stretched hair in a bun
Growth & Retention

Protective Styling in 6 Easy Steps

protective styling natural hair

Protective styling natural hair is one the most talked about topics in the natural hair community.

Most of the time length retention is the goal. Other times, laziness or lack of time available to do one’s hair is working behind the scenes.

Whatever your reason for choosing to style your hair in protective styles, follow the steps below to make the process as seamless as possible.

I. Pick a Style

The very first step to protective styling natural hair is determining the style you plan to do. When making this decision, it’s important you keep a few things in mind:

  • How long will you keep the style in?
  • Is it possible to moisturize your natural hair while in the protective style?
  • Will this be a short term or a long term protective style?
  • How much manipulation is required to create this style?

Some popular hairstyles with varying levels of ease or difficulty include:

  • weave installs
  • pinned up twists or box braids/plaits on natural hair
  • pinned up twists or braids/plaits with synthetic or human hair installed
  • buns
  • bantu knots
  • corn rows
  • flat twists
back roll protective style
Protective style

Once you’ve decided on what protective style you want to do, you’re ready for the next step.

II. Grab Your Hair Tools

There’s a number of items you’ll need to have readily on hand when protective styling natural hair. Here are some suggestions:

  • large tooth seamless comb or other curly hair friendly brush, to aid with detangling
  • a rat tail comb for parting
  • clips for placing your hair in sections
  • bobby pins for securing the style
  • satin or silk scarf for protecting the style

In addition to the hair tools you need to create your hairstyle, don’t forget about the hair products you’ll need to add to your hair so that it’s moisturized and the style is in good condition:

  • moisturizer cream
  • spray bottle with some water in it
  • a light oil or oil spray moisturizer
  • gel (optional)
  • edge tamer (this will make your hairstyle look more put together)

III. Section your hair

Once you’ve decided on your hairstyle and gathered all your hair tools, it’s time to section your hair. Depending on how you’re planning to use protective styling for your natural hair, it’s best to work with your hair in sections.

Even if you aren’t doing a hair style that requires you to work in sections, you’re still going to need to work in sections so that you can detangle and get prepared for the next step.

 IV. Moisturize!

Adding moisture to your natural hair is crucial before creating and setting any protective style.

Moisturizing can be accomplished by simply spraying a little water on your hair and working it into your strands. When protective styling natural hair in a way that requires a bit more manipulation than usual, moisturized strands will be strands that are less prone to breakage.

Alternatively, a cream based moisturizing product can be used. Creams are a lot more lightweight than butters and work well in fine natural hair.

stretched hair in a bun

V. Seal and Set the Style

After your hair is well moisturized, you’ll want to seal that moisture in and set that style. When protective styling natural hair with twists or braids, that would require a process that looks something like this:

  • Adding moisture to the section by way of a spritz or application of a cream
  • Following with a gel for a bit more hold
  • Finishing with a light weight oil to seal it all in

The oil can be applied before the gel as well.  A gel is typically used to help “set” the style while the oil is used to help seal the style. The order in which you apply these two products (if using a gel), is up to you.

The gel is optional. The oil is not.

When you retire for the evening (or whenever you go to sleep), don’t forget to tie your hair down with that satin or silk scarf. It will preserve the neatness of your hairstyle for much longer.

triple vertical bun
a Protective style

VI.- Give your hair a break!

Your beautiful protective style is complete and now it’s time to simply, leave your hair alone.

The purpose for protective styling natural hair in the first place is to give the strands a rest from manipulation caused by daily styling.

While you’re giving your hair a much needed break from manipulation by styling it protectively, you also want to take time away from protective styling and give your hair a break from that as well.

Don’t just protective style indefinitely. You need to keep your hair clean, conditioned and regularly moisturized. That means at some point (sooner rather than later), you need to take that protective style down and handle your business.

Timeframe for Protective Styling Natural Hair

5-7 days is a good rule of thumb for determining how long to keep a protective style in your hair. Of course, when you add braiding hair or other pieces of hair to your style, you won’t likely want to remove the style any time soon but bear in mind, the longer you keep the style in, the more shed hair is being trapped.

Taking your hair down to moisturize and remove shed hair is not something you want to put off indefinitely.

The next time you choose to protective style your natural hair, follow these steps to move through the styling process much smoother.

Resources on the Web:

50 Easy and Showy Protective styleshttps://therighthairstyles.com/top-5-easy-showy-protective-hairstyles-for-natural-hair/

Protective styling 101: http://www.curlynikki.com/2013/11/protective-styling-101-natural-hair.html

Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

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