How to Properly Take Down Protective Styles |

How to Properly Take Down Protective Styles

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Wearing minitwists, weaves, braids, or twists with extensions can be a great way to protect your natural hair from the elements, or just to give your triceps a break from doing your hair. But after wearing these styles for over a month, especially if you wash your hair while in the protective style, the takedown process can be a nightmare. Here’s how to take down long-term protective styles without losing all your hair:

Set Aside Time

The biggest mistake you can make before taking down a protective style is having somewhere to go. It ALWAYS takes much longer than expected, and failing to set aside adequate time to undo, detangle, repair, and style your hair will result in you attacking your poor strands with a comb, which will leave you with way more hair on the floor than necessary. Get yourself a movie or two, pick a Netflix marathon, or even invite a girlfriend to help the time go faster!

Arm Yourself

You’re going to need more than a rat-tail comb to take down your protective style. Gather a liquid based leave-in conditioner or detangling product — or make a quick and cheaper mix of 2 parts water, 1 part any conditioner, and a few drops or tablespoons of an oil (depending on the bottle size) — to spray on your scalp, strands, and fingers to ease the takedown and detangling process. You’ll also need clips or hair ties to section off your hair, as well as a wide-toothed comb if you desire.

[OPTIONAL: Get More Life Out of the Style]

If you know you need to take your hair down, but don’t have the time to do a good job, consider going a few more days by switching up your do. If you’re wearing minitwists, do a mini twistout and then turn it into an updo. For braids or senegalese twists, consider cutting the hair into a style, like the cute bob above from a set of Senegalese twists I had done in early 2012. For Havana twists, check out my style secrets for a havana twistout:

Havana Twistout - How to Properly Take Down Protective Styles |
How I Achieved My Havana Twistout

So I stumbled upon this style purely by accident. I had worn my Havana twists for about 6 weeks and wanted a different hairstyle for my birthday. Dreading the wash day process looming ahead, I hunkered down with all my protective style takedown tools, and got ready to go to work. After untwisting the first twist halfway, I noticed that the Havana hair was incredibly defined from being twisted up for so long. Rather than untwist all the way, I started untwisting each twist about 3/4 of the way up. Some threatened to come fully undone, so I strategically bobby-pinned any misbehaving twists together with my own hair to the base of my scalp. The result was this huge fluffy but defined Havana twist out! I thought this style would be a fantastic way to get an extra week out of what was already my favorite protective style, but unfortunately I could only wear it for a day, maybe two. After pineappling my twistout, I woke up with more than a few pieces of Havana hair threatening to shame me in public. If I had bobby pinned each twist, then I could’ve been able to go a few more days with it, but I didn’t feel like going back and securing over half of the twists. Regardless, this was a great way to extend the life of my twists until I was mentally prepared and had adequate time to properly take down my hair.

Detangle As You Go

This is probably the most crucial step to ensure that you retain any potential length you gained while wearing the protective style, without succumbing to the tangled mess that shed hair can create. Detangle each braid/twist/cornrow as you undo them with your fingers, by first loosening any buildup at the root, and then carefully separating your moistened strands with your fingers BEFORE using a wide-toothed comb if you want. Having a greater amount of hair come out than usual during the take down process is normal, because there will be shed hair trapped in your twists/braids, but if there is more hair than twice as normal (depending on how often you normally detangle and how long the style remained), take caution! Twist or braid up your loose, detangled hair after several pieces to prevent more tangling.

Evaluate Your Hair Needs

Depending on how your hair and scalp feel after taking down your protective style, assess what conditioning treatment will help return your hair to greatness. If your strands are dry or your hair is breaking or snapping (you know it’s breaking versus shedding because you’ll see the bulb), deep condition with a moisture-rich penetrating hair mask such as the Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Mask or Elasta QP Deep Penetrating Conditioner. If your hair feels limp and stretchy, use a protein-based conditioning treatment like Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayo or Aphogee Treatment for Damaged Hair. If your scalp is itchy, flaky, or dry, apply a mix of jojoba oil with a few drops of tea tree oil to your scalp and either cover for a hot oil treatment, or just let it sit on your hair while in a steamy shower. If your edges seem to be suffering, massage castor oil after washing to encourage repair and growth.

