This Is Your Summertime Protective Style Cheat Sheet
Beauty & Fashion

This Is Your Summertime Protective Style Cheat Sheet

Just like clockwork, I’m starting to see social media posts and television commercials about the fact that summer is almost over. I guess it’s because school is about to be back in session; however, the actual summer season couldn’t care less about that. What I mean is, no matter what year it is, summer technically does not roll into fall until sometime between September 21st-24th of every year. This year, it’s on the 23rd, which means we have several more weeks to learn more about what we can do to preserve our God-given beauty while the sun is still blazin’ and the days are still extra long.

And since a lot of us tend to lean into protective styles (especially with the kind of heat that this summer has been completely showing out with!), I thought it would be a smart move to offer up some tips on things that you can do to get the most out of your preferred protective style look until it gets into my favorite time of the year — autumn.

Personally, I think this is the ideal time to share these 15 suggestions…being that you’ve got about as long as a set of box braids should be in your hair before cooler weather comes around (some of y’all will catch that later). Timing is indeed everything, chile.

1. Cleanse Your Scalp

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Please, when you get a chance, check out “Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend.” Between product build-up, sweat, and dead skin cells that are forever dropping, it’s amazing that a lot of us don’t experience more scalp itchiness and irritation than we already do. Not to mention the fact that many of us also don’t nourish our scalp enough, so we mistake dandruff for what is actually a dry scalp (also check out “Stop Scratching: The Differences Between Dandruff And Dry Scalp”).

Thanks to protective styles like box braids and hair twists, all of those parts in our hair tend to expose our scalp to the sun a lot more than usual. Thoroughly cleansing your scalp with a scalp scrub on wash day, carrying a spritz to treat the scalp in between wash times (more on that in a bit), and also adding some plum oil to pamper your scalp (plum oil is everything, y’all — great for soothing the scalp after chemically processing it and restoring dry and brittle ends) will make all of the difference in the world.

2. Use a Clarifying Shampoo

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Speaking of sweat and build-up, although you shouldn’t apply this tip every time that you shampoo your hair, definitely use a clarifying shampoo after taking a protective style down (especially if it’s been up for 6-8 weeks straight). A lot of gunk can collect in your hair when you haven’t been doing much (to your hair) other than getting up and heading out for weeks on end. A clarifying shampoo is specifically designed to remove all of the stuff that isn’t good for your strands long-term. As far as shampoo brands go, Cosmopolitan did you a solid by offering some great suggestions: "23 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Curly Hair (Sulfate *and* Sulfate-Free).”

P.S. If you don’t want to try a clarifying shampoo, at least go with an apple cider rinse; it clarifies and conditions your hair basically at the same time. You can watch YouTube videos on the topic here, here, and here. Again, don’t use it ALL of the time (and definitely dilute it first) — just when you need to get your hair “extra clean.”

3. Apply Hair Products That Contain Sunscreen

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BLACK. PEOPLE. NEED. SUNSCREEN. HAIR. IS. INCLUDED. IN. THAT. Y’all, it can’t be said enough that having more melanin doesn’t mean that UV rays give a damn. In fact, the reason why a lot of us end up with hyperpigmentation and age spots is because we ignored this particular point. Besides, let’s not act like our scalp isn’t also made up of skin, so…there’s that. Also, even though the hair that hasn’t grown out of our head doesn’t have any living cells in it (which is why it doesn’t hurt whenever we cut it or use heat styling tools), UV rays do have the ability to damage your hair follicles, if you’re not careful. That’s why you should definitely be intentional about using hair products that have some sort of sunscreen in them around this time of the year. You can check out a list of some here, here, and here.

4. Wear “Light” Braiding/Twisting Hair

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Not all braiding and twisting hair are the same. Some brands are itchy as hell (YouTuber Seun Okimi has a bomb video on the backstory on that), while others are too heavy — and that can be annoying if you plan on doing some more swimming before the summer season is up. So, definitely ask your braider to go with a lightweight kind of hair. If s/he doesn’t know what that means, that’s your first sign to go with someone else. And what if you plan on going the DIY route? Another Black beauty influencer who goes by the name EBONYJAY has a video entitled, “What is the best braiding hair to use? Tips for new braiders” that has some gems for ya.

5. Give Your Edge Control a Bit of a Break

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Once upon a time, someone (a Black woman) asked me in an interview about why I personally thought that we were so obsessed with baby hair: “Sometimes I wonder if it’s still a low-key obsession with wanting to come off like it’s a form of having what society deems as being ‘good hair’” was my response. Because while I do like realistic-looking baby hair as much as the next fly chick, at the same time, I do think that doing anything in excess, to where it can damage your edges and/or your nape, should be rethought — and when you’re using edge control that has a lot of alcohol in it (read those labels, y’all), that is exactly what is happening.

6. Add Color Via Extensions Only

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Here’s the deal: the tighter your curls are, the more challenging it’s gonna be for the natural oils that come from your scalp to coat all of your hair strands. In a nutshell, that’s why our hair tends to be so much drier than other ethnicities. And that’s why, whenever we choose to color-treat our hair (especially with the box brand stuff), it can wreak total havoc on our tresses as far as hair health goes.

Listen, I know this is the time of year when going big and bold is tempting; just try and go with colored hair extensions or, at the very least, demipermanent or semipermanent hair color options. Or hell, even color wax. No, they don’t last as long, yet they also don’t do the kind of drying-out damage that permanent color does; they’re specifically designed not to.

