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When Should You Phase Out Protective Styling?

Avatar • Jul 23, 2012

By Geniece (pictured above) of Beautifully Made

When I am asked to explain how I retain length I usually begin by discussing the role protective styling has played in my regimen. For some, that advice is a big downer. I’ve essentially told them that if they follow my regimen they will forever have to sacrifice style for length. I get this concern. In fact, I too believe that if I’m going to grow my hair long I do want to wear it out. To me, it isn’t a matter of if I will wear my hear in “out” styles on a consistent basis, it’s when I choose to do so. I wear my hair “out” occasionally but at some point, provided it doesn’t make my regimen more complicated (I’m all about ease and speed), I will probably wear my out just as often, if not more than I wear my hair in protective styles.

I began long term protective styling with the idea that this is merely delayed gratification. I knew that length retention was guaranteed with low manipulation, regular moisture and protective styling. For me that is a hair fact. I also know, from experience, that I can wear my hair out regularly and, while I won’t suffer breakage, I won’t retain much length either. Take last summer for example. During the heat wave that hit New York City I chose to wear my hair in a braid outs. Despite the alternating dryness and humidity in the weather my hair was fly (if I do say so myself) and I loved not being confined to a bun because of extreme weather. I did notice , however, that by the end of the summer my ends were knotted and that the dryness and heat had taken a toll on my hair. By the end of the year I realized I didn’t retain nearly as much length as I did the year before but neither did my hair break. In fact, I retained at least two inches. The necessary trimming that was needed from wearing my hair out offset some of my growth, but it didn’t cancel it out completely. In short, I was able to maintain my length and even add a little length while enjoying my length.

If my goal is to retain 5–6 inches a year then protective styling 90% is something I have to do. Once I reach my goal length of waist length I can wear my hair out, knowing that even if I have to trim a bit more often I will be able to maintain my length and may even add one or two inches in the process. So while some protective stylers may advocate protective styling as the ONLY way to keep hair on your head, I am not one of them. I believe that if length is your goal and you know that such styles assist you in reaching that goal then commit to protecting your ends for two, three of four years then you rock all the “out” styles you wish. The one thing that you may find in the process is that protective styles suit that you no longer view it as a compulsory chore. You can then enjoy the best of both worlds: elegant updos and superfly styles that display your length.

Ladies, have you phased out protective styling as part of your regimen? Are you considering it?

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Alexa
Alexa
8 years ago

What type of hair do you have? What regimen do you use while you’re doing the protective styles or when you wear your hair free?

Vonnie
Vonnie
8 years ago

I know for me, right now, protective styling is a must. I’m a few days away from nine months natural, and I believe I have definitely seen more length retention when I finally bit the bullet and consistently PS’ed my hair. Plus the days I do wear my hair “out” (longer than 2 days), I pay for it dearly come detangle day. Maybe as my hair gets longer I can have the best of both worlds such as wearing my hair loose in a high bun or half up/half down. But for now, Bantu knots, cornrows and flat twists are… Read more »

La
La
8 years ago

It is important to realize that genetics plays a GREAT role in hair growth. I don’t do many protective styling because they don’t work for me. I enjoy my hair! I don’t understand the obsession with length. Just enjoy your ladies!

De
De
8 years ago
Reply to  La

I totally agree with u..genetics plays a major role in the growth factor..I never do PS styles and I dont have a major issue with tangles or length retention no matter what I do with my hair..even if I did have a problem with length retention I dont think Id be a slave to PS’ing cause Id rather just enjoy my hair..whats the point of it if u cant

Rou
Rou
8 years ago
Reply to  La

I agree, too! I don’t worry or obsess with protective styling because I’ve never had any real issues growing my hair long. I wear protective styles when I don’t want to deal with my hair for a week or two. Other than that, I like my hair to be free as can be. If it takes a little bit longer to reach MBL, oh well! More hair, more problems! I am not in a rush to experience a longer wash day session. To each its own!

