Style Icon Angelique

Is protective styling a dirty word? I think that there are some women who think of protective styles as boring and even unattractive. There are a second set of women who regard protective styles as a necessarily evil on the way to longer hair. There is the third set who regard protective styles as quick and low maintenance.

No matter where you stand, I think that protective styling has its benefits and can work for you if you let it.

1. DO:  Choose the correct style

In order for a protective style to be effective in retaining length  it has to

  • Eliminate breakage (ideally) or severely reduce it
  • Eliminate knotting and tangling (ideally) or severely reduce it

Naturals will often class protective styles into LOW manipulation or NO manipulation styles. Low manipulation styles are those that will require some regular daily handling. Examples include braid or twist outs which are rebraided or retwisted at night. Buns and tucked in styles (french rolls, cinnabuns etc) where hair is free but kept tucked away and off the shoulders are also low manipulation styles.

No manipulation styles are those where free strands of hair are not handled. Examples include twists, braids , cornrows, flat twists, sew in weaves and wigs where hair is braided or twisted underneath and does not require daily combing.

Without any combing (finger or actual comb) of free strands, the no manipulation styles are the most effective in terms of eliminating breakage, knotting and tangling. Low manipulation styles may result in some breakage, knotting and tangling but when performed correctly this damage should be reduced and dependant on hair type, eliminated.

DON’T:  Ignore tension or go too small

The big DON’T is never to pull hair too tight when styling it in any manner (buns, twists or braids).  This can result in breakage and traction alopecia around the hairline.

The second big DON’T is micro braids and twists. These can look very beautiful but are more often than not terrible for the hairline. If you or your hairdresser has sufficient experience in installing and taking down micros, they are perfectly fine. The big risk is usually at the take down stage where if you have insufficient skill or patience you may end up breaking a lot of the length that you were attempting to retain.

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60 Comments on "Protective Styling Do’s and Dont’s"

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A little story for people who are afraid to try protective styling. TL:DR; Thought my hair would hate it, but it loves it. I was very hesitant to try protective styling because of people who said it doesn’t work or had bad experiences, and my hair doesn’t like product buildup, so I thought it wouldn’t be for me. I kept my TWA for about 8 months, but as it started getting colder, I started having a harder time keeping my (very dry) hair moisturized, so I decided to try it. My first attempt was two-strand twists, which were pretty easy… Read more »

Wearing no manipulation styles will NOT elimnate tangling. This is untrue. Your hair will continue to shed regardless if you comb it or not and those hairs can tangle with the rest of your hair. That’s why if left too long your hair may loc. My hair doesn’like no manipulation styles so I stick to low so that I am removing shed hairs more often.


[…] Click for part 1 of this series: Protective Styling Do’s and Dont’s […]


[…] [Photo courtesy of] […]


I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but
your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future.

In all actuality, being natural or going natural does seem more complicated today due to all the long lists of do’s and don’ts however; there really isn’t any excuse for a person to not experience being natural or find a suitable method to work for them. Why, because there are way too many products on the market designed perfectly for textured hair. In the 60’s and 70’s there weren’t that many products designed for natural black hair, but today the amount of hair products available on the market are endless. My opinion is that every natural needs to find a… Read more »
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Hello there I am so grateful I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Digg for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the superb job. Here is my web… Read more »

Wigs can actually stunt hair growth. Not a fan of extenstions and weaves that can pull on the scalp. I believe both wigs and weaves don’t allow the scalp to breathe properly, and while hair will grow with them. It will grow better without them. I certainly wouldn’t recommend them beyond the beauty of their style, not as a means for healthy hair. Too often those who have them start getting lax in taking care of the hair.