7. Go No More than Three Weeks Tops for Styles Without Extensions

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Halo braids (this hack here is dope). Bantu knots. Cornrows. Space buns. Flat twists. All of these are protective style looks that many of us can do with or without the help of extensions. And while they all are super cute/low manipulation styles, try not to get too comfortable in them by letting them sit in your hair for weeks at a time. It’s pretty standard for hairstylists to recommend that naturalistas wash their hair once a week or once every two weeks at the most; otherwise, build-up can occur. Plus, when you’ve got a protective style, going over three weeks could lead to hair matting when you’ve got scalp and hair sweat to contend with.

8. Wrap It Up Sometimes

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No one can rock a head/hair wrap quite like we can, and we all know it. So, on the days when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time on your hair or you’ve got an old wash ‘n go that you don’t have time to refresh, pull out a scarf (or pre-tied turban; Etsy sells quite a bit of those; just go to the site and put “pre-tied turban” in the search field) and wrap your hair up. Not only will you look beautiful, but a scarf or turban will also give your hair a break from the sun beating down on it and ultimately drying it out in the process.

9. Keep a DIY Spritz Handy

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Something that our hair always needs is moisture — especially in the hot summer sun. A spritz that I’ve come to be a big fan of is De La Cruz’s Lavender Water Body Mist. Because it has some glycerin in it, it acts as a humectant (something that naturally pulls moisture from the air), even on my hair. This is great when I have a protective style like braids or twists because it hydrates my scalp and adds moisture to my hair, even when it’s “tied up”; that way, I don’t have to work overtime while deep conditioning my locks (after taking out my protective style) due to how dry my strands are.

If you’d prefer to make your own hair spritz, that’s pretty easy to do as well. Some easy-to-make recipes are located here, here, and here.

10. Try a Lil' Bit of Swim Spray 

Something that will definitely strip away some of the natural oils in your hair is chlorine. And since we’ve already touched on the fact that a lot of us have hair that is already dry, you don’t want to help chlorine out in any way. That’s why it can never hurt to have some of AquaGuard’s products (here) in your hair arsenal. They have a pre-swim product that is specifically designed to keep harsh chemicals from damaging your locks. And you know what they say — an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.

11. Moisturize and Oil Your Ends

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Depending on who you talk to, different people are gonna have different feelings about whether or not applying oil to Black hair is needed. Personally, I’m all about it because, so long as YouTube channels like the one by EfikZaraexist (check out “Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back”), I’m sold! The key is to use oil to lock in a hydrating conditioner that has been applied with the help of some water.

So, when it comes to making sure that the oldest parts of your hair remain in good condition (so that you’re able to retain length), a couple of times a week, dampen your ends, apply a leave-in conditioner and then apply a carrier oil like grapeseed (it has lots of vitamin E), jojoba (it contains properties that repair heat damage) or avocado (it is a natural sunscreen) to them. Doing this will strengthen your ends over time and help to prevent split ends and breakage.

12. Enjoy Lemonade and French Braids

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If you’re curious about what the biggest braid trends are for 2023, you can’t go wrong with lemonade braids — you know, the look that is braided in such a way to where your hair swoops over to one side. As someone who oftentimes will get some medium-sized box braids at some point during the summer season, I’ll tell you, off top, that one of the best things about lemonade braids is they will definitely reduce your time in a braider’s chair (which automatically makes them a win!). Matter of fact, if you’re daring (and patient) enough (and you already know how to braid), you can probably even install them yourself (check and see by watching this video, this video, and this video).

Or you can put a part down the middle and do a couple of French braids, which is one of my favorite go-to's. A look that I like a lot is having two braids going back on the sides with a big braid in the middle. I start the middle braid back far enough to where I can create a bit of a poof in the front so that it stands taller. It takes like 30 minutes to do (after creating the three parts) and can look casual or sophisticated, depending on what I decide to wear. Easy peasy, chile.

13. Don’t Keep “Extension Styles” in for More than Six Weeks Tops

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Listen, when I get my box braids, I’m in the chair for about six hours, paying around $200. Although the end results are always worth it, the process of taking those bad boys out alone is enough to make me want to keep them in for as long as possible. And while I’ve seen hair hacks featuring women who “double knot” their braids at the root — I’ll pass. I don’t want to run the risk of making it so difficult to take my braids down at some point that I damage my locks in the process. Besides, after six weeks (eight tops), the weight of the braids (or twists) can put a real strain on your edges, nape, and hair follicles overall. So yeah, a couple of months should be the absolute max. Also, give your hair a 2-3 week (or so) break before adding more extensions. Anything in excess can be counterproductive. Always remember that.

14. Trim Those Ends

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Although I’m not personally a believer that you need to trim your hair, without fail, every 4-6 weeks, what I do think is, around that time, you should (re)evaluate your ends to see if they are in good condition. For instance, I was revisiting what different kinds of split ends look like, and while I rarely end up with the “traditional ones” that split from the bottom, sometimes I do end up with fairy knots or the feather or incomplete split whenever I am too rough on my tresses (you can learn about the various ones here). However, instead of cutting off a couple of inches, I’ll switch up my styling routine or do a bit of dusting (only cutting the strands that appear to be in real trouble).

15. Sleep with a Humidifier

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I’m forever gonna recommend that people have a humidifier in their bedroom. For health reasons, check out “10 Really Good Reasons To Get Yourself A Humidifier This Fall.” As far as your hair goes, the 6-8 hours when you’re asleep, your strands still need moisture.

Having a humidifier can get them the hydration that they need. Not to mention the fact that if you’re someone who can’t seem to keep your scarf (or bonnet) on your head or your satin pillow on your bed as you’re tossing and turning throughout the night, a humidifier can help to keep your hair from drying out. Plus, if your hair is in a protected style that has extensions, it can keep those from drying your hair out as well.

So, if you don’t already own a humidifier, there’s no time like the present to invest in one. Your health will thank you. Your hair will too! Enjoy the rest of the summer, y’all.

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