How To Know When Your Protective Style Has Stopped Doing Its Job

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Thinning edges and an irritated scalp are just a few of the classic telltale signs. 

Who doesn't love a protective style?! In addition to giving our natural hair a break from daily manipulation and product usage, protective styling also plays a critical role in promoting growth. 

But, how do you recognize when it actually stops doing what it's supposed to? Here are 5 telltale pitfalls that literally take the "protective" out of protective styling: 

Related: 5 Things You Are Unconsciously Doing To Damage Your Hair

Your Protective Style is Too Tight: Ensuring that a hairstyle is secure is absolutely fine, but when your protective style ventures from secure to extremely tight, you risk the chance of actually causing more damage.

A style that is too tight can cause a myriad of scalp issues, but the most common and detrimental are thinning hair, bald spots or even worse-- permanent hair loss.

Mimosa Hair Honey Calming Tension Spray

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Related: How To Relieve Scalp Pain When Tapping Your Braids Isn't Enough

Communicate with your stylist every time a braid or hair pull feels uncomfortable. Looking to relieve tightness and tension from a style you already have? Invest in a cooling tension spray. 

Your Protective Style is Too Heavy: This is particularly true for styles such as box braids and twists. Either style can add an additional 3-5 pounds of weight onto the head.

Just to put that into perspective, a human head weighs about 10 pounds, so adding hair that weighs half the size of our head not only cause duress on our necks, but can cause hair loss and a receded hairline. Avoid super heavy extensions by asking the stylist to make the parts larger or by using a lighter weight hair, such as havana or marley. 

Your Protective Style is in Too Long: How long is "too long?" As a personal rule of thumb, I try not keep my hair in a particular style for longer than 6-8 weeks. After this duration of time, our hair and scalps are in need of a thorough wash and deep conditioning treatment, to get rid of product buildup and restore moisture.

SheaMoisture Sacha Inchi Oil Omega 3, 6, 9 Rescue + Repair Clarifying Shampoo 

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SheaMoisture's Sacha Inchi Rescue and Repair Clarifying Shampoo and Superfruit Complex Hair Masque are a particularly effective duo.

 

SheaMoisture® Superfruit Complex 10-in-1 Renewal System Masque

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Your Protective Style is Repetitive: When we wear the same exact protective style again and again, we sometimes fail to realize (or accept) that it's causing damage. Get into the habit of switching up the part for your leave out or the design of your favorite cornrow style.

You can also opt for larger box braids and forgoing smaller micro braids for further preservation. By switching it up, your hair has time to recover and grow without constant manipulation.

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 Your Protective Style Takes Precedence Over Your Real Hair: When the "blendation"is on point, a protective style can truly feel like our real hair, but it should never take priority over what's underneath! Commit to routine maintenance of your real hair regardless of the style!

Here are some quick tips:

*For braids: Use scalp cleansers such as Sea Breeze Witch Hazel or Uncle Funky's Daughter's Defunk Hair Refresher Tonic to remove dirt and buildup from your scalp without washing! They also neutralize odor. 

Uncle Funky's Daughter Defunk Hair Refresher Spray

Available at Target | $11

*For Cornrows: Get into the habit of using a leaving in conditioner every three days or so, as braiding hair can be very drying. Alikay's Natural Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner not only leaves the hair moisturized with shine, but smells heavenly, too.

Alikay Naturals Lemongrass Leave-in Conditioner

Available at Target | $13

  

*For Weaves: Whether you have "leave-out" or a full closure, it's still important to wash and condition while the extensions are still intact. Be sure to rinse out all of the product and when you think you've got it all…rinse one more time for good measure!

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