Style Icon April

In my pre­vi­ous arti­cle, I briefly men­tioned how keep­ing a pro­tec­tive style (PS) in for a short time can pre­vent you from retain­ing the max­i­mum amount of length. I did also say that the deter­mi­na­tion of what con­sti­tutes a short time is indeed indi­vid­u­al but the basic prin­ci­ples real­ly do not change. The aim of pro­tec­tive styling is 3 fold:

a. Reduc­tion of Manip­u­la­tion : Elim­i­nat­ing the need to do han­dle indi­vid­u­al hair strands on a dai­ly basis, ide­al­ly no detan­gling with a comb or even fin­ger comb­ing.
b. Elim­i­nate Tan­gling: Pre­vent­ing hair strands from inter­twin­ing and form­ing com­plex knots where 3 or more strands are involved in the tan­gle.
c. Elim­i­nate Break­age: Pre­vent­ing break­age at ends (tiny wisps) as well as mid shaft breaks (longer strands of hair with no hair bulbs vis­i­ble).

The­se 3 prin­ci­ples are the ones you should score when decid­ing how long you want to keep a pro­tec­tive style in for length reten­tion. For exam­ple:

1. PS for 2–3 Days
Exam­ple Styles: Buns, Free hair updos, Pinned twist outs/knot outs/braid outs
The­se type of styles in gen­er­al do keep ends tucked in and also pre­vent hair from rub­bing again­st clothes. They do, how­ev­er, usu­al­ly involve some amount of manip­u­la­tion e.g retwist­ing at night or minor detan­gling to restyle the bun in the morn­ing.
a. Reduc­tion of Manip­u­la­tion: 2/5
b. Elim­i­na­tion of Tan­gling: 3/5
c. Elim­i­na­tion of Break­age: 2/5

2. PS for 1 Week
Exam­ple Styles: Large/Medium twists, Own hair braids, Par­tial braid­ed styles e.g front flat twist­ed, back open, Large corn­rows e.g two French braids
The­se type of styles allow hair to be manip­u­la­tion free for at least one week. This can be suf­fi­cient for some peo­ple, but if you nor­mal­ly find that your hair expe­ri­ences break­age dur­ing the wash ses­sion or if left open and manip­u­lat­ed at the week­end, you may find that your reten­tion is com­pro­mised by fre­quent­ly redo­ing the hair.
a. Reduc­tion of Manipulation:3/5
b. Elim­i­na­tion of Tan­gling: 3.5/5
c. Elim­i­na­tion of Break­age: 3/5

3. PS for 2 Weeks
Exam­ple Styles: Small/medium corn­rows, Small twists, Own hair braids
By mov­ing up to two weeks, the inter­val with open hair is reduced. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is no harm in per­form­ing your nor­mal wash e.g week­ly or biweek­ly, while your hair is in the pro­tec­tive style. You may find that this increas­es frizz (fuzz halo as I like to call it) and you have to decide if this ok with you or not.
a. Reduc­tion of Manip­u­la­tion: 4/5
b. Elim­i­na­tion of Tan­gling: 3.5/5
c. Elim­i­na­tion of Break­age: 3.5/5

4. PS for 3–4 Weeks
Exam­ple Styles: Own hair braids, Mini twists, Par­tial styles e.g part small corn­rows, part mini twists 
Once more, mov­ing up from 2 weeks to a 3/4 week inter­val, fur­ther reduces the time when hair is open and sus­cep­ti­ble to tan­gling or break­age. This is the gen­er­al lim­it that many peo­ple will find is suit­able before hair starts to mesh with­in the pro­tec­tive style. Care also has to be tak­en when tak­ing down the style as the ends of hair may have tan­gled.
a. Reduc­tion of Manip­u­la­tion: 5/5
b. Elim­i­na­tion of Tan­gling: 4/5
c. Elim­i­na­tion of Break­age: 4/5

Do note: The num­bers given in this arti­cle are a gen­er­al guide, you should rescore each style and each time peri­od accord­ing to your own expe­ri­ence. Addi­tion­al­ly, not all hair requires pro­tec­tive styling in order to retain length. This arti­cle is direct­ed at those who do or who are not sure but think that they need an extra reten­tion kick.

Ladies, how long do you keep your pro­tec­tive styles in for? How does it work for your length reten­tion goals?

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45 Comments on "How Long Should Protective Styles Stay In for Maximum Length Retention?"

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[…] post by The Nat­u­ral Haven via Black Girl Long […]

I’ve been on this nat­u­ral hair junorey for 2 years know and I love my hair. But my top (3) main hair con­cerns are dry­ness, styling, and break­age. I belive that I’m a bit chal­lenged when it comes ot styling my hair. The only style I can exe­cute are twist/twistouts. I so would love to ven­ture out into the land of wash-n-gos, curly sets, Straight­en­ing, etc. My hair tends to feel rough/dry most of the time. Haven’t quite fig­ured out how to retain the mois­ture to pre­vent it from break­ing with­out apply­ing heavy but­ters & oils. I would love to… Read more »

I had the same issue before I entered the land of wash and go. It was Unchar­tered ter­ri­to­ry. But I would HIGHLY sug­gest start­ing your W&G rou­tine with the curly girl method. The results from doing it for 1 mon­th were absolute­ly amaz­ing. The mois­ture reten­tion, the curls is brought out of my hair, it was nice to explore that. Now I can con­fi­dent­ly wear them and get the most out of my curls. I have kinky curly hair like type 4a if you will..

tasha fierce

i leave my PS in for about 2 weeks if i’m doing mini twist, and 4 weeks if my hair is in corn­rows, i’ve had the best results this way.


I did a big chop again. Now my pro­tec­tive style is cro­chet braids I keep them for only 4 weeks. This process gonna work for me since I have my hair­styl­ist (mom­my) at home. I gain a lot of lenght after two months I’m able to do a pony­tails (yes, it’s small but still lol). I’m gonna keep doing this PS till I’m sat­is­fy with my hair lenght (shoul­der lengt lol).


What are some hair­styles for girls who play sports .I play bas­ket­ball and I’m gen­er­al­ly that type of girl who isn’t girlie nor Tom boy­ish Just in the mid­dle .I rather find a pro­tec­tive hair­style that doesn’t make me feel uncom­fort­able .


I’m leav­ing my PS (African Thread­ing) for 4 weeks. I did band­ing and African thread­ing. Does it make your hair real­ly long?


Longest i left my hair in is 7 months i saw huge growth. I do wash it and retwist if i see fit. Now that i’m ok with the length i now plan it on for 3 or 5 months. My hair is healthy so i dont want to hear peo­ple judg­ing lol

alex serrano

what type of pro­tec­tive styling do you do? I’m in school and I don’t have the time to deal with my hair on a dai­ly basis


Twists with 100% human kinky hair. Now i do.2 weeks with the same hair or 3. It thick­ened my hair up


I usu­al­ly keep my hair in for 3–4 months
I find this real­ly grows out my hair
I gain much length reten­tion and I would rec­om­mend that
girls with 4c hair should leave it in a long pro­tec­tive style and see the results ?

Veronica Emina

I decid­ed to go nat­u­ral again. I just got a perm on the 17th and I’m try­ing to tran­si­tion this time. I’m real­ly big on get­ting my hair done and need to fig­ure out how to stop get­ting my hair done every week or two weeks.