5 Reasons It’s a BAD Idea to Protective Style Non-Stop

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Protective styling — styling your hair in such a way that ends are tucked and protected — is an effective way to retain length in a relatively short amount of time. But moderation is the key to most things in life, and protective styling is no different! Here are 5 reasons it’s not a good idea to protective style non-stop.

1. You can better assess how products work on loose hair
Loose strands are the best template for testing how products work. You get a better sense of whether a product is absorbing or sealing properly, whether it smooths your strands, and how it’s affecting the texture of your hair. Take advantage of time in between protective styling to test new products and revisit old faithfuls to ensure they’re still performing well.

2. You can moisturize more effectively on loose hair
Styles like twists and box braids are easy to moisturize. But other protective styles, like updos and buns, keep so much hair hidden and tucked that it can be difficult to get a full saturation. It’s key to take advantage of time in between protective styling to do good deep conditioning and (if necessary) protein treatments.

3. Lint and shed hair buildup can lead to matting and breakage
Lint is an inevitability for women with textured hair. If it’s left on the hair for too long — and combines with spritzes, oils, and butters — it forms tiny lint balls that adhere to your strands, almost like glue. These are very hard to take down without causing serious breakage. You need breaks from protective styling so that lint doesn’t have a chance to accumulate.

4. It’s important to know how to maintain length with low manipulation styles
Unless you want to be in twists and cornrows for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to learn how to do low manipulation ‘out styles’. If you’re nervous at the thought of keeping your hair out, start small. Take your protective style down on Friday, allow yourself time to experiment on the weekend, and put the style back up in on Sunday night. Once you’re comfortable, gradually do the take down earlier and earlier in the week until you can go a full week rocking low manipulation styles that keep your ends in tact.

5. Constant protective styling can be emotionally draining
There is little point to being natural if you never ever get a chance to enjoy your big, bodacious, textured hair. Even if you’re working towards a hair goal, it’s psychologically important for you to spend time celebrating your hair as it is and have some fun!

What do you think ladies? Is taking protective styling breaks important to you? Why or why not?

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast. When I'm not here, I'm moderating a Facebook group for black mothers called Black Moms Connect.

 

82 thoughts on “5 Reasons It’s a BAD Idea to Protective Style Non-Stop

  1. #5 resonated with me as well. However, I am learning to “listen” to my hair in much the same way I listen to my body when it comes to nutrition and fitness. I live in a very cold, dry climate most of the year so wearing out styles for more than two days in a row is rarely an option for me. I am learning to improve my skill and repertoire with protective styles. My lack of styling skill has until now meant that braid outs or twist outs were for the times when I wanted to show off my hair and the protective styles ( 2 strand twists in a pony tail or bun) were for work and the gym.

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  2. I don’t do protective styles often. It was too much when I first started going natural and found that doing a simple bun was my thing but I wear my hair loose more than in a protective style. I didn’t see any damage to it and it is midway down my back and that let me know that a lot of natural ladies stress too much over the styling and stress does more damage than external things. I’m glad someone posted this to help us realize that it’s okay to give your hair a break as well as yourself.

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    • I mean speak for yourself but some ladies really do have trouble retaining length without protective styles. I have very fine hair so when I wear my hair out too often in this harsh winter weather,I don’t experience as much retention (or none at all).Protective styles have been good to me. But I agree with you when you mention that hair is just hair and not worth stressing over. Patience and a free attitude is vital; I think you can still have these things even with constant protective styling….

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  3. I’m fairly new to natural hair and this article and the comments have thoroughly confused me. I flat twist my hair every night and wear it out every day. Am I protective styling? And how does one not twist (or something similar) every night in order to wear the hair down/out?

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    • Wearing twists at night for a twist out is actually not protective styling. Protective styling occurs when one styles their hair in a way that tucks and protects their ends. Some examples of protective styling would be wearing buns and updos, styles that tuck the hair away from shirts, which can damage the hair if worn out too often. Hope this helps!

