Read­er Tasha says;

When I went nat­ur­al three years ago I was of the belief that the only way I could retain length was bind­ing my hair in pro­tec­tive styles. I would put in dozens of twists every few weeks, only to deal with painful “take down” ses­sions, wrought with tan­gles, mat­ting and hair balls. After try­ing pro­tec­tive styles for a cou­ple years, and see­ing no length dif­fer­ence in my hair, I defeat­ed­ly turned to wash and go’s. I actu­al­ly start­ed doing them because I thought I was one of those nat­u­rals whose hair just wouldn’t grow, so I was going for a cute shrunk­en look. Imag­ine how shocked I was when, after a week of wash and go’s, I saw vis­i­ble growth in my hair. Since then I have ditched wash and go’s (the length reten­tion was great, but the tan­gling was atro­cious) BUT I do keep my hair in loose or out styles. My main ones are;

  • 1. Hair put in a hor­i­zon­tal banana clip at the back of my head then pinned under (inspired by Kim­may­Tube)
  • 2. Apply­ing a good but­ter, for exam­ple Oyin Whipped Pud­ding or Karen’s Body Beau­ti­ful But­ter Love, to dry stretched hair, and let­ting it set. The but­ter pro­vides enough coil def­i­n­i­tion that the strands don’t tan­gle on them­selves.
  • 3. Apply­ing a good but­ter applied to dry stretched hair, putting in 7 to 9 fat twists, gen­tly pulling twists apart after an hour and fluff­ing for a low-def­i­n­i­tion twist out.

Also, I don’t braid or twist my hair at night. I leave it out and just put a satin cap over it. It actu­al­ly responds BETTER than when I used to braid and twist it.

Now, none of these styles (save, maybe the first one) are defined as “pro­tec­tive”, but my hair has been grow­ing like crazy! And I feel like I can’t be the only one!

I’ve also been notic­ing more “nat­ur­al hair idols” on blogs and YouTube who aren’t aggres­sive pro­tec­tive stylers. As for me, I just had to real­ize that break­age is the rea­son my hair doesn’t retain length… and so long as my hair isn’t break­ing, then I’m good.

I’m hes­i­tant to say that this will work for every­one… but I am curi­ous to see if there’s any­one else out there with a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence to mine. Are you expe­ri­enc­ing length reten­tion with­out the use of heavy pro­tec­tive styling?

Inter­est­ing! What are your thoughts! Has this approach worked for you?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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122 Comments on "Length Retention without Protective Styling?"

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Yes you can achieve length reten­tion with­out pro­tec­tive styling.
Hon­est­ly, peo­ple need to cater to their hair needs and lifestyle. I’m qui­et lazy and love twsists, updos, twist­ed bangs, twist­ed fro hawks etc. I have a busy col­lege life so I need a style that will last and low manip­u­la­tion.

mind­ing my pro­tein and mois­ture bal­ance, and doing low manip­u­la­tion pro­tec­tive styles, updos/bigger braids and twists has helped me retain length. I have seri­ous hand in hair syn­drome so pro­tec­tive styles are a must. I have col­lar bone length hair after a year and ten months. My hair would have been even longer if I did these pro­tec­tive styles dur­ing the first year. I think that even when my hair reach­es my ulti­mate goal, (col­lar bone length when shrunk­en and not stretched down by hand) I will still wear my hair in a pro­tec­tive style about half or three days a week… Read more »
Earthy Natural

Just want­ed to agree w/ the sleep­ing rou­tine since I don’t go through the trou­ble of braid­ing or twist­ing my hair at night either and I’m hav­ing nice progress too. I just put a satin scarf and bon­net on and it is lights out!

I haven’t done pro­tec­tive styling, but my hair’s grown almost 6 inch­es since this sum­mer. I con­stant­ly wore it in twist outs from week to week, but didn’t retwist at night. I only retwist­ed dur­ing my once a week wash day. I also didn’t mois­tur­ize every day…just once a week on wash day and my hair retained the mois­ture. This past week, I blow dried it so I’m sport­ing the dry braid out for anoth­er week. Ini­tial­ly, I was retwist­ing and mois­tur­iz­ing every sin­gle night, but I got sick of it and my hair wasn’t enjoy­ing it either. Now that… Read more »
“I con­stant­ly wore it in twist outs from week to week, but didn’t retwist at night. I only retwist­ed dur­ing my once a week wash day. I also didn’t mois­tur­ize every day…just once a week on wash day and my hair retained the mois­ture.” Thia is my reg­i­men except I do braid outs. I fin­ger detan­gle, wash, mois­tur­ize and style once I week. I don’t rebraid or mois­tur­ize nightly–I just put my hair in a bon­net or tie it up with a scarf. My hair retains mois­ture and length just fine. The key to length reten­tion is low manip­u­la­tion in car­ing… Read more »

