I rarely protective style. I’ve talked about it and said that I needed to in fear that I would stop retaining length as my hair has gotten longer, but eh…I just never got around to it. I have to be real with myself – I love wearing my hair out, and for me, a true test of product performance is how my hair looks and feels in a wash and go. Meaning, how my hair looks without my manipulating my curl pattern.
I know, you’re looking at me like I am a mad woman, because all black women HAVE to protective style to retain length, right? Well…don’t be too scared; there is a method to my madness. Over the past year or so, I have focused on several aspects of my routine that I do believe have helped me retain my length, so I wanted to share them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking protective styling, and everyone’s hair is different (for instance, my hair is coarse so someone with finer hair may need to be more gentle with their strands), but I wanted to share the following tips:
Low Manipulation – The less you mess with your hair, the better!
- Style your hair in a way that causes the least amount of tangles – for instance, I love how my hair looks blown out, but it will start to shrink and tangle when I go outside, so that’s a no go for me!
- For me, washing my hair in sections significantly decreases tangles in comparison to washing all of my hair at once.
- Find ways to maintain styles without redoing them every night (if your hair is long enough, put your twists in a bun when you go to sleep, or pineapple).
- Minimize combing and brushing – lightly finger detangle in the interim while conditioning so your hair does not get too tangled.
- Preserve your styles so you don’t have to do your hair daily. When my hair was shorter, I did my hair daily, but now I try to stretch it to every 2-3 days just so I’m not continuously running my fingers through my hair.
- I love wash and gos because I can do them without messing in my hair too much (I apply product in eight sections) – when I twist, I usually get much more shed hair.
Minimizing friction – Friction on your ends will cause breakage, splits, and increase single strand knots, which will definitely cause you to retain less length.
- Decrease interaction with harsher fabrics, like wool or cotton.
- Off the shoulder or bandeau tops are good, spaghetti strap tanks too. A lot of the time when I’m in the house, I wear a strapless maxi dress so my hair isn’t rubbing against my clothes all day. If you have to go to work and looking like a Flashdance extra won’t do, try a boat neck – they usually dip a bit lower in the back.
- Leather jackets or jackets without collars are great, leather is smoother than other fabrics, and a lot of the time our hair hits right at the same position as our collar, and will rub back and forth alllll day, so a collarless jacket is optimal.
- Silk, chiffon, and cotton/poly blends are softer than cotton and wool.
- Products actually help coat your hair and protect your strands from the elements – I never wear my hair “naked.” I always apply at least a leave-in conditioner.
- Moisturizing gels still form a film over your strands – like a gel cast, which forms a barrier between your hair and the rest of the world.
- Always use a satin pillowcase or scarf – cotton pillowcases are the debil!
Pay attention to your ends – ESPECIALLY as your hair grows. Hair is dead, all we can do is preserve it, and our ends are the oldest part of our hair.
- Even if you are protein sensitive, you can use a protein conditioner on your ends only to strengthen your cuticle and reduce breakage.
- If you see splits, trim them! They aren’t going to go away. Split ends CANNOT be repaired, only “glued” together by serums.
- SSKs are one of the joys of having curly hair – unless I see a split with an SSK, I leave them alone.
- Moisturize and seal your ends consistently, especially if your hair is long enough to touch your shoulders.