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    • Hi!
      Protective styling is when your ends are tucked away, it can be different updos like the buns or janelle monae inspired styles or braids and twists. You are doing twist outs and that’s not a protective style.

      And for your other question I usualy sleep with my hair in a pineapple (beacuse of lazyness) it’s when your having your hair in a high ponytail it makes your hair more stretched but after 2-3 days your definition will be mostly gone. If you like definition but don’t like to twists every night can I recomend to do big twists every other day or like twice a week your hair will stretch and your definition will not dissapear as quickly as having it in a pineapple. I hope that helped a little :)/ European reader

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    • Thanks for your responses. Would you clarify for me: if your ends are out in braids or twists/cornrows, how is it protective styling? And my hair won’t go up into a bun, are there other protective styles for shorter hair?

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      • There are 3 basic types of protective styling:
        1. Ends protected from the elements by not exposing them to the elements (a pompadour or bun for example)
        2. Strands protected from one another, to avoid tangling and matting, by wearing twists, braids, or any style that keeps smaller portions of the hair separate.
        3. A combination of #1 and #2, such as twists, braids or the like in a pin-up/up-do style. This protects both your ends for the elements and individual strands from tangling together.

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      • When my hair was in the awkward “short but not a TWA” stage I tried my hand at the tuck and roll style (search the blogs or youtube) and I also did individual twists and pinned them. It was not the cutest time in my life but it worked. You can jazz it up with hair accessories and hats.

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    • For me, flat twisting every night for a down style would be problematic because I would be manipulating my hair too much which would result in breakage. Not sure how much length you have but I would where my hair in twist for at least a couple of weeks before a wore an out style when I first went natural. I think it is fine to style your hair as you want but if you end up not seeing much length retention the first thing I would look at is how much I am in my hair every day. If your hair is long enough you can pineapple your twist out on the top of your hair with a hair tie. If your hair is too short then you may just want to pin the twist out down to your head or make larger twist so that the textured is maintained overnight but you don’t have to do intricate flat twist.

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  4. I might do it for periods of 2-3 days just for a breather. Mini-twists stay in for 7 days max. I’ve found it’s best to not wear the same style or part too much or it can cause breakage. If I part my hair on the right one day, I change it to the left side or a center part that next day. If your bunned head itches on day 2, just let it down, moisturize, and wear another style. No big deal. Protective styling can be a prison or a vacation…it just depends on one’s flexibility and reasoning.

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  5. I agree and disagree with this. The reason I agree is because, I have been natural for 2 years but have only worn my natural hair out maybe 7 times the most. I’ll rock a afro puff but thats it. It took alot for me to look at myself in the mirror and like what I saw. I was used to seeing braids or a weave because I was scared of what people would say. I already knew I had to get some braids. I wore my braids and weaves in all different styles for 4 to 5 weeks. Get a really good wash and condition and get braided all over again. I would go 3 days at most with my hair out just to breathe. My hair has continued to grow and get thicker. I do wish I could have been brave enough to rock my short natural hair. I wear my hair out now but only because its long and straightened.

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    • Hey Tamey,

      You gotta be a bit more careless of what other people think. No one wants to be thought of as unattractive of course, and we do want to look presentable, but natural hair is not un-presentable and it’s very attractive. You know the expression “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? We are among the very small minority of people with such exquisitely-textured hair, and it’s unique. Other races copy US! Yeah, it requires more care, but that only makes it more valuable. Don’t be afraid to wear your pretty hair unstraightened. I’m sure the haters wish they could be so bold. :)

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      • Everyone “copies” everyone, and always has since the beginning of time. I hate that in order to have confidence, you have to bash other races. This isn’t a race thing, so please stop it.

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        • I didn’t get the impression that Dana was bashing other ethnic groups, she was simply stating a fact. Some members of other non-Black ethnic groups DO copy Black people – sometimes collectively – and often do it after denigrating Blacks for the very thing they copy. There are good and bad people in every ethnic group, but racism exists in subtle and not so subtle forms. Just because we have non-Black family members and friends, we can’t pretend it doesn’t. I got the impression that Dana was trying to encourage Tamey by telling her that Black hair is presentable in it’s natural state and to be courageous about it.

