May 15, 2013

Discussion: Why Protective Styles Are Not For Everyone

Protective styles are considered to be an essential part of hair growth. If you are new to natural hair, a protective style is a style that protects the ends of your hair shaft. The ends are oldest part of your hair, so they are the first to become fragile and split or break or knot. When the ends are hidden from the weather, and they receive minimal manipulation and friction, the style is considered a protective style.

Cute. But this is not a protective style.


Most Important Part of your Hair Regimen…
Cute. The hair doesn't move, and the ends are put away.
This is a protective style.
Although the protective style is chic and adorable, I'm convinced that it is not for everyone. The lady in the protective style picture above has little to no texture to her hair. It has either been heat styled or she has relatively straight hair. Most natural hair looks NOTHING like that without being straightened with a high temperature styling tool. With that amount of heat styling, it defeats the purpose of the protective style. Here are just a few reasons why protective styles may not be for you.
  • I'm natural but, I don't know how to flat twist or braid.
  • I'm natural but, I can't wear my twists out because my hair shrinks too much.
  • I'm natural but, my hair is an awkward length and I can't bun it or pull it up for an up-do.
  • I really love showing off the length of my hair. I don't do well with shrinkage.
Now, before anyone begins to insist that all of the reasons above are fickle reasons that anyone can "get over", remember that at some point we all had to learn how to prioritize our hair rules. We all love to look like what we feel is our best self. That's like someone giving you a muumuu to wear 4 days a week. Personally, I never got over the fact that I love showing off the length of my hair. I will wear my twists out, but usually it's tucked away under a beanie hat. My type 4 hair shrinks a ridiculous amount. Although my hair is shoulder-length, my twists barely touch the middle of my neck. And it takes prayer, planning, and a mountain of products to get my hair to lay down for a bun. So unless I spend hours doing fairly small twists OR I heat style before twisting, in my mind I end up looking like young Celie.


I have come to learn and live with my extreme shrinkage (I'd say it's well over 50%). And it used to be a problem for me. I understand a woman working hard to grow her hair but never knowing how long it is because it's always curled over on top of itself. And when you twist it, you have these short, stubby, twisty knobs of hair. Being pressured to leave your hair like that makes you give a side eye to the natural hair community. And now that more companies have decided to stick their hands in the natural hair money pot, there are a plethora of products that claim to reduce or even eliminate shrinkage. I haven't tried a single one of them that work for my hair. The point is, it's okay if you don't like to wear your hair in shrunken twists. It's okay if your twists aren't long enough to pull back or pin up. If you are not funky enough to wear a braided mohawk style, don't. Don't force yourself to look like anyone other than yourself because of your hair.
Cute. Protective. Not for everyone.

This doesn't mean that all of your hair will fall out or that you will never reach your length goals. However, it does mean that you have to be extra generous when caring for your hair until you find a protective style that makes you feel like the best version of you. You should know that if your hair is always out and exposed to the elements, you shouldn't also go home and sleep on a cotton pillowcase, nor should you constantly fiddle with your loose strands. Take extra steps to keep those fragile ends moisturized. You might even have to twist your hair before bedtime. But if it makes you more comfortable in your skin, go for it.

I love seeing this look on women.
But when I try to do this side-bang on  myself, I'm always unimpresed.
The hair rules for natural hair weren't etched in stone on a mountain. This is my opinion, so tell me yours. Have you ever felt pressured to wear your hair in a way that doesn't fit your style or personality?
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