My favourite protective styles for natural hair

Protective styling is great all year round, but particularly during these cold winter months it is even more beneficial to opt for a protective style. So in honour of protective style season, I decided to share with you my favourite styles and some of the pros and cons of each. I love each of these styles for their own reasons, so let’s dive in!

Passion twists 

I discovered passion twists recently and they are so ridiculously cute. I did shoulder length passion twists myself, but I will definitely be trying longer twists in the future. This style is great because you have access to your hair, as in you can still moisturize your hair while it is in the twists. However, I found that passion twists don’t last very long. The type of hair used for this style is very silky, and you will notice that your natural hair will start to poke through the twists very quickly. The hair also gets very frizzy and tangly with itself, so I’m not sure if I would recommend washing the hair. I haven’t tried it personally, but I would be very careful if you do.

For me this style only lasted about 3 weeks. I think moving forward I would try this style again in a crochet version. So instead of twisting my natural hair with the synthetic hair, I would crochet pre-twisted pieces onto cornrows. I’ve heard that this version will last a lot longer and it would also take less time to install. All in all, passions twists are a great option if you are looking for a fun new hairstyle to try, but don’t expect them to last very long!

Weaves 

I feel like weaves get a bad rep sometimes, but I’m still a fan. When I wear weaves, I always wear it with a closure – I no longer do leave-outs! This protective style is fantastic, because your hair is completely covered up by the weave and it’s nicely tucked away in cornrows. Where weaves lose some points is that there is no access to your hair with this style. You’re not able to properly moisturize or really wash your hair with a weave. For that reason I don’t wear weaves for longer than 3-4 weeks at a time.

However, weaves are lots of fun because they allow you to try hairstyles or colours that you may not want to try on your own natural hair. For example, I don’t like to apply heat to my hair (I have been traumatized by severe heat damage). So if I would like to switch things up with a straight hairstyle, I can achieve that look with a weave – with no manipulation to my natural hair required. Overall weaves are a good option if you’re looking to try a new hair style and you plan to keep it in for less than 1 month.

Mini Twists 

Mini twists are super cute and also very convenient, because it doesn’t require any additional weave or braiding hair. I like to do this style right after washing my hair on my wash day. I will sit down with my leave in conditioner and Shea butter, and simply twist my hair in tiny sections. This does take about 2-3 hours to complete, but it’s worth it! With this style you can easily moisturize and shampoo your hair, as there are no extensions or braids getting in the way. To make this style even more protective, you can place your twists into a bun and only take it down when you are moisturizing or shampooing.

I typically only leave this style in for 2-3 weeks at a time. You could leave them in longer, but my hair starts to lock around the 3 week mark. If you leave these twists in for too long, your hair will begin to lock and then you will be fighting with your hair during the take down. So to avoid the hassle, I only keep this style in for 2-3 weeks. I will take them down, wash my hair and re-twist. Then repeat every 2-3 weeks. This is a great routine to try if you’re looking to grow your hair and you do not want to pay for braiding hair or weaves! Also on a side note, I have never tried mini braids, but it is pretty much the same concept and I believe they would last much longer.

Wigs 

I purchased my first wig this past summer and let me tell you, wigs are a game changer. Honestly, most of the credit goes towards the cornrows. When you’re wearing wigs you will have your hair in cornrows underneath your wig cap and your hair can be tucked away like this for MONTHS. Anywhere between 1-3 months is more than acceptable for cornrows. Wigs and weaves are quite similar in this aspect, but remember weaves are sewn down to your cornrows and there is limited access to your natural hair for shampooing and moisturizing. Unlike weaves, I can take the wig off at the end of the day, or even do a completely different hairstyle with my cornrows. There is lots of versatility and flexibility with wigs and your cornrows. And of course, you can moisturize and wash your hair in the cornrows at any time. This is hands down one of the best protective styles for long term protective styling.

However, let me caution you. When you first discover how to blend your lace front wig with glue you will feel like THAT girl. Yet, constantly installing your wigs with glue may cause damage to your hairline if you are not careful. If you are using glue, please don’t apply it to your actual edges, always apply it slightly in front of your hairline to limit breakage. The only other downside about wigs, is that you can’t simply get up and go in the morning (unless you’re sleeping with the wig glued down). Often times I would have to worry about fixing my wig before leaving the house, whereas styles such as passion twists or box braids require zero to minimal styling. But again, if you’re not glueing the wig down then this isn’t too bad. Either wear a closure wig – not a frontal wig – or pop on a headband real quick and you’re good to go! 

