How to Loosen a Protective Style without Breaking your Hair

Linda Hanson (Hair APT)
6 min readMay 9, 2022


Did you know that it is possible to install a hairstyle that is protective but still end up with breakage?


Retaining length does not end with installing a protective style. It also has to do with how you take down the protective style.

If you do it the wrong way, your hair will break.

If you do it the right way, you’ll retain length

I guess you are curious already. How do I loosen my protective style without breaking my hair?

What you need to loosen a hairstyle

  1. Lots of patience: Be patient while loosening your hairstyle. Do not take down your hairstyles if you are tired or in a hurry.

The result of rushing your take down process is breakage. If you get tired, take breaks and continue later.

Good things take time.

Photo by Duane Mendes on Unsplash

2. Divide into sections and even smaller sections: Imagine you want to clear a piece of land for planting.

First, you’ll divide the land into portions then you start work. It is impossible to clear everything at once.

Same applies to your hair. If you try to comb/detangle everything at once, your hair will break, your scalp will ache and possibly your comb will break.

So, divide your hair into sections. Then you can further divide these sections into smaller sections that your comb can carry without breaking your hair.

The number of sections you’ll get depends on how long your hair is. That means for shorter hair, you’ll have to do more sections.

To make things easier for your arms, you can use sectioning clips below instead of twisting

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3. Start from the ends: Do not start combing your hair from the roots. You know the usual way most people do it.

They dig in their comb like a shovel and pull it upwards. Naaah, don’t do that.

Start detangling from the ends. Free up the tangles gradually until you reach your roots.

The end result will be almost no breakage and no pain.

4. Water and Spray Bottle: Never try to taken down your hairstyle without spraying water on it first.

If your hair is dry, it will must likely break when you try to loosen your hairstyle.

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Use a spray bottle to control the amount of water you spray on each section.

I’m sure you don’t want a messy wash day, so use a spray bottle. You don’t have to drench your whole hair in water.

5. A conditioner that has slip: Your hair will easily detangle if you use a conditioner with slip.

The slip will allow your hair to glide by each other without tangling or breaking.

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To understand the difference, pick one section and detangle with just water then pick the other side and add a conditioner.

You will lose lesser hair from the section with a conditioner compared to the section you used just water.

Using a conditioner is not optional if you want to prevent breakage.

6. Detangling tool: This is one of the most important tools you need while loosening a hairstyle. Your choice of a detangling tool can help you retain length or break your hair.

If you use the following correctly, your hair will not break:

  • your fingers,
  • a wide tooth comb or
  • a tangle teezer to comb.

Always start with finger detangling. It allows you to free up knots and tangles without ripping your ends because you can feel them with your hands.

Your combs and brushes cannot feel these knots easily so they’ll most likely rip through and break your hair.

Once you are done with finger detangling, you can go in with your tools to remove the shed hair your fingers missed.

A wide tooth comb has wide spaces that allow semi large sections of hair to pass through without getting ripped.

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Use a tangle teezer if you want to remove almost all shed hair. Compared to a wide tooth comb, you’ll have to work in smaller sections.

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Detangling/combing with any of these tools is not painful as far as you do it right.


  • If you use a fine toothed rat tail comb to comb your hair, your hair will break.
  • For an afro comb it is a picking comb not a detangling tool. Hence if you use on hair that is more than 6 months old, that hair will break. What matters here is the length and volume of the hair.
  • You can use a wide tooth tail comb to detangle if you are combing a very small section (e.g a single braid).

How I Loosen my Braids

Now, we are going to apply all the things listed above to take down my braids.

Linda Hanson

1. The first thing I do is to spray the full length of my hair in the braids with water and my liquid leave in, then I cover with a processing cap for 30 mins (it helps to soften the buildup).

2. Then I pick a braid and remove the attachment using my hands only. I found out that using a rat tail comb to remove the attachment, rips my hair and makes it break.

3. After removing the attachment from my hair, I add more water and conditioner if necessary, focusing on my ends then the roots (where there is an accumulation of dirt).

4. I do not wait to loosen all the attachment from my hair before detangling. I finger detangle the loosened section focusing on freeing my roots from the accumulated dirt.

5. Then I use my wide tooth comb or tangle teezer to comb from my hair from the ends to the roots. Sometimes I use a wide tooth tail comb for this type of section.

6. When I’m done with that section, I twist up immediately. Leaving it loose will make it tangle again. Alternatively you can clip down using sectioning clips.

7. Usually, if I’ve done up to 5–10 braids, I’ll loosen the twists and pull then into one big twist. Then I repeat for these steps for the other braids until I’m done with my whole head.

It’s not compulsory to use my method to take down your hairstyle. However it can apply to any hairstyle you want to take down.

Important things to note

  1. Work in Sections
  2. Use a lot of water and lots of conditioners
  3. Use your fingers to loosen the style then finger detangle lightly.
  4. Use the right detangling tool.
  5. Comb from ends to the roots.
  6. Twist up or braid up each section you are done with.

If you stick to these guidelines, the only hair you should see on your hair is shed hair.

In clearer terms, your hair will not break while taking down your protective style.

If you lack any of the necessary tools for a successful take down, you can get them using the link below

If you found this post helpful, you can say thank you by giving it your 50 claps. Thank you.



Linda Hanson (Hair APT)

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