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 How to Ensure Your Protective Style Is Truly Protective– According to An Expert
Hair Education
How to Ensure Your Protective Style Is Truly Protective– According to An Expert
Akili King
August 07, 2023
4 min

Celebrity hairstylist and OurX expert Johnny Wright shares everything you need to know about making the most of your protective style this summer: from how long to keep it in to the must-do prep.

Are protective styles truly protective?

It’s an age-old question that comes up for many of us when we experience hair shedding, breakage and high levels of dandruff after shapeshifting with a multitude of styles– from box braids and faux locs to cornrows and everything in between. Although these stunning styles allow us to express our magic to the fullest, it’s important to ask where we draw the line between them being protective or damaging.

“A lot of times people end up abusing the length of time they keep their protective styles in,” celebrity hairstylist– for the likes of Michelle Obama, Queen Latifah, Kerry Washington and more– Johnny Wright, says. “But what happens is, the hair starts growing out and the installation becomes heavy on the hair and that’s what causes traction alopecia, breakage and things like that.”

Below, Wright breaks down 6 ways to ensure that your protective styles will truly do what they’re meant to do– protect your hair– just in time for summer, and beyond. Afterall, as Wright says, “it’s less about which style someone does and more about how the style is executed and for how long it’s kept in.”

“I love a good sew-in, if it’s done right and not braided too tightly. Additionally, I love twist-outs, especially a flat twist because that allows you to really put the hair away for a while. I also enjoy a fun updo like a topknot. I think it’s really cute when people rock a nice scarf or turban, too. It allows people to really leave their hair alone but also make a fashion statement.”

How long should you keep your protective style in?

“It all depends on what style you get of course. For sew-ins, I would say no more than four to six weeks. Keeping it in for longer than this is what causes damage. I always tell people, although it is costly to only keep in for a month or so, you should definitely abide by this because otherwise, that’s what causes damage to the hair. Braids can stay in for up to six weeks. Best to not make them too tight. As for flat twists and cornrows, I would say about two weeks. Overall, I would just recommend not to overdo it and also to consult with your hairstylist each time you do a new style.”

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Are there protective styles people should avoid?

“Not necessarily. I think it’s less about which style someone does and more about how the style is executed. For example, if you are wearing braids and they are way too tight or if you start to feel any sort of discomfort or sensations in the scalp, you truly have to ask yourself why you’re getting these braids. Definitely feel empowered to have the stylist remove whatever is causing you pain and to redo it in a more comfortable way.”

A protective style myth that needs to be debunked

“The tightness is truly what’s killing everyone’s scalps. It seems like people think, the tighter the style is, the longer it will last and that’s not true. It’s a myth and you’re just causing a lot of damage to the scalp and the follicle to the point where you might end up pulling that follicle out of the scalp permanently… and you’re not going to be able to get your hair back. It’s more important to maintain the integrity and health of your hair more so than how long you keep a style in.”

Serum bottle

The Prep

“I think it’s really important to get treatments prior to your protective style. I think that’s a great time to get your steam treatment and to do your deep conditioning mask,” such as the OurX Intensive Conditioning Compound. “You want to also make sure you’re putting in the proper leave-ins and serums,” the Treatment Leave In and Scalp Serum being great options, “before putting your hair away. Keeping the hair moisturized is truly the key. You may even be able to shampoo and condition while you have the style in (for example, with box braids and sew-ins, I recommend every other week.) It’s also important to keep your scalp moisturized too. And also give yourself scalp massages while you have protective styles in too, because the best way to stimulate hair growth is through blood flow circulation. But that prep work beforehand is truly essential, because, afterall, the whole purpose of having your protective style installed in the first place is so that you can leave your hair alone and not manipulate it too much for a while.”

Should you trim hair before or after?

“I would definitely trim the hair beforehand. I say get a trim every 6-8 weeks in general, but it also depends on your hair texture and how fast your hair grows. And also if you’re manipulating your hair a lot– blow outs and things like that– you probably want to lean on the more frequent trimming side than someone who is doing more protective styles.”

Caring for hair during the protective style

“While you have the protective style installed, I definitely recommend using the Scalp Serum,” Wright says, which hydrates and soothes itchy scalps– making it great for braided styles. Similarly, the Scalp Purifying Solution is also a great option for keeping the scalp balanced, thanks to gentle exfoliation. It can be applied to wet or dry hair. “I definitely recommend doing the OurX hair analysis as well, so that you can find out which products are best for you.”

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Akili King

Akili King


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