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… 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 didnโ€™t retwist at night. I only retwisted during my once a week wash day. I also didnโ€™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… 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. ๐Ÿ™‚


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… 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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… 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! ๐Ÿ˜€


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 donโ€™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… 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 ๐Ÿ™‚
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Thanks for the info – watching out for your hair interview and Youtube ๐Ÿ˜€


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.… 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… 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… 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?