Protective Styling: Taking A Break from Breakage

It seems that human beings, universally, are in a battle for control. Whether it’s control of your time, control of your beliefs, control of your wallet, or just control of the remote, we want it!

The best thing you can ever do for someone who is exhibiting signs of submission to the status quo is to tell them they can’t do something. Guaranteed, they will then move heaven and earth to prove you wrong.

We hate being subjected to imposed limitations. Never has that been better demonstrated than with black hair.

Black women were told they couldn’t naturally grow their hair beyond a certain length because of its fragile nature. Told that breakage was a definite and not merely a possibility, some women got the lengthy locks they were craving by wearing wigs and weaves.

With protective styling, you can increase the odds of growing your own luscious mane of hair.

What is Protective Hair Styling?

Protective styling is the practice of protecting your hair from self-inflicted harm as well as from the sun, wind, heat and rain. It involves safely tucking away your ends into a protective cocoon and giving them a vacation from the daily contortions we call styling.

Do no harm

In a broad sense, protective styling includes all of the good things that we do to our hair to promote hair health and growth while minimizing damage.

  • Sleeping on silk pillowcases
  • Silk head wraps
  • Routine deep moisture treatments
  • Scheduled protein treatments
  • Regular gentle combing and detangling of hair
  • Consistent use of leave-in conditioners
  • Applied natural oils
  • Natural bristle brushes used

If only my hair would…

Black hair is incredibly fragile due to the elemental bonds that fuse together to create the curl pattern. The tighter the curl, the more points of weakness along the shaft. Those weak points are the source of its fragile nature.

But despite that, we refuse to take no for an answer and push our hair to its literal breaking point.

Hey, I’m happy for the hair pioneers amongst us who’ve shown us that our hair is capable of so much more. Nevertheless, after all the plumping, sculpting, ironing, weaving, relaxing, recurling, pulling, teasing and so on, our hair will sometimes choose to abandon ship. That’s right, breakage.

How to break the cycle of breakage

There is a scientific term, weathering, that is applied to hair damage.

Weathering is used to describe progressive deterioration of your hair.

Firstly the cuticle layer is worn down, then eventually the cortex. This is caused by personal grooming habits that create manual wear and tear, but also includes exposure to environmental factors beyond our control.

It’s in your best interest to send your hair on a vacay, or maybe it should be stay-cay, since it’s not actually leaving your head, and tuck in those ends for a rest.

Before selecting your protective style, there is some prep work you need to do so you can achieve optimal results.

  • Be sure your hair is nap free. Gently comb through your hair from root to tip to remove any naps or tangles. This will release any hair that has already shed and may be trapped in your curls.
  • Trim your ends. Get rid of any split ends. Once the strand is split, it will not magically glue itself back together. May as well cut the dead weight and leave room for healthy hair. This will save you from wasting product.
  • Apply a protein treatment. Protein will help maintain or improve the strength of your hair. Coconut oil has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft due to its affinity to our natural protein. Healthy hair protein naturally retains moisture.
  • Moisturize. Giving your thirsty hair a boost in moisture prior to protective styling will improve the elasticity of your hair as you lock it into position. Black hair gains moisture through the application of oils that seal in the existing moisture and block out environmental moistures with a film. Again, coconut oil really likes human hair protein and will work with it rather than against it.

After you’ve completed this regimen, select a protective style. Be mindful of your hair thickness and density. Some styles may not work the way that you expect. For example, thin hair may not hold twists for the length of time that you require if they are not applied correctly. Determine the best method for your hair type. One size definitely does NOT fit all.

Protective styles don’t have to be plain

When choosing a protective style, take into account the following:

  • Texture of your hair
  • Density of your hair
  • How long you want the style to last
  • Your expected outcome or goal

Some examples of protective styles include:

  • Plaits

  • Braids

  • Twists

  • Weaves

  • Buns

    , as long as ends are concealed and not floating loose

  • Various


  • Wigs

It’s not just for growing. It’s also for showing

There is more than one reason to use protective styling:

  • Grow out natural hair or retain length.
  • Increase softness and reduce appearance of dryness.
  • Reduce maintenance. It’s low maintenance not NO maintenance.
  • Versatile applications and looks.
  • Saves time in your day.