To answer the ques­tion, YES! My hair is always in a braid-out and is out/down 90% of the time and I retain length just fine. I have some split ends and lots of sin­gle strand knots but they don’t both­er me nor do they cause break­age so I don’t trim them often. My hair has been offi­cial­ly “long” for a while now and I’m only 3 years post-relax­er. I did it by wear­ing my hair as I want­ed to, so I’m pleased.

I find that pro­tec­tive hair­styling doesn’t work for me. Wash ‘n go’s work bet­ter for me because my hair responds to low manip­u­la­tion. When I do twist my hair I find that I lose a lot more hair and my ends get raggedy because I’m always con­stant­ly try­ing to make my twists and flat twists neat every oth­er day by twist­ing and the con­stant twist­ing breaks my ends. I real­ly have to pay atten­tion to mois­ture though. So I wash my hair once every 5 days by co wash­ing and deep con­di­tion­ing then slather on my hydrat­ing hair but­ter by… Read more »

As some peo­ple have already stat­ed everyone’s hair is dif­fer­ent. I choose to wear pro­tec­tive styles 90% of the time because it’s con­ve­nient. Pro­tec­tive styles are NOT a require­ment for nat­ur­al hair it’s a pref­er­ence for some of us and for me my hair grows the less I manip­u­late it. :)


I’ve done wash and goes for most of my time being nat­ur­al and I’ve got about shoul­der length hair. My hair did grow just fine with­out pro­tec­tive styles. I’m exper­i­ment­ing with pro­tec­tive styles this win­ter to see if it will help with the length and help retain more mois­ture. One month in and I do notice my hair grow­ing faster. But I am being more ded­i­cat­ed about drink­ing water and tak­ing vit­a­mins, so maybe it’s not all the pro­tec­tive styling.

Leo the Yardie Chick

I believe that it all boils down to a com­bi­na­tion of gen­tle manip­u­la­tion and prop­er main­te­nance (mois­ture, pro­tein, etc). If your hair is being nour­ished and strength­ened and you’re not haul­ing and pulling it every which way like a sack of flour, I sus­pect that hair will retain its length.

Minimalist Beauty
I’ve got­ten so used to pro­tec­tive styling and believe it has helped my length reten­tion. Yet for my hair, low manip­u­la­tion is so much more impor­tant than pro­tec­tive styling that stays in and untouched for a week at a time. I also start­ed doing hen­na con­di­tion­ing treat­ments week­ly and that has real­ly helped.  I usu­al­ly rebraid my hair every evening and wear it in a loose bun with a banana clip. If I do wear a braid­out I make sure it’s mois­tur­ized well. I have stopped pulling my hair back tight­ly in buns and pony­tails. They are usu­al­ly messy and… Read more »

Maybe one of you guys can help me!!! Pro­tec­tive styles, wash and gos, weaves, braids.….nothing works for my hair!!! i’ve been nat­ur­al since 2005 and i’ve only been able to attain chin length hair!!!!!!!


Are you mois­tur­iz­ing your hair and deep con­di­tion­ing it. Also don’t for­get about the pro­tein hair needs. I chopped my hair off on Sept 13 and even last week I cut a bit of it off and at this moment the sides of my hair is touch­ing my col­lar bone, before it wasn’t even touch­ing the end of my ears — drink lots of water, green veg­gies and cov­er your hair at night with silk/satin bon­net.
Hope that helps.


Moisture..Moisture..Moisture. Find good prod­ucts (includ­ing shea but­ter, coconut oil..) that works with your hair, but remem­ber these prod­ucts do not replace WATER. My does okay with con­di­tion­ing prod­ucts, but water is what keeps my hair going, Whether I choose pro­tec­tive styling or wash-and-go’s.


