We all miraculously wish we would go from the Django afro, to Tracee Ellis Ross’s hair real quick, but then depending on our diet, our regimen and how we take care of our hair, we might think that the growth is too slow, or maybe our genes have an important role to play when it comes to it. Natural hair requires patience; length doesn’t happen overnight, it might be gradual or remain redundant but it still grows. That’s why we prefer tucking it away under protective styles, hoping to retain length.
The big question though is; are all protective styles good for your hair? We have grown up believing the myth that if you want to have long hair; you need to braid it back to back to achieve that look. I firmly believed that from my childhood days, it was deeply rooted in me that you wouldn’t convince me otherwise. The salons at Kenyatta and Umoja market, became my favorite torture chambers; I would arm myself with painkillers and mentally prepare myself for the pain that I was about to undergo. Having three women pulling on my scalp, had its repercussions later; my hairline started receding, I was losing a lot of hair whenever I would undo my braids, which led me to question why I had to put myself through all that pain time after time.
When I decided to go back to natural, I still had issues accepting my hair in its natural state, I couldn’t wait for it to grow, in order for me to go back to braiding it for a while; I was busy chasing length, rather than focusing on the health of my hair. With time, I got tired of the braids; yet the humid weather in Mombasa made it unbearable to keep my hair under braids for long. So I started wearing it in simple cornrows most of the time; my edges came back, I was actually retaining more length and overall, my hair was healthy. That’s when I had my Aha! (Bulb) moment. Protective styling for hair growth may work for some, but it is not really necessary for hair growth, and here’s why:
• Dryness and Breakage- When we have braids in for long, how many times do we take our time to moisturize and give our hair the care it needs? We might do it for the first few weeks, and eventually forget about it after some time; and we all know when the hair lacks moisture, it eventually starts breaking.
• Tangles- I love yarn twists, they used to be my favorite go to protective styles; I would faithfully moisturize it, but when it came to undoing my hair the breakage would still be worse. As long as we leave hair untouched for long, it will definitely tangle, and truth be told when it comes to detangling most of us don’t have the patience for such.
Granted, we all lead busy lives, we might not have the time or energy to wake up every morning or evening to do braid outs and twist outs; hence why we opt for protective styles. That doesn’t mean that we need to shun away from braids; not at all, rather we should focus more on styles that require low manipulation such as:
• Two-Strand Twists- This is my favorite protective style, granted I hate the amount of time I spend doing them, but the results are always worth it! It takes me about six hours to twist my hair, but I realized whenever I have my hair in two strand twists, I keep moisturizing and oiling it, which leads to me retaining length and minimal damage whatsoever on my hairline!
• Twist Outs- The humidity in Mombasa doesn’t allow my hair to prosper in twist-outs as such, but they are ideal for a low manipulation protective style for your hair.
• Wash and Gos- If you have embraced shrinkage, then this is one of the best ways to retain length; your hair is always well moisturized, not to mention very minimal manipulation when it comes to styling it.
• Cornrows- I love cornrows, the school girl look, is definitely not the look I would love to have, but it’s one of the best ways for me to retain length without having to deal with tangles!
When you start chasing health over length, you realize that low manipulative hairstyles are very ideal for your hair. Personally, crotchet braiding doesn’t tickle my fancy; but many natural sisters prefer this to cornrows and twists. Whatever works for you, as long as you don’t leave it in for long, then stick to it; after all, it’s only just hair!