These days, the prospect of a hair appointment isn't the least bit plausible. But for those with protective hairstyles, the hair dilemmas are growing worse and worse. With many of us still hanging on to weaves, braids, and twists that were installed pre-social distancing, clamoring to figure out how to make protective styles last from week to week is proving to be a battle.
But there may be victory on the horizon. While the time for a new install is approaching for many, experts say that the secret to keeping your hair together doesn't require a salon or extensive knowledge of hair. In fact, it just requires sitting still.
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How To Make Protective Hairstyles Last: Keep It In For Six Weeks
"It varies slightly based on the protective style you have, but in general you should never keep a protective style for more than six weeks," Annagjid "Kee" Taylor, celebrity hair stylist and founder of Deeper Than Hair salon in Philadelphia, PA says. However, longer lasting installs and braid styles can see a longer shelf-life depending on maintenance and exposure to different environments, something most of us certainly aren't experiencing right now. "My weaves will last two months, but that's also just maintenance," Yusef Williams, Rihanna's hairstylist says. "Right now, basically can't get professional maintenance, but with staying at home, if your hair feels you should be fine. However, it all depends on how you take care of it."
How To Make Protective Hairstyles Last: Keep It Concealed With Satin
What do you do with your hair day-to-day? It's a question that many women, particularly those not most skillful in haircare, are asking. Luckily, the answer should provide some comfort. "Less is more right now," Williams says. And Taylor echoes those sentiments. "Wrap it up," Tshe says. "When you're not out and about — which should be all the time now — keep your your hair tied up in a satin or silk scarf." And even after that Zoom call or quick grocery store run, the moment you're finished, tuck it away in a satin bonnet or scarf again. "Take it down and get cute," Williams says. "But aside from those isolated instances, you're not in the office nobody will see you. I think right now if you want to preserve your hair, it's best to really do nothing."
How To Make Protective Hairstyles Last: Keep Your Scalp Hydrated
A healthy scalp is also key to maintaining protective styles. However, that doesn't mean coating the hair in loads of product. "Don't use anything with too much oil that will create too much build-up, or anything with too much alcohol to dry your hair out," Williams says. "Hair is harder to maintain when the scalp is congested." That said, it's important to use scalp-targeting products and apply in a way that doesn't interfere too much with the style. "Things like tea tree oils are great for the scalp to keep it refreshed," he says. "And for those with excessive dandruff, put a bit of Sea Breeze on a q-tip and apply it all over. Sit under a hooded dryer and just let it air out. It's wonderful to do in-between washes to maintain a fresh scent and scalp." For a quicker fix, Williams suggests the occasional spritz of dry shampoo.
But when wash day is approaching, a more penetrative scalp treatment is okay to use. "I swear by the Keira Ashley Hair + Scalp Cleanser," Taylor says. "You can put in on your scalp and leave it in to moisturize, or you can rinse it out to remove buildup and soothe irritation."
And in case the itching has gotten a bit intense, but you're scared to use your fingers to aid it, no worries. "I love the Luxe Therapy Scalp Soother," Taylor says. "This comb allows you to scratch your scalp very easily without disrupting the style. If you use your hands, you're more likely to wear the style out faster."
How To Make Protective Hairstyles Last: Wash Day Should Happen, But Not As Often
As hopefully build-up and time outside will be far less, a need for constant washing just isn't there. "We should be shampooing our weaves, braids, and twists ever two to three weeks," Keka Heron, Atlanta-based celebrity hairstylist says. Reason being, while build-up will pale in comparison to normal, natural oils will still form, and a need for a clarifying wash every now and then still stands.
How To Make Protective Hairstyles Last: Moisturize Your Natural Hair Upon Removal
The reality is, we can only maintain our protective styles for so long. So when it's time to remove instillations, it's imperative not to neglect the health of the real hair. "You should shampoo four times upon removal," Heron says. "First, do two clarifying washes, then a scalp treatment shampoo, then a moisturizing shampoo." After stripping the hair of build-up and moisture, however, it's a must to return hydration back to the hair shaft. "Follow the shampoo with a hydrating treatment," she says. "Try a penetrative mask if you feel your hair is excessively dry or protein treatment if you feel the hair is breaking and is weak."
However, it's not as simple, as just submerging your hair in water following takedown. A detangling system upon removal is a serious must to avoid any unnecessary shedding. "A lot of people get scared when they see shedding but if your hair's been in a protective style, shedding is inevitable," Williams says. With hair normally shedding 50 to 100 strands a day, you should expect there to be a bit of fallout. "When it's trapped in these protective styles it doesn't have any room to shed so buildup is always going to be there, but to eliminate that you need to be patient, take your time." And the pros insist, detangling dry hair is a no-no. Therefore, a pre-wash conditioner and detangling combination is a great way to keep the hair slick. "I mix it all," Williams says. "I get the hair nice and soft and wet with a spray bottle mixture of leave-in and conditioner, comb with a wide-tooth comb, and then go from there."