Frankly, I don’t believe protective styles are necessary for healthy natural hair. Today natural hair care seems more complicated than necessary. I grew up in the ’70’s. Our afros were beautiful and healthy. We didn’t use cremes, gels and puddings and 1001 different products on our hair. We used 4 thing; Regular trims, Sta Sof Fro Comb Out spray, a good pick, and Ultra Sheen oil spray. Our afros were fully “out” and beautiful. Sta Sof Fro will moisturize, soften and condition even the curliest hair that appears super kinky. It eliminates breakage due to dryness and helps minimize shedding… Read more »

[…] Ladies, what category does your hair fall in? Do you need protective styling to retain length or no? Click for part 1 of this series: Protective Styling Do’s and Dont’s […]


[…] featuring a photo of style icon Angelique on today’s Protective Styling Do’s and Dont’s post, many of you wanted to know how she achieved her gorgeous updos. For your styling pleasure, […]


[…] And keep in mind that the intensity of protective styling you need is directly related to how strong your hair is. Stronger/more resilient hair will require shorter protective styling stints and less binding styles. Whereas more fragile hair will require longer periods of protective styling, and styles (like twisted buns and cornrowed updos) that tuck the ends completely. Check out our protective styling do’s and dont’s. […]


I am Protective Style Resistant! Its by choice because right now I hate protective styling. I say “right now” because I hope that this is a temporary hate. I’m on a protective style challenge to see if it causes my hair to grow. My hair has always been short, never, ever long. If this protective styling grows my hair, I will have to find a way to start liking it.
(here’s my youtube vid of the challenge)

I’m soooo ready to take this style out and see my results.
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Never really occurred to me to leave a comment on the designboom weblog.. i mean sure, i read you guys everyday, but the posts i find interesting i fave or bookmark or share the url to others, rather than clicking the comment link.


I love this post!! I have found that twisting with Bantu Knots work the best for me during the fall and wintwr months. I basically do it in six large sections, take it down and go!! It last for about seven to eight days. I will include a picture to share, and thanks for sharing your tips ladies.
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That’s rlealy thinking at a high level


I’ve tried a variety of protective styles, but for the past two years, twists are my go-to style. I don’t worry about styling them or anything. I just dc, wash, cond and twist once a week. Last year, I gained a foot in length through this method. My twists might not look pretty, but they serve my purpose. The first photo is post-twisting in Spring 2011. The second photo is pre-twisting in the Fall 2010.
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Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals

Wow. Now that makes me wanna wear twists everyday. I didn’t get that kind of growth at all but I’m still happy with my 8.5-10 inches in 2 years. Hopefully I can have your kind of retention this year. You and your hair look awesome.

I did protective styling last week and I believe my hair worked well with it. I did kinda look like a kid (which I didn’t quie like) but anything to help retain length. I usually do a french roll type of protective style and last week was the longest that I kept it in. I think I redid the french roll 3 times during the week for a fresh look. As someone commented, I do love my hair out so sometimes it could be a challenge to do the french roll type of protective style. With my “no manipulation” protective… Read more »

I enjoyed this article, but I am having trouble wrapping my head around the concept of leaving twists in for 2-4 weeks while continuing to wash and condition them. I guess it’s a “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” type of situation, but I just envision my hair being a frizzy, fuzzy mess. I also have 2-3 different hair types on my head; the crown area is quite loose and I know the twists would come out when I washed them, unless I made them super tiny or somehow secured the ends. Frustrating. Any suggestions!


Yeah, I’ve tried it and anything longer than a week just doesn’t work for me. Different strokes…

natural human hair

It’s really a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.


How do you keep your hair completely moisturized while tucked away without taking it down and re-styling every couple of days?

Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals

You take it down and moisturize it whenever its dry. Things like braids and twists you don’t have to take out. You can undo a ponytail or bun at anytime to moisturize.


I have short natural hair…and I am trying to get my hair to that protective style length. Is there anything I can do to help it along besides coconut oil and a shae butter mixture?

hey anna i hope this message finds you. I had short hair in january 2012. But I kept doing mini twists because I knew it would help. It sure did, I have completed my first year of being natural and to be honest I have compared my hair to other naturals with similar textures who did not do protective styling and I see that in just one year I have maintained longer length. Yes I know there are exceptions like genetics or environmental factors. But twists and braids make a big difference they allow you to reduce split ends so… Read more »
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Terrific work! This is the kind of info that are meant to be shared across the web. Shame on Google for not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and consult with my site . Thank you =)

Tip 1: If using mini twist as a protective style do not borrow from sections make sure both sides/section are even before u begin twisting Tip 2: Hair pins if your going to use hair pins/bobby pins I don’t think you should sleep in it. If you do make sure it is not adding tension to your hair. I notice when I use hair pins or bobby pins the area that I had it in is a little sore when I take out the pins. So now I try to make sure to place them somewhat away from my scalp.… Read more »