Wash and Style

You should not wash your hair after wearing box braids for 6 weeks and then head back to the salon! Give your hair a chance to breathe, for at least two weeks, before installing another long-term protective style. You can opt for short-term protective styling like medium sized twists using your own hair, or loose hair updos that protect your ends while allowing your hair to breathe.

What tricks, tips, and products do you use to replenish and restrengthen your hair after wearing braids, twists, or weaves for an extended amount of time?

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  1. Hi. Love your page. Thanks for all the good insight. I have a hair emergency. Did u think u could offer some advice on Senegalese being left in too long. Two months. But very small on very fine hair. Almost looks like dreads at the root. I think it’s more from slippage than growth. But there are balls of lint mixed with hair I don’t know what to do to get them out.

    1. Hey hon! I’d go to a professional natural hair stylist and just be prepared to be there a while! It’ll likely take time and patience but I’d trust a stylist over myself or a friend not to rip all my hair out

  2. Hello. So I have been transitioning for 8months now. Carrying a protective style( faux locks) for 3 months now. I am about to loose it, but I am scared I might loose a lot of hair especially from the root cos of the amount of products basically oils I have put .. how do I detangle my hair without causing it to remove from the root ??

    1. It’s not only product that’s built up at the root but shed hairs, so your best option is to saturate it with conditioner and use the end of a rat tail comb and your fingers to try and separate out the roots. But it is natural to lose some hair after taking down a protective style because all the hair you shed over the past 3 months had nowhere to go. Good luck!

  3. I have just taken down my kinky twists. I had them in for 4 months. Been natural with the big chop since 09/2014. What tyoe of leave in conditioner would yiu recommend for hair type 4C?

  4. Hi! How long should i keep my tiny senegalise twits.been having them for since september..and how should i do or be carefully with when takin them out? Love your advices

    1. I don’t think anyone should keep any protective style in for more than two months. Your best bet is to take your TIME taking them down and detangle with your fingers before washing

  5. I definitely do a protein strengthen treatment. I tried Apogee but didn’t like it. I’m using Mille organic deep treatment and love it.

    1. 2 part coconut oil 1 part raw honey. Completely natural strengthening and conditioning mask. Apply to clean towel damp hair. Allow for 20 min then rinse 80-90% out. Love and style.

  6. I’ve heard you should wait to wash hair after taking out twists that have been in for a while. How long should I wait and is just the deep condition enough?

    1. I haven’t heard this advice. The only thing you should wait for in my opinion is time to properly detangle

  7. can i just say you are soooo cute!!! especially with the havana twist out, great mistake 😉 rock that smile, pretty. Can’t wait to try!

  8. How Exactly do you maintain moisture CORRECTLY while in protective styles? I just took down my box braids and deep conditioned and the whole 9 my hair just doesn’t feel the same and I’m sad I think ill try a protein treatment

    1. I spray a mix of water, conditioner, and oil (aka leave in conditioner) on my braids/twists every day or every other day, and then sometimes take a shea based product, melt it in my hands and kind of pat the braids/twists down where my hair is. I also massage my scalp with oils to keep it nice and lubricated. Protein treatments after protective styles are helpful too!

  9. i have relaxed hair which i protective style by plaiting it up fine for up to one month. when i pull it out it feels very thick healthy and it looks very good but the breakage is heavy and .. sigh… very disheartening… please advise me on what to do. my hair is nearly mid back length and i’m trying to get it past this ‘growth plateau’ but its getting so much harder with this happening… any adivce?

    1. First, you have to make sure what you’re seeing is breakage – it could very well be shed hair which is natural. If a hair is broken, it tears in the middle. If it is shed, it comes out from the root. Shed hairs are often longer. In terms of your growth plateau, I honestly can’t make any educated recommendations since I’m not as in tune with relaxed hair care, but you can try optimizing your scalp and ends health by keeping the scalp clean and moisturized and the ends nourished; that may encourage less breakage and more growth.

  10. I like to do a good DC treatment with the steamer after taking down a protective style. I usually keep my hair well moisturized for the length of time that I have it in so it’s never super dry. That’s key to having an easy take-down. Like you said, I always give my hair a break in between protective styles. After these Marleys, I’m gonna enjoy my fro for about a week then move on to an easy protective style like cornrows w/a roll n tuck situation.

    1. A steamer is seriously lacking in my hair care routine. But you’re right about the importance of maintaining moisture while the style is in, that helps a lot as well!