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Protective Styling for Your Textured Hair: Myths Versus Facts

Updated: Apr 7


For those of us with beautifully textured curly, coily, and kinky hair, our hair often needs extra care and attention to stay healthy and look great. We start hair journeys to grow longer, stronger strands. Along the way, we face challenges like breakage, dryness, and frustrating knots. It can feel like a constant battle to achieve the gorgeous head of hair we envision.

Luckily, there is a powerful secret weapon that allows our curls to thrive despite daily threats - protective styling. You've likely heard the term "protective styles" tossed around for years. You may have seen friends and family incorporating braids, twists, locs, and weaves into their routines. But what exactly makes these hairstyles "protective," and what are they safeguarding strands from? 

I am here to break down the basics of protective styling so you can unlock its magic for your textured tresses. By understanding what threatens hair's health, how protective coverage helps, and common myths floating around, you can make informed choices about incorporating protective styles into your regimen. Learn the best practices for healthy installations.

Unraveling Myths of Protective Styles

Protective styling refers to hairstyles like braids, weaves, and twists that protect the hair and ends from manipulation and over-styling. These styles have been used for ages in the Black community to promote hair growth by minimizing breakage. However, myths and misinformation about protective styling still abound. Let's clear up some confusion.

One myth is that you absolutely must wear protective styles if you want to achieve longer hair. The fact is that hair grows at its natural rate regardless of how it is styled. Key factors for supporting length retention and growth are gentle care and preserving ends. While protective coverage aids growth by preventing breakage, it is never mandatory for growth. Plenty of people can grow long hair without constant protective styling.

Another common myth is that frequently installing box braids or sew-in weaves is extremely damaging to hair and causes baldness. The truth is that as long as installations do not rip out strands or abrade the scalp, these styles done properly will not impede hair health when cared for properly. Proper maintenance and removal prevent damage.

There is also a myth that once you install protective styles like locs or braids, you'll never get them out and your hair will develop into one giant dreadlock. But the fact is that matting and locking only occur when shed hairs become trapped instead of falling away naturally. You can easily remove or redo protective styles as needed, as long as ends are secured properly and roots are gently loosened occasionally.

Why Strands Need Protection

First, let's examine the many factors that daily life throws at delicate strands which can cause damage over time. Understanding what impedes hair's health and retention helps one realize why giving strands a true break is vital. 

Physical manipulation like brushing, combing, braiding, blow drying, and general hair flipping takes a major toll on strands. That consistent tugging and friction weaken the hair. This makes it prone to knotting and breakage over time. Even simple activities like "pineappling" hair at night can also disturb its delicate balance.

Additionally, chemical treatments like relaxers, colors, bleaches, and certain potent alcohol-based products strip away natural oils and moisture needed in textured hair. These harsh methods disturb the hair cuticles and follicles, causing dryness and brittleness making your strands more vulnerable to breakage.    

Environmental pollutants like dirt, dust, debris, smoke, and smog can leave hair dull and rough, clogging follicles and drying the scalp. These pollutants weaken the outer cuticle layer, causing moisture escape and resulting in dry, dull hair. Over time, these pollutants deposit free radicals, degrading protein bonds, leading to stunted growth, thinning, increased tangles, and loss of shine.

Hydration is crucial for healthy hair, but excessive moisture can cause damage through hygral fatigue, causing strands to lose elasticity and tensile strength. This can lead to mid-shaft breaks and failed retention length. Environmental stressors like wind, UV rays, temperature changes, and dry climates also degrade hair over time. These stressors weaken hair structure, leach vital moisture and protein, and facilitate friction, making strands fragile.

Protective styling is crucial for curls, as they face daily threats from environmental elements and lifestyle factors. Covered styles protect strands from damage, moisture loss, and protein degradation, allowing them to recharge and maintain balance. This prevents friction, weathering, and over-handling, promoting resilient, healthy curls to thrive.

Protective Styling Spectrum

While all protective styles have the common goal of safeguarding strands, they vary greatly in just how much coverage and maintenance they provide. There is a broad spectrum when it comes to manipulative handling required.

This spectrum exists because each protective style involves trade-offs between the protectiveness provided by keeping strands covered and bundled versus the need to maintain and manipulate the style. Styles that fully cover the hair and require no manipulation are the most protective but are harder to maintain daily.

On the other end, styles that require more regular manipulation provide less protection over time but are easier to maintain as part of a daily hair care routine. Understanding these trade-offs allows people to choose the protective style that best balances their hair's need for protection with their own lifestyle and maintenance preferences.

Why Protective Styling Matters

After learning all this, one can probably understand why knowledgeable naturals swear by protective styling. It helps retain length and maintain hair health. When done properly, these styles offer strands the care they crave. Periodically concealing hair keeps it safe from damage.   

Protective looks curb the need for fully restyling daily, saving tons of frustration. This protective shield allows gorgeous, resilient curls to flourish!  

Initially investing in these styles requires time and money depending on one's chosen look. However, the long-term benefits make it worth it, including supremely moisturized strands boasting improved elasticity, strength, and length retention, as well as fewer knots and snaps.   

The next time you are seeking a break from manipulation, turn to protective styles without hesitation for transformed and thriving strands. Whether opting for no-manipulation goddess faux locs or quick low-maintenance flat twists, protective looks have got you covered.   


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