Every summer for the last five years, I’ve opted for braids as my protective style of choice. As the name suggests, protective styles protect hair from damaging tools, daily products, and environmental disruptors — aka summer heat and humidity. “Humidity is the percentage of water in the air,” says Leigh Hardges, hair stylist at Maxine Salon, “The hair, being a natural fiber, absorbs that moisture and causes the hair to react. The drier the hair is, the more it will absorb and react.”
Unfortunately, curly hair like mine is more prone to split ends, frizz, dryness, and breakage. To prevent hair from reacting to humidity, you can invest in braids, ponytails, twists, up-dos, or any of the many protective styles out there. For my 4A curls, and other type 3 and 4 hair owners, we find solace in the low-maintenance that protective styles afford. With our ends tied up in the style, our hair is free to grow, rest and recover its original moisture.
As a big advocate for protective styles, I like to wear my hair natural (sans braids) in the summer as well. “Enhancing the hair’s natural state is the best option for summer months,” says Hardges, adding, “moisture and hydration are paramount for optimal styling.” And if you are staying natural, remember to keep up with regular trims.
If you’re ready to embrace a new haircut or protective style this summer, read on for expert-approved trends and styles.
Great for looser curl types, the curly shag is fuller toward the roots and wispier at the ends, with a few curly bangs to accompany the cut. This layered hair idea works best with a serum or leave-in to avoid the frizz that comes with curly hair.
“Heat exposure, in particular UV sun rays, can really dry out the hair and scalp as well as suck the moisture out of hair. It’s very important to keep hair nourished and hydrated,” says Jennifer Covington Bowers, hairstylist and colorist. If you are wearing your hair out in an afro, make sure you hydrate with a mask and deep conditioner to retain moisture. For further hydration, Bowers recommends following up with a “steam treatment to help lock in the conditioning properties.”
Braids can be easily manipulated into the up-do of your choice. You can play around with a crown braid, braided top bun, or half up and half down in a top knot — whatever look you’re feeling for the summer.
“Pineapple-ing the hair is the best for maintaining curls overnight,” says Hardges. Pineapple-ing hair is a method of wrapping the hair to best reduce frizz and hold on to curly hair styles while sleeping. In order to execute properly, Hardges suggests using a large silk or satin scarf and a loose scrunchie or hair tie. The steps are quite simple: bend over until all of the hair is pointing to the ground. Fold the scarf into a triangle. Tie the wide base of the scarf around the sides and back of the hair, and then tie the knot at the hairline in the middle of the forehead.
Once hair is wrapped, allow curly lengths to spill over the top like a pineapple. To take it down and style it, remove the scarf. Then using a pick or rat tail comb, fluff the hair at the roots (do not disturb your curls). Squeeze an oil or gloss into the hair to finish.
The main difference between a traditional pixie and a sculpted pixie is the dimension a tapered cut brings. The short sides work their way up to a more textured, thriving top. Hot tip: this is a great style for those transitioning out of heat damage. Remember to incorporate a heat protectant into your hair routine if you are styling daily.
Knotless Jumbo Box Braids
The experts are seeing a lot of box braids for the summer. Some include curled ends and beaded details, but still the most popular are knotless box braids. With knotless braids, hair is under a lot less tension because they are installed looser and help prevent hair loss.
Also known as straight backs, cornrows are enjoyed in the natural community for the minimal time commitment required for installation. Taking anywhere from 30 minutes for two cornrows and an hour and a half for a head of 10, cornrows are a quick summer style that will keep your curls protected.
Angled Curly Bob
The angled curly bob has shorter pieces in the back and longer pieces in the front — think an A-line shape. The key with angled curly bobs is to make sure yours is cut precise and blunt, so that there is no frizz, especially at the ends.
If you’re looking to break out of the standard box braids, funali could give your summer style new energy. The top, or crown of the head, is braided as cornrows; whereas the back of the hair hangs with box braids.