While protective styling seems to be growing in popularity, and is a great way to minimize manipulation of strands and retain length, they can be damaging if not maintained properly. I’ve seen and have been asked, “Why does the hair seem to tangle, or worse – mat, when shampooing after removing a protective style?”
Here are some tips to prevent breakage and/or loss of hair when removing protective style.
Detangle Before Shampooing
You normally shed anywhere between 150 – 200 strands a day (some more). So, if you wear a protective style for 6 weeks or more, that’s approximately 6,300 – 8,400 strands that have yet to be combed out. This also explains why it always seems as if you have lost so much hair, when in fact its just an accumulation of shed hair.
I must admit, though I know this and deal with it often, I still panic when I detangle after wearing braids for a month or so lol). But, because you shed and this hair has been dangling in the protective style without proper removal, my advice would be to detangle before shampooing.
To do so:
- Get a spray bottle and fill it with conditioner and distilled water (tap water if distilled isn’t available).
- Mist hair lightly with conditioner mixture.
- Finger detangle and place hair into 5×5 inch sections.
- Spray a section, and with an extra wide tooth comb, gently from ends to root, comb ridding the section of all loose hair.
- Twist or loosely braid that section, and proceed until all sections are done.
Protective styling can dry the hair out. So, prior to shampooing, after detangling, apply castor oil, argan oil, or olive oil on top of sections and sit under dryer for 20 minutes.
See Also: 3 Best Oils for Your Hair
Shampoo & Condition
After prepoo, proceed to shampooing. At this point, you want to use a clarifying shampoo, but one that doesn’t dry the hair out.
(Shampoo secret: If you have a shampoo that clarifies to the point of drying out the hair, use it equal parts with another moisturizing shampoo or add a little conditioner to it. This will give you the clarifying action you need without totally stripping hair of moisture/oils.)
Note: You can still shampoo hair while it is twisted and/or braided, but do it lightly without being to aggressive. Proceed to condition. Read other things you should know about braids and extensions.
Once conditioner is applied, take each section down, detangling one at a time. Rinse and proceed with normal regimen.
When removing a protective style, always choose a day and time that you have nowhere to go! You never want to rush taking down your protective style.
I remember taking down my braids when I was in high school (you’ll soon understand why I remember something that happened 15+ years ago). I got so frustrated because the braids seemed to have been knotted into my hair. I panicked and started yanking and tugging at them, until the braid(s) came out at the root.
Needless to say, I still suffer from the traction alopecia caused from that one moment (or two) of frustration and anxiety. When and/or if you grow weary, call a friend or take a break.
Knots and Tangles
When dealing with natural hair, knots and tangles are the inevitable especially single strand knots. But, do not be dismayed. Take your time and work through them.
And if they seem impossible, never rip through them, snip them with sharp hair shears/scissors. Ripping through your ends, caused jagged, rough ends that ultimately split and causes/leads to damage.
By snipping, you are giving it a blunt end, thus allowing it to grow without damage. More on Trimming Natural Hair.
Bonus: Assess Your Hair
Always evaluate your hair after removing a protective style.
- If it seems drier than normal, proceed to do a deep moisturizing conditioner. See this list of Best Moisturizing Deep Conditioners
- If it seems fragile, do a protein treatment and utilize a low manipulation, low tension style for a week or two while moisturizing daily with spray bottle if necessary. Check out our List of Protein Deep Conditioners
- Know what your hair can handle, and don’t bypass your hair’s limitations.
Read for More: 8 Things to Avoid When Protective Styling