A Breakdown of Protective Hairstyles Part 2: Braids and Wigs
If you haven’t already, please check out Part 1 of this series where I go into the culture and context surrounding protective styles.
Protective styles keep the ends of hair tucked away in order to discourage tugging, pulling, and other forms of manipulation. They are also meant, in some cases, to encourage hair growth. The main forms are: braids, wigs, micro links, and locs.
The problem with this definition that that it basically relies on you already knowing what protective styles are in order to understand it. Which, I understand, many, many, many people do already know… but I don’t. And I have not been able to stop thinking about this for weeks despite having quite a few more important things to think about.
So… we’re making this into a thing. Don’t blame me. Blame my boss.
P.S.: First this was supposed to be one part, then I said two, but now it’s three because explaining each style in-depth made the article too long. Sorry… again…
The Four Main Protective Styles
Once again, there are four main protective styles that we’re going to go over. They are:
- Micro Links
It is worth noting that all four styles do essentially the same thing–protect the hair, as summarized above–but have their own unique traits and advantages. So, let’s go through them one by one.
Braids, box braids, or cornrows are the oldest type of protective style. They’re a tried and true method, and have been proven to fully protect the hair, especially in terms of sun damage, making them a great summer choice. They will generally last from four to six weeks. And, unlike some other protective styles, they can get wet without damage, so if you’re someone who gets dandruff or other scalp issues, this is a great option. While you can theoretically do them yourself, it takes a lot of skill, so most will get them professionally done. And that process can take anywhere from five to eight hours, depending on the length and thickness of your hair, so make sure you black out the day when you’re going in to get them done. They also cost, on average, $200 - $300 to get them done from scratch, as well as around $100 to be touched up after that four to six week period. Removing braids may also cost you, though it depends where you go. This comes out to a daily cost of about $7.14 per day over a six week period.
- Fully protect natural hair
- Can get wet/be washed
- Only last four to six weeks without a touch-up
- Usually must be done professionally
- Expensive to get done, removed, and/or touched up
- Not easily reversible
Wigs are usually made with either synthetic hair, human hair, or a mixture of the two. The more natural hair a wig has, the longer it’ll last with daily/frequent wear. High-end, natural wigs can usually sustain a full year of frequent use, while fully synthetic wigs last closer to six months. They must be washed semi-frequently, though the exact frequency and upkeep will depend on the materials used to make the wig. Of course, you can choose how often to wear the wig and how often to bring out your natural hair, which means this is a good option for those who like mixing it up. It is worth pointing out that very frequent use of wigs will begin to thin out your hair over time, but this usually will not kick in until a few years of frequent or constant wig-use. High-quality synthetic wigs usually start around $150, and natural wigs begin around $400. Assuming it is worn 20 days per month (3-4 times each week) this will come out to about a cost of $1.65 per use for natural wigs, and $1.25 per use for synthetic wigs.
- Long lasting
- Easily reversible
- Quick and easy to get
- Low cost per use
- Able to wash natural hair/scalp
- High initial price
- Extensive maintenance
- May thin natural hair over time
In the third and final part, I’ll go over the other two protective styles. Stay tuned!