Many natural hair wearers opt to put their hair in protective styles, especially during the colder seasons, to protect their ends. Protective hairstyles—those styles that can be put in and require little to no manipulation for weeks at a time—include updos, braids, cornrows, twists, coils and sew-in weaves. I would also place braid-outs, twist-outs and coil-outs in the protective style category, as well. Even though these styles are considered as “out” styles, because the hair is actually loose and the ends are exposed, they require little to no manipulation.

These styles can also be used to extend the life of braids, twists, cornrows and coils. After wearing your braids, twists, cornrows or coils for one to two weeks, braid-outs, twist-outs and coil-outs can be achieved by simply unraveling your cornrows/braids or separating two-strand twists or coils. This process will create a new style that can be worn for another one to two weeks.

You can wash or rinse your hair before unraveling or separating your braided styles. Add a little oil or pomade while your hair is still damp to seal in the moisture, and make sure to let it completely dry before unraveling. With twists or coils, if necessary, you can use a cotton swab dabbed with a little ACV/water mix or witch hazel to refresh and clean your scalp before separating. You can also lightly spritz with water then add a little oil or pomade before separating. Again, these “loose” protective styles require little to no manipulation. At night, cover with a satin/silk bonnet, and in the morning simply fluff with your hands.

You can also do scalp massages and seal your ends while wearing these styles. Accessorize your loose protective styles with flowers, hair clips, headbands and scarves. As the definition of your loose style begins to lose it’s shape—i.e. your hair begins to stretch out and no longer holds the curly or wavy pattern of the braids, twists or coils—you can pin up your hair for a textured updo, French roll, and/or bun, which are also protective styles. For those who don’t want to wear twists or braids for one to two weeks, these loose protective styles can be achieved by setting your wet hair with braids/twists/coils overnight (or, by sitting under a bonnet dryer) and unbraiding/unraveling/separating when it is completely dry. Depending on your hair texture, you may need to use an alcohol-free styling aid product before twisting or braiding to help set your hair as well.

– Laquita Thomas-Banks

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