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Does Natural Hair Retain Length Better with Braids or Weaves? [Poll]

Avatar • May 17, 2014

natural hair vs extensions

A few years back I wrote an article on why naturals should consider abandoning extensions/weaves as a regular/daily style routine. Flash forward to today and a reader wrote to me saying that the main reason she wore extensions is that they helped her hair grow faster and wondered why that was the case. Now, I understand what she meant was retain length rather than grow because we all know that the growth rate per se does not change whether your hair is in extensions or not. Additionally, let us assume that the extensions/weaves are done properly i.e not too tight/ not too small/ hairline protected.

If you have been around the natural world for a few years, you may also have heard of the crown and glory technique which was essentially an extension braid method to retain natural hair length. The original site is long gone but there are still some hair forums where this method is discussed and is popular as a length retention technique.

Ultimately, the question is will braid extensions or weaves help you retain hair length better? My answer is yes and no.

Yes — Better protection for the ends and low/no daily manipulation
The reason why some naturals may experience higher retention with braid extensions and weaves is due to two key reasons. These type of styles fully encase the hair which means that the ends of the hair are tucked into the extension. They are therefore not hanging out and being subjected to possible tangling. Additionally with full head weaves, all the hair is under no daily manipulation while braid extensions have very minimal manipulation for styling. These two effects probably contribute to length retention in a big way.

No — High stress during install , high weight of extensions on fine hair and shedding hair during takedown

Some naturals will, however, report that extensions really do not work for them. This is normally attributed to high breakage and shedding as a result of wearing extensions. During the install process, hair does have to be very thoroughly detangled and for some hair, this is a period of very high stress as it is not the norm to have each strand on its own. Naturals with fine individual strands or low density hair may also find that their hair is not able to really hold the weight of extensions. It is sometimes possible to even see breakage at the root of hair. Finally during the takedown process, shed hair must be removed carefully and not get trapped or tangled within hair that is not shedding.

In short, there is no straightforward answer. Some people will benefit from extensions while others will not. It is your own experience that really matters.

 

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Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
6 years ago

before I had a healthy hair journey, it was hit or miss for me. Sometimes it grew, sometimes it didn’t. And when it grew it didn’t last very long, because I had no idea how to take care of my hair and how important moisture was,etc. So, yes, those styles can help you grow, but not by themselves. You need a GOOD REGIMEN. Always. Keep your hair moisturized, deep conditioned, washed, etc. in and out of your braids. Your results will be consistent then, and only then. Then all your hard work will be rewarded by the braids/weaves, which are… Read more »

April
April
6 years ago

With my fine hair and sensitive scalp, I think crochet braids would be best for me and watching the young lady who used hair pins to string the hair through, I think that technique would be pretty less stressful on fine hair. However, I’m just looking for an out of doing my hair daily, I’m not concerned with it growing

D
D
6 years ago

Not needing to manipulate the hair for a month or two definitely helps with retention, as long as you take care of your hair in the braids.

Erinma
Erinma
6 years ago

It really depends on your hair really. If you have thin hair, you might suffer a lot of breakage, especially if it’s not done properly. If your hair is like mine type 4, braids are great, helps retain length. However you’ll want to make sure that you let your hair breathe and be in between braids or weaves. I personally prefer braids because your scalp is more open and able to breathe plus I find maintaining your hair i.e washing, moisturising more difficult in weaves. But I love both, provides a measure of calm and ease because i don’t have… Read more »

Cottony Curls
Cottony Curls
6 years ago

I have been able to retain length by wearing my hair in two strand twists gathered up into a ponytail (actually more like one giant bantu knot) then covering with an Afro puff half wig secured with large hair pins. This allows me to remove during the week to wash, condition and moisturize while still in twists. Every six weeks I detangle, retwist and then cover my Bantu ponytail with another Afro puff half wig. The half wig allows me to create a protective style I love for my short natural hair with very little manipulation and that is quick… Read more »

Marra Joelle
Marra Joelle
6 years ago

definitely hit or miss for me as well. Sometimes It grows, but sometimes I get a lot of breakage and shedding. Sometimes if I don’t take care of my hair underneath it doesn’t really work as a protective styles.
https://www.youtube.com/user/myfashionforreal
http://www.jadorejoelle.com

Sabi
Sabi
6 years ago

Hair retains length best when it’s styled/taken care off properly and according to your lifestyle. I’ve worn my hair out my entire “hair journey” and my hair is thick WL.

