They can have adverse effects if you don’t give your natural hair a rest, according to experts.

Blake Newby
Dec 22, 2020 @ 1:40 pm
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If you have naturally textured hair, you know that styling and caring for it can be a challenge. That’s why we created The Curl Corner, a monthly column that celebrates the versatility of textured hair. Here, we cover everything from how to properly style your coils to how to protect them—and include expert tips for curl patterns of all types.

Making protective styles last as long as possible has always been front of mind. We’ll do just about anything to keep our looks as intact and fresh as possible to minimize the number of trips we have to make to the salon. However, in fighting for the preservation of our protective styles, we may accidentally forget to properly care for our natural hair—and that’s a giant no-no. But there is a way to strike a balance between extending the wear of your styles without causing damage to your hair, and that's by taking breaks in between styles. Ahead, two celebrity hairstylists explain how long you should keep your styles in, when to take breaks, and how to care for your hair and scalp in the process.

How long should you leave your protective style in?

It all depends on which style you’re wearing. “If your protective style includes a weave, extensions, braids, or twist styles, I would suggest taking a break after two months,” Ashanti Lation, Normani’s go-to hairstylist says, and celebrity hairstylist Angela Stevens agrees.  “However, if your protective style is done with your real hair, such as two-strand twists, then you can redo that style weekly or bi-weekly,” she says. This is because the added tension and weight of excess hair is inevitably harsher on the scalp and hair than those that use natural hair. 

How long should you break in between protective styles?

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“You should aim to take a break after every protective style worn,” Stevens says. The length of time, however, varies depending on the style. “Since you’re typically wearing a weave or braid style that's longer than a natural protective style, you should give your hair and scalp a longer break,” Lation explains. “For example, I normally recommend letting your hair breathe for at least three to seven days post-sew-in or braids before getting extensions reinstalled.” For natural styles, however, she thinks that taking a one- or two-day break is a good idea.

How to care for your hair, whether or not it's in a protective style:

No matter the style of your choosing, it’s imperative that you care for your hair in between. “Whether your hair is twisted, braided, under a wig, or sewed into a weave, it requires routine attention and care,” Stevens says. Additionally, Lation emphasizes that the time off should be exclusively for hair health. “It’s a great opportunity to detox and cleanse your scalp of any product buildup and access dirt that may be clogging your follicles,” she says. “It’s also a good time to deep-condition your hair and do those hair treatments you’ve been watching on YouTube.”

When you return to the protective styles, remember you should take the same care and precautions you took when your hair was natural. “You definitely want to tie it up at night with a satin scarf or bonnet, and remember: Cotton is a no-no!" says Lation. "Continue your normal wash schedule and pay extra attention to scrubbing your scalp in between braids if you have them. Lastly, make sure you're still moisturizing and oiling your hair and scalp at least once or twice a week.”