When over-protection turns into abuse

It is possible to overdo protective styling and negate any benefits you might otherwise achieve. For example, tugging too hard on the hair or applying too much stress to the scalp when getting braids or weaves can leave you with patches of baldness or hair broken off at the scalp line.

At one time it was believed the tighter you are to the scalp, the more time you have for the braid to loosen up and thus increase its lifespan—aka, save you money. If you find yourself in this scenario, you are not actually applying protective styling. You’ve effectively removed all of the protective element by adding undue stress to your scalp and hairline. Not a good practice.

Failure to give your hair a rest between long-term protective styles is a no no. Going back-to-back with braids or twists or anything that strains the hairline can start to become detrimental. On the one hand, you’re not pulling, tugging, ironing on a daily basis but on the other hand, you are applying a specific and constant pull on your hairline for a prescribed length of time. Be mindful of that.

Must-do maintenance for black hair

Even though your hair is on stay-cay, there are a few items of upkeep you need to include:

  • wash your hair. Yes, you still have to. Maybe not as frequently but definitely not to be skipped completely.
  • apply oil to your scalp and hairline. Keep moisturizing. Use a natural oil like coconut oil or olive oil to keep dryness at bay and prevent breakage.
  • protect your style from surface frizz by wrapping at night or sleeping on a silk pillowcase.

Try it. Test it.

If you have never done a protective style before, or possibly didn’t know what one was, maybe it’s time to give it a try. You can start with some short-term ones, such as buns or updos and take note of the change it makes to your hair.

When you are mindful of your hair goals at the beginning, you can structure your protective style to suit. Whether it’s to gain length, minimize everyday breakage or just reduce your hair workload, protective styling may be just what you are looking for.

Have you applied protective styling to your hair routine? How has it changed the health of your hair? Better or worse, we want to know. Leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

9 Essential Steps for Maintaining Braids or Twists

Picture this: You wake up, get out of bed, and head to the kitchen to make yourself some breakfast. On your way to the fridge you glance out the window and…snow. You roll your eyes in slight annoyance. Time to protective style.

Whether you are protecting your hair from the ever-changing Canadian climate, tired of your twist-outs, frustrated with transitioning, or if you just want to change it up – protective styling is a great way to protect your hair and make it lower maintenance.

The BIGGEST mistake women make when protective styling is braiding their hair up and ignoring it for two months. If your hair is in braids make sure you follow these 9 essential maintenance guidelines. You’ll thank me when you unravel your braids and your hair is healthy, strong, and long.

  1. Protect Your Hair At Night
  2. Many black women were taught since we were young that tying our hair up at night is just good practice. So we tie our hair when it is out or when we want to keep our weave looking fresh – but when we’re wearing braids we throw all of that good practice out the window. Covering your head with a satin headscarf at night not only keeps your edges looking fresh it also protects your roots from drying out when you sleep. If you find satin headscarves uncomfortable then place a satin pillowcase over your pillow for a similar type of protection. If you are really a keener – do both. Wrap your head and invest in a satin pillowcase. If your headscarf comes off in the night you still have the protection of your satin pillowcase. I had a stylist who could tell when I had skipped a few days of wearing my satin headscarf. She would take one look at my scalp and scold, “Your head is dry! What did you do?!”

  3. Keep Your Scalp Moist
  4. This is one thing I need to get better at. Sometimes I think I’m too busy to get out my spray bottle and spray my hair. That is definitely not true. Giving your roots a quick spritz should take you no longer than a few minutes – 5 minutes maximum. Our hair is no different than any other living thing. It needs moisture to survive – and the best type of moisture is water. Our roots get thirsty and they need watering. Our roots do not need heavy gels and oils – those clog our pores and make it more difficult for our roots to absorb moisture. Our roots need plain old water to thrive and survive.

  5. Apply moisturizing and sealing product to hair
  6. Make a point of applying your favorite sealing product to your roots at least once a week. I usually apply a mixture of Naptural85’s homemade shea butter and my Blended Beauty Curl Styling Butter. The shea butter mix sooths my scalp, protects from hard UV rays, and seals in moisture. The styling butter gives added moisture, controls the frizzing of my braids and nourishes my hair with essential vitamins and minerals.

