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 hair… 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 side of my head. :(


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 »