Wednesday, 27 January 2016

6 Steps to Prepare Hair for Long-Term Protective Styling

Today we'll discuss preparing hair for protective styles. 
Long Term Protective Styling is commonly associated with Winter in the natural hair community, and with good reason, the environment is so harsh to hair during winter, most naturals prefer to avoid risk of setbacks caused by environmental factors.

Like many out there, I have decided on a protective style and the time is fast approaching to have it installed.  This would be my first time having one since embarking on this Natural Hair Journey, and so, I did some research to determine whether my existing knowledge on preparation would apply.  Obviously there were some things that were very different, while some were the same as would be consistent with a Healthy Hair Journey, Natural Hair or otherwise.

Regardless of the protective style chosen there are a a few things that remain constant.  Those are what we're gonna talk about.
Protective styles which include extensions are usually chosen to hide/put away our own hair.  As a result, prior to installing the style it must be ensured that hair is aptly prepared to take the stress of installation, as well as be boosted to last through the installation - not that it will not be taken care of during the time.

Let's get on with the preparation shall we.

The steps in preparing for protective styling are not different from a regular wash day routine. However, it is the details in each step that make all the difference.  I'll use my Typical Wash Day for dissection.

...The Night Before

  • 1st Treatment: Pre Poo

Let's face it, the hair is about to undergo A LOT.  Especially if its only been accustomed to wash n gos (not my hair though).  Including a Pre Shampoo Treatment prior to protective styling would be very beneficial.  It prepares the hair for the next step: A Thorough Cleansing.  Therefore, we want to ensure stands are strong, nourished, and moisturized enough, so the shampoo process would not leave them weak, dry and brittle.
That would be counter productive.
An Overnight Hot Oil Treatment would be best to provide strands enough time to absorb all the nutrients and strengthening properties of the treatment.

...On Wash Day (couple days up to a week before installation)

  • Cleanse

Thoroughly cleanse scalp to remove ALL build up.  Starting with a clean & fresh scalp rid of any dirt, build-up or oils is essential, because while extensions are installed, hair & scalp will not be cleansed as frequently.
It is highly suggested to Clarify hair prior to a protective style. However, you know your hair and routine best, to determine whether clarifying, shampooing or co-washing is necessary.  Assess your hair and scalp honestly, taking into consideration when last hair was cleansed, how much product has been used, and how your hair and scalp feel.
Remember, although you will be 'washing' your hair while in the protective style, thorough cleansing is impossible, and you want to reduce the risk for any adverse outcomes that will derail your Healthy Hair Progress

  • 2nd Treatment: Protein

Hair must be treated to boost its ability to withstand the preparation, installation and duration of the protective style.  A Protein Treatment is therefore suggested to build strands up and strengthen them.
Again however, knowing your hair determines whether you opt into this step.  If your hair is protein sensitive, low porosity or you recently did a protein treatment (which may be included in your regular regimen) I would suggest steering clear of a protein treatment prior to protective styling.  It would only spell disaster and could lead to protein overload.
If you're unsure about your hair's relationship with protein you can Investigate Your Protein Sensitivity or do a Porosity Test.
If you do choose to include this step it will serve to protect your hair for rest of the preparation.
  • 3rd Treatment: Moisturizing Deep Condition 

This is a non-optional step. Regardless of what you have chosen to do prior to arriving at this step, it must be included prior to installing any and all protective styles.  As a matter of fact, I would say include this in every single wash day! But that's my preference as my hair tends to be very dry and is always in need of moisture.
A Moisturizing Deep Conditioning provides the hair with needed hydration.  Much like the protein treatment, this would boost the hair's ability to withstand the preparation, installation and duration of the protective style.  Moisturizing conditioning makes the hair supple which can reduce and even eliminate breakage, and help the protective style to last longer - healthy moisturized hair going into a long term style reduces frizz.
A moisturizing deep conditioner is essential if a protein treatment is done.  Always follow protein treatments with moisturizing conditioning to promote a healthy moisture/protein balance.
  • Detangle
Like any other wash day, detangling is important.  It is especially important prior to protective styling to reduce loosing excessive hair during installation.  It also prevents matting depending on the protective style (eg weaves).
The detangling process ensures smooth strands following all your hard work - there were 3 treatments before you got to this point!  Detangled hair also makes product distribution through hair a whole lot easier.  Now you won't be applying very many products going into a protective style, but the few that are needed, you want ensure the full length of all hair strands receive their nourishment.  Again, boosting hair for further preparation, installation and duration of the protective style.
  • Straighten
Hold up! What?! 
...Here me out.
While this isn't a necessary step, I would strongly advise including it.  Straightening hair can save you a huge headache, literally, during the installation process.  You may be installing the style yourself, but most likely you're going to a stylist, who is not as patient or concerned about your hair and scalp as you are.  Having straightened hair cuts down on time and hair loss.
It also gives the protective style longevity as the textures blend easier, have a more polished finish and reduces frizz.
I totally understand if you're apprehensive to this step, but remember there are more options than just to blow dry your hair with heat to get it straight.  You can blow dry with cool air using the tension method.  The objective is to stretch your strands.
If you are completely against the blow dry method, similar results can be achieved using other 'stretching' methods such as banding, chunky twists, or corkscrews (bantu knots) while hair is allowed to air dry.


Once hair is Stretched, you're done.  Ensure to keep hair in stretched state, cover and protect from humidity (excess moisture) to avoid reversion.

Now your hair is ready for a protective style!

There you have it 6 Steps to fully Prepare your Hair for Protective Styling

Are/Have you Protective Styled this season?  What did you choose?
Share in the comments below, even better if you have pictures!

~ Josie Jo ~
Did I leave out any steps for Protective Styling Preparation in the comments below! 
I'd love to learn your routine

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