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    • I had to reply because I saw your comment had a high number of “thumbs down.” I just wanted to say thank you for your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to come into a natural hair community and admit that it took a while for you to see beauty in your natural hair.

      This site, in particular, has always bothered me because, notwithstanding all the “positive” talk that some of these women push, it’s still very taboo around here to address the emotional and mental challenges to confront some of the feelings of inferiority and ugliness we’ve been conditioned to have about ourselves and our hair.

      If anyone questions the motives of the addiction so many black women have to perms/weaves/anything that will make your hair hang down like the white ladies… these ladies will jump down your throat QUICK! You ain’t allowed to say boo about why we feel straightened or phony hair to be superior to our own. And you just put it out there. I think the first step on anybody’s natural journey is to admit and accept that they’ve been covering and hiding their natural hair FOR A REASON. And once we deal with those underlying reasons and issues, we can take a fresh look at ourselves free from our painful cultural history and see true beauty.

      Thanks again for your honesty and courage. Yes. It’s taken a while for you to see beauty in yourself – you ain’t the only one. And it’s okay to admit that. You made it! And that’s what counts. Peace and Love.

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      • YES!! Thats why I always say its more than just hair. But its so not cool to say so these days. They just call you a nazi because you dare to make black women question why we have such a confusing relationship with our hair. We aren’t suppose to question.

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        • I agree. This was not a good article. SO mayn naturals have never tapped into the beauty, ease, and convince of protective styles. Not to mention it IS healthier for your hair and holds in moisture.

          And! depending on how curly your hair is it wont mat unless you leave it in a protective style for a month or more.

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          • I think this was going well until you make a statement that sounds a bit black and white. Protective styling is not good for everyone’s hair. My hair is finer than fine, my mom has straight hair, my dad’s hair is tightly tightly curly. My hair was not always curly and my curly texture is unique. I tried protective styling and have spent these past few months recovering my hair from massive breakage. I used to get split ends so I thought it would help. What protects my hair from split ends is effectively moisturizing it, my hair is low porosity. The loco method locked on moisture for me and I don’t have to create the illusion of smooth, moisturized hair with protective styles, whilst they are breaking my hair off.

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  6. If you plan to protective style long term switch it up don’t just have one hairstyle for the entire year. Rotate between sew ins, wigs, braids, twists and cornrows assuming you wear each style for 6 weeks leave your hair out for 2 weeks then braid again the 5 protective options given can take you 10 months with your hair breathing every 2 weeks. Do different variations of the protective style chosen each time I know people who are in box braids from January to December!

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  7. In my experience, protective styling has been my key to retaining length. During my first year of being natural I wore my hair out and free. That led to a lot of tangles in my tightly coiled texture, and I had cut a good bit of it out. In my second year, I protective styled exclusively. I’d wear a style for 1-2 weeks and wash, then wear another protective style. I think this article had some good points, because no style should be left in indefinitely…but to some textures fare better in protective styles than others.

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    • I agree with Sassy in that protective styles helped me retain my length. Since my hair is in the 4b-4c range, wearing it out leads to too many tangles and knots. My hair grows better and healthier when I don’t touch it

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  8. I found this article a bit confusing as well, especially since the website is hosting a protective style challenge right now where you have to wear your hair in a protective style everyday for 90 days, with just 2 opportunities to wear your hair out during the challenge.

    Maybe it’s just bad timing for the article, but it makes me wonder is the contest promoting what’s best for natural hair or is it just a chance to get people involved in the site and the forums.