Box Braids 

Let’s just say if I could only choose one protective style for the rest of my life, it would have to be box braids! I think I first began wearing box braids when I was in grade 7. Ever since then she’s been my number one protective style. I have learned how to braid my own hair which makes this style even more convenient for me. It can take me anywhere between 9-24 hours to braid my own hair, depending on the length, style and my mood. However, box braids can last MANY months. Once upon a time, I even had box braids in for 4 months straight! Now this may not work for everybody, but I do believe that you can keep your hair healthy while keeping it in box braids for 2, 3, or even 4 months at a time. A simple hair regimen that you could follow is to wash your hair once a month and moisturize your hair at least once or twice a week. If you simply follow those two steps your hair should be just fine. Our hair flourishes the best when we leave it alone. I will do a separate post in the future about washing and moisturizing your hair while it’s in box braids, as I’m just about due for a wash day myself.

Anyways, this style hits all the major points – access to your natural hair, very long lasting, no styling required and your hair is fully protected. The only con to box braids that I could think of occurs when they are installed incorrectly. If your braids are too tight around your hairline, or if you have a large heavy braid attached to a tiny section of hair, that would be a recipe for breakage. I like to keep my sections medium sized, and I don’t braid them tight at all. As long as your braids aren’t too tight or too big, this style is definitely an optimal choice!

Final Thoughts

These 5 protective styles are each wonderful in their own way. I love being able to try new hairstyles, while protecting my natural hair at the same time. There are still so many styles that I have yet to try such as mini braids, flat twist up-dos, faux locs and more. Maybe I will do a part 2 in the future featuring new protective styles that I have tried throughout this year!

Let me know which protective styles are your favourite or which style you are excited to try. Take care and happy protective styling!

Top 10 reasons why your natural hair isn’t growing

Picture this. You’ve been growing your hair out for over 2 years. You stay up to date with hair care trends, you have a regimen and you’re the queen of protective styling. Yet when you perform a length check at the end of the year, you notice that your hair has only grown 1-2 inches, or even worse, none at all! If you’ve been in this situation, you know that this can be frustrating and super discouraging. But I’m going to share with you some of the main reasons why you may not be seeing hair growth and hopefully this will help you turn things around!

**Before I dive in, it’s important to remember that our hair strands are always growing. You don’t necessarily need hair growth pills, extreme scalp stimulation, or fancy products to make your hair grow faster – it will grow on its own, I promise you. More importantly, it is what you do – or don’t do – to your hair that will allow you to retain the length and actually see the growth.

  1. You are over manipulating your hair

You are touching your hair way too often! It is very easy to over manipulate your hair and this may be causing severe breakage for you. Some of the major areas of over manipulation can include – combing your hair with a fine tooth comb, combing too often, applying heat, switching hair styles every week, and being too rough with your hair when detangling (keep a lookout for a separate post on proper detangling). A new perspective that has helped me when I’m styling my hair is to think of it like this, every interaction with your hair is an opportunity for breakage.  Even if you feel that you are minimally touching your hair or combing it with a wide tooth comb, those manipulations will add up over time. Eventually your hair strands won’t be able to handle the manipulation and they will break off. It is best to tuck away your hair and leave her alone!

2. Exposing your ends

Now I personally struggle with this one, because I love a good twist out or braid out. Unfortunately, these styles will leave your ends out and exposed to the elements, proving more opportunities for breakage . From personal experience, I know that I can’t do too many hair styles with my ends exposed, or else they will become very dry and more likely to break off. Also, wearing a twist out throughout the week, requires lots of manipulation. Whether you are re-twisting every night or putting your hair up into a puff, it often requires daily manipulation, which is never good. So as a compromise, I leave my twist outs and braids outs for special occasions such as Christmas or a graduation photo.

