The winter is fastly approaching and we can already notice the difference in our hair and skin. The dryness is settling in. A lot of times most naturals feel that it's time to put their hair away in "protective styles". Protective styling is a popular method that those of us with afro textured curls types (3c-4c), use to protect our hair from the cold seasons. Protective styling could be putting your own natural hair in buns, twist, braids etc. Or using extensions for braiding, twisting locking, weaving or wigs. Basically, your hair is either tucked away or covered. While this can be very helpful if done in moderation and correctly, it can also be harmful and cause major damage. If done correctly your tresses are protected and hydrated and they come out thriving. On the flipside, your tresses may come out dry, broken brittle, and in some cases can cause some form of Alopecia. A lot of times when people see the term Alopecia they become afraid, Alopecia is just the medical term for hair loss. Traction Alopecia is a type of hair loss that can come from pulling. Traction is gripping or pulling. So when the two are combined you have the term traction alopecia. Hair loss due to pulling and gripping. Now with this time coming, I want to discuss a few tips to help you pick the best protective style for you. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is a candidate for a "protective style" Below are some things you should consider before putting your hair in a protective style.
If your hair is breaking off. More than likely it is breaking off because it's lacking hydration and moisture. If your hair is dry it will break, the #1 way to treat breakage is to give it what it needs. Water and water-soluble products. When in protective styling most people shampoo their hair a lot less or not at all. So in a 4-12 week span for some, the hair is only being shampooed maybe 1-4 times or not at all. Most will use oils believing that their hair is being moisturized. When in fact they are just coating the hair. If you want to work on breakage, you should work on hydrating by shampooing more often and weekly deep conditioning. Now on the flip side if your hair is breaking due to mechanical damage from heat styling then protective styling may be a good option for you. My recommendation would be to give your hair a few hydration treatments for about 3 to 4 weeks, then put it away in loose twist with Marley hair. Marley twist hair tends to be lighter in weight. Or a wig with loose cornrows underneath should be fine. If your problems with breakage persist, you may want to consider cutting the damaged hair to start fresh to eliminate the damage. Sometimes we have to start over if we want a healthy start.
1st identify if your hair is breaking or shedding. You can do this by looking at the strands up close if you can see a white bulb at the top then that is shedding. If no bulb is present then that is breakage. If your hair is shedding more than normal 50-100 strands a day, then that is excess. You may want to 1st go to your Dr and tell them what is going on. Usually, they will do blood work to make sure your not vitamin deficient or have any autoimmune deficiencies. Take notice of any recent changes, for example, postpartum, menopause, starting or stopping birth control weight loss or weight gain, physical and emotional stress etc. Any of those changes can possibly cause excessive shedding. In this case, I would suggest leaving your hair out, until your physical and emotional health is balanced. In the meantime, you should seek a Hair Loss Specialist, Trichologist, or a Dermatologist that can put you on a plan to stabilize your hair loss Pulling or tugging on your hair in this state is not wise. If you pull on something that is weak it will break. If you must do a protective style. Very loose plaits with a wig will do. Anything else would be too much for the hair and your follicles to handle.
In the black community, we have an expression that we use for people that have tender scalp called "tender headed" When a person that is tender headed gets ponytails, braids or any type of tension on the hair it hurts them. Even simple things like combing of the hair they find painful as well. Now there are others that don't have this issue naturally but however along the way they have grown to become "tender headed" If you are getting your hair put in styles that cause you discomfort and pain, you are injuring your follicles. Pain according to dictionary.com is physical suffering or distress, due to injury, illness etc. Also a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body. So if you are having pain in your head because of styling that can and will eventually cause injury to the follicles. I have had people tell me that when they have gotten their hair braided or weaved in places that they had to take painkillers afterward. That is not ok, nothing you do to your hair should cause pain to it. If you experience pain when getting protective styles that is your bodies way of telling you no. Not that you can't wear them just not as tight, or for extended periods of time. We love to say that beauty is pain. In the case, it is temporary beauty because if you continually wear your hair in protective styling this can lead to different types of alopecia. Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) is a form of scarring alopecia on the scalp that results in permanent hair loss. It is the most common form of scarring hair loss seen in black women.
So what am I am I saying???
There is nothing wrong with protective styling if done correctly. As a licensed cosmetologist with over 15 years of experience, I have seen the progression in hair care. I couldn't be more proud of the fact that black women have embraced our natural textures and are using relaxers less. My only concern is that we are using extensions more and more and at younger ages. I see pictures on social media of little girls and sometimes babies with tight extension put in there hair. I was born in 1982, and not for nothing at the time if you were a little girl and you didn't have long hair your mom dealt with it and did what she had to do, and as a little girl you accepted it. Extensions on a young scalp can be dangerous ( this is not to judge anyone that does) the follicles on a child's head is still developing and don't need that type of tension. My belief is everything in moderation. Is protective styling bad? No, as long as it's done without pain, not left in for long (more than 6-8 weeks) in moderation, and on those who are candidates of the right age. Please, ladies, take these few things into consideration before choosing your next protective style for you or your daughter.