by Shelli of Hairscapades
On Sunday, I decided to start going through my photo “archives” from 2011 to present to build a Protective Styles album
on Facebook. And, it started me thinking about the recent questions
I’ve been receiving about how I’ve been able to “grow” my hair long. I
put grow in parentheses as I think “growing” hair long is generally a
misnomer. As many of us know, absent a medical condition, our hair is
always growing. Shoot, how many used to relax every 4-8 weeks, because
that new growth was coming in so fast? So, yeah, that smashes the
concept that our hair doesn’t grow. However, what is often happening when hair plateaus at a certain length is that we aren’t retaining that growth.
Enter protective styling. Now, there are a
variety of factors that I believe have contributed to my ability to
achieve my current length, which is the longest my hair has ever been,
though it’s still a work in progress. What I do know is that protective
styling (i.e. wearing styles where my ends are tucked) has played a
major part in helping me get where I am now and will continue to be of
benefit. But wait. Let me be more precise. Low manipulation protective styling has played a major part in helping me get closer to my goals.

You see, unlike those with hair of heartier
stock, my fine strands can’t deal with too much pulling, tugging,
braiding, twisting, cornrowing, flat-twisting, etc. So, I learned about a
year and a half ago that my hair fares much better when I stretch it
with twist-outs or TnCs and then place it in protective styles that can
be done in 5-15 minutes with large sections of hair and pretty much left
alone for several days or even a week at a time. Although I love the
idea and look of small twists, mine tend to unravel. So, having to
re-twist every couple of days kind of defeats the purpose of that
particular protective style (though, I still wear twists on occasion).
And wearing my hair down results in tangles, knots, splits and breakage
due to friction and debris!

Now, to my real point. I have often read the sentiments like the following about protective styling: “What’s the point of growing your hair long if you always have to hide it?” and “Protective styling is boring.”
But, I’d like to posit that “hiding” one’s hair can be anything but
boring and is actually fun! In the last year and a half, I have done
more simple, protective styles than I can even remember. The key for me
has been to:
  1. Play around with a few gentle tools and accessories (i.e. banana
    clips, satin scrunchies, bobby pins, Spin Pins, Comfort Flex barrettes,
    flowers, hair sticks, headbands and *gasp* braiding hair! *lol*).
  2.  Search YouTube for inspiration from all sources, not just naturals
    with my texture and/or length (shoot, one of my favorite Youtubers for
    protective styling inspiration is Lilith Moon, a Russian blonde with naturally straight, shoulder length, thin hair).
  3. Use my imagination.

With those things, I have found protective styling to be enjoyable
and generally prefer to wear my hair up and hidden, over down and out,
most days of the week.

So, with some creativity, a few hair tools, a
little time and patience, I think protective styling can be fun, fancy,
and fierce for hair of all different textures and lengths. And, bonus!!
 Switching up protective styles from week to week can save our strands
from repeated tension on the same areas, which can cause thinning and
breakage. With that, here is a sampling of the protective styles that
I’ve done over the last year and a half. The same old plain bun and
twists aren’t our only options!!
 Check out the Style Library to find tutorials for most of the styles pictured.)
Do you love/prefer protective styling or do you find it boring? What challenges do you face with it?