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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My last relaxer was November 27, 2010. I don’t know. My protective style for the past 2 years until May of 2013 was to cornrow my hair and wear it under a wig. It became difficult to continue that without buying larger, longer haired wigs so I went to twists as a style. I don’t like my length for twistouts so I haven’t done that. As has always been the problem, I did not know what I needed to do to take care of my hair natural or relaxed. It was a little past shoulder length until recently. I don’t… Read more »

Protective styles have been helping a lot in retaining moisture for me. I am just beginning my journey with natural hair and my hair feels great.

I have to disagree. It probably depends on your hair type. My hair grows, every month, but it also breaks off when it’s worn loose. Why? Because it’s very curly – 4b and the ends coil and tangle, form single stranded knots etc – and it just becomes a hot mess. I don’t mind wearing it out but I have to accept that I will lose some hair in the process. For me, when I am trying to retain length, cornrows work best. Not even twists. For four years I was natural and I would look online at some people’s… Read more »

I see no point in trying to grow your hair,when it’s not even out to display and instead it’s covered in a wig 95% of the time. Might as well shave your head *shrugs*


Your noticing great length increase after your last chop could be due to your getting all of the split ends off and the evened length. I recently had my hair trimmed and I think I see better growth and I don’t feel those single strand knots I had before and have not had a problem with it tangling.

The length retention hasn’t been as much of a prob. 4 me as the moisture retention has been. So I follow most of the basic rules. D.C. treatments, wrapping my hair @ night, keeping my ends sealed, all the way down to my diet & exercise. But where I might differ from other naturals is after my M & S, i put a plastic cap on my head. It may seem weird 2 some, but 2 me, my hair stays moist a lot longer. I put my cap on so the oils can penetrate better. Sort of like how u… Read more »
I agree with you about the moisture retention. I think that is key. I would only add that regular protein treatments may be necessary also. The hair gets too soft and mushy from only moisturizing treatments. We don’t need Aphogee for seriously damaged hair (I think that is best for relaxed hair no matter how good it looks) but we need protein reconstructors just the same. I think baggying it daily may encourage bacteria and fungus on the scalp unless you are washing it weekly or bi-weekly. My scalp itched and burned a lot on top and down the center… Read more »

I agree 100% Length will quickly come on its own when the hair is worn in its loose state, protective styles don’t change anything.
I am so glad someone finally shared a similar story to mine 🙂

I see both sides. I agree that there are more than one ways to skin a cat (who came up with that saying?). I have found that I am retaining length, my daugters are retaining length just fine by leaving our hair loose. We are diligent about moisture, conditioning, oiling, wearing satin caps or pillowcases. Wearing protective styles too much (wigs, weaves, braids, braid extensions, twists, buns, rolls, updo’s) can lead to receding hair, thinning edges, breakage at the crown and brittle ends. Plus protective styles can get dull or cause you to project an image that might not necessarily… Read more »

Yes I have retained length without doing a lot of protective styles, its just a lot more work.


Protective styling works wonders for me…i have been natural before natural was “okay.” and I used to experience breakage and extreme dryness…I didn’t know how to take care of it, now I do lots of protective styles and the winter is going to keep me in protective mode. I have retained length and I can’t wait till next summer rolls in.

I started my second natural hair journey November 2010 and I did nothing to my hair as it was too short for the first 4 months. Because I noticed my hairs slow growth I invested in treating my scalp with D. Miracles Root Stimulating Oil which is great for waking up dead hair follicles and promoting faster growth. Since using Miracles Root Stimulating Oil my hair has grown to enough length to do twists, braid outs, and bantu knots, so I would recommend to all you naturals who are not seeing growth to invest in using scalp stimulators to increase… Read more »
I started growing my hair out naturally about 5 years ago. However until a couple of months ago I was always consistently hiding my hair under weaves. When I so much as let my hair out. Its only under torture from straightening at high temperature using dax wax so it looked straight and shiny (I don’t know why I bothered I might as well have relaxed the dang thing). I resorted to maltreating my hair because I noticed whenever I had my hair out naturally I always got a strange stare and people warmed more towards me when I had… Read more »

Wow I can’t believe you felt that you had to hide your hair. You are absolutely beautiful!! You’re a gem. Best of luck!


You look like one of the Original People that still exist that just happen to have blond (straight or kinky) hair. You look fine. Hold your head up as another commentor stated.


check out cynthiarf on youtube. she has followed a regimen of daily wetting/rinsing and finger combing more often than using tools with great results. your growth retention with wash ‘n go’s i think is the combination of genetics (letting your hair grow as is) and daily co-washing (it’s the magic of water lol). this technique can be challenging due to knots/matting like you mentioned but the concept behind it is low manipulation and moisture.

