By Geniece of Beau­ti­ful­ly Made

I’ve heard some nat­u­rals lament the so-called need to pro­tec­tive style in order to retain length. For some, such styles are viewed as bor­ing or uncom­pli­men­ta­ry to one’s facial struc­ture. I’ve also heard wom­en express frus­tra­tion at hav­ing to pro­tect their hair when they believe that oth­er wom­en with straight hair, loose curls, thick­er strands, etc. can main­tain length while wear­ing their hair out.  When it comes to retain­ing length for my kinky tress­es I’m an ardent pro­po­nent of pro­tec­tive styling. My own expe­ri­ence has proven the method to be effec­tive. While a fan, how­ev­er, I’m not mil­i­tant. As is the case with many oth­er things in life, every­thing ain’t for every­body. Take weight gain for exam­ple. Some can eat ribs and cheese­cake and remain thin and run­way ready. For oth­ers this is sim­ply not so.  For many peo­ple, get­ting to the weight they want requires giv­ing up some culi­nary delights and exer­cis­ing more often. In short, it involves sac­ri­fice and patience. Once you shed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight you can indul­ge in some treats, though you must still be mod­er­ate. Like­wise with hair care, you can expect to see improve­ment but you may have to imple­ment some prac­tices that, though tem­po­rary, are a bit out of your com­fort zone.

I became a fan of pro­tec­tive style not by watch­ing the pro­gress of oth­ers who’ve used the method but by exper­i­men­ta­tion with my own hair. In July of 2007, after being nat­u­ral for almost 3 years, I flat ironed my hair and did flat iron touch ups for the next two weeks. The flat iron was always set to 450 degrees. Need­less to say my hair was heat dam­aged to the point that one hair dresser asked if I was grow­ing out my relax­er a few months lat­er. I decid­ed to trim the ends away slow­ly and by 2009 I was relieved to have shoul­der length heat dam­age free kinks and coils.  Around this time I began exper­i­ment­ing with wigs, which was actu­al­ly quite fun. Still, some­thing was miss­ing. I want­ed to learn how to prop­er­ly take care of my own hair and, quite frankly, enjoy the length with my own hair that I did with wigs.

In the fall of 2009 I dis­cov­ered sev­er­al vlogs and blogs devot­ed to nat­u­ral hair. I even joined a hair forum. By the end of Novem­ber of that year I offi­cial­ly embarked on my hair care jour­ney and chose to imple­ment two prac­tices over the fol­low­ing year: 1. Safe detan­gling: I would only detan­gle on wash day when my hair was coat­ed with oil and con­di­tion­er. I would also deep con­di­tion every week 2. I would wear pro­tec­tive styles through­out the week, keep­ing my ends mois­tur­ized and pro­tect­ed. Two years lat­er I am a firm believ­er that the­se prac­tices are fail safe. In fact, after I retained 5 inch­es of hair in 2010, I decid­ed that in 2011 I would exper­i­ment more with ‘out’ styles like braid outs. I wore my hair out for much of the win­ter, spring and sum­mer and loved it. By the fall, how­ev­er, I real­ized that I wasn’t retain­ing at the same rate I did the pre­vi­ous year. I only retained 2–3 inch­es in length. In Octo­ber of last year I went back to basics and imple­ment­ed a pro­tec­tive styling reg­i­men. In Feb­ru­ary of this year, after only 4 months of going back to exclu­sive­ly pro­tec­tive styling, I blew my hair out. Not only did I notice the dif­fer­ence but so did my friends and fam­i­ly. Pro­tec­tive styling works for me. Point. Blank. Peri­od.

If you hate pro­tec­tive styling but have strug­gled to retain length I encour­age you to con­duct an exper­i­ment. Mea­sure one por­tion of your hair. I like to choose a sec­tion of hair along my nape. Con­sis­tent­ly pro­tect that sec­tion. So, if you wear braid outs make sure you leave that sec­tion braid­ed (if the braid is small and along your nape it shouldn’t be obvi­ous that the hair is still braid­ed when the hair is styled). Three or four months lat­er mea­sure that sec­tion of hair and form a con­clu­sion as to the effec­tive­ness of the method.  Once you real­ize that a method works you may not imple­ment it all the time but at least you know what to do if, for exam­ple, you want to grow you hair out for a par­tic­u­lar occa­sion, to accom­plish cer­tain hair styles or sim­ply to change up your look.  Pro­tec­tive styling isn’t a nat­u­ral hair law but rather a tool that if effec­tive for you, can address any frus­tra­tion you’ve encoun­tered regard­ing length reten­tion.  Fur­ther­more, if you find that some styles are less than becom­ing on you (i.e. mini twists seem scalpy), you might con­sid­er updos with loose stretched hair. I wore my hair this way and still do from time to time.

