If you’re anything like me, when taking some prescribed R&R on a sparsely populated island far from your daily grind, you transform into your most low maintenance self. I mean minimal to no make up, no heels or signature fashion, you just laze your days away comparing sunsets and eating well. When preparing for this kind of getaway, I like to ensure my hair stays equally effortless. As a natural, it’s all too tempting to chance a twist out at the beach, but if your hair is 4C like me, you were doomed by the humidity before the thought ‘lemmie try a vacation twist out’ had a chance to even form.
Also, while I’m relaxing, I just don’t want to be thinking about how much time I’ll need to factor in each morning to scrape my edges into a high puff once I succumb to the fact that my twist out isn’t going to work. Even less, I don’t want to consider the mental cognition at the end of each night I’ll need to retain in order to make sure I re-twist and moisturise before heading to bed. Not my idea of relaxing.
That’s why, for medium to long vacations abroad, I choose to keep it simple and put my hair in a protective style, for ease and to keep my sanity. There isn’t one beach holiday I’ve been on where, with the best of intentions, I haven’t gotten my hair wet. Whether in the pool or in the sea, I know myself and I know once the heat hits I’m going to want to take a dip. Chlorine and sea water are not a naturals best friends and I have zero intentions of doing damage control on my hair every evening while I’m away.
I’m confident I’m not the only one that feels this way and so I’ve put together my favourite easy maintenance protective styles for us natural travelnistas along with a few tricks for upkeep while we’re there.
This is a staple in any natural girl’s holiday hair catalogue and with good reason. Box braids give you the freedom to style your hair and mix it up while on vacation, without being excessively high maintenance. Yes, you will have to submit to the ten hour process of getting them installed, but what’s ten hours now to save yourself all that trouble later? If you’re lying on the beach all day you can leave them down, or go for a signature high bun if you’re off for a nice meal out. And let’s not forget that hair accessories are ‘in’ so you can add extra flair to any look you can come up with.
One caveat with box braids is that they do do create a lot of build up on the scalp especially if you get them wet and allow the water to reactivate and clump any product already in your hair. You’ll need to make sure you give your scalp a good rinse every time you leave the water to help combat this; otherwise, you’re good to wake up, shake and go!
Half cornrows/half braids
A slight twist on the full head of box braids, this style gets you out of the salon chair in half the time but offers all the wear-a-bility. You can also mix it up and get a braided ponytail for even less time spent. I prefer the box braids in the back, cornrows in the front option because I love to go snorkelling and this style allows me to get my goggles on with minimum fuss. With a full head of box braids I’ve found my goggles don’t sit as securely and let water in which is irritating when I’m on a mission to find Nemo.
With all braid styles, the longer you spend in the water, the more you shorten the life of the style. If you’re something of a water baby, prepare for frizzing. Oiling the braids will give some protection against this, so make sure you pack your favourite oil for some quick evening maintenance to ensure your braids last your trip, even with a vigorous water based activity schedule.
This style entered my hair repertoire earlier this year and shows no sign of leaving anytime soon. If you don’t know them by name, you’ll definitely have seen them in your Instagram feed throughout the summer. Think cornrows with really clean parts going all the way back. I love this style on holiday because it is easy to achieve in terms of time, but looks so chic and flawless when worn. This is another style you can spice up with some hair jewellery or even add colour to take it to the next level.
Stitch braids do tend to have a shorter shelf life when compared to box braids as they are braided quite. With expert maintenance you may push them to two weeks while abroad with minimal water exposure, but in all honesty, you’ll get a good week of wear out of them before having to take them out. Really great style for short breaks, but won’t fare well for medium to long holidays.
This is another favourite of mine as the install time is so minor but the end results are so great. Your options are endless, whether you’re feeling Marley twists or ten inches of straight yaki brushing your shoulders or a curly mop to glisten in the sun. As a bonus, you can even crochet in pre-plaited box braids so what’s not to love about this style?
Crochet braids are also incredibly long wearing if you go for braids/twists but even if you choose to go for a loose strand look, you can still last a fourteen night stay without much worry.
These are my top protective styles for any water based vay-cay and they’ve never let me down so far. Hopefully you find them just as useful on your next get away!