A protective style can be as simple as braids or twists or include more in-depth styles such as crochet braids, box braids or a weave. They can be used to protect curls from the rigours of daily styling, and or harsh weather conditions e.g. scorching heat in the summer or freezing cold in the winter.
With a protective style, curls are protected for a given period of time 3-4 weeks. Any longer and there is a serious risk of hair becoming damaged through matting or product build-up at the roots.
Locs, by contrast, are formed by braids, two-strand twists, coils or palm rolls. Overtime you allow the locs to grow, retightening periodically as you maintain the original partings to maintain a consistent and uniform size. Sisterlocks another form of locing are tiny uniform locks that are the result of a precision parting grid. A specialized tool is used to place the hair into its locking formation. It takes approximately a year for locs to grow to a relatively mature stage.
More Similarities Than Differences
When you choose to wear your naturally curly hair in a protective style or to wear locs (Sisterlocks) you may think “yeah……..happy days……… I won’t have to do anything to my hair for day’s maybe even weeks!! 😊 My mornings are going to be a breeze!!
Whilst there may be some truth to these musings they are not entirely true. Yes, you can locs up or wear a protective style and not have to consider conditioning, moisture or hydration routines for a couple of days. But if your hair is not moisturised or hydrated for several days or weeks moisture in the hair shaft is lost, the hair then becomes dry, brittle and lacklustre.
The fundamentals for keeping natural curly, kinky or coily hair are the same for all hair types. Curls become dry after a few days, the key is to keep them moisturized. And remoisturize regularly this is all the more important when curly hair is in a protective style.
The moisturization and hydration needs of a long-term protective style e.g. crochet braids, faux locs, braids; twists and wigs are pretty much the same. Prior to installing locs or a protective style, hair should be washed and deep conditioned. Hair will then remain moisturized, healthy and soft in the desired style for days before additional hydration is required.
Products & Ingredients
The products used to moisturize hair are important for a protective style or locs, to prevent product build-up. Some products contain mineral, oils petroleum’s and silicones these ingredients provide sheen hold and slip. It’s noteworthy that the aforementioned ingredients do not penetrate the cuticle layer. And over time they’ll build up on hair that has not been cleansed.
Equally, there are more ingredients that don’t penetrate the cuticle layer and coat the hair e.g. heavy leave-in conditioners, butters and gels. Sisterlocks Brand Ambassador and Director at Kouturelocs, Paulette Watson says “when deciding on which products to choose it depends on the needs of your hair. Whether it’s dry, damaged or oily these conditions will help you select the best products. For Sisterlocks I would use the recommended products especially in the early stages as it helps with the locking process.”
There are oils, plant extracts and other natural ingredients that penetrate the cuticle layer:
- Purified water
- Aloe Vera
- Flax Seed
- Coconut Oil
- Castor Oil
- Olive Oil
It’s crucial to find the products and ingredients that work for your curly hair. You may find that you only need one ingredient that penetrates the cuticle layer really well e.g. aloe vera or perhaps a mixture of oils.
Fatty acids in natural oils have significant health benefits for hair. They keep hair moisturized, seal in moisture thereby supporting hair health. Jamaican Black Castor Oil is one ingredient that is popular in the loc community because it’s an oil that will not penetrate the cuticle layer but will seal in moisture and not build-up on locs.
One recurring issue with protective styles and locs will be that the hair feels dry and therefore is prone to breakage. The reasons that hair will feel dry are:
- lack of hydration and not moisturizing effectively e.g. going for 3-4 weeks without adding water or using a water-based moisturizer
- not conditioning your protective style or locs
In addition if you wear a protective style or locs and do not cleanse for several weeks you may be susceptible to scalp issues. Seborrheic eczema or dermatitis are conditions that can lead to flaking of the scalp known as dandruff. The aforementioned scalp conditions can be the result of not cleansing the scalp enough, dry skin or an oily scalp.
Caring For Protective Style & Locs
When hair is in a protective style it’s important that you do not use products that are too heavy or overly thick in consistency. Light sprays and mist’s with quality natural ingredients work best. Spritz and re-moisturize hair when it appears to be dry every 3 or 4 days.
After takedown of a protective style, your hair may look and feel parched. If so your hair will need regular moisturizing, deep conditioning and treatments to bring back lustre to your curls.
Paulette says “once Sisterlocks have been installed, we recommend a light spritz 2-3 times a week.”
Conditioning Protective Styles & Locs
Paulette advises that “Sisterlocks should be banded for washing in the early stages and separated when wet. Traditional locs should be gently washed in the early stages. No conditioner should be used at the beginning as it softens and or tangles the hair causing the locs to unravel.”
For protective styling, after hair has been clarified or shampooed conditioning or deep conditioning is important but be sure to wash out the conditioner thoroughly to avoid build-up and clogged hair follicles. Remember oil is not a moisturizer it is great for sealing in moisture but it does not moisturize the hair shaft. The method used to wash and condition the hair when it’s in a protective style is one of personal preference.
Shanique Buntyn has a great tutorial for how to cleanse and condition box braids when it’s in a protective style without becoming frizzy.
Lia Lavon has a great tutorial for how to wash and condition crochet braids.
Mistakes To Avoid When You Have Sisterlocks
“The biggest mistake with moisturizing locs is using a leave-in conditioner. It attracts dirt and causes product build up in locs.” says Paulette
Mistakes To Avoid When You Have A Protective Style
Give your self-time to take down your protective style.
- If you rush your takedown you may cause a lot of damage, knots, and breakage to your hair.
- When cutting out extensions ensure you cut several inches below your actual hair.
- Start from the ends of the hair to unravel the braid or twist, to avoid knots and tangles.
Let us know about your tips for maintaining and moisturizing locs and protective styles in the comments below.
For consultations and expert advice on Sisterlocks:
- T: +44 0788 990 7999
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Protective Styling FAQ
What is a protective style?
A protective style is a method of styling hair that protects it from daily stressors e.g. combing, brushing, extreme hot or cold climates and breakage. A protective style can be maintained for a few days or several weeks.
Will your hair grow in a protective style?
Hair grows approximately ½ inch each month. It’s important to keep hair moisturized whilst in a protective style and with limited manipulation any growth will be retained.
Are Sisterlocks a protective style?
Sisterlocks are permanent and protective styles are temporary methods of styling. Typical protective styles include buns, braids, twists, wigs, weaves and crochet braids. You have to cut off Sisterlocks in order to return hair back into its former curly state.
How do you care for your hair in a protective style?
Do not use products that are too thick in consistency as they will cause build upon the hair. When cleansing and conditioning in a protective style ensure all products are rinsed thoroughly from the hair. Use products that have good quality ingredients and moisturize regularly to avoid hair becoming overly dry.