Another way to ensure growth while wearing a protective style is to ensure proper installation. Most people choose protective styles like braids, cornrows, and faux locs because they can last a long time and free up your time spent handling your hair. However, if installed improperly these protective styles can cause tension potentially causing breakage and hair loss. In the most extreme forms, these styles can cause traction alopecia aka njibs.
Though you may want your hair to be braided down tightly so your style can last longer, just know the longevity of a temporary hairstyle is never worth comprising the health of your real hair and hair line. When installing your protective style, make sure you or your hairstylist is not pulling or braiding too tightly. Do not braid up your edges rather opt to gel them down for a neater look if you prefer. If your hair is thin, do not install hair that is too heavy and constantly pulling at your hair.
A clean scalp leads to healthy hair so you want to make sure you're starting out with a clean base before installing a protective style you may be leaving in for weeks.
One of the best ways to cleanse your scalp while wearing a protective style is using dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is convenient to use because it keeps the hairstyle dry while still cleaning the scalp and it doesn’t require drying time which can be long if you are wearing hair extensions. Washing your hair the traditional way while wearing extensions can result in breakage as the hair extensions (braids, twists, etc) will be pulling your natural hair when it is in a weak state from being wet.
To use dry shampoo, simply apply the product to the scalp and rub in with your fingers to remove dirt and build-up, as if you were washing your roots and dry with a cloth or towel. Normal shampoo can also be used, dilute it with water and apply to your scalp using a cloth. Avoid soaking your protective style to clean your scalp because if your natural hair does not get a chance to fully dry it can lead to mould and mildew in your hair.
Since you should be cleaning your hair under your protective style either with a dry shampoo or with traditional shampoo and a washcloth, you also need to make sure you are restoring moisture back. Dry, brittle hair is more susceptible to breakage and therefore it is important to keep your hair well moisturized and your strands well lubricated.
Two of the best ways to moisturize your hair under a protective style is to spritz your hair with a mixture of water and a light oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil, daily. The second way is to apply a water-based leave-in conditioner to your hair. Remember you want to avoid heavy product build up so any product that is water based will minimize blockage on your scalp. You can also follow up with an oil to lock in the moisture from your water-based leave-in but keep in mind that oil is actually not a moisturizer, but rather works to lock in the water in your hair strands so do not overdo it with the oils. In fact, if you apply too much oil it can have the opposite effect and dry out your hair because heavy oil build up will prevent moisture from penetrating into your hair shaft.
As you are looking to extend the longevity of your protective style along with protecting your hair underneath, one of the most effective yet simplest ways to do so is by wearing a silk or satin bonnet at night and or using a silk or satin pillowcase. If you are using a cotton pillowcase, cotton tends to create friction between your hair and the material causing breakage and eventually thinning. The best way to maintain your style and protect your hair is with satin or silk material to avoid snags, tangles, and friction.
Okay, ladies, this next point may be common sense to some, but for others, it might not be. The longer you keep your protective style does not mean the longer your hair will grow, well not always. When you keep your hair in one style too long the hair becomes weaker, you are not able to properly wash and condition it, and it is highly susceptible to matting. We recommend wearing your protective style for no longer than 6-8 weeks.
Being mindful of the duration of your protective style also means giving your hair breaks in between installs, especially when using hair extensions. No matter what, your natural hair needs basic maintenance including detangling, washing, consistent deep conditioning, and trimming. Your hair also needs to get rid of its shedding, to avoid any matting that if it becomes severe may need to be cut out.