Leslie
Leslie
8 years ago
Reply to  Rou

Genetics do play a bigger role than a lot of people admit to. I have learnt that i am one of those people whose hair grows 1/4 inch a month, not the commonly mentioned 1/2 inch — and this is no matter what I do. I decided that I will do as my heart desires and enjoy my hair as is. I do want my hair to grow but I also want to enjoy the process of getting there.

Creatividual
8 years ago
Reply to  La

Please remember that she is not talking about growth, she is talking about LENGTH RETENTION. Your hair may only grow 4 inches a year but she is saying that if protective styling works for your retaining your length, you will get to your goal faster, by keeping virtually all your 4 inches of growth for the year, if you protective style more often than not.

Gee
Gee
8 years ago
Reply to  Creatividual

Exactly. Totally missing the point of what was said and then going off on another tangent regarding hair growth.

Nikki
Nikki
8 years ago
Reply to  Creatividual

+1

Barbara
Barbara
8 years ago
Reply to  Nikki

Most people have not “learnt” this factoid.

Ellie
Ellie
8 years ago
Reply to  Barbara

Very petty, my dear, very petty…

Eboni
Eboni
8 years ago

I’ll stop protective styling when my hair stops responding well to it, lol.

So basically I agree w/ Vonnie 😀

Curly Queen
8 years ago

If protective styling works for me then more power to you but I couldn’t stand doing it for years at a time. I’ve committed to the summer months and a few weeks out of the month but that’s all I can handle.

thefword
thefword
8 years ago

I’ve never been one for protective styling.. Ive been natural for almost two years and mostly wear my hair out or in yarn braids (I LOVE my yarn braids so I guess that probably counts as protective styling) idk my hair just never has had a problem with growing at all no matter how much I abuse it.

Cacey
Cacey
8 years ago

my hair retains length well with and without protective styling. the key for me though, which trumps PSing, is how frequently i manipulate. if i’m in my hair all the time then i pay for it with SSKs and breakage and split ends. the longer i can go without touching my hair, the better my hair is for it. i rarely wear my hair down though, so i think i’m one of those people who can protective style without feeling confined. when my hair is down it’s just plain in my way, so it’s nice to know that based on… Read more »

rw
rw
8 years ago

once i realized that my natural texture was better than my perfected twists, i began to ask: why am i twisting???? i no longer twist, and i hope to never do it again, and at 2 years, i have a foot of hair, so.….

Michelle@Radiant Brown Beauty

I’ll always protective style because I rock some cute styles (updos etc) that just work for me. I do some protective styling for style purposes only. The benefit of length retention is secondary.

kanon
kanon
8 years ago

I love updos too. They are so elegant!

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  kanon

Ditto, well to the extent that I like updos. Though they might not be fun for everyone, I think there are many of us who probably enjoy the ease of protective styles most days of the week. I did a post a while back b/c I feel PSing gets a bad rap for being boring. I don’t think that it has to be: http://hairscapades.com/2012/05/08/protective-styling-boring/ But, to each their own. I know for some, it’s just not enjoyable. So, you have to do you. As to the question, I PS’d for most of last year and part of this one to get to… Read more »

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

Messed up the picture upload and can’t fix it until later.

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Length_check2_042312‑1.JPG[/img]
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_3327‑1.JPG[/img]
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_4823.JPG[/img]

And, although it looks like I lost a lot of length, my longest layer is still waist length. It’s just that a lot of my lifeless ends were eliminated and my curls were restored (a lot of henna tx in 2010 really did a number on my ends. I started doing roots only in 2011).

5th pic: Post haircut length check.

[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_4745.JPG[/img]

kanon
kanon
8 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

That haircut is gorgeous! Speaking of henna, I think I am going to do roots-only hennindigo from now on because I think I see a little loosening of my coils despite the addition of amla powder.

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  kanon

Thank you Kanon!! I initially used amla, but had a bad reaction to it, which resulted in a bout of bad shedding for months (because it took months for me to realize I was having an allergic reaction and to stop using it! *smh* *lol*). But yeah, the henna on my roots only really was the perfect solution for me.

