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Is Protective Styling Important for All Hair Types?

• May 30, 2015

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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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.

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 »
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.

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… 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.


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.

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 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 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… Read more »

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 🙂


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!


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.


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.

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’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.

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 »

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