Protective Hairstyles for Preventing Breakage and Maintaining Length
African American hair is beautiful. It comes in so many curl patterns and textures. It can be soft and spongy or curly and bouncy. The very thing that makes African American hair beautiful also makes it very fragile. Many naturals complain of breakage. I lost count of how many times I heard someone say, “My hair just doesn’t grow long,” when I ask them what their hair routine is. They usually wear their hair in tight ponytails and comb their hair very roughly. The main reason for breakage is excessive manipulation of hair. When I try to tell women this, they usually shrug it off to bad genetics. I think this notion is ridiculous. Yes, our hair can be very fragile. This is exactly why we need to know how to properly take care of it.
I have found with my own hair, that combing it every day caused a lot of breakage. A I found was to comb my hair in the shower, with loads of conditioner. It was so nice because the comb glided easily through my hair without ripping it out. I never comb my hair when its dry. The friction from dry combing snaps hair strands like twigs. It makes since to comb hair with conditioner. I’ve been doing this for 2 years and my hair has retained a lot of length (even the front of my hair which has been short and uneven for most of my life got longer).
How to Comb Your Hair and Keep Most of It
I also stopped combing my hair everyday. When I flat iron my hair, I found that I could go nearly a week without combing my hair. To my surprise, my hair wasn’t a tangled mess. It actually had very few tangles, that came out easily. I used loads of my favorite conditioner. Instead of something I dreaded, combing my hair became easy.
During these early experiments I actually learned how to comb my hair. Having my hair combed as a child wasn’t very pleasant. My mom would rip the comb though my hair. I always remember seeing huge clumps of hair in the comb. I always thought my hair was un-manageable until I was in my early twenties. It was then that I decided to go natural. I just got sick of all the chemical burns from relaxers. My hair was damaged and stringy.
I started to research how to comb natural hair, and I was surprised how easy my hair was to comb using the right technique. I was used to the comb being raked through my hair. I found out that combing hair from the ends and gently working up to the crown, worked a lot better then ripping the comb though your hair. Gently working knots and tangles out, is more efficient. I didn’t have any pain and I lost less hair in the process.
Parents should implement this technique when combing their child’s hair. Styling your child’s hair should be an enjoyable experience. You’re child should not be in tears after having their hair combed. This should be a time of bonding not something your child dreads. A leave in conditioner or detangler, will make combing your child’s hair easier. I have learned to comb through the worst knots and tangles with ease.
I remember combing my niece’s hair one afternoon. She hadn’t combed it in 2 weeks. She had several large mats throughout her hair. Most parents would’ve just grabbed scissors. But patience is the key. It took an hour and loads of conditioner, but I gently worked out all the mats.
Protective Styles That Have Worked for Me
Another reason my hair broke a lot was because I always put it in tight buns. At the end of the day when I removed the ponytail holder. a lot of my hair came out with it. It was very frustrating because I’ve always wanted long hair. I have found that ponytail holders with the metal attachments were the culprit. My hair would snag on the metal edges. Pony tails that were too tight will make the side and the front of hair break. My solution was to use hair ties without the metal. I also like to use banana clips and butterfly clips. Clips are a great way to hold the styles your love without causing damage to your tresses.
Another Styling Option
Another styling option for maintaining length are protective styles. Protective styles are styles that prevent excessive manipulation of hair. Common protective styles are: box braids, two strand twists, corn rows, buns, and extensions.
My favorite protective styles are box braids and two-strand twists. I love these styles because they are beautiful, yet low maintenance. Box braids are a little time consuming when putting in, but its totally worth it. Usually I keep them in for 3 weeks. I wash them every 5 days. They get a little fuzzy as the weeks go on, but I don’t mind. I like the earthy, natural look.
When I finally take them out I discovered that my hair has grown a lot. I also wanted to note that when I detangle my hair after three weeks, there is usually a clump of shed hair. So if you notice this while taking down your braids don’t be alarmed. It will seem like you’ve lost a lot of hair. But this is not the case. This is all hair that you would have normally combed out days ago, but because your hair was in braids, the hair didn’t get combed out. On average a person sheds about 70 hairs per day. Multiply this times 3 weeks!
Two Strand Twists
When I wear two strand twists, I leave them in for 4 to 5 days. Some people leave them in longer. But my hair will get dirty if I leave them any longer than 5 days. I never washed my hair while it was in two strand twists. Some people are able to, but my hair will get pretty matted if I tried that. I usually wear my twist down during the week. If I go somewhere fancy, I can pin them into an up-do. On day 5, I unravel each one and leave it down for a fabulous twist-out. You can also undo box braids for a braid-out.
Using protective styles and the detangling method I described above actually work. I have managed to retain the length of my hair. I have less damage, breakage and split ends. My hair is in great condition. I hope these tips have been helpful. Here are some other subjects that might interest you.