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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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.


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 ?


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


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 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).

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’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..


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


I want to fix arti­fi­cial dread­locks for two three months as a pro­tec­tive style. Any advise as to how to take it off and detan­gle with min­i­mum break­age after, and mois­tur­ize hair dur­ing, will be wel­come.


when I first BC, I wore PS for 1 year. I’m now 3year, and I don’t want PS ever again. I love my hair 4b/c, I love to wet it every­day, DC weekly…I just love my nat­ur­al hair. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, after a set­back (pro­tein over­load) I lost 2–3 inch­es in length. PS will get my length back, but I don’t want to!


what do you mois­tur­ize it with and what style do u wear? I love wet­ting my hair every­day too.


You’ll prob­a­bly think I’m crazy but I wear my small(not to small)braids for about 5 months. I have just went nat­ur­al, and I’m lov­ing the growth hair hasn’t bro­ken yet so that’s good. What do you think?


I used to do that too…but I don’t do that any­more. Main­ly because my roots start lock­ing at that point.


i could nev­er wear pro­tec­tive styling. I am new nat­ur­al. I con­di­tion or sham­poo wash every 3–4 days max­i­mum because I love play­ing in my curls. hehe­he­he­he. I love see­ing the wet coils, mois­tur­iz­ing and seal­ing them. its a beau­ti­ful thing. i am like a kid with a new toy

… I feel so wrong for this, but my go-to pro­tec­tive style is box braids/senegalese twists. Espe­cial­ly before I BC’d I typ­i­cal­ly wear them for 3 MONTHS. If I am hav­ing a “growth spurt” then I’ll set­tle for 2 but no more than 3. My reg­i­men is such that I have very lit­tle mat and tan­gling and min­i­mal break­age. I always see great length reten­tion. Now that I’m nat­ur­al, I’m not sure how long I can PS. I haven’t tried it yet because I just cut my hair in June. Sep­tem­ber is the last month for me to have my… Read more »

I high­ly rec­om­mend pro­tec­tive twists for nat­ur­al hair. I wore them for 1.5 years while tran­si­tion­ing & they grew my hair the longest it’s ever been. I reg­u­lar­ly used a spray bot­tle of water/aloe vera gel mix & it helped give my hair & scalp the mois­ture it need­ed. Cur­rent­ly I’m wear­ing my hair out but I’m ready to go back to my twists!

Maria V.

The longest I ever wore a PS was 8 weeks but that was DEFINITELY push­ing it! 

6 weeks is a good length of time for me. It allows my hair to rest, my hair doesn’t lock or get dry. I co-wash once a week and use braid spray every oth­er day. 

I took a break from it but I’ll prob­a­bly start back up when it gets cold again. It’s a good way to pro­tect my hair from the harsh Win­ter ele­ments.


The first time that I big chopped- Oct 2010- I put my hair in genie locs in my hair Jan 2011 until April 2011- and I could not believe how much growth I had achieved in such a short time. If I do pro­tec­tive styling, it has to be in the win­ter months- I pre­fer to let my hair breath and do it’s own thing in the sum­mer, while rock­ing my ‘fro


I can a whole month with­out touch­ing my hair and it grows nice­ly! Plus I don’t have time to keep doing my hair over due to the fact I have a lot of hair and its real­ly thick. So the longer the bet­ter, as well as a good mois­tur­iz­er! I’m good!


”ide­al­ly no detan­gling with a comb or even fin­ger comb­ing ”
Ques­tion: I’am won­der­ing how do I do my hair if it’s bet­ter to not detan­gling it?because if it’s all mixed up with­out hav­ing it detan­gled it seems hard to do some­thing on it…do you have some advice about it ?What can I do?

I’m with red­pa­per­lantern. I do my own sene­galese twists and keep them in for about 2 months (3 if im lazy). My hair LOVES it…it has grown a ton but most impor­tant­ly, my hair is healthy. When I let out the twists, I trim if nec­es­sary and give it a good deep con­di­tion­ing and treat my scalp with a gen­tle cleanser/exfoliater. Depend­ing on the weath­er, I’ll blow it out but i dont leave my hair down for more than a week.  For my Sene­galese twists, i use 5 packs of janet col­lec­tion syn­thet­ic hair for $1.99 and call it a day.… Read more »
Sibongile Amy
Hi Msb616. I think my hair sounds more like yours. It too is fine with medi­um den­si­ty. I loved PSs as a relaxed girl and gained some length that way. Im enter­ing my 11th month of tran­si­tion­ing and got the itch to cut before I planned so im now in corn­rolls with exten­sions for about 3–4 weeks. With my two tex­tures, own hair PSs don’t last more than 10–14 days and I need­ed a longer break. Ques­tion now is if I sld keep up the PSs with exten­sions as I still want edges when my hair is longer and ALL… Read more »

My hair grows great when in long term PS weaves & braids but my edges are a mess because of over tight braid­ing and fine tooth combs and brush­es the styl­ist would use. I am keep­ing it all nat­ur­al and enjoy­ing the frus­trat­ing­ly slow process, although my decider will be when I go on hol­i­day this year as I pre­fer to have LT PS by which time I hope to have some res­o­lu­tion to my edges I plan on doing my own sene­galese twists less comb­ing, cheap­er and hope­ful­ly get to keep edges

Maria V.
I love Sene­galese twists, they’re so pret­ty to me. For some rea­son my hair HATES twists (it gets tan­gled and starts to dry out) but one day I have to try it!!! My hair GROWS LIKE WILD FIRE when it’s braid­ed under a wig. Wigs are per­fect because they pro­tect my hair and I still have access to mois­tur­ize, wash, and style my hair as well. With weaves you can’t real­ly get to your own hair. About once a year I invest in a good human hair wig and wear it through the winter/spring. I get to look dif­fer­ent for a while… Read more »

My hair grows fastest when I microtwist it and leave it alone.