Now I’ve worn it ‘out’ as is stretched low-maniupulation styles. Twist outs, braid outs, etc. and then style from there. With the odd wash-n-go a few times a year. But wigs and weaves are not required. I wish some women would get over this notion.

KP
KP
6 years ago
Reply to  Sabi

I see exactly what you’re saying: weaves, braids, and even wigs aren’t the only way to retain length. Although, for some people it just works out better for their hair and it’s just easier for their lifestyle. *shrugs*

Veronica
Veronica
6 years ago
Reply to  Sabi

It all depends on your hair type. I’ve worn my hair in stretched low-manipulation styles too and after four years my hair just didn’t retain that much length. It just wouldn’t descend past armpit length. That’s because my hair type, porosity, density, etc. is more than likely different from yours or the next women’s. Different strokes for different folks. People should just do what works best for their hair based on their own experiences.

May
May
6 years ago

I was never allowed to wear extensions or weave by my mother growing up and I can’t help but think they wouldn’t do anything but hurt me if I started now.

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain

some women lose hair during the pre-braid process i.e blow out, combing, especially the fine tooth combs stylists enjoy using. extensions are a ht or miss for me, but they do save you grooming time. I think wigs are great because you can take care of your hair still. But if you’re lazy and don’t know how to take care of your natural hair, then weaves or extensions won’t work for you.
http://www.themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Adina
Adina
6 years ago

I have dense, coarse, 4c hair. My hair retains length better with braid extensions. I’ve worn a full weave twice in my life. And while I did retain length with it, I disliked not having access to my scalp. My hair was very dry and tangled, and whatever length I gained, I probably lost most of it in detangling. Braids allow me to directly care for my scalp, keep it adequately moisturized, and able to see if there is any breakage. Recently, with the crochet braids method, I am able to wear braid styles with almost no manipulation to my… Read more »

LBell
LBell
6 years ago

My hair retains length best when it’s left alone as much as possible. I’ve never worn weaves or wigs and don’t plan to unless someone offers me a LOT of money 🙂 but I have worn extensions for up to six weeks at a time. It’s been a very long time since I last wore them but I can say that so long as I took them down CAREFULLY I was able to retain length. On that takedown tip: It’s crucial that all the shed hair is removed BEFORE wetting or washing the hair, otherwise you will DEFINITELY not retain… Read more »

Nompumelelo
Nompumelelo
6 years ago

My first year post BC I constantly braided my hair. After a year of “growing” my hair by the beginning of November last year [ 9 months post BC ] I had only retained 3 inches of hair growth.

By the end of November, I had like 3.5 inches of lengthy WITHOUT manipulation..

I got box braids installed in March, I started GHEing my braids. When I uninstalled the braids, my hair was thick and longer ..

I prefer going without protective styling, my hair grows better that way 🙂

lablooplah
lablooplah
6 years ago

erm.. my hair seems to retain about the same amount of length. But i wear it in a puff/pony tail weekly since i’m just waaay too lazy. My hair locks easily, especially in twists/braids. But my hair is fuller and thicker. I also have waay less split ends. But then back then i would remove a weave, unbraid my hair, and comb it from root to bottom, talk about loosing alot of hair. and it was so painful on my scalp. Do not miss that at all.

kitso
kitso
6 years ago

I don’t wear braids for length retention, but because they are the only styles i know, styles i grew up with and styles i can wear without lots of hair doing in the morning and in the evening. And yes when i take them down my hair is stretched and looks and feels silkier than when it is out.

kitso
kitso
6 years ago

Btw the model with natural hair looks really beutiful, love love

Persistent
Persistent
6 years ago

My hair retains length better with braids once I wash and oil scalp each week. Apply liquid spray and/or oil scalp daily or every other day. Apply conditioner to hair after takedown and finger detangle to remove tangles, sometimes a wide teeth comb will be used. And finger detangle after wash & conditioning of hair.

