From buns, to braids and twists, many nat­u­rals use pro­tec­tive styles as a way to pro­tect their ends and retain length. But a dis­cus­sion often aris­es about whether pro­tec­tive styling is as use­ful for Type 3 hair as it is for Type 4 hair. We asked two writ­ers with dif­fer­ent hair types to share their expe­ri­ences.

Type 3: Christi­na


Hair typ­ing for me has always been dif­fi­cult, because I have mul­ti­ple tex­tures that behave very dif­fer­ent­ly. The back half of my hair is very loose­ly curled, almost wavy and closer to a 3B. The front half is a tighter curl/wave, and very 3C. My crown doesn’t know what it wants out of life, and has to be con­vinced might­i­ly to even par­tial­ly curl. But to sim­pli­fy things, I go by 3C. My hair is medi­um den­si­ty, and I have medium/fine strands.My strands used to be stronger, but they’ve been weak­er since I got red ombre back in Octo­ber 2014. I have to over­com­pen­sate by adding lots of pro­tein into my reg­i­men.

How much of your mon­th is ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tec­tive styling?
If we’re talk­ing “tra­di­tion­al” pro­tec­tive styling, like zero. None at all. But if a wash & go is con­sid­ered pro­tec­tive styling. Then about 97%. My Wash and Go Pro­tec­tive Style Reg­i­men

Most of my reg­i­men, whether I’m try­ing to be pro­tec­tive or not, is ded­i­cat­ed to the wash & go. It’s the eas­i­est style for me to do, and I’ve pret­ty much got it down to a small sci­ence for my hair. Every year or so, I exper­i­ment with mini twists of some sort, but for me it’s a min­i­mal return on invest­ment. My twists stay in for a max of 4–5 days, but real­ly by day 3 they start unrav­el­ing and look­ing super fuzzy. Some things just aren’t meant to be for my hair, and I’m okay with that.

The main chal­lenge I have with my hair, whether pro­tec­tive styling or not, is scalp pso­ri­a­sis. In order to keep things from spi­ral­ing out of con­trol, I have to wash my hair every 3–4 days or so. That’s hon­est­ly one of the main rea­sons why I can’t “put my hair away” for extend­ed peri­ods of time in a pro­tec­tive style. Oth­er than that, I will say me wear­ing my hair “out” pret­ty much dai­ly means that I have to be super dili­gent about keep­ing my ends mois­tur­ized and sealed. And to be hon­est, I’m not that great about it — it’s a habit I’m still cul­ti­vat­ing. As a result, I find myself inspect­ing my ends more reg­u­lar­ly, and stay­ing on top of my sea­son­al trim sched­ule.

How do you keep your hair pro­tect­ed out­side of pro­tec­tive styles?
Hydra­tion and deep con­di­tion­ing. Since I wash my hair (main­ly co-wash­ing, I sham­poo once a mon­th to clar­i­fy) so often, it is nev­er at a loss for hydra­tion. And I always make it a point to use a super-rich rin­se-out con­di­tion­er or deep con­di­tion. Stay­ing on top of giv­ing my hair the right con­di­tion­ers has been its sav­ing grace, hon­est­ly!

Do you retain length bet­ter with pro­tec­tive styles? Or do they not make that big a dif­fer­ence?
My length reten­tion is about nor­mal, in my opin­ion. I don’t have mas­sive break­age or ter­ri­ble knot­ting, because I’ve zeroed in on what types of prod­ucts work best for my hair. In order to main­tain my hair as a “pro­tec­tive style”, I opt for heav­ier gels that clump my curls togeth­er and form that gel cast (aka crunch) that every­one hates. It usu­al­ly goes away after the first day, but hav­ing some­what of a coat­ing to rein­force my hair when it’s vul­ner­a­ble (wet) seems to help.

Click to the next page to read how pro­tec­tive styling fac­tors into Chinwe’s Type 4 reg­i­men

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17 Comments on "Is Protective Styling Important for All Hair Types?"

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Is an updo a pro­tec­tive style ? Because only twist outs blow outs roller sets braid outs ban­tu knot outs corn­rows twists with­out added hair just my own hair and updos work for me. I tried weaves wigs braid exten­sions and twist exten­sions and I got alot of dan­druff, break­age ‚sin­gle strand knots ‚and tan­gles even though I took good care of it . Plus it took FOREVER to take down ! My hair likes to be up and tucked away but it does not like fake hair added to it . That’s why I love updos . I look… Read more »

I’m type 4a. Fine strands. Wear­ing a pro­tec­tive style for weeks on end is a no for me.
Wash n go’s are also a no-no for me cuz my hair shrinks to a min­i­mum, caus­ing all kinds of tan­gles. My hair does best with low-manip­u­la­tion, stretched styles, with dai­ly mois­tur­iz­ing.

I’m so glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t do pro­tec­tive styles. Read­ing and hear­ing so much about pro­tec­tive styling, I was start­ing to doubt my hair­care sys­tem of twice a week wash­es and a wash and go for styling. My scalp becomes unbear­ably itchy and my hair becomes dry and brit­tle if I don’t wash it at least 2 times a week. My hair is short right now, I’m not real­ly chal­leng­ing myself to grow long hair so length retainage is not that impor­tant. I’m more con­cerned with over­all health of my hair. If it grows long, that… Read more »

I have “type 4” hair (what is the tight­est hair type? 4b? 4c?), and I have done all dif­fer­ent types of reg­i­mens. Whether I do most­ly pro­tec­tive styles or wash-and-gos, I end up retain­ing the same amount of length. So I just do what­ev­er I feel like doing at the moment.


