Jamila’s Bun w/ a Twist!
 by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals

I didn’t really understand the purpose of protective hair care until my hair started to grow out from my big chop. As it grew my hair used to become a tangled mess during wash days. I dreaded detangling my hair. Even with the best product available, it was still a time-consuming process. I realized a little later on in my natural hair journey that while I was implementing one or two strategies to take proper care of my natural hair, I wasn’t doing enough. Mainly because some approaches didn’t apply to me. However it was mostly because of time. Due to the fact that I’m interested in attaining as much length as possible, I’m realizing that protecting my hair is key.

Protective hair care strategies are necessary in order to shield the delicate strands of textured hair, to minimize breakage and damage and retain length. If you’re not interested in growing your hair out to exceptional lengths and your main focus is wearing your hair in short, funky hairstyles, protective measures can still be employed in order to keep your hair as healthy as possible.


Tips to Protect Your Hair

1. Minimize friction and tangling.
Reducing these two things can really lessen hair breakage. Reducing friction means that your hair is handled as minimally as possible. Friction comes from combing, brushing and styling and heat exposure. If your hair is fairly long and prone to tangling, you may want to consider sectioning your hair in big twists or braids for cleansing and conditioning. Your hair shouldn’t be piled on top of your head to be washed as the friction between hair strands can cause damage to the hair and become a tangled mess. Apply your cleansing agent and conditioner to your hair and work it downward (and not up), helping to smooth the cuticle. Also, finger detangling through this process can make a huge difference. Putting these practices into effect has greatly minimized the need for detangling my hair before styling. Additionally, using products with a lot of slip and glide is important to reduce tangling when finger combing or using tools to comb and brush the hair. Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or using a satin cap or scarf can minimize the friction between your hair and the cotton pillowcase at night. For me, I find that sleeping on a satin pillowcase can also help to preserve my style for a few days. In general, the less you handle your hair, the less breakage and damage you’ll experience.

2. Use proper styling tools.
Part of building a healthy hair care regimen is your product choice. Another important aspect is the type of products you use to actually style and manipulate your hair. These include combs, brushes, hair pins and hair clips, rollers, etc. Tools that are not made or used properly can really damage textured hair. Our hands are really our best detangling and styling tools. Our fingers put as little stress as possible on our hair. If you opt to use a styling tool then choosing combs with wide teeth is best. Avoid combs with fine teeth as using these combs can increase the chance of breakage. Seamless combs are ideal to minimize the snagging on the hair and cuticle damage. Combs with longer teeth are great for longer haired curlies in order for the comb to work through the hair effectively and to minimize snagging and breakage. If you are going to use a brush a natural boar bristle brush is best! Brushing can be hard on the cuticle and a boar bristle brush can be used if necessary. I don’t use boar bristle brushes to distribute product but only to smooth my hair when I’m styling it. This type of brush is a lot gentler than one with plastic bristles. A brush that is frequently used by women with textured hair to detangle the hair and distribute products throughout the hair is a Denman® brush. I have one and my opinion of it is somewhat mixed. The brush isn’t cheap but I don’t have a problem spending money on something that I find value in if it works for me. I have thick type 4 (ie coily) hair. I used this brush throughout my hair journey and I haven’t seen any benefit to using it at all. I’ve tried using it to detangle my hair but I find that a wide-toothed comb is the best option for me. I’ve tried using it for distributing gel for my wash n’ go hairstyles and while I was able to achieve a lot of curl definition I also got massive amounts of shrinkage and a final look that I wasn’t too fond of.
Now I did purchase the classic Denman® D4 brush with 9 rows of pins because this was all that was available to me at the time. What may have been the better choice is the Denman® Freeflow brush. The pins are widely spaced and can be effective for getting through any type of hair, especially thick, coarse hair. However for me this brush is not part of the tools I use for styling. It works for many other women so I say stick with it if it’s working for you. Hairpins are great for keeping the hair in place and wearing pinned up styles; but in my experience, they can be a pain to take out. No matter how gentle I try to remove them I always seem to get some hair caught in the pin. Good Hair Days® pins can be used in place of hairpins. They are great because the prongs are open (and not closed) and there is a loop at the top of the pin. This makes them really easy to insert and take out without worrying about snagging or pulling on the hair.

3. Protective styling.
I really didn’t understand the importance of protective styles before but in order for me to protect my ends and care for my hair during the winter months, I’ll be wearing my hair in protective styles. A protective style is essentially a low manipulation hair style and for me, one that ensures my hair is also protected as much as possible from the harsh winter weather. I typically wear twist outs but I’ll likely wear cornrows, flat twists or even crochet braids. The possibilities are endless but the key is to really keep you hair moisturized and the ends as protected as possible.

In addition to proper product choice and use, all of these practices can definitely help with minimizing damage to your hair and ensuring your hair is healthy.

What do you do to protect your hair?
How effective are your methods at reducing breakage and damage, and retaining length?