    First I spray my whole head with water. Then I put a glob of both of these products into the middle of my palm and mix it around with my finger. Then I smooth it onto my roots – section by section. This process ends up taking me around 40 minutes if I am really diligent about getting at every braid.

  7. Avoid unnatural products when keeping hair moisturized
  8. Stylists warn against using anything other than naturally derived oils to keep your roots moisturized while your hair is in braids. The most important ingredients to avoid are mineral oils. Please note that these are the key ingredients in most popular braid moisturizers. Instead, opt for natural oils similar to the ones I just mentioned earlier like coconut oil and almond oil. These oils are great for soothing the scalp and retaining moisture without building up and clogging your pores like generic braid sprays often will. If you are looking for non-greasy moisture use a natural leave-in conditioner instead.

  9. Wash your braids once every two weeks (minimum)
  10. I know this sounds like a pain but buildup of sweat, dirt, and everything else that happens throughout your day can be damaging to your hair. Thankfully, you don’t need to hop in the shower and douse your braids in water if you don’t want to. You can always dry-wash your hair with a cloth, shampoo, and some water. Dampen a wash cloth with warm water and your shampoo of choice. Part you hair and wipe your scalp down in sections. That’s all! Follow this process once every two weeks to keep your scalp smelling and feeling fresh. No one likes braid stank.

  11. Avoid constant up-dos
  12. I love updos. Twisting, braiding, and tying my hair atop my head are ways for me to experiment with my look. However, constantly styling your hair into high ponytails pulls at your hairline. This constant pulling weakens the hair along your hairline and you end up looking kinda like Naomi Campbell. Be gentle with your hairline. Rock your updos – but try to limit updo styling to 3 or 4 times a week rather than every day.

  13. Don’t pull too tightly when styling
  14. For the same reason as #6. No one needs a Naomi Campbell situation happening up here in Canada.

  15. Extend your style time – Redo your edges
  16. Often, after a couple weeks your roots have grown out and it’s time to freshen up your look. Rather than rebraid your entire head – go back to your stylist and ask her to spend an hour or so re-installing the braids along your hairline. After you take out the braids along your edges, (and before you head to your stylist) take extra care to detangle and deep condition before reinstalling your braids again. Remember that your edges are already fragile, so they need a little bit of extra care and attention.

  17. Don’t leave your braids in for too long
  18. During one of our BHS Street interviews we met a woman who shared a horror story with us. On one occasion she had gotten braids and left them in for 3 years. 3 YEARS. When she removed the braids her hair came with it. She was left with bald spots all over her head. Now, I’m hoping none of you would make this devastating mistake. But sometime we get lazy and decide – hey four months in the same protective style can’t be that bad right? WRONG. Protective styling is meant to be short-term temporary. Stylists recommend protective styling for a month at a time – 2 months maximum. Any longer than that and your new growth will stretch and damage; this completely negates the point of protective styling. Protective styling is to give your fragile ends a break and focus on attaining new growth.

(Photo credit: Emily Oud Photography)


Tell us how you care for your braids or twists below!

inHAIRitance Salon Profile

Interview with inHAIRitance Salon owner, Abisara Machold

inHAIRitance Black Hair Salon Profile by Black Hair Spot

Why did you open your salon?

I started inHAIRitance 2 years ago because I saw a great need. I moved to Montreal, Canada 4 years ago from Berlin, Germany. I was used to not finding good hair products but I was under the impression that in North America it wouldn’t be difficult to take care of my natural curly hair. It turned out to be a huge problem. I had to fly to Toronto or New York every time I wanted to have my hair serviced.

I was having trouble finding a job in Montreal that was at the same level as what I left in Berlin, so I decided to go back to my first passion. I wanted to change the landscape of natural hair in Canada.

Describe your average customer

My average customer is a 23 to 36 year-old working woman. 70% of my customers are francophone.

Who is your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from my foremothers. Every time I have a hard moment I think back to Maya Angelou and all of the people who paved they way for us to celebrate our hair. They paved they way for us to be able to celebrate our political rights and black feminism. Whenever I am down it humbles me to think of how hard they fought for the next generation of black women to have diverse opportunities.

inHAIRitance Black Hair Salon Profile by Black Hair Spot

What keeps you motivated?

