As we should all be well into the swing of hiding our hair for the L4L Protective Styling Challenge, there is a crucial question that I often get asked regarding wearing protective styles. How long should you wear protective hairstyles before taking them down or before it begins to cause damage? As usual, the answer to this question is going to differ for everyone based on your own hair: fine versus thick, lifestyle, and even growth rates will affect how soon you need to remove your style but as a general rule of thumb here are my recommendations:
Buns: When secured tightly with a ponytail holder, wear them no more than two consecutive days before taking it down and changing the position. Continuous wear of a bun in the same area of your hair places tension on the edges of your hair and can cause the middle to become tangled. Remove your bun at least every other day, massage your scalp and adjust the position to avoid over stressing the same areas of hair.
Braids and Twists with Added Hair: Kinky twists, box braids, cornrows, Senegalese twists, etc. that are enhanced with either human or synthetic hair are a great long term protective style. I believe you can leave these styles in up to 8 weeks without causing damage but definitely no more than 1.5″ of new growth. Once you have two inches or more of growth, the new growth begins to twist and the synthetic hair – being heavier than your natural hair – begins to place extra tension on your hair which can cause thinning.
Weaves: No more than 10 weeks. To be honest 8 weeks is a better assessment but if you have been keeping your hair properly cleansed and moisturized and used a net cap to install it, your hair should have relatively little tension placed on it. Any longer than 10 weeks and you run the risk of your hair matting making it nearly impossible to safely take down your weave without breakage.
Braids and Twists without Added Hair: Individual plaits or twists are quite popular especially among natural haired ladies and are a really awesome way to wear protective styles while maintaining styling flexibility with your hair. I recommend wearing these styles no longer than 6 weeks which may seem a bit short but remember that textured hair normally mats and tangles on itself faster. In fact individual braids/twists are how many people begin to loc their hair.