3. Incorrect protective styling 

Trust me when I say that I am the queen of box braids (as you can see, box braid bobs are a vibe). I even have box braids in right now! Many of us believe that box braids and other protective styles are the key to hair growth. While this holds some truth, protective styles can do more damage than good if you are protective styling incorrectly. If you are unfamiliar, a protective style is any style that has your ends tucked away for many weeks at at time. This can include box braids, wigs, up dos, mini twists and more. Where many people go wrong is improperly taking down their protective styles. I’ll say it again for the people in the back – you are incorrectly taking down your protective styles! If you wore box braids for 3 months straight, you cannot simply dive in and start unbraiding your hair. Please do not do this! It is imperative to apply moisture to your hair before taking it down. Applying water, a good leave in conditioner, or oil to your braids before taking them down will do wonders, and this applies to any protective style. You will experience less breakage if your hair is moisturized and has some slip to it while you are taking it down. Also, protective styling isn’t a free pass to stop caring for your hair. You still need to wash your hair, deep condition, and moisturize regularly. Otherwise no matter how careful you are during the take down, your hair may be damaged from months of neglect.

4. Lack of moisture

Moisturizing your hair is non-negotiable if you would like long healthy hair. If your curls are anything like mine, you may feel like your hair is constantly dry. However, once you find the right products for your hair, you will find that it is not so hard to manage. Moisturizing your hair should always start begin with water. Water is in fact the moisture, and everything that you apply afterwards will help to keep that moisture locked into your strands. When I moisturize my hair I like to start by spraying my hair with water to hydrate my strands. Next, I will apply a simple leave in conditioner to help soften my strands and add even more moisture. Then to seal it all in, I like to use thick Shea butter or castor oil. I do my best to repeat these steps every 2-3 days. This is what works best for my hair, but you may find that your hair likes olive oil or jojoba oil as a sealant for example. It takes some time to figure out which products work best for your hair, but once you find your staples you will be good to go!

5. Consistency is key 

If you take nothing else from this post, please remember that consistency is key. Once you have your set products, and a realistic hair regimen that you can follow, you must stick to it! You won’t achieve your goals if you are not consistent with your hair care regimen. With anything in life, it takes dedication and consistency to see results. Growing long healthy hair isn’t something that will be achieved over night, so stick with your regimen and over time you will see a difference. You can also try to set reminders to moisturize your hair at night or add your wash days to your schedule for the month, to ensure that you have time set aside to do your hair.

6. Sleeping without a satin scarf 

I never used to believe that sleeping with a satin scarf would make a difference, but now when I don’t sleep with my satin scarf I immediately regret it. My strands will feel and look much drier compared to when I use my satin scarf. Sleeping with a satin scarf or bonnet will eliminate the friction between your hair and your cotton pillow case. This will allow your hair to hold onto it’s moisture and limit the opportunity for breakage! To take it one step further, you can also sleep on a satin pillow case. This way if your scarf or bonnet falls off in the middle of the night, your hair will still be protected. Also if you’re not leaving your house, I recommend wearing your bonnet or scarf around the house too, it will only keep your strands even more protected.

7. Skipping trims

I am firm believer in trimming your hair. There is no need to hang on to damaged ends, trust me, it will only do more harm in the long run. I know that it can be daunting to cut your hair when you are on a growth journey, but healthy hair > long hair any day. I personally aim to trim my hair about 3 times a year and I trim about 1/2 inch at a time. However, your trimming routine may look different depending your needs. Generally, if you are taking great care of your hair, then you shouldn’t need to trim your hair very often, but you need to find a balance. If you trim your hair too often, then you won’t see much hair growth. On the other hand, if you are not trimming your hair often enough, your hair will be damaged and you will be dealing with breakage and thin stringy ends. I would say that anywhere between 2-3 times a year is a good place to start, only trim what’s necessary, but be sure that you letting those damaged ends GO!

8. You are not tracking your hair growth journey 

If you don’t take photos, record your hair measurements or create videos, how are you going to know if your hair is growing? You cannot gauge hair growth by simply looking at it and imaging what it looked like 2 years prior. I guarantee you, it will almost always look like your hair isn’t growing. When I began to look back at photos from 2015, I discovered that my hair growth was *astronomical*. I can clearly see that the volume of my hair is so much greater now. This is why photos and documenting your hair measurements is so important. For our hair texture you won’t see the growth like someone with straight hair would see their growth. Our hair will grow outwards and increase in volume, more so than it will grow in a downwards motion. A whole year can go by and your afro may look like it’s hitting the same spot, but if you stretch your hair out to see the length, or compare the volume of your hair, you may actually see a noticeable difference!  