Shelli

prieta23
prieta23
8 years ago

I do not see the logic in your saying you cannot retain length, but did not have breakage. Everyone’s hair grows from the scalp, not the ends. If your ends break off, then you do not notice your hair growing and you do not retain length. If you have to cut off the ends for whatever reason, that is not retaining length. That is damage. Your post is too confusing. Women are too obsessed with length instead of health. If you take care of your hair, it will not break or get knotty.

SA
SA
8 years ago
Reply to  prieta23

I noticed that too. If the OP didn’t retain much length (2–3 inches per year) while wearing her hair out on a regular basis then the obvious culprit was breakage. I think the fact of the matter is that some naturals retain wayyy more length when wearing protective styles 24/7 then wearing their hair out on a regular basis, it’s not a guarantee for length retention, however it obviously works for some.

Cacey
Cacey
8 years ago
Reply to  prieta23

only thing i can think of is maybe…maybe she just had split ends? split ends that hardly broke? maybe she used a lot of split end mending products or something..i noticed that too and went “hm” but that’s the only halfway logical conclusion i could draw. beats me.

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  Cacey

I was *smh* at first too. But then, she indicated that her hair didn’t split and break, so she still gained and retained length wearing her hair out. However, when it was time to trim, she had to cut far more than she would have had to with PSing because of knots. So, though the first commenter above indicated, “If you have to cut off the ends for whatever reason, that is not retaining length,” I think the poster is saying that she grew and retained the length with loose styles in that her hair didn’t break off or split.… Read more »

Rachel R.
Rachel R.
8 years ago

For me its only been a year since I’ve been natural. I have learned that in order for me to keep my hands out of my hair and retain length I need to keep my hands out of my hair as much as possible. So no more extentions two strand twist braids or micro braids because I tend to lose alot hair during the take down. Now I only two strand twist my own hair and wear my scarfs and wigs when I have to leave the house to take of business, but when I get back home OFF with… Read more »

ashley
ashley
8 years ago
Reply to  Rachel R.

any time you have any type of extension for a long period, youre going to experience a lot of shedding but that’s natural. hair falls from your scalp all the time, but while it’s styled, of course it’s not going to fall but stay collected with all your other hair until you comb it out.

hyspin
hyspin
8 years ago
Reply to  ashley

so very true. I planning to get micro braids and cornrows by the end of the summer my self I am getting bored of the traditional protective styles. I find updos and buns boring, up tight, and unfriendly for me. Great for the laziness and quick solutions when stretched. I have been mixing them with twist because I like the results twist outs (braid outs not so much they looked too crimped for my liking). If I can find some quick none protective styles (not including twists) to do with my hair I might just phase out protective styles. I… Read more »

Amor
Amor
8 years ago

For me, I may never phase out protective styling. It makes my hair happy, I love it and leave it alone so I can focus on my very active 3 yr old and it allows me to be as creative as I can be ( or feel like being lol). Besides, I’m a little lazy lol.

Jo
Jo
8 years ago

I enjoy my hair but i do twisst and single plaits 1–3x a year to give my hair a break.

Here’s what i do weekly:

*Braid my hair at night and use a scarf or bonnet every night
*I leave my hair in plaits for a few days
*AS a style i mainly wear braid out or a puff
*Co-wash my hair for added moisture

My routine is more low manipulation than focusing on protecting my ends.

Jo
Jo
8 years ago
Reply to  Jo

*twists

Creatividual
8 years ago

I don’t look at styles as “protective styles” or not. I just look it as wearing my hair in up-do’s or wearing my hair out. I like to wear my hair up most of the time so I don’t mind. In the warm months I wear it out more often. When it starts getting cold, I wear it up almost exclusively until it gets warm again. I’ve found my rhythm that works for me. I will say, in my experiences and i’m 3 1/2 years natural, the more “protective styles” I wear; I can retain practically all my length I… Read more »

Camille
Camille
8 years ago

I still haven’t gotten to a point where protective styles look good on me. I find that a lot of people hollering about protective styling jumped on that bandwagon after their hair was already a pretty decent length. I I saw someone doing it from the time of TWA onwards to BSL, I might believe. But right now, I don’t have time to sit in front of the tv for 6 hours and put in twists because someone says it will get me somewhere I feel like I am already headed.

