As Black women, we love to switch up out hairstyles a lot. Also, being as there is a lot of versatility with our hair, we want to try all the styles physically possible – we may rock a wash ‘n’ go on Monday and then on Tuesday, rock a voluminous twist-out. By Saturday we may have installed our favourite crochet and still manage to slay Sunday with our ‘baddest and bougiest’ wig. This is great and all fun and games until our hair starts shedding or breaking excessively.
I remember when I entered the natural hair care game in 2012 and I wanted to explore my hair and see what it can/cannot do. I just did not bear in mind that over manipulation can pose a lot of stress on our tresses. I definitely suffered from the infamous ‘hand-in-hair’ syndrome, followed by my product – junkie tendencies, (which even up until this day, I still find myself battling with)! We all get obsessed with having full, soft and flourishing natural hair, although, establishing a goal and a realistic time frame to achieve it, truly helped me remain patient. I just had to face the fact that in time, I would be able to try all the styles I wanted because I knew that when one style got old, I could easily go on to try the next style on my bucket list.
Even after mastering different hairstyles, I found that my hair only grew up to a certain point before it broke off. I eventually realised it was because I was not doing anything to protect my hair throughout the styling process nor in the actual hairstyle. For example, I was constantly flat twisting my hair every night and would take it down in the morning for a luscious twist out. Although this was a great style and I received a lot of compliments throughout the week, I was not babying my ends or edges. My hair could not handle all of that pulling, brushing or tugging. Today, I stick to wash ‘n’ gos as they are the most stress-free for my hair type and texture.
Protective hairstyles vs Low Manipulation hairstyles
To get the best out of our hair, we need to decide what the purpose of the style is. Some naturalistas aspire to gain length whilst others strive for health. Ask yourself: is my current hairstyle a ‘protective’ style or is it a ‘low – manipulation’ style?
Protective styles are those that protect the ends of our hair, where the hairs are completely tucked away from the elements and therefore do not face the natural wear and tear from brushing against one’s clothes. On the other hand, low manipulation styles protect the hair overall but do not necessarily have the hair tucked away, so they are still somewhat vulnerable to the harsh elements.
Protective styles include bunned up hairstyles (updos) or cornrows that are protected under a wig/weave. However, this does not mean that you should tuck it away and forget about it forever and ever amen because nothing thrives from neglect. Instead, keep up with your daily or weekly moisturising schedule and make sure you stay on top of your monthly regimen! I know life can get in the way and before you know it, six weeks has passed but try and stay diligent. Remember: you still need to keep your scalp clean regularly so that your follicles can breathe. Your hair will thank you for it! 🙂
The same principle should be applied to low manipulation hairstyles. These consist of braids, mini twists, faux locs, ponytails and puffs- anything that involves manipulating the hair on a daily or weekly basis and styles that do not necessarily have your hair tucked away or underneath another style. So many people wonder why their hair is still not growing or retaining length even though they are supposedly taking care of it. I find that many naturals or those who are transitioning from relaxed to natural forget the basics of styling which is moisturising the hair before putting it away for weeks on end.
Moisture can be infused in the hair by spritzing the hair daily with water or a conditioner-water mix and then locking that moisture in with a sealing oil – see the LCO method. However, be mindful that you are not applying product upon product to the point where you have build-up because this will shorten how long you can keep the style in before you need to wash your hair again.
I tend to stick to wash ‘n’ gos mainly because I find that for my lifestyle, it provides the most flexibility. It being a low manipulation style means that I rarely touch my hair; only if I need to moisturise my strands or massage my scalp. I usually do this once or twice a week and then clarify at the end of the week. Otherwise, I leave my hair alone, pineapple it at night and throw on a silk scarf.
I am a lazy natural. Let’s call it a night! If I want to turn it into a protective style, I can always chuck it up into a bun.
Side note: Whatever style you choose to wear, bear in mind that any form of excessive pulling, tugging or brushing of the edges can eventually lead to traction alopecia. I know we all want to slay our edges to perfect our particular style, but if you are one to go the extra mile and turn them into ‘decoration’ (#designeredges), be cautious of the long term effects. Also, applying too much gel because we want them to be ‘laid’ also dries out our baby hairs which too can lead to breakage across the hairline.
What healthy edges look like:
What is your favourite form of styling?