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Is Protective Styling Always Necessary for Longer Hair?

Avatar • Dec 19, 2011


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By Jc of The Natural Haven

Inquiring minds ask, do you really need to protective style to grow long hair? The scientific answer lies in what protective styling can do for you. It is intended to help retain length by reducing or eliminating manipulation of hair and therefore stopping breakage and damage to hair that has grown.

The primary reason why natural hair of African origin breaks is due to manipulation (i.e combing during the detangling process). However there is a great variation in the curl, kink, thickness and behaviour of hair.

Here are two lists to help you decide whether protective styling may be of benefit to you.

Protective styling will benefit you if;

Your hair is at least 6 inches in length
Your hair tangles up when left free for a short time (1–2 days) and/or your hair takes a long time to detangle
Your hair easily forms single strand or complex knots (you spot 10 or more during a detangling session)
The main form of breakage that you see is in short segments (less than a quarter inch) that indicate that the ends of your hair are breaking off
You have shrinkage and very little hang (where 6 inches will shrink to 2 inches fully wet or where armpit length hair appears to be neck length fully wet); the more hair shrinks, the more hair gets intertwinned and the higher the chances of tangling and knotting which lead to breakage

Protective styling might not help as much if;

Your hair is less than six inches in length (shorter hair requires less protection)
Your strands are thick and do not break easily when combed
Your hair does not easily form tangles and/or detangling is relatively easy
Your hair does not easily form single strand knots and does not have complex knots (where 3 or more strands intertwine into a knot)
Hair does not tend to break and hair loss is predominantly just shed hair with a visible bulb
Hair that has low shrinkage or hair that has a tendency to naturally form individual regular corkscrew spirals of clumped strands from root to tip (when conditioner and/or gel is applied).

Ladies, what category does your hair fall in? Do you need protective styling to retain length or no?
Click for part 1 of this series: Protective Styling Do’s and Dont’s

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Scientist on a hairy mission!

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Janelle
Janelle
8 years ago

I don’t do protective styling as much sinc my second big chop, but I never really kept my protective styles for long after my first year of being natural. My hair grows pretty fast and didn’t tangle too much, but it does make corkscrews naturally on its own and I didn’t know that was a factor in not needing as much protective styling. Thanks for the info.

Giovanna
Giovanna
8 years ago
Reply to  Janelle

Me neither, after reading this I see that my hair falls into not benefiting from protective styles, I kind of gathered that when I got split ends from protective styling too much.

Amayou
8 years ago

Now that I’m tryin to grow my hair longer than it’s ever been, I have to do things I’ve never done before like utilizing Protective styling.

Eboni
Eboni
8 years ago

I fall into protective styling being a benefit. The last time I wore my hair out for a week, within the first day or two my hair coiled up (which was nice), and became REALLY tangled (which wasn’t nice). Protective styling cuts down (if not eliminates) the time spent detangling my hair. And I completely agree with the shrinkage factor. As much as I love rocking a shrunken fro’ every day, I don’t feel that’s ideal for me because of all the potential tangles. The only possible way for me rock my hair out all day, depends on whether or… Read more »

Monique
8 years ago

My hair fits all of the descriptions for ‘protective styling would benefit me’ LOL! I think the biggest factor that proves it for me is the shrinkage factor. When I wear my fro now that I have 9 inches of hair, the tangling that out styles cause is CRAZY!

hyspin
hyspin
8 years ago

I protective style but I really don’t like to (more a necessity), I slightly detest it. I like out styles, but my hair is very limited (on time) in out styling. I think it because I find most up-do or bun protective styles on me either boring, aging or uptight. The protective styles I do like (that don’t require extensions, wigs or weaves) need a longer length than I currently have. I am trying to avoid to weaves band extension because my hair is so thin and it hard to find an individuals to do the styles too tight. But… Read more »

hyspin
hyspin
8 years ago
Reply to  hyspin

2nd Last sentence correction:
I am trying to avoid to weaves and extensiond because my hair is thin and it’s hard to find an individuals who doesn’t style the hair too tight.

Ronnie
Ronnie
8 years ago
Reply to  hyspin

I totally agree. I don’t like protective styles, but since I want longer hair I know I have to do do what it takes. I managed to grow my hair to armpit length utilizing protective styles and starting getting comfortable with wearing it loose after that. Despite all the leave-in conditioners and oils, my hair did not retain anymore length after that! It has not grown any longer than armpit length in seven months and that was a real downer for me, so I’ve been back to wearing buns and not-too-tight conrows. Already I have retained a full inch of… Read more »

mangomadness
mangomadness
8 years ago

I have very tightly coiled, 10–12 inch long hair that loves to coil up around itself and is very protective my scalp.

I wear my hair in braid-outs (and other stretched styles), buns or updos. I wear my hair “out” most of the time and do not have a problem with excessive tangling because I always braid my hair before bed. I don’t “need” protective styles (buns and updos) to retain length–I just wear them because they suit my aesthetics and lifestyle.

Nubia
Nubia
8 years ago
Reply to  mangomadness

+1

Mai
Mai
8 years ago

I do protective styles out of convenience rather than need. I keep my hair in twists during the week so I don’t have to worry about styling it for work. If my hair is long, I want everyone to know, lol. So when I wear it out on the weekend it is in a braidout or twistout most of the time.