Natalie
Natalie
8 years ago
Reply to  Camille

Hi Camille, PS does work, I started looking after my hair and PS in Jan last year, my hair reached the top notch of my nose. Prior to this I did mini twists for weeks then took them out, washed, conditioned and put them back in. My hair never retained length for years it stayed the same length, the top notch of my nose. When I started doing PS and got rid of my hair cutting comb I retained length. My hair is now at my chin at the front and it is all down to PS. I do not spend… Read more »

Camille
Camille
8 years ago
Reply to  Natalie

I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I’m just saying I don’t care for it and I don’t think it is the only way.

Zoraida
Zoraida
8 years ago
Reply to  Camille

Camille and Natalie, you are both right. There’s no right nor wrong . There have been academic studies on protective styling, which show it works. I read a report written in South Africa ( can’t remember the study’s name or reference , on black African women who used protective styling and those who didn’t, in a study. THose who combed their hair everyday, had breakage, sometimes breakage was a tiny fraction. They concluded that curls and coils simply got trapped into the teeth of the comb, hence breakage. Those with protected styles saw significant growth and length retention. Lots of… Read more »

Zoraida
Zoraida
8 years ago
Reply to  Zoraida

oops, sorry lots of women have thick hair, loosely curled hair or hair that doesn’t get tangled when worn out—- made an error, there!

Guest
Guest
5 years ago
Reply to  Camille

I have always done protective styling from TWA (mini twists, bantu knots etc) but then again, I actually enjoy rocking short hair.

truliecurlie
truliecurlie
8 years ago

I absolutely LOVE protective styling! Anything that I can do to my hair that will require that my hair is “in” and out of the way is my kindof style. I will gladly sit and twist or braid my hair for hours because I know that I won’t have to touch it again (other than moisture) for 2–3 weeks. As soon as I remove one protective style I am working on the next one! Styling daily or even weekly is just not for me or my lifestyle. I’d like my hair to grow but I’m not pressed. It is awesome though… Read more »

Nicole
8 years ago

Protective

Nicole
8 years ago

Protective styling has been necessary for my length retention. 90–95%of the time my hair is in some form of PS. However, it goes hand in hand with conditioning, moisturizing, and sealing my ends. When I slip up on any of these things my hair notices the difference. It’s a combination of things that help with length retention.

Landry
Landry
8 years ago

I have to say that I am honestly not a big fan of protective styling.…I just haven’t found a style that I like that where all of my hair is tucked away. When my hair gets long enough to do a bun, I will rock that, but I’m not a fan of two strand twists–they make me look like a little girl. I am about 9 months natural and my hair has grown A LOT without protective styling. I baby my hair and I don’t use direct heat, and I think that has a lot to do with it. Someone… Read more »

Natalie T
Natalie T
8 years ago
Reply to  Landry

^ This I cut my hair for this very reason you stated, PS often makes me look like a little girl…I dont like that at all. I am more in to sexy and unique styles and two strand twist are a lil to “sweet” for me. I am currently growing my hair back but I am only going to allow it to get to about 6 months worth of growth length just because I know what lies beyond that point. I have no interest in length just because I KNOW I dont want to put in the time to take… Read more »

Nini
Nini
8 years ago

My original plan was to phase out PS around waist length. But, after doing mini twists for the first time, I really love them. PS are no longer simply for retaining length, but they’re also style choices. Also, I’m one of those naturals who wants long/big hair. I already have healthy hair, so what’s wrong with wanting something extra?

