The less tension, the better.

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Protective styles are our hair's saving grace during harsh weather months. But like anything else, there is such a thing as overdoing it.

While braids and twists can shield our hair from the elements, doing back-to-back protective styles, especially if they're heavy or cause tension, can wreak havoc on your curls. As a result of this strain on your strands, you may start to notice thinning around your hairline (aka edges) after you take out the extensions, which means a break is well overdue.

But in order to avoid all of this in the first place, it's important to know how you can keep your edges protected while you have in a protective style. That's why we tapped curl specialist and Olaplex ambassador Christin Brown to find out more.

How Do I Prep My Hair Before Doing a Protective Style?

Considering that most people keep their protective styles in for about six to eight weeks, the most important thing to do is make sure the hair and scalp are thorough cleansed. You may also want to examine the scalp and check for any areas of thinning before moving forward.

If you notice any patches, it's best to skip out on the braids and go see a dermatologist to develop a treatment plan. But if you're in the clear, follow up by detangling the hair using a creamy conditioner, then doing a deep treatment. You can also visit your stylist to help prep your hair before going to a braider.

"I make sure to have my clients come in for the Olaplex Stand Alone Treatment to improve the strength and integrity of the hair before services," says Brown. "If we can do this one or two times before a protective style, it can truly support the hair."

What's the "Safer" Option For My Edges: Small Braids or Chunkier Styles?

According to Brown, there's no better or worse option in terms of the size of the braids themselves when it comes to protecting your hairline. What's most important is making sure your hair is not under too much strain for the next six to eight weeks.

That said, Brown advises being clear with your stylist that you'd like to keep the first three inches of your hair tension-free.

"A great tip that I give my clients is to leave the edges out completely," says Brown. "That way we're not placing them under excessive tension and instead just get creative with designs." If you prefer to keep the style looking slick, grab a jar of edge gel and slick down your baby hairs. Otherwise, leave them fluffy and free.

How to Protect Your Baby Hairs While You Have in a Protective Style
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle

What's the Best Protective Style Haircare Routine to Follow to Keep My Edges Protected?

When you have a protective style in, you'll want to make sure to use a diluted cleanser to keep the hair clean without creating buildup. We're fans of Carol's Daughter Wash Day Delight, both in terms of formula, and spout applicator.

Next, you'll want to make sure to use an oil or light leave-in on the roots to keep the hair and scalp nourished. In terms of your edges themselves, again, you'll want to make sure there's no tension around the hairline, but that doesn't mean you need to skimp out on styling. Simply grab your favorite edge control product and a clean, hard toothbrush. "[Just] make sure that it's beneficial for the hair and has great ingredients," says Brown.

We love Flawless by Gabrielle Union's Repairing Edge Tamer, which includes a blend of Brazilian bacuri butter, creatine, biotin, buriti oil, rice oil complex, and vitamin E to nourish hair and support healthy hair growth.

What Should I Keep in Mind As I Take My Protective Style Out?

"When removing braids, be easy on the hair," advises Brown. "Sometimes we think that we're being gentle on the hair when really we're trying to speed through the process as quickly as possible. This means taking your time and being patient during the process. I've found that using the Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil can be a helpful product when removing braids to add both slip as well as additional repair."

In other words, cancel your weekend plans and get ready to binge-watch all the Netflix series you've been putting off.

I'm Noticing a Lot of Shedding As I Take My Hair Out. Do I Need to See a Dermatologist?

Probably not, as shedding is completely normal and natural. However if you notice persistent shedding for weeks after your takedown, you may want to hit up the professionals.

"Since your hair hasn't been able to shed normally, when you take the braids down, you'll see all of the hairs release," Brown explains. "However, if the hair feels thinner or if you're experiencing excessive damage due to tension, it's best to take a break from braids altogether and immediately begin a strengthening routine like Olaplex No.0 Intensive Bond Building Treatment and No.3 Hair Perfector. When used together, they can provide 68% more repair with three times stronger hair . Also speak with your stylist on the best ways to repair and strengthen your hair in the between time."

But if you are noticing any bald spots, go see a dermatologist as soon as you can.

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.