How to get longer hair using protective styles (PS)
Before we get to the “how”, we need to know what a protective style is.
A protective style is any style that protects your hair from excessive manipulation and helps you retain length(aka longer hair).
I have seen a lot of naturals and relaxed hair sisters redefine protective styles and retained mind-blowing lengths with these styles.
So under my definition, protective styles can be made with extensions or with just your hair. You just have to figure out which works better for you.
PS is the short form for protective style.
What a protective is
1.Retain length/low manipulation: Protective styles do not make your hair grow. They do not cause hair growth. But they help you to retain the length that your body has produced.
That means if a style helps you to retain length, it is a protective style.
Length retention means longer hair. It is different from hair growth.
Click the link below to find out the difference between length retention and hair growth.
Why protective styling works for length retention?
Hair breakage happens for various reasons but I’ll like to highlight just two points.
The first is the "INTENSE PULL AND TUG". The intense pull from your tight hairstyles, is why your hair breaks even though hairstyles are meant to help you retain length. Pain is an indication of an intense pull.
The second point is the "SMALL TUGS" that amount to a lot of times. So the tiniest of activities like combing your hair, or touching your hair, "A LOT OF TIMES" can amount to breakage. This means that leaving your hair out and manipulating regularly will reduce the length you retain.
That’s why you see hair on your comb. Note that this is different from shedding. I made a whole post on that.
When you leave your hair in protective styles, it reduces the "A LOT OF TIMES" you manipulate your hair. This will capitulate to longer lengths as a result of length retention.
2. Stretches your hair: We all struggle with a healthy phenomenon called shrinkage. And when it is not properly managed can prevent you from getting longer hair.
Protective styling is one good way to manage your shrinkage. It stretches your curly, coily, kinky hair. It prevents tangles and knots at the ends of your hair.
Stretching is why your hair feels longer after you thread it or comb dry your twists. It did not make your hair grow.
3. Protects your ends: The purpose of a protective style is to protect your strands, your ends especially.
When your ends are protected, you will retain length.
When your ends are not breaking, you will get longer hair.
As long as you can retain length with that style with less breakage, then I would classify it as a protective style.
The “how”- Guidelines for choosing a protective style
When I am asked to recommend good protective styles that will help with getting longer hair, I don’t usually have styles but guidelines.
This is because any style can be destructive or protective.
The bad edges I got in 2019 were a result of braids. But now, braids are what are helping me retain length.
Why and how?
Any style that is done correctly will help you retain length/get longer hair.
It boils down to how your hairstyle was made and what you did before and after the style was made.
If your style follows the guidelines below, it is a protective style. For easier understanding, the guidelines will be divided into two:
- Before installing any style.
- After installing the style.
Things to note before installing any style
- Not tight: A protective style should not be painful. Pain defeats the purpose of a protective style.
Contrary to the myth that tight styles grow your hair, tight styles only do more harm. It damages your follicles.
It’s one of the reasons you have bad edges. STOP BUYING PAIN AND BAD EDGES WITH YOUR MONEY! Please stop traumatizing your hair follicles.
Tight styles will not enable you to get longer hair. You will notice a lot of breakage/shedding after taking down the style. So, please avoid tight/painful hairstyles.
2. Should not Break your hair: If a hairstyle you installed makes you lose more hair during takedown, then it is not protective.
Note this could also be your fault and not necessarily the style. E.g if you didn’t deep condition and moisturize properly before installing the style.
Or you used heavy extensions on your fine strands. You should expect breakage boo.
3. Not Heavy: Protective style should not wear down your strands.
This is really important if you have fine strands as your strands cannot stand stress compared to other hair textures. Click on the link to read up on hair textures👇🏽
What should you know about your “Hair Texture"
Hair texture refers to how thick or thin each strand of hair is. It is also called the hair width. It is classified…
The parting/sections should be equal to the volume of extension used. This is especially important if you are doing knotless braids.
If you want the partings to be small then reduce the volume of extensions you use on each section.
If you are doing knotless braids, make sure the root is has the same body volume with the rest of the attachment body. The picture above is a good example.
Doing it this way will prevent breakage since the attachment is not heavier that the hair holding it.
Heavy extensions on small partings is like overloading a nylon bag with shoes, bread, milk, sugar, hair,etc. The bag will burst open at the bottom. Same with your hair. During takedown you might even lose the whole section.
If your strands are really fragile and scanty, stop adding extensions to them.
Things to note after installing the style
1. High manipulation: A style is not protective if you are constantly manipulating your hair.
For fine strands, I’ll say your style should stay in at least 3 weeks. Constantly manipulating your protective style will not help you retain length.
So curb the urge to do all the IG styles you see content creators do.
While on a particular style, like braids or locs, resist the urge to style it in 20 different ways. That’s too much manipulation. Just let your hair be.
2. Do not abandon your hair for months: A Protective style is supposed to help you take a break from manipulating your hair, not help you abandon your strands.
Therefore if you intend on carrying a long-term PS then create a routine where you will wash and deep condition in the style.
Abandoning your hair will not help you retain the length you want.
3. Tight styling: Your style might be a protective style but how you style it after installation might be destroying all your efforts.
Your braids, locs,kinky, etc should not be pulled into a tight and painful ponytail. You are going to go bald.
Especially when it is freshly installed, just let it be. Don’t put it in a ponytail.
Key points to note
- Any style that helps you retain length and your hair doesn’t break in it, is a protective style. It can be braids, locs, twists, cornrows, threading etc
- Of course, they do not make your hair grow. They only help with length retention.
- Protective styles are not painful.
- If you are stuck at a hair length for months, take a break from doing your hair every 2–3 days, get a protective style.
If you follow all the guidelines highlighted above, you will get longer hair (retain length) because the style is protective.
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