    I’m still doing the challenge, but definitely makes me think and scratch my head (which is wearing mini twists in a protective styled bun, of course :)

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  9. It seems that the article doesn’t really doesn’t give solid reasons as to why protective styling is not a good idea. Every reason presented is weak starting with #1, what if I don’t try new products all the time. Or for the other reasons if you don’t keep the braids or style in too long, or don’t wear buns and wear braids or twists instead. I was expecting to be informed of something that was a little more convincing than this. The longer I’ve been subscribed to your blog I’m starting to be turned off. How about something about black innovators within the hair movement being as though it is black history month. It is very sad to see how you highlight black women’s hair and so on but what I don’t like is to see the posts where you highlight a celebrity’s hair under their weave or wig and then ask people what they think. You open the door for people to judge and comment unnecessarily. Then people want to comment on who’s black enough or not. I’ve learned nothing from your blog that wasn’t on every other person’s natural hair blog site or You Tube. Uplift us black women and encourage your followers to look at this natural hair movement a little differently. And while your at it, do a little more research because those oils that you claim no one’s ever heard of were products that walmart and target carry. There are thousands of natural alternatives that you’ve yet to explore and should. Don’t worry I am unsubscribing now. God bless!

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    • Loved your post!! I also didn’t feel the article presented a compelling enough argument against protective styling especially since so many naturals who have long natural hair – including many featured on this site – achieved length by wearing protective styles most of the time – some 90% to 95% of the time. What would have been a better article is something on traction alopecia and how wearing too tight styles of any sort can contribute to that. Statistically, traction alopecia affects Black women more than any other ethnic group. It’s a big problem in our community amongst Black women of all ages. I also would love to see articles about Black hair innovators in history on this site and less articles about a celebrity’s hair under their weave or wig.

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    • I agree these are not great arguments. The only important points here are about varying your style, the emotional drainage, and the fact that ps can cause breakage. My hair got too much breakage from ps. Tangles on loose hair? Well, I do the loco method usually either once or twice daily and when I go thru a section upon adding the cream or conditioner, I am able to manually remove any tangling. I literally do that every day. I can’t wear my hair up right now I had too much breakage from ps.

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  10. Different strokes. I feel like this. Some people are against the idea of saving and investing money because they want to cash in their investments or spend now and “enjoy their money now.” If you decide to delay spending, spend in moderation now, it may mean going on a vacation later, having money for a house down payment later having money to retire later, etc. It’s kind of like that with hair. Do what you can to preserve it or save it now and then you can “enjoy your hair” even more than you do now – later – when it’s 12 to 23″ long, mid-back length, waist length, hip length – whatever.

    I’ve done low-manipulation hairstyles for long periods and wore my hair out a lot in the past. For my specific hair type, it didn’t work to retain length. Other people can wear low-manipulation styles and wear their hair out and retain length no problem. I can’t. A lot of naturals can’t. The name of this site is Black Girl With Long Hair and many of us know that protective styling is how many of the “hair icons” featured on this got to the length they’ve achieved (again, not all of them but a good number of them). I know, I’ve read their articles for over a year now. I agree with the article, non-stop protective styling is not a good thing, but many naturals are perfectly fine with protective styling most of the time until they reach their hair goals.

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    • But you still seem to be making the assumption that protective styles are right for everyone. Although they did make me bitter about having long hair, I did it anyway for the sake of my hair health, only to find that it caused my hair so much breakage. I now wear my hair down every day all day and I never see any breakage, split ends or single strand knots. When I wore my hair in protective styles I saw breakage every time I took them out, and my ends, when they are braided, they dry out and split open. I used to get one or two knots from a wash and go but not since I started doing catnip tea rinses. Protective styles are the key to your length retention but not everyone’s and I have had hair past my rear for years and years, and no matter what I do it grows.

