Are You Wearing a Protective Style or Neglectful Style?

Are You Wearing a Protective Style or Neglectful Style?

The natural hair care community often emphasizes protecting your curls. In theory, protective hairstyles should foster the perfect environment for happy natural hair. But there’s a thin line dividing protective and neglectful hairstyles. Wearing a protective style can positively impact your day-to-day routine. It’s fun to switch up your look and try something different. People also enjoy spending less time managing their natural hair. There are other reasons to choose to wear a protective style, some are myths and others are derived from convenience.

One of the most prominent natural hair myths is that dirt makes our hair grow faster. This is far from the truth. The buildup of oil, products, and dead skin will not make your hair grow faster or stronger. In fact, it creates a more challenging environment for your scalp to thrive. A dirty scalp can be the cause of irritation, excessive dandruff, and could even lead to eventual hair loss. Hygiene is key when it comes to hair health. Cleansing your hair and scalp regularly makes all the difference. When someone chooses a “protective style” that doesn’t allow for regular cleansing (or they choose not to cleanse) the style becomes neglectful.

Protective Styles VS Neglectful Styles

Protective styles can be beneficial to their wearer. The ends of the hair are tucked safely away which can help prevent damage. There is also less manipulation done to the hair which can ultimately benefit its overall health. Many people wear protective styles to shield their hair from harsh weather or as a way to make active lifestyles and recreational activities (such as swimming) more accessible. Protective styles include braids, twists, and updos.

You likely haven’t heard the term “neglectful styles” before, but you’ll understand why we use the term shortly. You can wear these styles, but you have to do so with the awareness that your hair health CANNOT take priority with them installed. Neglectful styles are ones that don’t allow access to the scalp or cause excessive tension. Tight ponytails, weaves, and wigs are three popular neglectful styles in the natural hair community. These styles are notorious for causing extreme buildup and thinning edges or bald spots.

Hair Hygiene is Key

Some people will not cleanse their neglectful style after it’s installed. This can lead to a scalp that hasn’t been touched by water or shampoo for months at a time. To put that into perspective, we recommend washing your hair natural hair weekly for optimum hair health. When people wear neglectful styles often, they get into the habit of ignoring their hair’s needs. This leads to frizz, dry hair, undefined curls, and lackluster style results when they decide to wear their natural hair. They may become frustrated because their twist-outs lack definition and their hair becomes dehydrated within a few days. This causes them to install another neglectful style or a protective style that they don’t maintain.

A way to prevent this habit from forming is to practice good hygiene even when your hair and scalp are not fully accessible.

The Benefits of Protective Styling

We don’t recommend long-term wear of neglectful styles because of the issues they’re prone to cause, however, we do understand the benefits of protective styles. As mentioned above, protective styles can help with hair growth, reduce hair manipulation and breakage, and improve moisture retention. They also mean spending less time getting ready every day. When worn carefully and mindfully, protective styles can be a positive addition to one’s natural hair journey.

Neglectful styling has many downsides. Hair loss, scalp irritation, and breakage are just a few. Though people will boast that their hair grew three inches while it sat untouched underneath a wig cap. In reality, the hair grew at its normal pace. The new growth is just more visible in protective styles. The scalp is also extremely dirty from buildup and sweat. This likely caused itchiness which leads to scratching. Scratching causes small tears in the skin or larger open wounds. Beyond the scalp, the hair is also struggling. It is massively dehydrated and needs a lot of love.

Frequently wearing neglectful styles can cause devastating effects such as hair loss. These effects might lower someone’s self-esteem and make them uncomfortable with their natural hair. The solution is to have another style installed. Other people may prefer these styles because of their convenience and aesthetic. To those naturals, we just suggest pampering your hair between installations and getting your quarterly trims.

Protective styles can also turn into neglectful styles. If the health and hygiene of the hair are ignored, the style loses its benefits. Wearing these styles nonstop can also cause long-term damage to your hair.

Prioritize Your Hair Health

If you enjoy wearing protective styles but want healthier, happier hair then incorporate these tips into your protective style regimen.

Avoid painful tension.

Your hair shouldn’t hurt after your style has been installed. There’s no reason why you should be in pain when you get your hair done. We’ve been told that it’s a natural part of the process but that doesn’t have to be true. When your scalp hurts, that means there’s too much tension in that spot. Tension can cause hair loss, hair bumps, and headaches. Talk to your stylist and tell them you don’t want the style very tight. Speak up if you notice your head starting to hurt and ask them to correct their approach.

Choose styles that allow access to the scalp.

Be mindful when choosing your next look. Knotless braids, twists, and faux locs will be easier to cleanse. If you can easily touch your scalp, the style is more protective. (Remember: the reason neglectful styles can cause so much damage is that hygiene is not prioritized.)

Wash your hair weekly.

Choose a style that can withstand weekly cleanses for the duration of the installation. We recommend weekly washes in our Clean and Simple hair care regimen because it replenishes the scalp and hair. Even if your hair is in a protective style, it can and will benefit from weekly washes. Dilute your shampoo and rinse thoroughly. If possible, set your hair with a dryer. You don’t want your hair to stay wet for too long.

Let your style go.

It’s hard, we know. Once the 6-week mark comes around you need to remove your protective style. Your hair doesn’t benefit from the constant added weight the extensions create. 6 weeks might not sound long, but it’s the longest you should keep your style installed. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve mastered keeping your protective styles looking great past the expiration date. Your protective style might still look fresh and flawless, but it’s still time to tend to your hair.

Always choose healthy hair.

The key to keeping protective styles protective lies in self-discipline. Even if your hair looks amazing or you’d rather have a tight style, you must make the choice to have healthy hair. When you’re not wearing protective styles, try to wear loose natural hairstyles because they promote healthy hair and don’t require much manipulation. Keep in mind that wearing protective styles or neglectful styles frequently can affect the state of your hair and scalp. Give your hair a break between protective styles. Protective styles should be enjoyed in moderation (as stated on our Tiktok).

Mindfully Rock Your Protective Styles

We can’t stress enough how much our natural hair needs good hygiene habits to thrive. Our curls need to be moisturized with water and the scalp needs to be clean. Washing the scalp promotes blood flow (which is more likely to help your hair grow than a dirty scalp.) Washing your hair weekly while it’s in a protective style will reduce buildup and hydrate your scalp. If you’re looking forward to getting a protective style, we suggest you consider the tips we gave you. Making simple adjustments can make all the difference.

If you want your hair to look incredible with and WITHOUT a protective style, consider focusing on hair health. Healthy hair is the foundation of a beautiful style.

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