Thank You ladies!!!!! I think maybe it’s my “un-appre­ci­a­tion” of water and mois­tur­iz­er.… When i get fed up with my hair i typ­i­cal­ly just put it in a puff and for­get about it!!!! I’ll try adding more water and mois­tur­iz­er to my reg­i­men.…


Make sure you are main­tain­ing a good pro­tein and mois­ture bal­ance.
try using wheat germ oil that con­tains ceramides which are fats that lit­er­al­ly glue/hold the hair pro­teins togeth­er mak­ing the hair stronger.

maybe you want to only detan­gle with your fin­gers, which I do and it is amaz­ing!!

maybe your hair was at the end of its growth cycle peri­od when you start­ed grow­ing it?


It’s pos­si­ble your hair is in its dor­mant stage which lasts quite a few years. Or it could be genetics.…or just about any­thing else.

The Natural Haven
It is esti­mat­ed that only about 10% of hair at any one time can be in the rest­ing phase (tel­o­gen). It is also the short­est phase last­ing three-ish months. Most of the hair is in ana­gen (the growth phase) and this is the longest cycle last­ing over years.  To Brown­Sug­ah. Here is my advice if your hair is of the type 4 vari­ety 1. Be very gen­tle with your hair. Most of the break­age that hap­pens is due to comb­ing. Find a way to reduce the amount of hair that you see in your comb or brush. Try fin­ger comb­ing first… Read more »

Thanks Jc and the rest of you beau­ti­ful ladies for all the advice. I think i’m going to try and com­mit to a style and see my growth by say July?
Oper­a­tion Length Reten­tion start­ing today…Wish i could update every month to tell you guys my sta­tus!!! LOL!!!

The Natural Haven

I think that you should join this hair chal­lenge. It is 3 inch­es in 6 months (but flex­i­ble actu­al­ly 2–3 inch­es). It is being host­ed by Loo who has seri­ous­ly gor­geous hair


you might also want to try vit­a­mins, i just start­ed tak­ing biotin sup­ple­ments a few weeks ago and i swear that i am already see­ing loads more new growth than usu­al. we shall see…

i dont real­ly do pro­tec­tive styles… my hair is usu­al­ly either out via wash and go or tied up in a scarf some kind of way? (which i guess counts as a pro­tec­tive style? i also dont real­ly like sleep­ing in scarves either, so i break all of the rules lol.) i agree with the poster that my hair has flour­ished just let­ting it be out and about. on the flip side though, i DO have to con­di­tion CONSTANTLY, espe­cial­ly in this cold weath­er, and im sure it would be eas­i­er to keep my head mois­tur­ized if i wore more… Read more »

I like your glass­es :)

The Natural Haven
In order to get past 9 inch­es, my hair requires pro­tec­tive styling. It is extreme­ly easy for all hair (ALL) to grow from 0 to about 4–6 inch­es. Short­er hair, less tan­gling = free­dom of styling Longer hair, more tan­gling, more sin­gle strand knots = need for pro­tec­tive styles.  We all have dif­fer­ent hair, I am just say­ing com­par­ing your first year of hair growth and the stage between 2–3 years can be vast­ly dif­fer­ent. Pro­tec­tive sim­ply means less dai­ly manip­u­la­tion, some peo­ple put in quite harm­ful styles in the guise of pro­tec­tive styling. If tak­ing out the style takes… Read more »
I am a three year Napp­tur­al and have ditched the “Pro­tec­tive Style” Regimine in 2011 for two rea­sons twist­ing takes too long and detan­gling makes me cry… This year I have opt­ed for wear­ing loos­er styles and a updo styles. I love wear­ing my hair out and enjoy the big­ger hair styles that I get as the week goes on. My secret is MOISTURE…I mois­tur­ize my hair every night, with my water spritz and a lit­tle shea mois­ture and put about 6 twists in my hair at night. I always sleep with a satin bon­net on and then pull the twists… Read more »

I wore twists reli­gious­ly for my first 5 years as a nat­ur­al and my hair nev­er grew longer than shoul­der length. I just thought that was the longest my hair grew. Then I cut it off, embraced wash and gos and dis­cov­ered my hair grows like weeds and is health­i­est when it is rinsed dai­ly and left in its shrunk­en state. Which works for me because I suf­fer from chron­ic lazi­ness, lol. My hair type is 4b/4a if it mat­ters.


I per­son­al­ly feel that proc­tec­tive styling works for me. I’ve noticed the dif­fer­ence in my hair from May 2010 until the present day. It’s health­i­er, fuller and longer.

I love it.