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      • That’s wonderful about your length retention and your natural hair journey. However, if you read my post carefully. The first thing I stated was “Different strokes.” Later, I posted for “my specific hair type, it didn’t work to retain length. Other people can wear their hair out and retain length no problem.” That would be someone like you, Charlotte! Later in the post, I stated ” . . . protective styling is how many of the hair icons featured on this site got to the length they’ve achieved (again, not all of them but a good number of them).” And that’s true! If you count how many featured natural hair icons with bra-strap length hair or waist length hair on this site used protective styling to retain length and counted those who didn’t, the number of those that didn’t would be greater. I don’t feel I posted anything but my experience and the expressed experience of other naturals who have voiced what I voice and naturals I know personally. There was no need to get defensive and state that I’m making the assumption that protective styles are right for everyone when I never explicitly stated that ALL naturals should wear protective styles to grow longer hair. That’s a blanket statement.

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        • I was referring to your analogy about saving money or cashing in. It sounded to me like you were saying that ppl who choose to wear their hair free a lot or most of the time are taking some sort of chance on their hair health, but whatever. I would encourage anyone who has grown long hair via protective styling to thoroughly examine their midshaft for distress because midshaft breakage is very very common and often overlooked. One key reason I think my hair grows so well regardless of how I wear it is because I do NOT style it. Most of the time I have always just work really simple, two minute styles, or I just wear it down. Any time I ventured into braiding my hair to avoid having to comb it I would develop scalp problems immediately, and shedding, which is something I typically never ever really experience. I shed about a maximum of five hair strands every time I detangle in the shower regardless of how long I go. I don’t see what’s so hard about trimming the ends and moisturizing. Catnip tea also reduces the occurrence of split ends. Long hair will always have a few split ends I don’t care what anyone says.

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          • This is the last reply I’ll post and then if you choose, I’ll let you have the last word on this because I don’t like going back and forth with people – especially online or on a blog.
            I’m not going to take back anything I posted or back pedal. I stand by it as my experience and the experience of other naturals. I’m glad that your hair regimen worked for you and I’m sure it works for others as well. The fact of the matter is that there are some naturals who would like to have longer natural hair but don’t want to wear protective styles, just like there are people that want more money to retire with but don’t want to save. These naturals try trimming, gentle manipulation, moisturizing and their hair still doesn’t retain length at the same rate it does while wearing a protective style like a bun, an updo, twists, braids, braid extensions, a wig, or a weave. That analogy about the money only refers to those women who do trim and moisturize but still don’t retain length because their hair type, porosity, hair density, etc. is different from yours and other naturals. Also, some women also just don’t feel like or have time to be meticulous about their regimen so protective styles are easier – for them!

            Of course any women should do what she feels is best. You are getting caught up in semantics. This blogs invites people to post their opinion and that is what I did. I am perfectly aware that protective styles don’t work for everyone. I have stated that repeatedly. It seems you want me to take back everything I posted. Sorry. I’m not going to do that. I stand by it. All I will do is again applaud you for your length retention and a regimen that works for you and other naturals. I have religiously done your kind of regimen years ago and only retained a third of the length I’m retaining now protective styling, I’m sure that is the experience of many naturals. Others have a different experience.

            I’m not you. I’m not going to state everything the way you want me to state it or do everything you want me to do with my hair. I expressed an opinion and experience. You expressed yours.

            No matter what anyone says about your hair, you’re doing what you want to do and what you feel is best. So why get defensive?

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  11. Hello. My name is Tomiko Fraser Hines and my picture is the one used for this story. If you don’t mind, I’d like to give proper credit to the photographer, Derek Blanks, for the use of his picture for this story. Thank you. : )

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    • Hey Tomiko!

      Love your work over the years, keep it up! Derek Blanks is the bomb! Yes, credit should be given where it is due.

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  12. Honestly I’ve come a long way on my natural hair journey, at first I would never protective style (hair was too short and didn’t like the concept) but now protective styling is cool if what I do can be considered such. Whenever I feel like I need a break I just twist my hair up and try to keep it in for a week, I just start missing my hair so much lol! However the women on this site really have me thinking, I need to stretch it a little bit and try to go for a month of protective styling or longer.