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

I was able to retain length when i was using braid extensions on my natural hair due to the regimen that i was using. I washed my natural hair plus my braid extensions once every two weeks and moisturized and sealed it with water and almond oil but still had a little problem with the shed hair and that part of the hair that clumps together close to the scalp( due to mousse and other hair products used by the stylist on my braids after braiding ). That tangling problem is horrible and will cause some amount of breakage if… Read more »

thembelihle
thembelihle
6 years ago

I recently figured out after 6months of putting weaves that they are NOT for me.last year i had braids in the whole year and i went from about 2inches of hair to 8inches in 10months. Decided to switch things up with weaves and i doubt ive retained a good inch :/. I can’t moisturise properly or wash it which is not good for my 4c hair and detangling has been horrid.leaving it open means more manipulation which i dont have time for with school/work. Im going back to braids. Do whats good for you and your hair/lifestyle. Your hair knows best! 🙂

JenniD
JenniD
6 years ago

I don’t wear them as I can easily do “protective” styles without them. There are three things I notice about length retention with Weaves, wigs and extensions: 1. You basically wear the same hair style, perhaps style different ways but none the less the same hair style for weeks and months. 2. Many women who choose these styles take really good care of their hair while choosing to wear faux hair. Recently saw someone post a wash and deep treatment routine for a sew in so I know its possible. 3. Many say that the styles are a matter of… Read more »

J - California
J - California
6 years ago

There is a lot of education — from your hairstylist and self-education by googling ‑that is required with taking care of your hair regardless of what style it’s in. While growing out my relaxer, I was blessed to have the best most knowledgeable and careful hairstylist on the planet — who made hair health and growth and retention her main focus at all times. Superful about tightness of braids under weave, how much extension hair she added and distributed around the head. This kind of partner is invaluable if you have a trustworthy stylist or 2 to really learn from and such,… Read more »

Cynthia
Cynthia
6 years ago

I’m done with extensions. I first got box braids when I was 8 years old, and they worked for me at the time. My mom didn’t know how to style my hair, and the braids were very age-appropriate. Now I’m 14, and even though I have the option of putting braids in my hair (I can install them myself) I’ve learned how to style my hair in fun, creative ways without extensions, and I probably won’t go back. I basically live in mini twists and pretty twisted updos, which are protective styles that significantly reduce my breakage. Plus, Extensions used… Read more »

African Naturalistas Hair Products

I don’t retain length in the front region of my hair when I’m on braids, but it helps me retain length in other parts. This is because the front region of my hair is finer than other parts. If there’s a way I could braid my hair without having to use extensions on the front, I would give it a go. For now, I don’t do extensions.

Does anyone have ideas about whether this can be achieved?

Tasila Mkwayaya
Tasila Mkwayaya
6 years ago

Well some people have said that yarn is good for extensions, and also light weight, and also cheaper.

DeAnna Anderson
DeAnna Anderson
6 years ago

Yeah yarn is better for me to use because its extremely light and easier to manipulate…even though i always wear mine in loose ponytails or leave them hanging.

Cecret
Cecret
6 years ago

I’m no expert but I suggest wearing a half wig. You could have the back cornrolled and leave the front out. Twist the front overnight and just slide the comb of the half wig in the braids then use your fingers to comb out the twist. Then just blend in your hair with the wig hair. Just find a wig close to your hair texture it doesn’t have to be human hair, synthetic works some synthetic types can be heat styled on low heat. Hope this helps.