My amazing team. People gave up their jobs to follow my dream. We built a company from scratch. It takes a lot of courage to jump into the boat and decide to make this new idea happen.

How big is your team?

We have 7 stylists, 1 receptionist, 2 sales staff, 1 social media specialist, and me!

What has been your biggest success so far?

One day a woman came into inHAIRitance after surviving breast cancer and she was depressed, dressed in dark colours, downcast. She didn’t know what to do with her hair. Her husband wanted it to be straight again but she didn’t want to put chemicals on it again. We had a consultation with her and educated her about her naturally curly hair. About a year later I saw her at the opening of our new location and she was dressed in bright yellow.

She was glowing. Her hair had amazing growth, she looked beautiful. She said to me, “Abisara, thank you. Thank you for showing me that I am beautiful the way I was created.” I just started bawling.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I love doing consultations. Every time I sit a new person down and educate them about their naturally curly hair they gasp in disbelief and say the same thing: “I can’t believe my hair can do this.” Every time I hear that my heart jumps. It’s all about helping people realize the beauty of their hair and what their hair is capable of doing.

inHAIRitance Black Hair Salon Profile by Black Hair Spot

What has been your greatest challenge?

Hiring staff is a challenge. Finding good staff that is committed. We provide our own schooling, training manuals and education and it’s important to have staff that are willing to tap into a completely new field, new techniques and new strategies.

A lot of the French laws are challenging as well. The name “inHAIRitance” is a jou jou mot they call it in French or a play on words. Health Canada can also pose a problem because I import many of my natural hair products.

What do you want your business to look like in 10 years?

I want to be in 4 Canadian cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. I want to continue certifying people. My goal is to give a formula to other hairdressers who want to style natural hair but don’t have the structure. I want to spread the news about curlcare. It still shocks me that naturally curly hair is not in the curriculum in hair schools.

Also, I think perms should be illegal at a certain age for children. It is a physical hazard that is detrimental to children’s health. More discussion around this topic is necessary.

inHAIRitance Black Hair Salon Profile by Black Hair Spot

What advice would you give to new Canadian salons?

Start including trainings and education for curly hair. Invest in the education of your stylists. It comes back to you tenfold. Make sure your stylists stay up to date on the latest techniques.

For those that want to start something and have a lot of enthusiasm and energy: do your homework. There are no shortcuts. Each obstacle is a great lesson that sometimes reveals amazing truth. Become an expert in what you’re doing. Consider legal and health requirements. The passion keeps you motivated but your discipline and work ethic are going to keep your business alive.

What is your hairstyle right now? Why?

Right now I’m wearing yarn twists. I usually don’t like to wear extensions but yarn provides me with a great new option. It is a protective hairstyle it all its senses. You can hydrate your hair in between. The parts are big because my hair is more on the fine side. It’s super light so that it doesn’t pull on my roots, and it’s really soft. Yarn is different from Kanekalon. Kanekalon is a plastic hair fibre that fights against your hair and because Kanekalon is so strong it always wins. I like yarn braids because I can be confident that I am wearing a protective style that is in no way harmful to my hair. I leave it in for about a month. I love it!

To maintain my yarn twists and keep my hair healthy underneath I spray it with my moisturizing spritz (water, essential oils, aloe, glycerin and others) once a day. Once a week I dry clean my scalp: I take a microfiber towel and put some water and shampoo on it, then run the cloth through my parts of my hair on my roots. I don’t like to wash the yarn braids because I don’t want to wait for them to dry. It’s not gonna happen.

Is there anything else that you want to add?

Our product selection is 95% natural (Diva curl is the only exception, they are 85% natural). We are the only store like that. I want our clients to know that we hand select the products that are best for their hair and they can trust in our selection.

inHAIRitance Black Hair Salon Profile by Black Hair Spot

We offer free consultations.

Most of the time these consultations are hair therapy. We give people the opportunity to talk about their hair journey. For many of our clients it’s the first time they have ever been given the opportunity to freely express their relationship with their hair.