It has long been agreed upon that regular low manipulation styling is one of the best things you can do for natural afro textured hair, particularly 4C hair. Though in the beginning, of your natural hair journey, it can feel like a bit of a chore to have to find ways to protect your delicate strands from the elements; for me it has actually become something of a creative outlet.
Besides braids, faux locks, crochet braids and the like, which are generally referred to as protective styles because they completely cover your strands, there are many ways that you can be creative to protect and ‘rest’ your hair from over-manipulation. Why is it important to protect your hair from time to time? Well, for one, the air around us can be quite harsh for our fragile highly textured strands, particularly in Johannesburg for instance, the air is extremely dry, and you can find yourself having to moisturize more than twice a week, which can be quite a schlep (to use a colloquial term). Secondly, afro textured hair is very fragile compared to other textures of hair, the fact that it stands up on edge like a halo, defying gravity, can give you the impression that it is very strong and ‘tough’, which is what I grew up having my hair called, however because our hair is so coily, there are so many potential breakage points on each strand, so actually the less we manipulate and style our hair the better. Lastly, let’s be honest, afro textured hair is not always a quick style-and-go (again, I’m speaking particularly to 4C here), it often takes a lot of fluffing, patting and spritzing to get our fro’ standing up and round just right, and who has time to do that every single day? The solution? Low manipulation styling!
What exactly are low manipulation styles, you ask? In short, it is any style that does not require you to manipulate your hair every day, or that requires the least amount of manipulation, such as buns, up dos, French braids, etc. Low manipulation styles are fun because, unlike protective styles, you can change them every week, or even every couple of days. Low manipulation styles are convenient because you can do them yourself, rather than having to go to a salon, and sit a couple of hours doing braids or faux locks. Lastly, low manipulation styles allow you to play around with different looks, even utilizing extensions, add-on buns, and clip-ins.
I first fell in love with doing vintage or ‘pin-up’ up do styles a couple of years ago. I would, and still do, look up ‘natural hair up do’ or ‘vintage pin up styles’ and figure out ways to adapt the styles to my natural hair, and to my taste. What I personally love is that I can keep a pin-up style, or a bun, for a couple of days, so I get to rock a classy look with minimum time. Also the time that it takes me to do these styles has significantly decreased with the years, because I am used to doing the styles, it really is just a wrap and pin, and within about 15 mins maximum, I am ready to go. The great thing is that it requires a whole less time spent moisturizing, when my hair has been in a low manipulation style. I could skip a week, and wash my hair on the second week from the last wash, if I have kept my hair predominantly in a low manipulation style, because my ends stay nice and moisturized when they are wrapped up and protected.
Afro textured hair has so many styling options, rather than look at it as ‘time consuming’ or ‘a chore’, embrace the many different shapes that your gorgeous hair can be molded into. Take the time to get to know your hair, and to know your face shape, what suits you, what doesn’t. Utilize the aids that have been developed to make the styling process even more fun, such as afro hair extensions, clip-ins, buns, etc. Remember that is your crown, your HAIRitage, play with it; you may surprise yourself at what you could mold it into. X