My Summer Protective Style

Hey guys! So I’ve been absent for a while, having fun and living life summer 2k15–not. My summer so far has been very…quiet. No wild adventures here. BUT if I had been going to festivals and taking part in road trips and all that other summery stuff you see on the TV, I would have looked damn good doing it. Why? Let me introduce you to my summer protective style.

Now, the term ‘protective style’ generally refers to any hairstyle in which the more fragile ends of the hair are tucked away from the elements to protect them from breakage; it also means handling the hair as little as possible, again to prevent breakage, which is often associated with over-styling hair.

Some protective styles are the DIY once-a-week styling type, like a cute bun or French plait. Others, however, are more long-term and require a longer installation time, along with more effort, skill and sometimes money.

I wanted to go for the latter type–however, I have little skill (my hands often don’t work at all due to my disability) and little money (poor student/starving artist, #GiveYourMoneyToWomen LOL). So, I was kinda stuck. I wanted something along the lines of the box braids that are so popular right now, but I didn’t want to spend astronomical amounts of money or sit on a hard floor while an aunty pulled my hair too tight.

And then, I saw this:

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The Perfect Summer Style. I had the necessary two + inches of hair. Wide sections reminiscent of childhood braids: check. Casual, I-don’t-care-it’s-summer-so-chill chunky braids/twists: check. Something you can totally do at home for a reasonable price: check check check check che–you get my drift. So off I went on my search to recreate something like this style–and here is what I came up with:

Firstly, after much research, I settled on using X-Pressions hair. This hair is 100% kanekelon fibre, considered one of the best braiding hairs and used for box braids, Senegalese twists, and the like. It’s cheap–I bought five packs from Amazon for £2.49 each, and only used one and a half–it’s smooth and doesn’t tangle too easily, but its texture still blends with my hair type (3c and 4a, fairly dense) very well.

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Installing this style took FIVE HOURS! And if you’ve ever had box braids or Senegalese twists, you know that’s damn fast. I wasn’t able to do the style myself: my mum did some, and my boyfriend, who is white and has little hair to speak of himself (but still more than me when I big chopped, haha) did the rest. So, yeah, it’s pretty simple.

But before styling, you must to prepare the hair for use:

It comes in extreeeemely long bundles, which I cut in half for twists that reached the top of my breasts (I’m 5’11). Before the hair was cut, I soaked it all in a shallow bath mixed liberally with ACV: apple cider vinegar. This natural (and safe to ingest!) product is a cheap and effective product with many skin- and hair-related uses. It’s important to clean your braiding hair with something like this for use, because the chemical film that the hair is coated in can cause itchiness and dandruff.

Leave the hair to dry over night. In the meantime, wash and condition your hair: I’d use proper shampoo to make sure your scalp is squeaky clean. Moisturise and seal your hair with a leave-in and oil; then split your hair into chunky boxes or triangles–maybe an inch squared, or erm… triangulated… Oh, GCSE maths, how you have failed me.

Baby boxes: A Look

Once your real hair and braiding hair are ready, it’s time to twist.

Split the braiding hair into medium sized sections, then fold your first section in half. Take down one of your little box/triangle puffs and split it in half; now hold the braiding hair over it so that one half of the fake hair is laid over one half of the real hair, and erm… well, the same on the other side.

Now pay attention: this is hella complicated. Pretend that your real and fake hair are the same thing, and take each of your two sections (which are made up of half your hair and half braiding hair, remember) in one hand. Now twist section one anti-clockwise. Lovely. Twist section two the same way–anti-clockwise. Brilliant. And now: twist both the sections around each other (like a normal twist) IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! CLOCKWISE! This devil-sent technique is known as the invisible root method: it ensures that your twist (or braid, or faux loc) remains firmly and attractively attached to your scalp. But it’s a serious pain in the backside.

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Repeat this, and you should get into a sort of rhythm that makes things easier. Once you reach the end of the twist, you have a few options to seal: you can burn the hair, together, but that creates a… well, burned look that isn’t great. You can dunk your hair in hot water, but this can be awkward and ineffective. To suit the summery look of the style, I simply used an elastic band at the end of each one and added a colourful clasp here and there.

Now repeat these steps with each section of your hair, and in no time at all you are a go!

Aftercare is fairly simple: these twists can be kept in for up to two months; anything longer than this will take away all the benefits of your protective style, and could damage your edges. I tend to lean towards six weeks of protective styling rather than eight, just to be on the safe side. While wearing your twists, you can wash and condition with very light products, gently; be careful not to disturb the roots or twist, or to use thick products that will leave a residue. I’d wash once a week, or once every two weeks at most. Moisturise with an oil, water and leave-in conditioner mixed in a spray bottle, but again, keep it light; maybe moisturise with just water every other day. Finally, as always, sleep in your silk or satin scarf!

What’s your favourite style for summer? Let me know in the comments!

*NOTE: This blog was originally posted on the 21st of July 2015, but has since been edited for clarity.*

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