Glad to see I’m not the only type 4 who doesn’t pro­tec­tive-style. I know for a fact I’d retain more length if I did — I have fine most­ly-4b coils — but I sim­ply don’t have the patience for twist­ing any­more and I refuse to wear weave, wigs, or exten­sions. I do retain length, just not as much, and since I’m not in a race to get long hair, that’s fine with me.


My hair actu­al­ly does retain length with­out the pro­tect­ed style. My hair is 4b and I real­ized low manip­u­la­tion such as weave, wigs and all that does not work for me. It cost me more dam­age, shed­ding , no edges and the itch­i­ness is a whole anoth­er lev­el lol.… no no pro­tect­ed styles is a no np but I am glad that low manip­u­la­tion such as flat twist , updos has worked ter­ri­fic for me.

Ghanan girl rep­re­sent!


I am love low manip­u­la­tion more than hav­ing pro­tect­ing styles long last­ing. My hair is 4b and ever since I become nat­u­ral, I have tried the pro­tect­ed style and failed. Im telling pro­tect­ed style is no good for me, for my case. It just get worst such as no edges, shed­ding , itch­ness and many more. I just love when my hair spir­i­tu­al free from those pro­tect­ed styles how­ev­er, fauz locs, braids , twist and flat twist are my best low manip­u­la­tion.
Gha­ni­an girl rep­re­sent :)

I’m all about low manip­u­la­tion; so, I wash & go or wash & puff 99% of the time. I don’t wear them, but I can respect low-main­te­nance or long-term NATURAL hair­styles. I admire any style that shows a wom­an puts time and atten­tion into main­tain­ing the aes­thet­ic, health and clean­li­ness of her hair. Wigs/weaves/extensions get no love from me. I don’t know what they are sup­posed to be pro­tect­ing because they seem to cause more harm than good. Espe­cial­ly since most of the wom­en I see wear­ing them have NO edges…fake hair hold­ing on to scalps sole­ly by the grace of… Read more »

I have to wear my hair loose since twists will unrav­el. I wash, con­di­tion and use my flaxseed gel for styling. I damp­en my hair dai­ly until the next wash day for me, have fibe tex­ture. I love the look of coils and twists but my hair doesn’t coop­er­ate with those styles.

I’m a type 4 who wears wash & gos 95% of the time, and I seem to retain length just fine. Since the 1 — 4C type chart is just one of many hair behav­ior fac­tors, I don’t think it’s the only deter­mi­nant of who ben­e­fits most from pro­tec­tive styling.  I’m also appar­ent­ly one of the few wom­en who nev­er use gel in their wash & go rou­tine. I don’t usu­al­ly wor­ry about curl def­i­n­i­tion because I’ve already got plen­ty of that. (Last time I used gel for a wash & go, I swear my coils all looked me dead… Read more »

I’m 4 but the extent of my pro­tec­tive styling is a bun. My hair and scalp need wash­ing every 3 to 4 days which doesn’t work well for most pro­tec­tive styles. . I find putting a lit­tle some­thing heav­ier for seal­ing on my ends helps.

Hair Anomaly
I have 4-some­thing hair. I thought it would be best to stop my dai­ly wash and gos and start pro­tec­tive styling (updos) once I hit the 2 year-APL length mark last mon­th, and to start car­ing about tan­gles and knots if I want­ed to con­tin­ue grow­ing my hair. Welllll…by day 3 the itchy scalp was unbear­able. By the time I took my hair down it was dri­er, more tan­gled, and more mat­ted than I had ever seen it. It was a night­mare. My spaghet­ti noodle-sized curls just don’t like being manip­u­lat­ed. I have man­aged to retain length on my Type 4… Read more »

What I liked about the 3 arti­cle is she men­tioned her scalp. EVERYTHING IS NOT about hair type. The scalp does its own thing, has its own mind and has noth­ing to do with hair pat­tern. Not everyone’s scalp will tol­er­ate the same length of time between wash­ing. And most pro­tec­tive styles are not friend­ly to those of us who can’t go even a week with­out wash­ing our hair. I tried that cow­ash only method a few times and my scalp was hell to no.

Annabel Chima

Exact­ly — i have dry 3c hair but oily scalp so sham­poo­ing once a week or every oth­er week is a must. How­ev­er I need to deep con­di­tion and use mois­tur­is­ing prod­ucts often for my dry, thick (coarse) 3c strands.

tracena barnwell

I have 4a hair & I wit Christi­na in regards to pro­tec­tive styling. I wear alot of wash n gos most of the time which has helped me mas­ter what works for me. If I was to pro­tec­tive style it might be a bun or French braid. The­se two styles might last 2 days, my hair gets fuzzy quick­ly so they don’t last. Twist are time con­sum­ing, it don’t last very long with­out retwist­ing.

Mukisa Kibaya
I think that the cen­tral­i­ty of pro­tec­tive styling DEFINITELY depends on the type of hair. I have 4C hair as well and all I do it is pro­tec­tive style, just like Chin­we describes. I style on a month­ly basis and wash day is a whole day for me, because I wash and style in the same day.Protective styling is a time saver for me as a full time cer­ti­fied phar­ma­cy tech and a full-time stu­dent. I also retain length more when my hair is not manip­u­lat­ed and is just left alone to grow. I think as long as every nat­u­ral­ists… Read more »

My sen­ti­ments agreen with Chin­we. I have 4c hair too and I find that pro­tec­tive styling, even when wash­ing the hair, is a must to reduce tan­gles. But I’ve most­ly given up on con­di­tion­ers. I can’t find one that keeps my hair soft when it dries. Cer­tain­ly none that have slip and heavy. So, I detan­gling under run­ning water and use my QB AOHC to dou­ble as a leave in, mois­tur­iz­er, and styler.