Protective styling; It’s a topic that comes up often in natural hair care discussion. And while it’s a proven way to retain length and improve the quality of natural hair, it’s far from a natural hair requirement and it definitely rubs some naturals the wrong way. Here are 5 signs that protective styling is just not the thing for you…

1. Your hair can retain length without protective styling

Does your hair sprout like weeds regardless of what you do to it? Then you, my friend, have strong hair and probably don’t need the added “oomph” of protective styling for length retention. We’ve featured quite a few women who don’t need protective styling to retain length (check out Elle, Geri and Jess).

2. You value styling over length

Why should I go natural, only to keep my hair hidden all the time?, is a common refrain from naturals who don’t like the idea of rocking the same style for 1 to 2 weeks at a time. If you are one that likes to switch it up on the regular, and ‘length goals’ aren’t a concern of yours, then feel free to mix it up!

3. Length is not a concern for you

This is pretty self explanatory. Growing natural hair out is a time commitment, and so is maintaining long natural hair. While waist-length natural Geniece recently shared that maintaining long hair doesn’t have to take forever, it does undoubtedly take more time than managing short hair. If long hair maintenance is not your cup of tea, feel free to bypass protective styling.

4. Your hair is prone to locing

Have you kept your hair in a style for a few days, only to discover that certain areas started locing? Now of course, this would be a blessing if you were transitioning to locs, but if you plan on rocking loose strands, this obviously won’t work for you. You will either have to abandon protective styling altogether, switch to loc resistant styles (like cornrows or flat twists) or cut down on the number of days that you keep your hair in protective styles.

5. You have a scalp condition

Some scalp conditions, like dandruff or psoriasis, require you to wash and/or apply product to your scalp at an increased rate and protective styles can get in the way of that. Before you take on a protective styling regimen, get your scalp condition under control. And keep in mind that protective styling often comes with some minor product buildup on the scalp. Be sure that this won’t agitate any existing scalp problems.

Alternatives to Protective Styling

There’s more than one way to retain length. While I would venture to say that for most naturals, protective styling will be the most effective, there are still plenty of ways to resist breakage.

Low Manipulation Styling

So you can’t put your hair in a set of twists and leave it for two weeks… but you CAN rock styles that don’t require excessive tugging and pulling. Try as much as possible to recycle styles, like converting a second-day twistout into a bun or updo — instead of starting from scratch with a new style.

Decrease Combing

Combing is a major culprit when it comes to breakage. Be sure that your combing technique isn’t causing breakage and try to incorporate finger combing where possible.

Keep your Ends Stretched

Stretched ends won’t tangle up on each other, and will ultimately lead to less breakage. Try setting your ends on rollers or placing your hair in bantu knots.

Regular Deep Treatments

Remember your treatments! Moisturized hair is strong hair, and strong hair is breakage-proof. Incorporate regular strength and deep conditioning treatments into your regimen. And if your hair is shedding or breaking at an increased rate, reach for the protein.

Alright ladies, sound off! Is protective styling for you? Do you incorporate it in your regimen? Why or why not?

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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80 Comments on "5 Signs That Protective Styling is Not For You"

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The Notorious ZAG

Don’t protective style, don’t sleep in a bonnet, don’t care about growth, don’t care about any of that. I wear my hair how I feel like it, and not everyone has the goal of growing super long hair. Best article to date; finally proof that not all “naturals” are so doting and overly sensitive about hair.


some people have stated that they have to PS or their hair tangles up…that doesn’t just affect length, it more importantly affects health of the hair. At the end of the day, we all have to take the time to figure out what works for our individual heads of hair and stick with it.

The Notorious ZAG
True… I’m just talking about what I do though. Sure my hair tangles, its very curly. I keep it moisturised so that it’s not matted and messy. But I think I’m more from the Solange school of though. I just don’t curr… about no hurr. It’s just hair, it is what it is, it does what it does. I’m not going to fight it’s nature or take extra precautions to make sure it’s not going to tangle or grow. It’s all good! My hair is in a stretched wash-n go now. Only stretched because after a week of wash n… Read more »

I Love this site, but sometimes these articles kill me. On any given day I can do a search and find articles that state protective styling is teh way to go and the only way to achieve length, and to not do protective styling we would be doing an ijustice to our hair.


I just re-read my comment, I am saying in advanced, please excuse a few of the typos that I made in the comment.

You right. One day its do this. The next day its don’t do it. Thats why you have to figure out your hair for yourself because it can be confusing (and daunting) for someone new. I don’t think PS helps or harms me. I just find it easier. When I would have my hair out I would have to moisturize and braid it up every night, then tie it up. In the morning I would have to unravel the braids and pull and tease it to the way I like-EVERYDAY. Boo. Now, when I keep it in twists I might… Read more »



I really loved this article! Because I have dry scalp, long term PS would be disastrous for me. I wear buns a lot, because it has to be low manipulation styles for me.


