How to wash the latest protective styles

From braids to faux locs, follow our comprehensive guide of hair-changing tips to ensure that your protective style goes the distance.

Hair & Beauty

If you’re a regular Spell reader you’ll know how much we adore protective styles. Cue this month’s front cover! From the versatility they provide to the practicality wearing them affords as we go about our busy lives; box braids, faux locs and single braids et al are undoubtedly some of our favourite summer styles.

But tucking your hair away into a protective style doesn’t mean you should completely abandon haircare. Washing is a crucial part to maintaining the look (especially if you’ve invested in extensions) and your own hair’s health. If you intend to keep your braids and crochet styles installed between four to eight weeks, then you must keep them clean and allow the scalp to breathe. Product build-up is inevitable and if left unchecked will sit on the scalp causing issues like itching and dandruff. The clogging of pores and dirt sitting on the strands can even lead to hair loss during take-out.

With this in mind, here are our top tips on how to wash your protective style to keep your hair fresh without causing it to unravel...

Let's start with braids

Synthetic braids can actually extract moisture from your own hair. How? When your scalp secretes oil, it travels down the hair shaft. But when the hair is braided and intertwined with extensions, the synthetic hair can sap moisture from the oil – preventing it from reaching the rest of your hair. To get around this issue, use a gentle sulphate-free cleanser and add a little extra to the tips to eliminate further drying and tangling.

One of the reasons many women refrain from washing their braids is because it takes too long. Spell ambassador Beulah Davina says it can take up to six hours for her box braids to completely dry. For this reason, installing X-Pression Ruwa will make life easier. Designed for frequent washing and watersports, its hydrophobic coating naturally repels moisture, cutting down drying time. Part your braids into different sections and cleanse one at a time as being methodical will speed up the entire wash day process.

Passion Twists
Urban Twist Passion Twist £5.99 per pack

Passion twists

Washing passion twists is one of the only tricky parts to wearing this style. If you wash them as you’d usually wash your own hair or even a weave, you run the risk of disrupting the texture and causing irreversible frizz. Some people don’t wash their hair while they’re wearing crochet (the standard method for installing passion twists), and you can probably get away with this if you don’t leave them in for too long and clarify your hair beforehand. To make a cocktail co-wash combine four parts water, two parts sulphate-free co-wash and a detoxifying oil like tea tree. Spray this directly onto the scalp and lengths of the twists and gently rinse off with warm water.

Spell says

The key to the approach above is focusing your attention on your scalp rather than the extensions. Before you begin, divide your twists into at least four sections to make washing easier. Secure with hair bands or hair claw clamp clips before using your fingers to massage the scalp, applying gentle downward strokes along the lengths to get the twists clean.

Spring twists
Urban Twist Spring Twist from £4.59 per pack

Spring twists

The same approach to washing passions can be applied to spring twists as the two styles are quite similar. When it comes to drying, let the hair dry naturally to prevent your crochet extensions from losing their form and drying out. Using your hands, remove any excess water from the hair and pat down gently with a microfibre towel. To finish, use a moisturising leave-in conditioner or a braid spray. If you decide to use a hairdryer, choose a lower heat setting to allow for a more controlled distribution of styling device. Aways use a heat spray before applying any type of heat as this will help prevent your hair and braided extensions from drying out. Compared to passion twists, spring twists have a more crimped, slightly coarse texture. This can loosen and become weighed down when the hair becomes wet. To compensate, opt for roller sets and flexi rods to give the hair shape and volume.

Micro locs
Urban Locs Micro Locs in colour 1, length 18” £11.99 per pack

Faux locs

This popular boho style comes in many guises. From butterfly locs to micro locs, all patterns should be handled with care when it comes to shampooing. Rigorous washing will cause the style to unravel - and in the worst case scenario, lead to matting and tangles.

Dionne Smith
Dionne Smith

Award-winning hairstylist and avid faux loc wearer Dionne Smith has the following care advice: “I wear faux locs and I don’t wash them as often as other protective styles. If you plan to wear them for over four weeks you will get build-up. Use apple cider vinegar – this is an astringent to clear away dirt. Then go in with a moisturising shampoo and let the water run through the hair.”

Spell says

For convenience and comfort, it’s best to wash faux locs in the shower. Let the water from the shower head run through the strands and carry the shampoo through from the root to tip. This will help keep the loc intact. If you don’t have a shower, use a jug over the bath to pour water along the lengths of your hair for a thorough wash. It’s always best to squeeze and pat dry locs with a microfibre towel to eliminate frizz.

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