How to Prep Your Hair For Any Protective Hairstyles

Getty / Olga Rolenko

Summer is here (kinda) which only means one thing – protective hairstyle season! Don’t get me wrong, protective hairstyles are for all year round (who doesn’t love a winter weave or autumnal braids) but when summer comes around, there’s no greater joy than booking in a summer protective style, whatever it may be.

This year, I’ve opted for goddess braids, keeping in line with this year’s boho hairstyle trend, but before any protective hairstyle, there’s nothing more important than prep, and I say that from experience. After all, fail to prepare, prepare to fail, and we don’t want that for your summer look.

Instead, I’m sure you’ll want to ensure your protective style lasts the entirety of the holiday season, without it being at the expense of your natural hair. Keep reading for a list of key preparation tips, backed by a hair expert, to keep your hair look fresh and healthier than ever while rocking your braids, twists or extensions.

Experts Featured in This Article

Jennie Roberts is an Afro-textured hair educator, stylist and brand ambassador at SheaMoisture.

How to Prep Your Hair For Any Protective Hairstyle

Start with a deep cleanse

Before getting any protective hairstyle done, whether it’s braids or a weave, I love to have freshly washed hair and a clean scalp. I usually reach for a shampoo and conditioner duo that suits my hair needs, for example the Fable and Mane Volumising Shampoo and Conditioner Duo (£54, originally £60) softens and strengthens my thin natural hair, an ideal result ahead of a braided protective style.

Afro-textured hair expert Jennie Roberts adds that using a clarifying shampoo is key if you’re looking to achieve a deep cleanse. She tells PS UK: “For any braided hairstyle, it is important to begin with clean, detangled and moisturised hair.

“To start, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo, the SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo (£11) is a great option to remove any built-up dirt or oil without drying your hair, thanks to its sulphate-free formula. Always follow with a hydrating conditioner to improve manageability and detangle the hair so it’s prepped for braiding,” she says.

Use a hair mask

A mask is the perfect way to end your pre-protective style wash day routine because, depending on the mask you use, you’ll give your strands that extra boost of moisture, hydration, nourishment and more.

At the moment, the Adwoa Beauty Baomint Deep Conditioning Treatment (£40) has been my favourite for adding moisture and softening my curls, making the detangling stage much easier.

Always finish with a leave-in conditioner

Don’t write off your leave-in conditioner just yet. I too used to be sceptical about this product, until I discovered that it belongs in the protective hairstyle prep routine. Since I usually blow dry my hair before a protective style (a personal preference), I use the African Pride Olive Miracle Anti-Breakage Leave-In Conditioner (£8) along with a heat protectant to keep my curls soft and to avoid any snags when detangling. The heat protectant is a no-brainer.

Roberts says: “Always finish with a leave-in conditioner to moisturise your hair and ensure it’s protected whilst the braids are in; my current favourite is the new SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Leave-in Conditioner (£12) for intense hydration from its ultra-nourishing formula, packed with antioxidant-rich fig extract and a blend of Mafura and Baobab Oils.”

If needed, book in a pre-style trim

Now that you’re ready to head to the salon, check your ends and see if you’ll need to trim (or if you’re as clueless as me, ask your hairdresser to check for you). Trimming your ends will help to minimise breakage and reduce shedding when it comes to taking your protective style down. Healthier ends should also keep your style fresher for longer.

Lauren Gordon is the editorial coordinator at PS UK, where she creates lifestyle and identity content. Lauren has a degree in journalism from University of the Arts London and previously worked as a showbiz and TV reporter at The Mirror US. Lauren specialises in pop culture, hair and beauty, focusing on trends, sharing in-depth tutorials, and highlighting hidden gems in the beauty industry.

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