Natalie
Natalie
8 years ago

Unfortunately I have to make use of protective styling or my hair will not retain length. My hair really shrinks when I wash it and if I let it dry in its shrunken state I have to rewet it before I can manipulate it in any way. I used to wear twists for years and my hair never went past my nose now that I style in flat twists, cornrows or two strand twist updos I am finally retaining length. I got my hair past my lip at the front but went and had a big trim to get rid of… Read more »

BeautyIAM
BeautyIAM
8 years ago

I definitely need protective styling to retain length. I am not sure if my hair fits the benefits of protective styling to a tee, but I know that my hair would not be as healthy now if I did not protect my hair. My main goal with protective styling is not to just grow it out, but to maintain the health of my hair. I have been looking through my hair pictures from last year and this year. I am amazed by the way my hair looks and feels now. I still have a long way to go, but I love… Read more »

df
df
8 years ago

i have a twa but i manipulate it so much with my hands that i’m thinking of putting in a protective style. I’d rather wear my hair out but my hair always needs more moisture and I have to constantly put something in it and touch it to keep it moisturized.

CuteKinks
8 years ago

Though I see the benefit of protective styling, I wouldn’t say that I need it even though according to the article, I fit into the “Protective Styling will benefit you” category. I am very satisfied with the length that I have gained in the almost three years that I have been natural and I did not wear many protective styles in that time. Since, it’s becoming longer and longer, I will try to incorporate more protective styles, but I just LOVE to wear my hair out.

Jazmin
Jazmin
8 years ago

I love wearing my hair out, but I put it in twist because it gets so dried out in the cold. It’s also easier for me to take care of during the week, I hope it pays off, but I think about taking them out all the time.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

I’m definitely in category 1 but I think everyone can benefit in someway from protective styling. Just because a person’s hair doesn’t break or tangle easily, they can experienced increased moisture retention from protective styling. And who wouldn’t want a little more moisture 🙂

Whitney
Whitney
8 years ago

I’m in the “protective styling is beneficial category”. My shrinkage is crazy (BSL when wet and stretched, almost shoulder length when dry). I mainly wear twists and flat twists, and the day before my wash day, I may wear a twist-out. Twists are convenient to me because I don’t have to manipulate my hair everyday to get a desired style. I just moisturize my hair everyday and go.

Ronnie
Ronnie
8 years ago

I think it can be a little bit of a downer to have to wear protective styles most of the time. For some of us, the protective styles (buns, chignons, tied-up twists) reflect an image of us that may not be us. But a lot of us are don’t know how else to retain length without protective styles. If protective styles are your thing — great! But for some of us, protective styles can feel like a prison and we are counting down until we can take them loose. I would love it if Black Girl with Long Hair would do an… Read more »

imani
imani
8 years ago

i am not a huge fan of protective hairstyle, mainly bc i havent found many that i reallly like. I love my curls and want to showcase them BUT I get crazy knots after 2 days and it does break off pretty easy and it takes me abt 30–40 min just to detangle with condish on wash day. Its frustrating and on occassion i do roll and tuck, put on some cute earrings, accent my eyes and call it a day but after a few days im tired of tucking my hair away and it doest seem to be any… Read more »

Ronnie
Ronnie
8 years ago
Reply to  imani

I agree with all you said. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the others. I’d just like to see more articles on retaining length on loose hair.

Giovanna
Giovanna
8 years ago

I wish protective styles worked nicely with me, I was protective styling for about 10 months and the day I decided to take a break from them I found splits ends on that wash day right after I got out the shower. And I found a lot and I rarely used any tools; at first I was wearing twists for 2 weeks then washed. Then I noticed dryness (I moisturized everyday) and decided to leave the twists in for one week only. Then I decided to twist for a few days only, that did not work. So now I do… Read more »

Kailyn
Kailyn
8 years ago

I guess I definitely fall into the protective styling category. I get fairy knots like they’re on a serious mission. I really need to find a way to prevent them, cause just yesterday I cut out like 12 of them. I love cute pulled up styles, but I enjoy wearing my hair out a lot as well. I don’t want to feel like the only way to retain my length is to not “show” it. If I have to limit how much I wear it out, then what’s the point in having it? When my hair was shoulder length, I… Read more »

Mrscottoncurls
Mrscottoncurls
8 years ago

My hair fits almost all of the characteristics described above as benefitting from protective styles; however, I have been in denial of that fact for the past 2 years…lol. This year, I made a commitment that I would wear protective styles more often than not. I’ve been able to grow my hair a couple inches shy of bra strap length, but I’ve been at a standstill for over a year now. So if I want something different, I know I’m going to have to do something different. And that something is going to be protective styles. I put in some… Read more »

Dawn
Dawn
8 years ago

idk if they would work for me or not. i usually don’t wear my hair down anyway, because my hair looks weird when out so by default i usually protective style (just recently found out that there was even a name for it!) so i’m guessing it does? i’ve never seriously experimented with wearing my hair one way or the other. but that said, i do retain length fairly well when i’m not doing stupid stuff to my hair. like, oh…going for days with my hair left tangled. that kinda foolishness seriously sets me back by a few months.

sher
sher
8 years ago

Is Protective Styling Always Necessary for Longer Hair?yes for as long as possible and as much as possible
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/13437_410719128235_508808235_4312083_8351379_n.jpg[/img]

Alicia
Alicia
7 years ago

This post has a lot of misinformation. My hair is straight and does not tangle easily but that does not mean that I do not need to protective style. There are lots of protective styles for short hair too.

LIRG HER
LIRG HER
7 years ago

I always love reading blog articles but I really like reading the comments more. The comments put the article in a more realistic perspective. No I can say something that will make me more agreeable or I can can speak MY truth. Hopefully, what I have to say will help one person out there. Well I have BC’d twice because of hair color. Now the first time I BC’d (back in 2008) I was seriously lost. I thought that I knew what I was doing but eventually I realized that I did not (particularly when I BC’d this time). The… Read more »

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