My feature in the March edition of Elle Magazine’s Street Style section #sukisuki
New Zealand designer Karen Walker works with lensman Derek Henderson to shoot her Spring 2013 collection. Walker didn’t just employ the talents of artisans in Kenya, she had them model the looks, too. Partnering with the United Nations–endorsed Ethical Fashion Initiative, whose motto “Not Charity, Just Work” seeks to promote sustainable development over aid, Walker tasked the African nation’s finest micro-producers, designers, and craftspeople to produce the screen-printed pouches that will accompany every Karen Walker eyewear purchase from the collection.
I actually like this initiative because it highlights the machinists, cutters, tailors, production managers, and metal workers involved in the collection, as well as the Maasai crafters behind some of the more intricate beadwork seen on the pouch case.
What is protective styling?
Although definitions of what protective styling is may vary, I would describe protective styling as a hairstyle that shields one’s hair from daily manipulation such as brushing, combing or curling one’s hair; and which protects one’s hair from the elements. The main objective of a protective hairstyle is to do exactly that: “protect”! Common protective hairstyles are braids, cornrows, twists and even buns.
Why is protective styling important?
There is no doubt that hair sheds naturally and there is nothing one can do to stop it from shedding, however a lot of constant exposure to the elements and the cumulative effects of brushing, heat styling and combing your hair can increase hair loss and can thwart your efforts to retain maximum length. Constantly wearing your hair out makes it more vulnerable to pollutants and environmental disturbances and decreases moisture retention.
African textured hair is naturally curly, kinky, coarse and dry; we thus need to ensure that our hair remains hydrated as dryness leads to breakage. One of the best ways to retain moisture is through protective styling; as moisture easily evaporates from curly/kinky textured hair. Straight hair is different to curly and kinky hair textures as natural oils from the scalp can easily travel down the smooth hair shaft and hydrate the length of the hair. Coiled locks, however, do not benefit from this natural moisturizing process as natural oils from our scalp cannot smoothly travel down our curled hair shaft; which explains our constant need to hydrate our hair with oils.
How to keep hair hydrated whilst in a protective style?
The best way to hydrate your protectively styled hair is to apply water (preferably filtered) and natural oils; for example coconut, olive, or avocado. Put together your preference of oils and fill half of the spray bottle with water; and spray it every day or every other day. Water is the best way to hydrate curly/kinky hair and the oils seal in the moisture from the water. The result will be saturated hair and less shedding when you take out your braids.
How to maintain your protective hairstyle?
In order to ensure that your protective style lasts longer, you should wrap your hair in a satin scarf. Satin is great for coiled hair textures as, unlike materials like cotton, it does not absorb moisture from our hair instead it retains it. It will also ensure that your hair does not go fuzzy too quickly and you’ll be able to keep your hairstyle for longer.
How long should you keep your hair in a protective hairstyle?
The length of time that you choose to keep your hair in a protective hairstyle depends on the hairstyle you opted for; however, braids and twists should not be kept in your hair for more than 6 weeks.
Don’t forget to wash
You should wash your hair once a week, even if you have them in braids or twists. Do not neglect washing your hair as microbes accumulate when hair is dirty which leads to unwanted odours and eventually hair loss as microbes weaken the hair. Preferably use a sulfate-free shampoo, as sulfates dry out our hair, I love the Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Shampoo!
Don’t believe the myths
You may have heard or experienced that your braids or twists caused your hair to break. However, unless braided too tightly, protective styles such as these do not contribute to hair growth nor do they hinder it, they simply protect. So, do not expect your hair to grow twice as fast just because you’ve braided it. Your braids will simply prevent moisture evaporation and thus will help you retain more length.
Don’t use your protective style as a means to ignore your hair
Although you do not need to spend as much time caring for your hair when it’s in a protective style as you would when it isn’t; don’t use this as an excuse to not care for your hair at all. If you actually want it to be healthy and to grow beautifully, you cannot ignore it; just like you can never take a break from properly nourishing you body for it to be healthy and to function properly.