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.
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.
Micro links are silicone beads that are placed in the hair as a healthier and more long-lasting way to add hair extensions to natural hair. They are usually placed very near the scalp, and bunch natural hair into numerous small sections that resemble little ponytails. While the number of these ponytails does vary based on hair thickness, the average would be somewhere around 10. They’re lightweight compared to other hair extension methods, but cannot be installed in hair that’s gone through chemical treatments, such as a relaxer. Micro links also cannot be wet in a traditional shower’s water pressure, so to wash the hair, you’ll need to use a fingertip method or spray bottle, and this should be done, at most, every two weeks. Micro links are pretty easy to install and remove at the hair stylist, and they last for about two months without maintenance. But, those appointments are going to run from $175 to $250.
- Easily reversible
- Work for all hair textures
- Short hair styling appointments
- Last a decent amount of time before maintenance
- Cannot be wet/washed often
- Expensive to install, maintain, and remove
- Must be done by a professional stylist
- Are only possible on natural, non-treated hair
Our final entry, locs, are quite similar to the braids we went over in the part 2. They’re essentially a tight braid, where the hair is separated into very small sections and, while woven, twisted tightly to create that signature look. As the hair grows, the locs “mature,” essentially growing in size until each strand becomes more uniform. This process usually takes around a year. This is a great choice for those with thick or extremely curly hair, because such textures will make the locs mature more quickly. Locs are also much more versatile than other protective styles when it comes to day-to-day hairstyles. Locs are much easier to customize, though your options will depend on how mature those strands are. Locs do have to be installed by a professional, and tightened regularly; those appointments can range anywhere between $200 and $800, depending on where you go, how long your hair is, and how tight you want the strands to be. You usually want to go six to eight weeks between hair washes, since any greater frequency could cause the strands to loosen and frizz. And, as long as you’re tightening every few months, locs will last pretty much indefinitely.
- Long lasting (with maintenance)
- Customizable for day-to-day hairstyles
- Great for thick or curly hair
- Expensive to install and maintain
- Take a year to mature
- Cannot be frequently washed
- Must be installed by a professional stylist
That’s it for this one-part-turned-three-part deep dive into protective styles. If you haven’t seen the previous two articles in this series, check them out!
Come Through, Growth!
By: Melody Rose