I just start­ed putting my own hair in box braids.I washed my hair twice a week with the braids in. 4 weeks lat­er I removed them. Put coconut oils on my hair overnight. Sham­pooed, con­di­tion, then sealed with olive oil. Then re-braid­ed my hair again. I don’t like braids!!!! But this is the only way for me to leave my hair alone. Won’t do twist because they just get rat­ty with wash­ing. Braids hold bet­ter.


The way you feel about braids is the way I feel about twists. ;o) I’m start­ing to like them bet­ter though. So far I’ve spent half of this year wear­ing them (my own hair; I refuse to use added hair). No mat­ter how I feel about them, I can’t deny that they work: At almost-APL, this is the longest my loose hair has ever been.


What about wear­ing sew ins and braids?


I’m a dancer and I’m away in col­lege so my hair has to be in a bun at all times or I’ll do a very high tex­tured pony puff I don’t have time to bun it up. I dance at least 4 times a week. Plus I sweat a lot lol, so it has to be in a pro­tec­tive style.

I have 4c hair and it locks quick­ly. If I wear twists more than 1.5 — 2 wks, I have tan­gling, lock­ing, and break­age. So I always try to unrav­el them by the end of a 2 wk peri­od. But, I don’t sep­a­rate or fluff the twists because frizzy, free strands caus­es fairy knot and more tan­gling for me. I sim­ply rock the tex­ture wear­ing buns, updos, etc. Because, I don’t sep­a­rate the twists, the def­i­n­i­tion lasts a long time. I also keep the ends well lubri­cat­ed and mois­tur­ized. I have been doing this for a cou­ple of months now… Read more »

Thanks, CiCi, for some help­ful tech­niques. My hair is tight­ly kinky also, and does the mesh­ing, mat­ting & lock­ing quick­ly.

How do you mois­tur­ize your ends so that they don’t cause knots while in twists? Is the detan­gling ses­sion reg­u­lar or a mon­ster one? Thanks in advance!

Hi shayshay, Sor­ry I just saw this ques­tion. There are two major things I do to avoid knots while my hair is in twists. 1. STRETCH THE ENDS — I set the ends on perm rods/cold wave rods. This stretch­es the ends and helps keep them from tan­gling or knot­ting up on itself. I pre­fer not to lose any appear­ance of length, so I don’t place the whole twist on the rods, just the ends. 2. MOISTURE — I spritz the ends with my aloe gel/water/coconut oil mix and seal the ends with black cas­tor oil or shea but­ter mix before… Read more »
I keep styles up for 1 to 2 weeks cur­rent­ly. My styles are medi­um own hair twists and flat twists. I wash and deep con­di­tion my hair every two weeks and either put my hair up in a style for two weeks, redo­ing only prob­a­bly the very front most part that has got­ten sig­nif­i­cant­ly more fuzzy than the rest. Or I leave it in for one week and then take it down to mois­tur­ize and put it right back up. I don’t mine pro­tec­tive styling for up to 4 weeks with mini twists for exam­ple but I do like to… Read more »

I need to wash my hair every 2–3 days, and can’t go more than a week with­out. My scalp just won’t have it! No long term pro­tec­tive styles for me because they just won’t hold up to my wash­ing needs.

I’d love to be able to.

So glad to see some ladies just like me. Yay! I absolute­ly can­not go more than 3 days with­out wash­ing my hair or it becomes real­ly dry and my scalp itchy… If I do go to day four it’s a bun and I’m run­ning to wash..I hate how peo­ple will say black peo­ple need to leave their hair alone for it to become long. Fre­quent wash­ing helps keep my scalp clean and hap­py which improves growth for me. I make sure to mois­tur­ize and seal my ends. I will wear buns or twists for afew days but long term ps… Read more »
i’m the same way. i can hold out for about 4 days, 5 if i’m push­ing it, but 3 is most com­fort­able. my scalp gets real­ly itchy if i try to hold out, and there is no pro­tec­tive style that can sur­vive my wash­ing rou­tine, or at least not with­out frizzing up some­thing won­der­ful. i’ve accept­ed this, and luck­i­ly for me my hair seems to not be aller­gic to manip­u­la­tion at the rate of once per 3–4 days. i might break about 3–4 strands tops, which aver­ages out to one strand per day. i’m just real­ly care­ful with my hair… Read more »

My hair thrives with lots of water, too. I wear most­ly updos. My hair doesn’t have defined curls, but how do you han­dle your SSKs? I’ve got­ten a lot of those late­ly.

Ebony Beauty

Just goes to show how diverse our hair real­ly is. Long term pro­tec­tive styling is my best friend. I don’t wash my hair too fre­quent­ly as it would be more dam­ag­ing than good. My hair has shown tremen­dous growth when I left it alone.


my hair likes to be left well alone it thrives in corn­rows which i have inder wigs, and keep in for 2–3 weeks does­nt mind braids but as i have to were it uo for work the braids put a strain on my hair­line


I’m wear­ing medi­um twists now. Hasn’t quite been a week but I am hop­ing this helps with some break­age I’ve expe­ri­enced. I have a short patch along my hair­line and anoth­er short patch on the the right side of my head and I’m not sure how it hap­pened. It may be the col­or mak­ing my hair dry. So con­fused and afraid of los­ing my length due to break­age. The rest of my hair seams fine.

Nappy4C Rocks

good points, as always Nat­ur­al Haven