Great article. My hair grew to shoulder length in a year without PSing and good thing because I can’t imagine not being able to wear my stretched afro almost everyday. I understand why PSing is a necessity for some women, but I’m glad to read an article the points out that there are other alternatives to PSing.

After big chopping about 9 months ago after a 10 month transition, my hair is now neck length when in a twist out and about shoulder length when stretched all the way out. People comment about how fast it’s growing and I wear twist outs 99% of the time. I usually wear it down, in an up do, or half up half down. I spray my hair with water, seal with grapeseed oil, and retwist nightly and my hair is healthy. I wore two strand twists for a week a couple of months ago and my hair and scalp(especially the… Read more »

I love it! Your hair is spoiled! It’s wonderful that you have found what works for you. It is so true that we all have to find what works for each of us. It is SUCH a process, but once we figure it out, it is great.
Happy growing!!!


Thanks Zenith!!! You’re right, it IS a process to find out what works for your hair, but it is such a relief when it happens. Happy growing to you too girl! 🙂


The keys to length retention are

2)Sealing with an Oil or Butter.
3)Covering your hair at night with Satin scarf or using a pillow case

I do single plaits or two strand twist 2-3x a year max when i can be bothered.

My signature style choice is a braid out or a puff. You can’t go wrong there.

Protetctive style can be part of your routine here and there if you want but doesn’t HAVE to.

I had to do another big chop because my hair was just damaged from lack of moisture. I was not consistent enough with DC, moisturizing and I realized I wasn’t sealing my hair as well as I needed to. I think some of us need really heavy oil to seal. Im finally seeing hair that retains moisture and STAYS sealed by doing the LOC method (liquid, oil, cream) and I have to use mineral oil/pomade as my cream. It’s that serious! For a year, my hair was never really properly sealed…I’d wash, add conditioner and seal and hours later, my… Read more »

@ DF: I feel ya! Before the internet, and about a year after discovering natural hair blogs, my hair was never properly sealed even though I moisturized constantly;I didn’t know how heavy my sealant needed to be to retain that moisture! Ha! Finally, I understand my hair-Freedom!!!

Annie L.


My highly porous hair NEEDS (natural) pomade to seal as well. It’s very well-behaved but it needs a LOT of pure water and for that water to be cemented in with either a heavy, non-drying oil or heavy, non-drying pomade.

And my hair varies so much that humectants, proteins and alcohols, etc. can be a disaster especially with the kind of regular moisture and sealing my hair needs.


I use Cafe Latte by Anita GRant it is sooo creamy and seals moisture well.My ends are a bit dryer as they need to be dusted a bit so i add castor oil untili do.


Ditto–I totally agree!


I do low manipulation styles. I LOVE two strands but my scalpy thin twist are not whats up. I would totally do more protective styles if my hair was thicker/more dense.


That’s the same reason why I don’t do protective styling anymore. My hair is too fine and thin for twists and braids, plus they look very scalpy. Not a good look. Also, my edges are too delicate for buns. Which leaves me with WnG’s, twist/braid outs and updos.



It has not been working for me. I have not put a perm in my hair since December 2008 and it’s now June 2012 and I have not really retained any length. My hair looks to be the same length is was when it was permed. I mean after 3 years I would have expected to see more change. That’s why a week ago I decided not yo wear waves anymore. I told my self if I do it will only be for 1 month or less out of the year. No more year-round weaves for me. I want my… Read more »

Good luck, I hope you experience the progress that you’re looking for 🙂


+1 Good luck and you can do it =)


Coco, thank you. Its going to be a journey especially once I get back to Buffalo for school in the fall


Great article, although protective styling has proven to promote hair growth, there are additional ways in increasing the growth. I feel moisture is key and paying attention to what your hair needs, because even with protective styling breakage could be a problem if not done properly.


agree 100%

I just hit my 3 year anniversary!! Woohoo. Check it out here: And, I attribute my growth to protective styling. I wear 2strand twists most of the time. Although it has helped me to reach new lengths, I would like to now start wearing my hair out more….but… PS is more of a necessity for me — as my hair gets extremely tangled, matted, and dry when it is worn out!! I’ve tried rocking buns (and one would think they are easy), but I am bun-challenged and they end up looking like gigantic lopsided cotton balls dangling on the… Read more »

Congrats gorgeous!!


You have beautiful hair!




Best article to date!!! I love protective styling but I can’t stand it in the same breath. However, I know from my past history of not protecting my ends I’ve suffered severe damage and therefore hesistantly submit to PS. This is a great article to share with new naturals and I think I’ll do just that!

Rachel R.
Agree totally…this article is on point. I have worn braids and sew-ins forever and for ME personally I’m sick of them. I don’t even care to wear the wigs but I be wearing them during the winter months for protective styling and help with retaining length during the cold months. For now no more braids and sew-ins, the two strand twist/twist outs are my new best friend. For some we all know that between work, school, and kids…braids and sew-ins are what works best. As long as these things are not damageing your hair keep doing what you have always… Read more »