We've all heard about the importance of protective hairstyles and why we should be wearing them. I'm sure you can think of that friend that complains about needing to get her edges done. One look and you know some time has passed since she has last seen her stylist. But what happens when you leave those beautiful braids in too long? The short answer is your natural hair is not getting all the loving care that it needs. There's more going on. So what is the longer answer?
Protective styles can prevent all that moisturizing and conditioning you have put effort into from reaching deep into your scalp where it needs to be. Especially if you have added synthetic or human hair. This usually results in an itchy scalp. Even worse, improper drying and residue from moisturizers can result in mildew forming.
Stress is something that we all get from day to day and while a little bit is good for you, too much can lead to a catastrophe. The same thing applies to our hair. The foundation of any style is the scalp. As your hair grows under the protective style, it begins to push it away from the scalp. Say ,for example, you have worn your protective style for 2 months. In that time your hair has grown ,on average, an inch. Your hair has grown and your foundation has become weaker because of the lifting of the hair away from the scalp. Without a firm hold to the foundation, your protective style begins to tug at your hair underneath. This stresses the hair when it should be protecting it. This can lead damage of the hair that includes breakage. When breakage does occur, it most likely will be along your edges in the front and back. Remember, hair isn't meant to support the weight of anything else hanging from it.
Now that you're aware of all the potential negative consequences of leaving in a style too long, we should discuss how to avoid all these problems. These recommendations are based on the average rate that hair grows. Consult your cosmetologist for further information if you want to customize these guidelines to fit your needs. If your go to protective style is a sew in, 8 weeks is the maximum amount of time you want to leave it in. If you opt for any braided or cornrow styles, 3 - 4 weeks is the recommended maximum amount of time you should leave the style in. This is because of the extra pressure, pull, and tension that is placed on the scalp by these particular styles. Box braids are different. Depending on the size of the box and the braids used, 6-8 weeks is the recommended amount of time for this style.
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