9. You are what you eat

I love my food, including all of the unhealthy foods! However, we all know that a healthy balanced diet will promote healthier hair, skin and nails too. A balanced diet that is comprised with essential nutrients and vitamins, will provide your body with the necessary building blocks to build healthy hair strands. If your diet only consists of junk food, desserts and sugary drinks, you will be deficient in these essential nutrients. As a result, those important building blocks will be missing, and your body won’t have the resources to build healthy hair. With that being said, don’t feel like you have to go on a strict diet, or that you need to give up cake (believe me, I could never). You just want to be conscious of the foods that you eat on a daily basis, and be sure that your body is receiving all of the essential nutrients. If you are unsure about your diet, reach out to your family doctor or a nutritionist for more guidance. Also do not forget to drink water! If your body is dying for water on the inside, how do you think your body is going to look on the outside? You can apply leave in conditioner on your strands every week, but if your body is lacking the moisture from within, you will constantly be battling with dryness.

10. Unrealistic goals & comparing yourself to others 

My last reason speaks to a greater issue that we all face in this society. With social media and YouTube it’s easy to compare yourself to others and wonder why your hair growth isn’t like hers, or why your curls don’t pop like his. If you are struggling with this, trust me I’ve been there. You must realize the importance of setting realistic goals for yourself. On average the hair grows 1/2 inch a month. However, my hair may grow slower and yours may grow twice as fast. Remember, genetics play a huge role in how fast your hair grows and also the strength of your hair strands . One person may have thick hair strands and they can withstand lots of manipulation. But perhaps your strands are very fine and are prone to breakage. Another person may have looser curls and their hair may always appear longer. Or maybe you’ve been blessed with 4c curls and you don’t see your length as easily due to shrinkage. You have to reflect on your hair type and set realistic expectations and goals for yourself. For example, I have a 4b-4c hair texture that is extremely dry and prone to breakage. It would be unrealistic for me to say, I want to have waist length hair, that flows down my back when I do a twist out in 12 months. One, my hair is not designed to flow down my back and two, my hair does not grow that fast! So please reflect on your hair and set goals that are realistic for you. If you do enjoy watching other people’s videos or following someone’s blog, look for people who have a similar hair texture as yours. It can be beneficial to learn from someone who has similar curls and experiences the same struggles as you. 

I hope you were able to learn something from my post, or perhaps it was a quick refresher on how to grow your natural hair. This was lots of fun to write and I’m excited to share more posts with you all. Look out for future posts on box braids, my hair regimen, detangling and more!

Welcome to Uniquely Curled

If you had told me 12 months ago that I would be creating a blog at the start of 2021 I would say – you must have me confused with somebody else! However, 2020 has taught me just how easily your plans can change and sometimes it’s for the better. I’m starting this blog because I have always aspired to start my own personal project and I have finally decided to take this first step. Throughout this blog I will share my personal natural hair journey, while providing tips and knowledge along the way! My goal is inspire others to love their hair and to create a community filled with inspiration, support and appreciation for natural hair!

A Little Bit About Myself

My name is Alexandria and I currently live in Toronto, Canada. I recently completed my undergraduate studies and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. While I have always loved science and health research, I have a unique love for my natural hair. I wasn’t quite sure which area of my life that I wanted to share with you all, but the more I thought about it, only a natural hair blog would make sense!

I have been natural for over 7 years now and anyone who knows me, knows that I take pride in taking care of my hair. When I first went natural, I remember being so excited to try new hairstyles, test out the recommended hair products and of course, I was most excited about growing long natural hair. However, over these past 7 years I have learned that growing my natural hair is much harder than I could have possibly imagined.

For many of us with a type 4b-4c hair texture, our hair strands are very fragile and extremely prone to breakage. As you can see, my hair isn’t exactly flowing down my back as I had imagined it would be by now. This is due to my persistent struggle with breakage that is preventing me from attaining my hair goals (as well as unrealistic hair growth expectations!) However, a new year comes with the opportunity to create new goals, and I plan to finally achieve my length retention and healthy hair goals moving forward.

Throughout my personal hair growth journey, I hope to share with you all my hair care advice, struggles and successes. I’m looking forward to growing this year in all aspects of my life, from my hair to my career to my mental health. 2021 will be the year of growth. Speak it into existence!

I have so much that I would like to talk about and I am honestly getting tired of sharing my thoughts to only myself. I’m very excited to share this journey with you all. If I can teach someone something new about their hair, or provide inspiration and confidence to someone, then I will be more than happy! To all of my ladies with natural hair, remember that each and every one of your strands are uniquely curled and I hope that I can show you all the beauty in our curls.