So, will I forever wear pro­tec­tive styles? Well, yes and no. For length reten­tion, like­ly not. Once I reach my goal length I can tech­ni­cal­ly main­tain the length of my hair even if I wear it out every week. How­ev­er, I actu­al­ly enjoy wear­ing huge buns and the ease of mini twists. For this rea­son pro­tec­tive styling will more than like­ly always be a part of my hair jour­ney.

Ladies, how do you feel about pro­tec­tive styling? If you are a 4B or 4C nat­u­ral do you find it frus­trat­ing that con­sis­tent pro­tec­tive styling is required to retain length?

For more of Geniece’s thoughts on 4b/4c hair­care, check out her YouTube chan­nel: Beau­ti­ful­ly Made.

Gen

Island girl raised in the most roy­al of NYC’s bor­oughs. Proud nerd, social sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor and recov­er­ing awk­ward black girl. When not lis­ten­ing to NPR, try­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly, or detan­gling my fro, I’m search­ing for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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94 Comments on "Are 4B/4C Naturals Limited to Only Protective Styles?"

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Loo
Geniece is one of my favorite youtu­bers! :o) I’m a 4abcxyz … a type I made up. My hair large­ly con­sists of 4b/4c strands mixed in with oth­er stuff. Pro­tec­tive styling has been my tick­et to retain­ing length as a nat­u­ral when it is done right (i.e., styles not kept in for too long). I also like pro­tec­tive styling for the sim­plic­i­ty and the over­all look. Twists and braids are so ele­gant to me.  That being said, I agree that 4b/4c’s are not lim­it­ed to only pro­tec­tive styles. There are a cou­ple nat­u­ral youtu­bers who have reached waistlength while incor­po­rat­ing twistouts… Read more »
Jhae

Do you mean Reniece? I tried to look Geniece up I couldn’t find any­thing. I’m always look­ing for good chan­nels to fol­low :)

Loo

Yep, sun­show­er143 on youtube. ;o)

O0oro0O

Geniece = sun­show­er143 on you tube ^^ if I am not mis­tak­ing

Hermione

While I will agree that pro­tec­tive styling does help my 4b/c hair achieve length, I also end up with dry, crispy ends. End that I cut off because I view them as dam­aged hair. Sign. How am I to retain the length I’ve gained with­out hav­ing dry ends? I spritz my hair 2 times a day with a water and evoo mix. This win­ter alone, my hair has grown 2 inch­es result­ing in 2 inch­es of dry, crispy ends — that were cut off. Try­ing to lis­ten to my hair. Help!!!

Lynn

You may also want to try the bag­gy method. This focus­es soley on the ends of your hair. It’s just a plas­tic sand­wich bag­gy filled with your fav con­di­tion­er & oils, place the ends of your hair in the bag­gy, secure it w/ a pony­tail hold­er, and a nylon knee high. Some ladies use this method to give their ends a lit­tle extra TLC. Hope this helps :-)

Dolores
This is just my two cents, but hav­ing dry ends may be a char­ac­ter­is­tic of your hair type. Are you sure your ends are dam­aged? Are they split and frayed? I am 4b, and when I blow-dry my hair, my ends tend to be very hard and dry in com­par­ison to the rest of my hair. I don’t have split ends though, and I feel no need to cut my hair. A hair styl­ist once asked my why my hair is “nap­py at the end” after she blow dried it. Need­less to say, I no longer use her ser­vices and… Read more »
Kate

Dry ends means dam­aged ends, you need to mois­tur­ize your ends because oth­er­wise they will split and become frayed. I use water and oil on my ends when they are in pro­tec­tive styles, may­be you should use heat pro­tect.

