You've probably heard all about the powers of wearing a protective style. Women with long hair swear by them, promising they'll give you longer, stronger hair. And while the styles don't make your hair grow, by protecting your ends (especially if you've relaxed your hair or damaged it in other ways) you can retain that precious length by preventing breakage.
If your hair is breaking off faster than it grows, then it will never get any longer. Protective styles keep your ends preserved by hiding them away from potential damage. Below, we've rounded up five of our favorite protective styles.
Bun or Chignon
This is a simple style that works for any day but also looks great for dressy or formal occasions. All you need are hairpins and a covered elastic band or satin scrunchie. Buns work on relaxed and natural hair with a relative amount of ease. You can part your hair down the center or on one side if you prefer. You can also add some flair with cool or edgy accessories. Make sure your edges stay sleek and smooth with edge control products like CURLS Passion Fruit Curl Control Paste ($8) or ORS Edge Control Gel ($5).
Twists work best on natural hair. Relaxed strands are simply too straight and slippery to hold twists in place without unraveling. You can fashion twists in various ways while still protecting your delicate ends. One good thing about twists is that they can last for days or weeks, and require minimal touch-ups. To ensure that your ends stay moisturized if you wear your twists for a while, dampen them at night and apply a small amount of moisturizer—like Aveda's Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil ($32)—before bed.
You can braid your natural hair or you can opt for braid extensions. Whether your braids are all yours or created with enhancements, you still need to care for your hair and scalp while you're wearing them. SheaMoisture's Loc & Braid Butter ($11), formulated with Jamaican black castor oil, helps to strengthen and restore braided hair. However, as long as your ends are braided, they'll be protected from the elements as well as daily handling. The smaller your braids, the longer you can expect them to last.
How many times have you heard a woman say that she got a weave and her hair grew like a weed? When you properly care for your weave, it is a great protective style. If your hair is braided completely beneath it, it's not subject to sun, wind, rain or other weather. It's also free from daily wear and tear. For maximum hair growth, however, it's still important to care for the hair beneath the weave, by utilizing products like SheaMoisture's Deep Treatment Masque ($13). It's also important to give your hair and scalp a break between weaves.
Similar to cornrows, flat twists are created with two sections of hair instead of three. Flat twists offer more versatility because, unlike two-strand twists, flat twists work equally well on relaxed or natural hair. If your hair extends past the nape of your neck, you can gather the ends of the flat twists and fashion them into a ponytail or bun. Just be sure to use elastics that won't damage the hair, such as Scunci's No Damage Elastics ($3).