    For me it isn’t so much about length retention but simultameously it is, I don’t protective style to grow my hair I protective style because I know I’ll be too lazy to take care of it for a certain period of time or I’m really busy. I use to obsess over hair growth (YouTube will do that to you) but now I’m just carefree almost… I love out styles and if I want to wear my hair out I will but if I’m tired it will be twisted or just kept in a scarf, I just do what works for me at the moment it’s really stress free.

    One issue I have encountered with protective styling however is something a previous poster stated, my s/o wants to feel and see my hair 24/7! He just can’t get enough and I kind of protective style to keep HIS hands out of my hair lol, some people really don’t understand why my hair is twisted everytime they may see me and I just have to let them know that this is what’s easy for ME right now.

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  13. why is everyone so confused and combative? Honestly (and I only speak for me) it’s just hair. I did all this stuff when I was growing up and didn’t have a name for it and my hair was fine. If everyone would just take a deep breath, read each article – chew the meat, spit out the bones, and know your hair. It’s really not very complicated. Some will grow very long hair with protective styles and some won’t. Everything just does not work for everyone. Know your hair.

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  14. I was so happy to see this article. I have loved wearing my hair out daily but I figured I should try protective styles to see if I could jump start my growth. I have been natural for about 18 months and just started protective styling to get over a growth “hump”. In just the 2 weeks I have found that I get tired of hiding my hair. I have become so accustomed to wearing my hair out it was a challenge to have it hidden. It’s nice to know that its not the worst thing for my hair to wear it out.

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  15. Pingback: 3 Youtubers With Type 4 Long Natural Hair and Low-Manipulation Regimens | Black Girl with Long Hair

  16. Interesting. I have been natural for 8 years, and I protective style 95% of the time. I have retained a great deal of length (MBL) this way. I am very familiar with what my hair likes, how it behaves with different products, and know how to moisturize it effectively while in twists (which is my protective style of choice). And I LOVE the look of my protective styles. I have been very creative with my twists, and don’t feel like I’m missing out because I don’t wear out styles often. When in out styles, my hair requires a lot more manipulation in order to remain moisturized. For my fine strands, this leads to breakage. I didn’t agree with the reasons presented.

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  17. Ladies I have a problem. My hair is hip length and I got some really bad advice that I should not do wash and go’s, only braid out’s and now my hair is ruined. I’m not blaming the person, mostly myself for not noticing sooner. And it was very emotionally draining because I feel like I am in a prison I can’t enjoy my hair. I don’t really know about bunning yet. I’m not sure if it is helping or hurting, but what I intend to do is trim off my hair gradually, and I think maybe I will bun it at home loosely and wear it down when I leave the house but yeah to me there is no point in having beautiful long hair if you have to hide it all the time and apparently the advice has damaged my hair. My thinking is that you cannot really prevent all splitting on my hair, I would rather have split ends that can be trimmed off, not midshaft damage. Ppl make the assumption that this is all caused by dryness, no it is also caused by stretching. Seriously, screw protective styles. Maybe for some ppl they are the key but for me, they are nonsense. I am so sad and depressed and my husband thinks nothing is wrong with my hair so he will give me a hard time about cutting it short. So I will have to do a trim slowly and wait.

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  18. OK. So I’ve just started transitioning in October. And I got box braids and kept them till the beginning of December. I took them down and I was very careful with taking them down, but when I tried to wash my hair, it got all matted and tangled. And then to make matters worse, my mother took a plastic pick comb and started raking and yanking and pulling my hair. It was coming out in clumps! I couldn’t give my hair a break, she insisted that I get them done again for Christmas, so I did. Now it’s been at least 8 weeks and I’m ready to take these bad boys out and try some new protective styles. But my mother is insisting that I get them again. I just don’t want to have to sit for 7 hours again. I can’t even put these things in a bun (which is kinda why I got them). So what should I do? I see not point in transitioning if I’m constantly in box braids.

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  19. i’m glad i read this article, although i realize protective styling is important, i love my hair and want to wear it out more often without feeling guilty. low manipulation styles are a great option, thanks for the info!

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