Great Great Great peice of advice sis with regard to borrowing from other sections… Could prove disastrous to say the least… I am 48wks post and stretching til late august 2012… Twisting my own hair is my saving grace right now… My twist are COLLOSAL (2.5 by 2.5 perimeter)at best lol…

Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals
I used to detest protective styling because I thought all the styles were ugly. I dreaded putting my hair away but there are some styles that I have gotten some good feedback for. I have been on a protective style challenge for the last 8-9 months along with my blog followers and youtube subbies. I have gotten more length than I could have gotten without it I’m certain. My hair is the kind that breaks from being out so long term twist-outs will never do. Low manipulation styles are more my speed with just putting in braids or twists and… Read more »

Aisa! you’re here too!? it’s me stoical4harmony on naturalsunshine. We recently became friends on that site.

Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals

Yep. I love this site. Lol. Fancy meeting you here Amanda.

The Natural Haven

I love this. Is this your own hair or did you use extensions?

Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals

Why thank you. I used Marley braid hair to do this but it doesn’t even matter. The hair straightens out once you dip it into hot water anyway so you could just use any braid hair.

The Natural Haven

Thanks for the response Aisa 🙂

I often protective style–via sock buns and cinnabuns done on moisturized, stretched hair–for as much as a week at a time. I modify my styles by changing bun position (high or low) as well as ‘bang’ styling (two-strand twists, braid-out, victory roll, roll-n-tuck, etc). I use ‘fro-friendly hair accessories (DIY satin-covered sock bun form, Scunci No-Slip Grip Jelly Hair Ties, DIY black knee-high stocking hair ties and/or MetaGrip bobby pins) and a gentle touch (no tightness, no combs or brushes) to style. Every night before bed, I spritz (water/veggie glycerin), re-apply flax seed gel and tie with a satin scarf.… Read more »

Maisha,I feel you on getting bored. As a solution I usually leave the protective styles in for short periods- 3 to four days every two weeks or so. Even a short “rest period” seems to help my hair grow out. I stay away from elaborate styles since there’s little point in investing more than an hour of styling time for something you only keep for a few days.


This sounds very similar to my best friend whose name also happens to be Rebecca:-).


I wish I had the patience. I can wear my hair in a protective style for about 3 days, then I’m bored to death and want to wear my hair out. I just love the way my hair looks out. My hair doesn’t seem like it’s suffering too much for it, but I’m sure I’d experience less breakage if I wore protective styles longer.


I don’t like twists, braids, or cornrows. I am not going to be scared of my hair because it is kinky. I didn’t go natural to live in fear of the hair on my head. I am retaining length just fine and will keep doing my wash and go.

Hi Lisa, I think you are missing the point. No one said anything about being “afraid” of your hair because of the texture. There is always one to backlash anytime there is talk of protective styling. The name of the blog is Black Girl Long Hair and protective styling is proven to help Black Girls achieve LONG HAIR on a more consistent basis for the reasons they have listed below. Say what you want but the techniques and tips WORK and I appreciate these ladies taking their time to share these tips; I have learned a great deal about hair… Read more »

Given the number of “I”s in my comment, it is pretty clear I am talking about what is good for ME. You are the one making broad generalizations about black girls.

I don’t like twists/braids/cornrows and will not be afraid of MY hair. I am not concerned with what anyone else does or how they feel about their hair.

If you have a link to the scientific proof that protective styling is the fail proof way to long hair, I would love to read it. Thanks.

The Natural Haven
I love the scientific challenge. The evidence you want exists. A hair style that eliminates combing,knotting and breakage leads to greater lengths for African hair. Locs are specifically mentioned but protective styling which also eliminates combing (no manipulation style) is in this category. International Journal of Dermatology, pp 10-12, 2005 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, pp 886-888, 2006 Just about as scientific as it gets 🙂 As I said in my previous comment, there are definitely people who can choose not to protective style and successfully gain long hair but these people have to have specific attributes to… Read more »
Thanks. Great information. I look forward to reading part two. My wash and go style doesn’t cause me any tangles or knots. I put my hair in braids every night and when I take it down, my hair melts under water with conditioner in it. I have seen one SSK (at my nape where my scarf rubs against my hair) in the last year while a friend with finer hair strands, and is often afraid to do anything other than protective style, sees a ton of SSKs. She also combs out each section of her hair prior to twisting with… Read more »
The Natural Haven

Thanks for the very eloquent comment msme and I agree with you that whenever protective styling is talked about there is always someone who must voice the opinion that it is not necessary.

