Winter Hair: Protective Styling 101

What’s a protective style anyways?

Current style: Cornrow Puff

A protective style is a style you put your hair into to protect it from different factors. It’s a term that’s usually used to refer to protecting the ends of your hair. The ends of your hair are the most fragile parts (as they’re the oldest) and so are very likely to weaken or break of if you don’t care for them. By ‘putting them away’, you’re protecting them and the rest of your hair from factors such as constant manipulation, dry and harsh weather and rubbing against your clothing. All of those can effect the health of your hair and lead to breakage. If you’d like to retain length, protective styling is a method many women (natural or not) use to help them reach that goal. You know that saying; ‘my hair only grows when it’s in braids’? Well, that’s not necessarily true. It’s because braids are a protective style and as your hair’s ‘away’, you’re retaining length and so you can see that your hair growth more clearly as opposed to when your hair is out (and possibly breaking) so you don’t really see the growth.

Chances are, you’ve been protectively styling for years and just didn’t know it. Of the many styles you can choose (with or without the use of extensions) are: buns, braids, cornrows, weaves, wigs, twists. It’s key to make sure you continue caring for your own hair before, during and after you have a protective style done.

Here’s how I do it.

How I prep: I rest my hair about a week or two before my appointment. So, minimal pulling of edges gel use and general manipulation. The day before, I wash and deep condition my hair and make sure it’s getting a good treatment session. I put some leave-in conditioner or my daily spritz. I seal my ends, braid or twist my hair in sections and air dry it for the rest of the day.

During: I avoid the blow dryer more and more these days so for my current style, I arrived at the salon with my hair in the twists I put it in the evening before. I politely asked the stylist not to blow dry my hair. I proceeded to comb it on my own and with my own wide tooth comb in sections. For each section, I’d comb the ends first and work my way upwards to limit breakage (and pain!). Don’t be afraid to go to the salon with your own tools and products. At the end of the day, it’s your hair so make sure the stylist treats it the way you’d like.

What I use: Right now I’m using Restore Plus Braid Spray. I bought this for about R30 at Clicks last year and have been using it for any weaves and braids I’ve had since then. I spray this daily and once or twice a week I’ll spray some of my Daily Spritz instead. I also use the same butter I’ve been using on my scalp. I put some of that on after I spray everyday or every other day depending on how dry the air is. Depending on the style I have in, I’ll wash my hair thoroughly every 2-3 weeks with any shampoo I have in my bathroom cupboard and use Batiste Dry Shampoo in between those sessions.

Jenell of Kinky Curly, Coily Me shared this really useful post on how she washes and moisturises her protective styles.  

How long? I have my own personal rule of thumb, one that I’ve stuck to since my teen years; single braids or twists: maximum three months, weave: maximum 2 months, cornrows maximum 1 month. Of course, if hair’s looking ratty before that maximum time, I don’t hesitate to undo the style. When I remove my current cornrows, I’ll take you through what I do after I’ve had a protective style in 🙂




  1. January 29, 2014 / 11:16 am

    hey Aisha. I always love your hairstyles. they inspire me a lot. wasn't so keen on protective styling for now but like Wisaal, after seeing this style on you I am definitely tempted.

  2. July 15, 2013 / 2:28 pm

    hey Aisha, can someone get these product in jo,burg? especially the brush you normally use looks like a denman brush

  3. April 28, 2013 / 3:48 pm

    You're tempting me into a protective style, haven't ever really done one! This is such a cute look on you!

    • May 7, 2013 / 12:31 pm

      Thanks Wisaal! Go for it, it's not permanent 😉

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