I like out styles, don’t have time for all that twisting/braiding nightly. I only do that weekly after washing/conditioning. I purchased those silky scrunchies (6 in pk) from CVS. The technique is called pineappling (fr CurlyNikki) however, another natural whose length is about the same as mine, did a YouTube video showing how to do it on her length which is the same as mine. It works fantastic! I get about 4 days w/o any smashed up next morning hair! I think the brand is either Goody or Scuuni(sp?) Gather sections of hair (about 6 or 7) and slip on… Read more »
Gayle Allen
Wow . . . this is what I do! I found some scrunchies at the dollar store that are satin like material and they work. However my last couple of wash and go’s my hair was dryer than normal?? I’ve been using baking soda/water to cleanse my scalp and I think it’s more drying to my hair. But . . . if my hair is really moisturized wash and goes my ends stay clumped/coiled and I was able to make a good week with maybe a little moisturizing with a spritz in the crown area; dryer. I use Giavanni Leave… Read more »

I notice breakage when I refrain from combing for more than two dAys at a time. Bunning seems to put to much stress on my hairline. I’ve transitioned over a 18 mo period. 100%natural as of august 2010. My hair is just shoulder length . So far I’ve determined the best thing fir my hair is hair Is long term weaves, applying castor oil to my scalp every few weeks.

benita brown

I find that if I do protective styles (twists or braids) for a shorter periods of time, no longer than a week & a half, than I noticed way less knots when I kept them in for like a month. Also I like to alternate between twist and buns (with just stretched hair) from week to week, and i’ve noticed a lot more length from doing this.

~peace 🙂

Jaeda Barbie

This sounds like the routine I do.


i do this too.. buns and cute up dos. when i first wash it, i pul it all into a bun at the top of my head or all the way in back. i try to use either 2 large bobby pins to tuck in the ends, or a really big ribbon to wrap arouand my bun and keep the ends in. This keeps the hair stetched and easy to moisturize-and i cant play in it!!!:)

For me at this point, protective styling that also stretches out the hair is the best way to retain length. When my hair was still above shoulder length, wash and goes worked great bc detangling was not a problem as long as my hair stayed moisturized. I did a wash and go (with some product to weigh hair down and stretch it as much as possible) recently for the first time in a long time, and oh my goodness detangling was a horrible. I cannot do that again until I reach my goal. So mostly, I keep it in box… Read more »

I take pretty good care of my hair. I don’t do too much protective styling unless it’s putting it into chubby twists at night and sleeping in a satin cap/scarf. Although I’m careful and gentle with it, the longer my hair gets the less I feel like fooling with it. So far I haven’t had any problems with retaining length. I’m approaching 6 years and it’s just about waist length.

During my first four months of being natural I had great growth and retention. I went to Florida in January for vacation(I’m from NYC), and noticed that I had huge growth! I was so happy when my hair was finally long enough to catch and be braided and twisted without unraveling when it dried and got fat. Now I’m inching toward my sixth month, I’ve invested in flat twists weekly, and it seems that something has put a dent in my progress. Could it be my twists? I had great growth without twists! But the twists are so low maintenance.… Read more »

There y’all go posting a picture of my cousin again 🙂


My experience is a little different. I found that by doing chunky twists instead of medium twist on my hair I retained length and moisture. My biggest problem is me though I have HIH syndrome in the worst way lol. I struggle to keep one style all week. sigh I’m working on it though.




My biggest issue is now that my hair has grown to 2-inches (used to rock a low fade) it has been harder to prevent knots and retain moisture. I am starting to get discouraged in my hair growth journey………


I had same problem along w/ shrinkage & flattened hair when I wake up. What has helped me is when I wash or co wash I make sure I use a good conditioner that also detangles. I grab a section @ a time put the conditioner on & comb it out. I use kinky curlys knot today & shea moisture products. I’ve been doin the 2 strand twist to help keep hair from tangles & shrinkage. Just be patient & don’t give up. I gotta tell that to myself all the time 🙂


I am the knot queen. I can achieve length, but at the end of those strands will be knots and knots on knots. NO matter what I do. I always have knots in my hair.