I think it is very narrow minded of Lisa to insinuate that people who protective style are afraid of their natural texture. I also think it is very narrow minded to think that what works for you works for everyone else. There is a follow up post on protective styling which will cover hair that could benefit from protective styling and hair that can go without it.


[…] Protective Styling Do’s and Don’ts via Black Girl Long Hair […]


Just wanted to compliment you on a great site. I really love what you’re doing and the positivity of it! I clearly am not a woman with natural hair, but I love how you promote it. God bless and good luck.

Awwww,that’s so nice!! I recently got twists with extensions that I LOVE!! One thing I had to realize very quickly is that I need to handle the twists as if they were all my own hair. I think sometimes with braid/twist extensions, we may tend to think our hair is protected … it is somewhat, but it is still in those strands. So, within a couple of days, I started handling my extension twists like Kimmaytube handles hers!! LOL!! Oh, and that includes putting them up and tucking the ends a few days a week since my hair is almost… Read more »



Lisa: LOL! Thank you! I haven’t had extension braids/twists in 10+ years. But when I saw these on someone else earlier this summer (, I fell in love and had to have them! I get bored easily, so I change styles all the time. Some people think of braided/twisted styles as limiting, but I see endless versatility! I was just playing around with them using a couple of banana clips when I got home from work. My mind is working … Hmmmmm. LOL!!

Jahtik, Thank you!

I wanted to include one more pic of that last style from the back. We’ll see if it works. Oh, and I’ll also add that I had my hairline and nape cornrowed (gently) as I feel having those braids secure to my head lessen the weight of the twists on my finer edges and prevents/reduces stressful twisting and turning on those strands as my hair grows. However, as indicated in the article, I also know that I’ll have to get the edges redone (I’m planning on having the “halo” redone at four weeks and trying to wear these for a… Read more »

Gorgeous! All these wonderful styles may make me reconsider my no twists/braids/cornrows stance one of these days.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

I have one protective style Don’t to add to the list:

Watch the styling accessories you use. Basically, avoid anything that snags the hair. When our hair is “put away” for a significant amount of time, we like to at least decorate it. However, accessories that snag (ex: ponytail holders, clips, pins) defeat the purpose of styling the hair “protectively.”

I love hair sticks because I can do protective buns and still decorate my hair. I’m attaching an image of how I have my hair today.
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+1…I used to use those little combs for my updos and experienced noticeable breakage in the back of my head where I was doing the “tuck.” Substituting hairpins (NOT bobby pins) solved the problem. Yeah, they require a little practice, but they’re much gentler on my hair.


I need a tutorial on those hairpins as they always seem to pop back out on my updos! I use them only for small sections or in addition to bobby pins. I looked for a tutorial some time ago, but could never find one!!

Michelle, your hair looks really cute!!

I like twists, and have now recently fallen in love with mini twists as well. I would say make sure hair is definitely moisturized, and use witch hazel on scalp in between wash sections with those in it. Definitely wear the silk scarf on head or bonnet. I brought somemore magnetic rollers in large/x-large and will incorporate rollersets in my hair since it’s now cooler outside. This will help on keeping the ends from knots or ssk’s and help with retaining length for me. ________________________________________________________________ Also did you ladies here about Essence Magazine supposedly dissing Youtube Vloggers? if not here… Read more »



Mine has be en twisted for two weeks. And as u say it does start to tangle on the twist. Time to take out:)


this is one of the best posts on this site, thank you!

Aisa @ 4 Us Naturals

This is spam! This termite website is trying to link to this post with this illiterate nonsense. No it was not written by your cousin. It is a women’s website and a woman wrote this article. The least you could do is read the article and write something that makes sense!