There’s really no best time to wear a protective style. It all depends on the person and their lifestyle. But regardless of the time, there are a few key things you should keep in mind as you prepare for and maintain your look. According to Maria Antoinette, Global Stylist for Cantu, the benefits of low to no manipulation of your hair are growth retenion, downtime for your hair and scalp, and the regeneration of natural oils. But none of that can happen if you don’t check three simple to-dos off your list.
Consider Your Hair Type
Hair inspiration is just a click or scroll away, but the styles you screenshot aren’t always ideal for your curl pattern.
“Hair type and density matter most when considering a protective style,” says Maria. “Your hair has to be strong enough to hold the style for a duration of time, especially braids, faux locs, etc.” So, if your hair is straight, thin and soft, cornrows probably aren’t the best choice. In fact, going against your hair pattern will likely just lead to damage, which defeats the purpose of a protective style.
Remember that updos, mini twists into a bun and even a top knot with minimal tension classify as a protective style. It doesn’t always have to be something that requires extensions.
Don’t wait until after the deed is said and done to ask yourself questions like:
What do I want to achieve with this protective style? How long will I wear this protective style? Is my hair healthy enough for this protective style?
If you’re entrusting a stylist with your look, you should also be asking them how long your hair should be in the style, what their braiding style is (tight or loose) and their recommendations for aftercare. If your lifestyle isn’t able to accommodate whatever they suggest, you should continue your search.
Patience is a virtue when deciding on the best protective style for you, so don’t feel bad for inundating a stylist with your concerns. (Pro tip: if you’re getting braids or twists, don’t be shy about asking a stylist to slick down your edges with pomade beforehand. This will remind them to leave those sensitive hairs out while they work.)
Stock Your Shelves
The style you choose will determine the kind of products you use for maintenance, but moisture is an absolute must. Maria likes starting her protective style with clean, deep-conditioned hair.
“My go to products are the sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner from Cantu and I love deep conditioning with their Quinoa Protech Deep Protecting Masque from their Anti-Fade line. This treatment offers the perfect blend of moisture, and protein even without any color treatment.
If you’re rocking a braids, twists or locs, you may want to bypass washing your hair entirely, due to drying time and the way water affects the style. However, you can still cleanse your scalp and keep product buildup at bay, thus creating an ideal environment for growth retention and oil production to take place. Braid sprays are also a godsend for adding shine after they’ve been worn for a few weeks.
“My go-to is the Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar Root Relief,” says Maria. “It’s formulated to relieve itch, often caused by bacteria, due to the ingredients ACV is an antibacterial…it’s a gel and you don’t have to use water to remove it. Simple apply a small amount to your scalp and all that build up and bacteria is removed. For the actual braids, I refresh them with the Cantu Apple Cider Dry-Co Wash.
If you’re still in the searching phase of your protective style journey, start with 50 of the greatest looks spotted on Instagram.