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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There needs to be a way to distinguish protective styles with extensions and ones without. Because most people consider both individual box braids and two strand twists with natural hair as “protective styles” even though box braids are a major cause of tension alopecia and hair loss, while regular two strand twists on natural hair are far more gentle. I myself do not consider box braids to be a safe protective style because of that. But maybe that’s just because for me extensions don’t work well, I need access to my hair to moisturize it, my edges are sensitive, and… Read more »

I rarely wear protective styles. I mainly wash and go. I can get 2nd day or 3rd day hair from a wash and go sometimes. I detangle once a week. I feel like protective styles require more manipulation, because it requires a lot more work to twist my hair up and bring it down than to pineapple at night.


I’ve got a protective updo now; I have pretty strong hair and good growth but I also know that protective styling done right can save time, money and energy. Definitely not a requirement but a reasonably healthy option for hair. Listen to your edges, scalp and strands and know which styles if any work for you and how you should rock them (ie. how long and in what weather, size of braid, for instance etc) so you don’t end up damaging what you intended protecting/help fluorish. Happy Hair days to all!


[…] 5 Signs that Protective Styling Is Not for You | Black Girl … […]

Please check out my blog post I just wrote on why protective styles are not for me and yes, length is not only something I already have tons of, it continues to be my goal, as is healthy hair. I do not believe protective styles are necessary for retaining length, and I have had long hair for a long long time, and my hair grows fast. The best way to retain length is to keep your hair moisturized at all times, do not let it get dry, which I never do in the first place. Micro trim your ends every… Read more »

Protective styling is something I love doing, especially since I’m busy with school and it keeps me from touching my hair. When I have a protective style in for too long, all I want to do is remove it and let my hair free. Whenever I have my natural hair out for a long time, all I want to do is put them back in some long lasting protective style. My hair will always be in braids but when I’m on vacation, my hair is out.


bantu knots rule. Also I have psoriasis. But LOVE WEAVE. UPART WIGS, HALF WIGS, and CLIP INS make it possible for me to treat my hair twice a week like I like to do and also maintain a healthy scalp. KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN SEW INS ARENT THE ONLY WAY!

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I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I?ll try and check back more often. How frequently you update your web site?


This article is informative; however you have to do what works for YOUR HAIR! YOUR regime MUST be tweeked accordingly as hair grows in length. I CAN NOT do what I use to do 2 1/2 years ago. I CAN’T even do what I did a year ago. I wash every two weeks and wear a protective style; but I MUST refresh that style at least twice in between the two weeks to cut down on the knots and tangles.

I don’t really know if protective styles are for me or not. But I absolutely hate extensions! I’ve hidden my hair for so long that I hate having to hide it more. I can not wait until my hair is long enough to wear I can do two strand twist and just styles those. I have always had very weak edges so weaves and braids are the devil to my hair! I still use them to retain length but definitely with caution. I have box braids right now and i keep rubbing castor oil on my temples to prevent them… Read more »
I have a love/hate feeling w/ ps. There’s some days when i like to do lazy styles like buns. But it’s just not flattering & I work in the public eye. U have no idea how cruel ppl. can b when they make comments about your hair, even though I think it’s beautiful. So some days I switch it up. Rock a pony & a bang or something like that. Most of the time my hair is protected but sometimes I take a day or 2 out of the week to let it breathe. Even though I get bored w/… Read more »