I am new to maintaining my natural hair on my own. I was getting it done professionally but that’s getting costly. I have read a lot of these polls & comments & u guys have been really helpful. I just have a few questions. 1) what is co-wash? 2) what is protective styling? 3) what does it mean to manipulate the hair? 4) I have really thick really dry hair. How many times should I moisturize & what products r good 4 that extra shine? 5) how can I keep my hair from drawing up so much when it dries… Read more »
1. Co-wash means to clean the hair using a rinse-out conditioner instead of shampoo. Examples of commonly used co-wash conditioners are a few of the Herbal Essence conditioners (Hello Hydration, Totally Twisted, etc.), Aussie Moist, V05 Moisture Milks, most if not all of the Suave conditioners, Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle rose; and there are a lot of others that people use. If you go back through the archives on this site, you will probably find a few posts on people’s favorite products, and you will likely see mention of some different ones you’d like to try. The ones I just listed… Read more »

Thx so much for all the info! I think I am finally understanding the basics of maintaining my natural hair. I tried the 2 stand twists protective style & it turned out so pretty! The thing I need to do asap is find a good oil to help seal in the moisture & get a conditioner to co-wash w/. I am so excited about my journey & am happy to have resources to go & learn.


I think the reason why a wash and goer might retain more length than a protective styler is that even though a wash and goer does manipulate the hair more and may cause more breakage, they also stimulate thier scalps more so their growth rate is faster than those who wear protective styles and dont touch their hair or scalp. I used to co-wash everyday ad my hair grew like crazy and it was more moisturized then ever. I stopped though because I ended up getting too much buildup.

I’ve retained length without using protective styling. I’ve been completely natural for 2years and 1 month. When I did the BC I mainly wore wash n go’s. My hair is longer now and now I spend more time doing braidouts when it’s cold out and wash and go puffs when it’s warm. I want to try protective styling just so that I don’t have to style as frequently. Even now I may rebraid every 2-3 nights and pineapple on other days. Everybody’s hair is different though. Shea butter, oils, conditioner, getting my ends trimmed when needed have definitley helped along… Read more »

I’ve read several comments. A poster asked how do you do a wash and go in the winter months. It’s more of a “damp and go” or wet the night before and put into two big plaits for the next morning. My hair hates do be without water for a long time. I’m not sure if it’s curly pattern thing or just where one’s hair has preferences.


I agree with you, I pretty much do all of the things that most naturals say isn’t good for our hair lol. I wear my hair in an afro 98% of the time. So I wear my hair out in the winter, summer, when swimming etc.
but I do trim my hair very often, and lately I’ve been twisting it up at night like 2 times out of the week. I just don’t have the patience to do all of those hairstyles..
I love my hair wild a big, and it’s pretty long. the back (when pulled over my shoulder)touches my chest


I do protective 2 strand twists on my hair, because I can’t go to bed w/o it. Otherwise I will wake up to a matted hot mess, and I personally think if you have a looser texture you can get away with it. But I have thick coarse 4 type hair that grows nice, but I’m still careful of my edges, having locs in my hair done professionally for 5years took its toll on my right side.

I def agree about the protective styling like twists, braids, etc. I used them when my hair was a twa but I stopped after a few months because as my hair retained length protective styles broke my hair off. If I put in twists and leave it for more than a day omg it’s a nightmare…knots galore!!! All I do is tie my fro with a silk scarf at night and then wake up and shake it back into place. My protective styling is hats and buns when I am too lazy to do my hair. It’s been a year… Read more »

I’m not a aggressive protective styler and I do notice my hair is growing quite nicely while retaining the length. I do keep my ends tucked but not in twists/braids. Updos with victory rolls and pseudo buns I guess I should say 🙂 Victory rolls are protective without requiring too much time, so that’s a plus!

I wear my hair mostly in twists and twist-outs for the past 10 years. My hair never went past arm pit length. I recently changed my hair regimen and have experienced a lot of growth, 2 inches since September (13″ -> 15″). 1) pre-poo with coconut oil 2) detangle on damp (not wet) hair with coconut oil before shampoo (i still use a comb and a brush, can’t figure out how to finger detangle yet) 3) wash in sections 4) i use the kimmaytube leave in conditioner 5) moisturize my twists everyday (sometimes 2-3 times a day): spritz of water… Read more »

FYI, this is my hair today in a failed braid out… LOL!
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your hair looks cute. Why do you think it’s failed?

My sister doesn’t diet or exercise (barely gets out of the house) and at 4’11, struggles to stay above 100 pounds. Yet her friend can eat the same way (and be equally sedentary) and pack on the pounds. What’s my point? We are unique. Not just genetically, but also in our interpretations and estimations. I am always amazed at these discussions because there’s really not a right answer. It’s about what’s right for you as an individual. I can’t tell the woman that takes 4 hours detangling her hair that “it doesn’t take all of that” because it’s not my… Read more »

I agree with Nina! :o)