I have found that less manip­u­la­tion equals hair growth. I have also found that a lit­tle clip of the ends every 3 — 4 months, gets rid of the knotting/tangling issue. Pro­tec­tive styles can be over­rat­ed. Our hair is as unique as we are as indi­vid­u­als, so what works for one per­son may not work for anoth­er.


i did twists for the first 2 years of being nat­ur­al, then after hav­ing a low­cut a la erykah badu for a year i did one year of twist. after real­iz­ing that it was too time con­sum­ing (2.5 hours) for the results i’ve resort­ed to large braids and my hair is for the bet­ter! i just braid it up at night in 10–12 big braids seal with oil and then in the morn­ing take them out with some oil and spray for mois­ture. low main­te­nance and easy for my thick thick head! :-D


I’ve recent­ly hit my six month anniver­sary on 1/17/11. Since doing the big chop, I only wear my hair in wash-n-go styles. I nev­er braid or twist my hair to pro­tect the end. I recent­ly blow dried and flat ironed my hair, and it has grown so much. I live in Flori­da, so it most­ly hot and humid here. I have not had any issues with wear­ing my hair out. It has not imped­ed my reten­tion.

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Tak­en 7/17/10

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Tak­en 1/17/11

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After I flat ironed it straight the same day 1/17/11


The dates are back­wards. The mid­dle pic­ture was tak­en 7/17/10. The oth­er two pic­tures were tak­en 1/17/11.


Shooo…I tried a wash and go this week­end and can you say #FAIL!! Since my hair has got­ten longer, its not an option for me any­more. My hair was all sorts of tan­gled and knot­ted even after a care­ful detan­gling sec­tion in the show­er. I can­not allow my hair to dry loose any­more.
I’m glad oth­er peo­ple can still do wash and go’s with­out all the dra­ma. Keep it up and rock one for me too!!


So true, my hair is bsl and my wash and go is not an option any­more.

i wear pro­tec­tive styles 90% of the time and they have worked won­ders for me. my sta­ple style is small two strand twists, how­ev­er i DO NOT detan­gle my hair dry!!! After tak­ing them out and wear­ing my twist out i detan­gle my hair in the show­er under run­ning water WITH MY HANDS while it is very wet. it is easy and not time con­sum­ing at all, i don’t lose any hair doing this with care. i have shoul­der length hair stretched out. i would nev­er dream of detan­gling my twists dry! When my hair is braid­ed i gen­tly take… Read more »

Pro­tec­tive styling has helped me a lot. Not every­one needs them but from what I see you can tell a big dif­fer­ence in length reten­tion from some­one who does do pro­tec­tive styling and some­one who doesn’t.


First, I believe its where you live. I live in flori­da so I actu­al­ly wear more pro­tec­tive styles in the sum­mer! Due to the crazy heat that can real­ly fry my strands. Sec­ond­ly, every head is dif­fer­ent. We may have sim­i­lar tex­tures but we have dif­fer­ent hair, so what works for you may not work for me. This is real­ly a very per­son­al jour­ney.. lol.

I am lurk­ing on this one but I have been think­ing about this a lot and won­der­ing whether just doing twists and leav­ing them to hang is enough in my harsh cold cli­mate. I am con­tem­plat­ing wear­ing my hair loose but in updos that hide the ends to retain length. I notice that my ends suf­fer in twists and the last 1/2 inch of hair is always split­ting, get­ting 1 strand knots while the rest is fine. I also won­der if I’d have an eas­i­er time retain­ing mois­ture with loose tucked hair since twists can often hide the fact that… Read more »
Coco your hair sounds like mine. That’s why I don’t wear twists for more than a few days and I only do them when I want to for style. I wear updos and some buns because they are easy, cute, and they do keep my ends from get­ting fried rub­bing against my win­ter coat. My hair is arm pit length, and I’ve nev­er had loose nat­ur­al hair this long. I don’t know if genet­i­cal­ly I can get to waist length (it’s not real­ly a goal of mine) but def­i­nite­ly my length can be main­tained with this loose rou­tine that is sim­i­lar to… Read more »

…and to answer your ques­tion I do find it pret­ty easy to keep track of so to speak lol.


Thanks for the info : )


Hey Coco. I wear very loose twist in updo styles about 100% of the time, lol. I would have to say besides tremen­dous patience with detan­gling, lit­tle to no heat and mois­tur­iz­ing, I con­tribute most of my growth because of my updo styles which pro­tect my ends. I have 4b-c hair which is about 21 inch­es long with­in 4 yrs so I have had suc­cess per­son­al­ly with this rou­tine. Bless­ings :)
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Thanks for the info — watch­ing out for your hair inter­view and Youtube :D


i am also an avid wash and goer. i only have a tough time with detan­gling and knots if i don’t take care to cov­er my hair at night. oth­er than that, detan­gling takes 20–30 min­utes. and i don’t manip­u­late my hair oth­er than smooth­ing some leave-in and hair cream in. my hair has grown longer than my nat­ur­al friends who swear by pro­tec­tive styling.

