Are Braids a Protective Style?

Every few months I like to do a style where I braid my own hair into small individual braids.  I usually leave them in for three to four weeks and enjoy how easy they are to maintain.  I leave about an inch of hair out on the end of each braid so that when I wet them and apply product, the hair curls up.

My hair in small individual braids

Up until recently I thought that this was a protective style.  Technically a protective style is one that will “protect” the ends of the hair strands.  Since my ends are actually left out, the style is really more “low maintenance” than “protective”.

What about braids that are done by adding extension hair?
These braids are commonly considered a protective style because the hair is kept braided for a long period of time.  The hair is not being styled in the usual way (i.e. combing, brushing etc.) which can be a benefit if the hair is moisturized daily.  However, the ends of the hair are still out in a sense because the braids themselves are out which can lead to dry hair.  The key to length retention is making sure the hair stays moisturized; especially the ends which are the oldest part of the hair strand.  This is possibly why so many have experienced dryness and breakage after wearing braids for a long period of time.  Braids can be a great style to “protect” the hair from manipulation that occurs during styling but ultimately extra steps must be taken in order to insure the hair is still healthy when the braids are taken down.

The following are some tips to consider for braided hair:

Use braids that are small to large in size  
Mini or Micro braids may look attractive but have been known to cause damage and breakage.

Know when to remove your braids
Individual braids can be left in for up to 2 months; Cornrows for 2 weeks up to 1 month with proper care.

Keep your hair moisturized  
Since the hair is constantly out, the exposure to air and the elements can be drying.  Spritz
the braids daily with a water based moisturizing spray

Braid hair using medium tension
Hair does not have to be braided so tight that the scalp is left feeling sore.  Tight braiding can lead to traction alopecia which is hair loss at the scalp level.  A secure even braid can be done with medium tension.

Personally, I find it’s best for my hair when I apply a small amount of Raw Unrefined Shea Butter to each individual braid.  This not only helps to seal in moisture but also gives each braid a neat appearance and shine.

Check out my Aloe Vera Spray Leave-In recipe for a moisturizing braid spray

2 thoughts on “Are Braids a Protective Style?

  1. TheNEW007 says:

    Great Post! I look at braids/twists as a low manipulation styling. No combing, brushing, man-handling needed. Then, bunning them or styling them with ends tucked away as a protective styling.

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