Updated: May 3, 2022
Summertime is just around the corner and it's a popular time to incorporate protective styles. But all styles are not created equally and in my book, 90 Days To Beautiful CURLY Hair, I spend a lot of time creating recommendations based on curl pattern AND density, which help determine your risk of hair breakage while in extensions. Check out this book excerpt below to get my thoughts on protective styles that are best for you.
Protective styles are considered a regular part of many curly girls’ hair routines. The idea behind them is pretty straightforward—routine grooming, such as combing and brushing the hair regularly, can lead to breakage, so if the hair is tucked away, you can avoid this damage.
But the term ‘protective styles’ is really misleading for many women as these styles are often a significant cause of hair loss and breakage. When I talk about protective styles, I am referring to most types of extensions (e.g., weaves, braids, or wigs) or any styles that use added hair.
These protective styles can cause hair breakage in one of two ways:
Because extensions make it difficult to reach the hair (or, in the case of wigs, the hair is just braided and forgotten about), regular washing and conditioning of the hair do not occur. For those who are prone to having extremely dry hair, this is incredibly risky. This breakage can be accelerated during the takedown process (see Chapter 35).
These same protective styles can pull at the hairline and cause hair thinning, a condition called traction alopecia. Depending on your stage of traction alopecia, this can be very difficult to reverse (see Chapter 46).
Many people are familiar with thinning edges from protective styles but are not prepared for the severe breakage that happens from the hair drying out due to protective styles. This often happens when the style is removed and can be mistaken for shedding. In reality, the shed hair is often mixed in with broken hairs and it can be difficult to tell which is which. Having fistfuls of hair come out after taking down a braided style is never normal and should not be treated as such. If this is your typical experience and you’ve noticed that your hair growth seems stunted, you are likely breaking off your hair faster than it is growing.
Here are some styles that I generally recommend avoiding completely if you have ever experienced issues with hair breakage or thinning edges:
Sisterlocks (unless you have normal or high-density type 4 hair with NO prior hair loss issues—see Chapter 32)
Glued in weaves
Lace front wigs attached with glue or tape
There are, however, some less risky options, considering your curl pattern and hair density. Below are some options for protective styles based on your curl pattern from type 3C---> 4C and your hair density
1. 3C/4A normal density hair: Compared to other curl patterns, these curls are least likely to become dry, and as a result, least likely to experience breakage while in extensions. Additionally, women with this curl pattern are also less likely to experience thinning along the edges, especially with normal density hair. Consider these protective styles in moderation:
Box braids/Senegalese twists/jumbo braids, etc.
2. 4A/4B normal density hair: Though less likely to dry out than 4C hair, avoid styles that are kept in more than six weeks to avoid breakage...
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