Updated: Mar 17
A protective hair style is just that: protective. The less you mess with your hair, the faster it grows. Minimizing hair manipulation, protecting hair from the bitter cold, and avoiding extreme heat are just a few great ways to kick start your hair growth journey. A protective style is any hair style that covers or protects your natural hair from the elements around us. Whether it’s box braids, feed-ins, wig installs, or sew-ins; all of these hair styles can protect our hair if worn properly. When not worn properly, these styles can cause more damage than healthy growth. Proper preparation, installation and maintenance is necessary when wearing any of these protective styles. Here are six tips to consider when installing protective braiding styles!
1. Choose clean, chemical-free Hair.
When purchasing hair, you’ll be tempted to opt for the cheaper synthetic hair types, but beware, not all braiding hair is the same. Most synthetic braiding hair is coated with alkaline chemicals and wearing that type of hair for any length of time could cause major irritation for many of us sensitive scalp folks.
You could get around this by soaking the cheaper hair in an acidic liquid, like vinegar, to bring down the alkalinity, but that can be time consuming, and you could have a mess on your hands if you aren’t careful.
Your best bet is to purchase a higher quality braiding hair, which coincidentally means you’ll probably end up paying a little more; but trust me, it’s worth it. If you’ve ever experienced unbearable irritation when wearing synthetic braids in the past, you’ll thank me later for this recommendation. One black-owned company, Dosso Beauty, has a hypo-allergenic, anti-itch pre-stretched braiding hair that feels soft and looks more natural than the cheaper synthetic brands when finished. Another company, Spetra, has an anti-bacterial pre-stretched braiding hair that sensitive scalp girls will love too. I have personally used both and I did not experience any irritation with either. I like the feel of Dosso Beauty's hair a little better than Spetra’s though.
2. Prepare your real hair for the long haul.
Once you’ve purchased the RIGHT kind of hair, you need to prepare your real hair for braiding. Applying a deep conditioning protein treatment right before installing your braids will strengthen your natural hair and prepare it for the weight it’s about to endure. When deep conditioning with a good protein treatment prior to installing braids, I’ve personally noticed less hair shedding when the braids are removed weeks later.
My favorite protein treatment (as if you didn’t know) is Princess Mudd’s Hemp Protein Treatment. Besides the protein rich hemp seed oil, it also contains aloe vera, palm oil, mango butter, and shea butter. To deep condition your hair before braiding, apply one pack of the protein treatment to your hair and massage it into your hair from root to tip. Cover your hair with a plastic conditioning bag and sit under a hooded hair dryer for 15-20 minutes before washing your hair. If you don’t have a hooded hair dryer, keep the conditioning bag on for about 30 -45 minutes before washing the conditioner out.
3. Don’t stress your hair out.
For the least amount of tension on your hair and scalp, opt for knot-less box braids. Knot-less box braiding is a technique that doesn’t cause the same tight sensation traditional techniques sometimes cause. If you’re going to be installing your own braids, there’s plenty of detailed YouTube tutorials that will walk you through the technique. Whatever type of braids you’re planning to get, make sure they aren’t installed too tight. This is easy if you’re braiding your own hair; however, you might have to speak up and be persistent if someone else is braiding your hair. Installing braids too tight is not only uncomfortable, but it can cause serious permanent damage to your hair and scalp.
Also, part hair into sections large enough to hold the size and length of your finished braid. For example, don’t part your hair into tiny itty bitty sections, with like 10 strands of hair in each, and then attach a jumbo 30 inch braid to it. Do that and you’ll be slowly pulling your hair out.
4. Pile that moisturizer on!
Apply a generous amount of moisturizing smoothing cream to each section before beginning each braid. This will make it easier to blend your real hair into the braid and it traps a little more moisture for the weeks to come. You don’t have to worry about your hair feeling greasy because the braiding hair is going to cover your natural hair. Princess Mudd’s Hair Mudd is an all-natural aloe vera cream that smooths, moisturizes, and stimulates hair growth. The pH level of the Hair Mudd is between 4.5 and 5 so that it more closely matches your hair and scalp’s natural pH level and brings down the alkalinity of synthetic hair. It also sooths itchy scalp and prevents dandruff. This light cream doesn’t flake or leave a heavy build-up when dry like many hair gels; which is perfect since you’re not going to be washing your hair as often.
5. Try not to weigh braids down with water.
If you must wash your braids, be sure not to let your water-soaked braids hang loose. Hold the hair while washing the braids to alleviate the tension the heavier water-soaked braids will cause. Using Princess Mudd’s Healing Hydration Mist daily will balance the excess oil, alleviate scalp itch and deodorize you scalp and braids; so, unless your braids become unbearably filthy, try to avoid washing your braids during the 6-8 week period you'll be wearing them.
6. Wear that bonnet well!
Finally, don’t forget your bonnet at night. You forget that bonnet one night and you’ll wake up with braids that have aged 2 weeks. Be sure to invest in a silk or satin bonnet that fits snug around the head and has a enough room in it to fit all of your braids. ISOKEN ENOFE has some really cute and comfy oversized bonnets that’ll work perfectly to keep your braids looking brand new for weeks!
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