Zoraida
Zoraida
8 years ago
Reply to  Nini

I agree with Nini, I love protective styling, as a style in itself, not just to protect the ends/retain length. I have worn mini twists for years- they work well for me, as a long-term style, and they retain hair length for me. I’ve seen my hair grown to almost BSL now. I’m a busy, active person, so having to comb out/style my hair everyday is not something I want to do. I can style my twists like loose natural hair. My hair is quite fine, so I think the twists keep my fragile hair intact. I moisturize and condition… Read more »

kanon
kanon
8 years ago

I mostly do updos and buns, alternating with twists peridically. To avoid the little gir look with twists,set them on rollers. You can style small to medium twists in styles similar to those for relaxed hair. If you don’t mind a little heat, use hot rollers on your twists for a different look.

Natalie
Natalie
8 years ago

I’ll never stop doing protective styles because I love them. I find that when I have my hair in an out style I’m constantly fretting about how it looks and if the wind blows I get very anxious. I live in the UK and our weather is very changeable so I prefer to keep my hair up as I know it will look the same as it did when I left the house. I don’t want to waste time worrying about how my hair looks. If I lived in a country where my hair did not react to the weather I’d… Read more »

Zoraida
Zoraida
8 years ago
Reply to  Natalie

I hear exactly what you’re saying , Natalie. I live in the UK too- yep, changeable weather, the bane of our lives!

BeholdALady
8 years ago

I look at the natural hair journey as being the same as losing weight/getting healthy. There are no shortcuts, just consistency, patience, work, and commitment. To me, protective styling is like getting up to work out on a Saturday morning. I really want to just lay in bed and watch TV or read a book, but the extra effort and energy I put in now will pay off later. I have always had longer hair (close to BSL), but after coloring like a mad woman and some extreme heat damage, I am in the process of transitioning to a healthy,… Read more »

LadyV69
LadyV69
8 years ago

I phased out protective styling about a year or so ago, for the most part. I know there are those that hate protective styling and have the mentality that they didn’t go natural just to hide their hair. I’m not one of them. I actually like protective styles, but a lot of them simply don’t look good on me. I have very fine and thin hair, so braids and twists look very scalpy on me. Then I have thin edges due to past damage from relaxers, weaves and too tight extensions, so I can’t do buns as they’ll pull on… Read more »

Zoraida
Zoraida
8 years ago
Reply to  LadyV69

Good points, Lady V69. It’s really about what works for you. There is room for everyone and their different methods of styling, PS or non-PS. I think you will get to BSL- keep the faith 🙂 ! And do that jig!

Relaxers- I had the same problem, with losing hair at the hair line, when I relaxed my hair, for three years. It’s taken me almost 15 years for my hair line to grow back healthily and strong!

African Violet
African Violet
8 years ago

I think there’s got to be a balance. The only protective styling that I do on a semi-regular basis is a bun. I did semi-mini twists two months ago with the intention of keeping them in for 4–5 weeks. I lasted about 2 weeks because even though I maintained my normal wash schedule–once a week–and used Naptural85’s technique with the pantyhose, my roots started looking old. So, the only protective style I’m confortable with is a bun. I don’t like weaves in my hair and I don’t have patience to sit and have extensions add to my hair. That said, I… Read more »

SA
SA
8 years ago

I love wearing certain hairstyles (buns/french rolls, twists etc..) I wear them more so for the look and ease not because they’re considered (protective styles) I also love wearing my hair out here and there (braidouts/twistouts etc..) I have no major issues with knots/tangles or retaining length, overall low manipulation and good ol’ fashion tlc helps the most not a particular ‘hairstyle’.

Natalee
Natalee
8 years ago

I used to hate protective styling until recently. I’m on a 6 month PS challenge until January ’13 and I want to see the difference in growth/retention rates. I have to say I like the ease of twists and buns, especially in this hot [blank] weather.
Now that I’ve been on my PS kick, I don’t think I could stop protective styling when my hair gets longer because its because so easy for me.

sheryl
sheryl
8 years ago

I usually protective style often just because I don’t like the feeling of hair on my neck/shoulders. I’ve been getting tension headaches with even the loosest of buns/headbands/puffs so I’ve been doing it less now. I don’t seem to be loosing any more hair though, so I doubt PS is the “end-all, be-all.”

I’ve actually been losing less hair lately. Most likely unrelated to PS and more because I started doing curly girl.

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