The online natural hair community is riddled with protective styling challenges, videos, forums, and blogs. There are many people that speak of protective styling as the key to healthy hair and for them protective styling has helped them retain length. HOWEVER, for some of us, particularly those of us with fine hair, protective styling can actually do the exact opposite.
Coily, kinky, curly hair is by definition more fragile because the nooks and crannies of the curl are weak points. You can take a piece of string and twist it into all sorts of shapes with out doing any damage to it.
But if you were to take a filament with more curves in it, you could really do some harm if you play with it too much.
Let’s use a slinky as an example. We’ve all played with these metal coils of joy!
So you’re there with your slinky and having so much fun watching the thing walk down the stairs, bouncing back and forth between your two hands, and making cool shapes. Then you get a little bored and you decide to get innovative with the damn thing. So you decide to see how far it can stretch out before slinking back up. You grab a friend and each hold on to an end to see how far you can stretch it.
Then you let go and expect it to slink back up and it doesn’t because all of the bends have now been over stretched and your slinky is dunzo. No matter how hard you try to reform the coils this is what you wind up with.
This point of no return can also happen for coily hair in the form of breakage and thinning ends. When you put so much stress on your fragile strands keep up a regimen of protective styling, you can be doing more harm than good. I have found personally that the best thing that I can do for my hair to retain length and encourage growth is to leave it alone. That is why I prefer wash’n'gos. I find that although my hair is out and exposed to the elements, leaving my hair in a low manipulation style such as this one is truly the best way to protect my coils because my hair is at its strongest when it is not stretched and pulled. Of course sometimes I need to mix things up and so maybe once every two months I’ll throw in some twists or braids for fun. But in general, my focus is to manipulate my hair as little as possible. Check out my [Af]Rotation for my quick and easy wash’n'go tutorial that I’ve used to stretch my wash’n'go to 9 days!
That said, I know that there are a lot of people out there who experience significant tangling when they wear their hair loose and so they prefer to wear styles to prevent this issue. If you have fine hair, instead of twisting or braiding your hair daily, try to extend the life of your style by doing smaller twists or braids, ones that can be left in for at least 1 week. 2 weeks would be ideal, and if you can get 4+ weeks out of one style, you’re really golden. Braids and kinky twists are good options for protective styles with a longer shelf life.
So the next time you’re thinking of incorporating frequent protective styling into your regimen, remember that the best protective style might just be doing nothing at all!