I think it depends on a vari­ety of issues, includ­ing length, tex­ture, weath­er and shrink­age. Imo, as long as your hair is short or shrinky enough not to rub against your clothes (for exam­ple, Shon­es’ hair in her pic­tures), pro­tec­tive styles are less help­ful. Also, if the weath­er isn’t as extreme, pro­tec­tive styles aren’t as help­ful. I think mak­ing sure that your hair isn’t rub­bing on your clothes (whether that’s with twists, buns, or sim­ply a puff) and being extra care­ful in the cold, as well as how you manip­u­late and mois­tur­ize it, are key to retain­ing length. If your… Read more »
I think I fall some­where in the between die hard pro­tec­tive styler and die hard “out” styler. If I put my hair in real­ly small lit­tle twists or braids, my hair mats up, tan­gles in a way that caus­es break­age, sin­gle strand knots, etc. If I leave my hair in a pro­tec­tive style for more than ten days, it mats up and dreads! The solu­tion for me is to put my hair in big­ger braids/twists that are almost the size of dook­ie braids or cel­lie braids and pin them into a cute pro­tec­tive updo much like sunshower143’s twist­ed pro­tec­tive updo.  I… Read more »
That’s exact­ly what I do now. I wear medi­um sized braids in a cute up-do dur­ing the week and then I Sat & Sun I wear it out. Wash & Deep Con­di­tion. This way it’s “pro­tect­ed” most of the time. The twists are cute but they take too much time putting in, and then tak­ing out and detangling…plus my ends nev­er real­ly stay twist­ed up. If I want to wear some of my hair out dur­ing the week, I wear a braid out on the low­er part of my hair, so half up and half down, and then braid them in… Read more »

That’s what I’m talk­ing ’bout.

I am a wash and go’er and proud of it. I think the main appeal of pro­tec­tive styles is that you don’t have to wor­ry about doing or refresh­ing your hair as much and that you don’t have to style as much if you don’t like to. It’s been about eight months since my BC from locs, and the num­ber of times I have worn pro­tec­tive styles is not that many when com­pared to how many times I have worn my hair out. I don’t think wash and go’s are bad for hair, but they will result if fairy knots… Read more »

i know its been a while. but can u describe your dry detan­gling? like WHEN you do it? before a wash? do your oil it all over first? How does that help with curl def­i­n­i­tion? I would have fig­ured it would be bad for def­i­n­i­tion. my hair clumps pret­ty well when wet. I might wan­na give this a try…


For those who are doing wash and gos, do you do it dai­ly?


gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, i do a wash and go twice a week. once dur­ing wash day and again in the mid­dle of the week when i co-wash.

Part of the key for me is low manip­u­la­tion. If I put my hair in medi­um sized twists, it helps with reten­tion. If I leave it out (and stretched), I style it in a way that has min­i­mum pull (loose bun, ect) or I just leave it stretched and out. If I allowed my hair to be shrunk­en and out, it would require too much detan­gling on wash day. One rea­son why pro­tec­tive styles may not work for some is the method of detan­gling when they undo the twists.  I have heard oth­er nat­u­rals men­tion that wash-n-go’s work bet­ter for… Read more »
Short answer, yes! Before I cut it the last time, I grew my hair out for about a year and a half (TWA to… well, much big­ger than a TWA). I did pro­tec­tive styles about half the time. I pre­fer hav­ing my hair in out. On the oth­er hand, I know a lady who kept her hair in kinky-twists/braids for years, and now her hair is down her back and looks very healthy. I think the point is that we don’t have to wor­ry about it as much as some of us do, and the length will come. I must be… Read more »

I agree pro­tec­tive styling does do your hair a good deed. How­ev­er, it can become bor­ing. Some­times you do have to jazz it up a bit. I have tried pro­tec­tive styling 5 days out of 7, so when the week­end comes I can let it down and go out with­out feel­ing blah. With all that being said patience is required with any­thing.


crap in 1 yr!

Nikki T

You and your hair are beau­ti­ful.…


You hair colour is gor­geous! What colour/what do you use?