How to prepare your natural hair for a protective style

So you’ve been busy taking care of your natural hair (or not), and you figure it is time to give your hair a well-needed break. But where do you start? What do you need to do before you tuck your hair away for some days, weeks or maybe months?

I am currently very busy with an almost 6-month-old, and back to work in full swing, while still having to take care of a household as a wife, so I have decided that later this month I will be getting a protective style for at least four (4) weeks.

I find that these steps when used to prep my natural hair helps my protective style stay longer.

  1. Once I know I will be putting my hair in a protective style I normally pre-poo my hair the night before my wash day ( I know I always mention this oil, but the hair growth elixir is the truth for a pre-poo!).
  2. The next day I wash my hair with a cleansing shampoo. This is especially important if I used a lot of product during the week. I use a sulfate-free shampoo or cleanser for this step. Two of my favorite cleansers are Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen; Restore Shampoo and Bentonite Clay. I wash my hair in about 5 large twists for manageability and fewer tangles.
  3. After cleansing, I follow up with a deep conditioner treatment. For this step, I choose my product based on what the needs of my hair are at that point. If my hair is in need of moisture I choose a moisturizing deep conditioner, if my hair is feeling stringy I use a deep conditioner with protein. Tip: If your hair feels dry and crunchy prior to washing you need moisture if it feels stringy and limp. At this point, I detangle my hair as much as I can with my fingers then with a wide-tooth comb. I leave my conditioning treatment on for about an hour without heat.
  4. When my deep conditioning treatment is all rinsed out, I follow up with a conditioner in the shower (this is just my preference), I find this just bumps up the overall softness of the hair, making it easier to manage. I usually just gently squeeze the excess water out my hair before leaving the shower.
  5. Next, I use a leave-in conditioner on my hair immediately out the shower to make sure my hair doesn’t dry out in the event something else needs attending to (mom life). I follow this up with some oil then a Butter to seal in all the goodness (Mycrownofcurls peppermint luxury butter is one of the best I’ve used for this job) Tip: You can choose to wrap your hair in a 100% cotton towel or shirt to dry out more water if you don’t like dealing with extremely wet hair.
  6. Usually, my prep would end at step 4. However, as I would be getting box braids I would need to stretch my hair. I do not use heat on my hair, so for this step, I use a combination of the banding method and braids (I let my hair dry in the bands then braid them for extra stretching).

Before my box braid appointment, I usually add a bit of moisturizer (minimum amount so the box braids won’t slip off my hair) and butter to my hair and rebraid my sections. I find these steps really help to prevent tangles and makes the installation of the box braids a pleasant experience. My hair also stays well moisturized for the time it’s tucked away. This works for me, you can try a few or all of these steps when getting your next protective style, and find the products and routine that best works for you!


By Shemelia Shortte

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