Dolores
Thanks Kate. I real­ly don’t blow dry my hair very often. I’ve used a heat pro­tec­tant before, and I am not con­vinced that it did much. I prefer to avoid heat instead. I dis­agree that dry ends are nec­es­sar­i­ly dam­aged though. Yes, they are more sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age, but they are not already dam­aged. I’m not sure what your hair type is like, but my ends are always dry. No amount of water or oil will change that. Mois­tur­iz­ing can reduce dry­ness, but ulti­mate­ly the hair will always be dry. If I cut off ends that I thought were dry… Read more »
Gen

My hair some­times feels dry but if I’m mois­tur­iz­ing it reg­u­lar­ly and not using heat I know it’s not going to result in break­age. Kinky fine tex­tured hair can ‘feel’ mois­tur­ized. My hair will feel this way. But a few days after wash day it feels dry even though I’m car­ing for the ends. It’s just a char­ac­ter­is­tic of my hair

Dawn
i see what you’re say­ing. i read a blog post by a wom­an who also describes her hair as 4b/4a and she says that dry­ness is sim­ply a char­ac­ter­is­tic of our hair type. and she’s not too far off the mark. i went for a year and a half with­out both­er­ing to mois­tur­ize my hair. mind you, i start­ed off at Col­lar­bone length, and i wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly try­ing to grow my hair out. i could have cared less because at the time i wasn’t focused on length at all. by the time the year and a half was up, i… Read more »
BrinkyDinks
I kind of agree with this. I first went nat­u­ral in 2007, and I shaved off all my hair and didn’t both­er with “prop­er” hair care. I wasn’t mois­tur­iz­ing or sleep­ing with any­thing on my hair, wasn’t get­ting it trimmed. My diet was a lit­tle bad as well. But after I relaxed my hair again because my grand­ma want­ed me to, my hair was fine. No sin­gle strand knots, my ends were even, I retained all of my length. So I do agree some peo­ple make nat­u­ral hair more dif­fi­cult than what it needs to be.
Dolores

One more thing. Many wom­en think that cer­tain prod­ucts are the answer, but I kind­ly dis­agree. I have wast­ed my mon­ey on expen­sive prod­ucts in the past, and they have done noth­ing for me. I use cheap­ie drug store prod­ucts now, and my hair is longer than it has ever been. It is impor­tant, how­ev­er, to find a sham­poo (if you choose to use one instead of co-wash­ing) that does not strip your hair too much.

Sonya
Hermione — it sounds like you have the wrong mois­tur­iz­er. I used to be plagued with dry, crunchy ends too. My hair does not respond to evoo. My hair loves coconut oil. And my “holy grail” pro­duct is Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhanc­ing Smooth­ie. Now my ends (and my whole head) feel like but­ter (all day every day). I only have to reap­ply once or twice/week. Keep try­ing dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of oils that pen­e­trate the hair shaft until you find your “holy grail.” If you lis­ten to your hair, your hair will tell you what it wants.
Coily Africana

I sec­ond Brinky­Dinks said, try the LOC method as it seems your hair might not like being sealed with oils. My hair used to feel greasy but dry and brit­tle before, but now it has improved. I actu­al­ly stum­bled on that method acci­den­tal­ly, after wash­ing one week­end I put coconut oil to wet hair before seal­ing and twist­ing with Nexxus humectress(old for­mu­la). I have since refined the process but it still works.

BrinkyDinks
I used to have this issue too! What saved me from going crazy was doing the LOC method when seal­ing my hair. My hair stays mois­turised for at least 3 days if not 5. If I had to type I’m 4a but I have patch­es in the back that are 4b. Basi­cal­ly after you wash your hair, you spray your hair hair with a Liq­uid leave in (I make my own with aloe vera juice, dis­tilled water. Some­times, I may steep the water with marsh­mal­low root or hibis­cus). Then, I use an oil to seal that in (use any oil… Read more »
Jane

I love the LOC method, but my liq­uid is the water on my hair after wash­ing. I prefer lighter oils and then using a mois­tur­iz­ing cream. My hair is always so super soft and won­der­ful­ly touch­able, and I leave it out all the time.

Loo

It is pos­si­ble you’ve cut off all the dam­age and your hair will flour­ish from here. You may also want to exper­i­ment with oth­er mois­tur­iz­ers and/or con­di­tion­ers. It seems like dry­ness is more of the issue than the actu­al pro­tec­tive styling. Sor­ry to hear about your set­back. Hang in the hair care jour­ney!

Mai
I have a com­bi­na­tion of 3c, 4a, and 4b (and even some 1 and 2s specif­i­cal­ly in my crown) and while I am not a fan of pro­tec­tive styling, it saves me valu­able time when get­ting ready to go to work in the morn­ing and going to bed at night. On wash days, I just 2 strand twist my hair and leave it in a pony­tail dur­ing the week and spray­ing with a water mix­ture of con­di­tion­er, olive oil, and glyc­er­in at night. I used to spend an hour prepar­ing my hair at night and 15 min­utes in the morn­ing… Read more »
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