Protective Styling 101

With more women embracing their natural hair texture, what’s the best way to prep and maintain styles that protect your hair while it grows and recovers?

Braids, twists, cornrows – there are 101 combinations to create stylish protective styles that allow textured hair to grow and recover from any damage. “Chemical treatments are less popular now,” argues Mimi Kone, managing director of Mimi et Mina in London. “Women use natural products and protein-based treatments to make their hair lightweight and manageable.”

“Protective styling is a great experience that encourages healthy hair growth minimising damaged hair,” agrees Shalani Williams, salon director of Francesco Group Knowle. “Clients have told me that they love the versatility and that their hair is as healthy as it’s ever been.”

Whether it’s for wearing wigs or transitioning away from Brazilian blow dries, we asked a handful of experienced Afro hair stylists for their top tips. “Before choosing a protective hairstyle, it is important to consult an Afro hair specialist who will advise on which style, depending on your hair condition,” Mimi says. “If it’s in good condition you may have a weave done, but if your hair is extremely dry, putting it away would be the best.”

Before having your hair styled, Gege Uboma from Glam Gorgeous in Manchester recommends having your hair thoroughly washed and detangled with a deep conditioning leave-in conditioner. “Not too much product, just a little bit of a cream to help with condition,” she adds. “It depends on the style, but most people can keep the hair in for four to six weeks, even up to eight if well maintained. We’ve seen a lot of people having their hair done for over the summer.”

Once styled, that doesn’t mean the hair should be left completely alone. “I recommend keeping hair hydrated under a wig with a leave-in treatment, a penetrative conditioner with natural oils,” says Nina Lemtir, owner of Sen Style Hair. “They should regularly spray the scalp with it and do a treatment when they take it out.”

“With something like braids, some people like to pop in to have their edges re-done after about four weeks,” says Gege. “You need to make sure you have a good leave-in conditioner to keep your hair moisturised.” Nina recommends washing your hair at least every 10 days, ideally once a week, to keep hair fresh and conditioned. 

With a solid six weeks of attention and care, you’d be amazed at how much textured hair is able to grow. Once you go in to have your style removed, the care shouldn’t vary too much. “It’s very important the hair is kept well maintained in between protective styling,” agrees Shalani, who recommends investing in a heated cap to help deep conditioning treatments be even more effective.