, but WOW!” have got you thrown. You think on it for perhaps too long and begin to wonder who you even are anymore.
Truth be told, you kinda miss your curls. You suffer from a mild (perhaps extreme) case of hand-in-hair syndrome, and the inability to touch your soft tresses is driving you a bit batty. You look back at pictures of yourself pre-protective style and you hardly recognize you. Part of you wonders how much longer you can keep up with these braids or twists. Then you remember how much it took to implement them, and you vow to stick it out a bit longer. Plus, you’ve seem some serious growth over the last several weeks. Just think of all the new styles you’ll be able to test once you get your hands back into your own hair!
Why did you get a protective style in the first place? Because you DO love your hair. Because you realize that summertime means travel, extra time in outdoor elements like sun and wind, salt water and chlorine filled water, more sweat… so many things that can wreak havoc on your strands. Summer is the absolute perfect time to wrap your hair in synthetic protective hug, allowing it to stay safe and grow. After several weeks, because you’ve been so attentive in taking care of your hair while in a protective style, you gently take your braids or twists out to reveal happy curls. You cry tears of joy as you wash your hair and reminisce on good times from just a few weeks ago – BEFORE those impostor braids. You feel light, wild, and free.
You hop online for style inspiration. You’re immediately drawn to braid and twist styles. Look at all the things you could have done when you had the extra length! You seriously contemplate doing it all over again to finish out the summer.