Whether you’re a lady or a guy (as long as you have hair on your head), you must have heard the words “protective styles” or “protective styling.” To be honest, I had no idea what protective styles were for a long time. And I’m guessing that, just like me, some of you have no idea what it is. So, what exactly does “protective styling” imply? A protective style keeps the hair ends tucked away and minimizes manipulation. Protective hairstyles tuck hair ends away to discourage tugging, pulling, and manipulation. They are also intended to promote hair growth and save a significant amount of time because the overall goal is to touch the hair as little as possible. In simpler terms, protective styles protect your hair, especially the ends, and encourage growth.

In recent times, lots of hairstyles are being referred to as “protective styles,” which is grossly inaccurate and dangerous for people who don’t know any better. Not every hairstyle is a protective hairstyle, and there are certain markers or tells to help identify protective styles. Even protective hairstyles, if not done the right way, can be destructive.

Here are a couple of ways to identify protective hairstyles.

  • Your scalp can breathe and you have access to moisturising it. 
  • Protective styles shouldn’t give you headaches or make you feel uncomfortable. 
  • Your edges/hair strands are not pulled too tightly. 
  • The style is not too heavy or unnecessarily long.
  • It doesn’t tense the scalp.
  • They are not worn for too long; 2-4/6 weeks is decent.
  • Your hair strands are in groups.
  • Your hair ends are nicely tucked in.
  • They can be done with or without extensions.
  • Your hair wouldn’t require daily retouching, maintenance, or manipulation.

A protective style must fulfil all that’s listed above. There are also certain conditions for wearing protective styling. Lots of people don’t know this, and they complain when they do protective styles and their hair doesn’t grow or gets further damaged.

These are a few conditions for wearing protective hairstyles.

  1. Having healthy hair and a healthy scalp is vital for wearing protective styles. Friction and chronic dehydration are the enemies of compromised hair, so those with weak, thirsty, brittle, or damaged hair should avoid these styling options at all costs.
  2. While wearing a protective style, the hair and scalp must be thoroughly cleaned regularly. The most “protective” style is the one you can execute well and cleanse, condition, and care for it regularly every 7–10 days. Lifestyle content creator Jackie Aina recently shared on her “lavishlyjackie” Instagram page how she refreshes her braids to cleanse her scalp and condition the roots of her hair. You can check out the video she shared here.
  3. It’s also critical to moisturize and oil your scalp frequently while wearing protective styles. Your hair should not lack hydration, otherwise, you’re not protecting it, you’re just slowly damaging it. How are you protecting your hair when you are starving it of hydration, causing breakage due to friction, and allowing sweat/debris/skin cells to build up on the scalp skin, breeding bacteria and fungi along the way? Many people claim they are wearing protective styles, but they use that as an excuse to abandon their hair without care for weeks. A protective style is not a miracle worker. Just because you’re wearing a protective style, your hair is not automatically going to do great.

Now that we have established what protective styling is, how to identify a protective style, and what conditions your hair needs to be in for you to wear a protective style, it’s now time to list the four best protective hairstyles. 

4 Best Protective Hairstyles:

  • Twists: These can be flat, Marley, mini, 2 strands, 3 strands, chunky, or kinky.
  • Braids: Box braids are the better option, but other styles such as knotless, Ghana, cornrows, two strands, three strands, French, stitch, mini, feed-in, etc. can pass.
  • Buns and ponytails: These can be in different styles such as; space, messy, low, high, ninja, afro, sleek, pineapple, etc. But a low ponytail is the better option. 
  • Crochet: Faux-locs, twist out, braid out, etc.

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