Protective styling is all the rage in length retention circles within the natural hair community. Of course, this is for good reason. Length retention is the key to meeting your natural hair length goals.
The most popular methods of protective styling involve braids, twists, wigs and weaves, but what if you don’t have the time, resources or capacity to use these methods? Does this mean that you don’t get to protective style; or that length retention is out of reach? Thereby, you don’t get to reach your hair length goals.
If that’s what you’re feeling or thinking, let me tell you the answer to that question is absolutely not.
Natural Hairstyles & Growth
You can use a natural hairstyle to reach your hair goals, and it doesn’t have to involve wigs, weaves or mini twists or box braids.
There are a number of natural hairstyles that are low maintenance, which is really what you want if you’re trying to achieve your hair goals.
Low maintenance hairstyles are styles that don’t require you to have your hands in your hair constantly. Some of these such natural hairstyles are the twistout, the braidout, finger coils, stretched hair buns and updos.
These are great hairstyles for women with natural hair, but they don’t necessarily work for me to achieve my length goals. This is because they initially require more manipulation of my hair then I want to do once or twice a week. Each of these styles requires a fair amount of manipulation to set and then more manipulation to take down or style.
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Start at the Beginning
I was a twistout girl, after my big chop. I only wore 2 strand twistouts, but as my hair grew longer I began wearing flat twistouts. I loved how my hair looked in these styles.
However, when I hit shoulder length these styles just weren’t working in my hair any longer. I liked how my hair stood up straight prior to hitting shoulder length, but upon hitting that milestone my hair no longer defied gravity.
So I trained my hair for the wash and go hairstyle. Training your hair for this style is not something that happens overnight, and a number of us give up after the first failed wash and go.
I wrote an article explaining how I achieve my wash and go.
Read how I achieve a successful wash and go
Over the years my regimen has been tweaked to keep up with my changing hair, but one thing that has remained mostly constant for my type 4a low porosity hair is my wash and go hairstyle.
Retaining Healthy Hair
I began wearing my hair in a wash and go hairstyle consistently around 2015. That was around the time when my hair was in the awkward length stage. I kept waiting for it to be long enough to fit into a bun when it was stretched.
For some reason I was convinced that the bun was the only way that I would be able to see the length retention I was hoping for. But during that time I took care of my hair. I learned my hair. I learned that my hair thrived when I washed it every 4-6 days with the 5th day being the real sweet spot.
I did protein treatments whenever my hair felt too mushy and limp. I trimmed once every 4-5 months and deep conditioned religiously. Basically I did all of the things that you’re supposed to do to have healthy hair.
Yet I still kept waiting for the bun length.
Realization is a beautiful thing!
By the time 2016 came around my hair was more than long enough for my buns.
I was so happy. I began working on different techniques to stretch my hair so that I could bun it or put it in these protective updos.
But the more I did this the less healthy my hair became. My hair tangled a lot, and began to break. I found myself trimming more than I wanted to. Basically I was doing more to my hair trying to get it into a protective style than I was wearing it in the easy wash and go hairstyle.
During this time I had already made it to bra strap length.
What was I doing? Why was I so determined to protective style the way that others in the natural hair community said I had to?
I began researching if it was possible to grow my hair to waist length wearing a wash and go. Sadly, I didn’t find much out there. Finally Amber, a Youtuber, was the first person I found that was consistently wearing wash and gos and achieving length.
Now my hair doesn’t look like hers. I have tight type 4 curls, which almost led me to believe that I couldn’t achieve my goals--like her.
If you’re thinking that let me be the one to tell you that is silly nonsense.
Eventually, I found LavishlyBritt, another Youtuber, but her hair looked like mine. She also has low porosity hair like mine. At the time our length was around the same. She primarily wore wash and gos. Definitely check her out if your hair is similar. Her older videos are her wash and go videos. Now she's more into mastering her braidouts.
Nevertheless, I just needed to see someone, whose hair looked like mine, successfully grow their hair using this style.
Once this happened I realized that all I had to do was look in the mirror. I was already working towards my goals, wearing primarily wash and gos before I convinced myself that I had to have stretched hair because “people” said so.
Accept & Learn from Setbacks
By the summer of 2018, I had achieved mid-back/waist-length hair. My hair for the most part was healthy, and I did it wearing my wash and gos. I even wore them in the winter, although wearing your hair out in the cold dry weather is frowned upon by some.
My hair is low density in the back and grows unevenly on my right side compared to my left so I had to cut it. My hair was now back at armpit-length. I was slightly heartbroken and went into “I must grow my hair back” mode.
Once again I found myself falling into the trap of I have to protective style. Thankfully I snapped out of it before I damaged my hair.
This time I fell right back into my regimen, and my hair is now past bra-strap length after two trims and a mini-cut for shape.
For this go around I have picked up a few strategies that have really made a difference with my hair. Now I wash every 5-7 days. I try my very best not to go past day 7, although my day 8 and 9 hair is fabulous.
When I wash my hair, I shampoo or use a rhassoul clay to cleanse my hair. I don’t cowash as much because getting any and all buildup off of my hair helps me deal with moisture retention.
I sit under the dryer to set my hair and then use the blow dryer on low heat to stretch it. Before I used to diffuse my hair to dry it, but this way involves less direct heat.
I don’t put as much product on my hair as I used to. Before, I believed that I had to LOC (liquid, oil, cream method) in order to retain moisture. But I’ve learned that all I really need is to deep condition really well, to use my leave-in conditioner at the right time--AKA still in the shower while my cuticles are still open (which is a low porosity hair tip)--and to use a styling gel that doesn’t dry out my hair.
Lastly, I don’t wear my hair down as much. I enjoy wearing my curls out, it’s basically my signature style. But when I’m home or on my way somewhere I keep my hair up in a ponytail or a bun. (That’s right my hair is long enough to wear in a bun in it’s wash and go state, which is a long way from where I was waiting to wear it in a bun while stretched.)
This is helping my hair in the back not to wear down as easily, which is meaningful because I already don’t have as many hair strands back there.
These small changes in my regimen are helping me to maintain healthy hair and retain length.
I no longer worry about whether or not I should wear twistouts to retain length or hide my hair under a wig. Each of these styles has its place in my styling repertoire, but I no longer feel as if I have to have them to grow my hair.
If you’re on a growth journey and don’t want to feel backed into the box of having to hide your hair just to retain length, then find a style that you can enjoy wearing and then use that to help you retain your length.
The key is to find what works for you and to use it to aid you in maintaining healthy hair. If your hair is healthy then you will see your length goals be achieved.
That’s Cynthia’s mindset on how to use the wash and go hairstyle to grow your natural hair!
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