Cottony Curls
Cottony Curls
6 years ago
Reply to  Cecret

I agree. Just a word of caution when securing with the comb of the half wig. Cut out the comb and use large hair pins instead (not bobby pins). It took me a month to realize the comb itself was damaging my hair every time I inserted or removed I the half wig. Also use a moisturizer or spritz on the braids before attaching half wig. If the hair is too dry when inserting hair pins, it can also cause breakage. I believe this was part of the reason for Glamfun’s hair woes. Just my two cents.

ja
ja
6 years ago

I recommend this style: Shelli at hairscapades did a style with cornrows on her edges due to having fine edges — see it here http://hairscapades.com/2011/11/30/now-arriving-afro-puffy-twists/

Charity
Charity
6 years ago

@ African Naturalistas Hair Products. I have the very same issues. I have to leave the front periphery of my hair alone when it comes to any type of extensions. My hair is shorter, thinner, and more volatile in this area. I can wear twist extensions if they are done with natural, 100% human hair. I just twist my own hair in the front and I blend it. I use a few bobby pins if needed, depending on the style I wear that day. Because the hair I used is natural, no one can really tell which twists have extensions… Read more »

Cecret
Cecret
6 years ago

I use wigs that help keep my hair length. I used to wear a wig cap that messed up my edges but if I just keep my hair well oiled and braided and just stick a wig on it it is all good. It is also cheaper.

lottie b!
6 years ago

Actually I don’t use braid extensions or weaves. I typically wear wigs. I have full access to my hair and scalp. I can wash and condition my hair while its braided down. I wear my hair braided down for about 8–10wks then I remove them. I’ve used this protective style for about 9 months. My hair is now mid-pit length. I started my hair journey in 2011 and I have had mishaps along the way. I found a method that works for me and I stick to it. If extensions and weaves work for you by all means continue with… Read more »

Pseudonym
Pseudonym
6 years ago

Length retention means nothing if your edges are thinned and raggedy. The people I know who do best with braid extensions are my friends who DYI (less tension, I’m guessing). 99.9% of “professional” braiders install them waaaaaaaaay too tight and it’s so hard to find a good person to put them in. If you can find a great braider, then you are LUCKY!!!!! I’ve taken to doing medium twists on my own hair (braided at the bottom to keep them from unraveling) every 2 weeks. I wash with the braids still in so that I don’t have to redo the parts… Read more »

organicallygrowncurls
organicallygrowncurls
6 years ago

I feel like I would have to answer yes and no to this questions as well. My hair grew great with braided extensions when I braided my own head or had someone with growing hands braid my hair. Please note that this is a term my family uses to say that the hair dresser uses practices that contributes to growth (i.e., plaits are a reasonable size for retaining and not putting too much tension on the strands, knowledgable about detangling practices as well as how to properly handle hair, and is truthful about the condition of your hair). I also wanted… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
6 years ago

I wanted to thumbs up your comment but hit the down thumb by accident.

Bri
Bri
6 years ago

I definitely do retain length when I do braid extensions in my own hair, but I am in the process of trying to grow my edges out. I mean I’m not completely bald there but I think the stress of relaxers and braid extensions thinned them out. So now I am trying to find more low manipulation styles for my hair so I can continue to retain my length without adding the stress of extensions on my edges.

Chel
Chel
6 years ago
Reply to  Bri

My edges started to thin out so now, I cornrow or flattwist from the mid section of the front of my head down the the ear and braid/twist as normal. Still looks good and you save the tension on your edges. Just a quick tip =)

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

Learned how to do braid extensions while I was in high school, so after 12 years I’ve gotten to the point where I can do pretty intricate stuff without damage to my hairline or weighing my hair down. It took trial and error to really get it down but I’m glad I learned because I always see growth with extensions especially chunky twists. However, I see the same amount of growth with natural twists, I just don’t like the look of natural twists on my hair, it seems to get too fuzzy too quickly.

Josephine Odion
Josephine Odion
6 years ago

Even though I retained more length with extensions, both ‘protective styles’ wreck havoc on my edges.

Macfille
Macfille
6 years ago

I don’t see the point of braids or extensions — even if you grow long hair with them, you haven’t learned how to maintain the hair without it, and now your stuck telling people “My real hair is long under this,” while they give you the side eye. It may take longer, and be a lot more work, but hair can grow without the use of augmented hair, so try it that way first, especially if you want to enjoy your hair as it grows.

L.u
L.u
6 years ago
Reply to  Macfille

Let me explain. Take for example a female with 4c, chin-length hair, with fine strands, and high porosity. Her hair grows slower than the average 0.5inches/month. She just wants an extremely simple style that allows her to keep her hair stretched, detangled, AND moisturized. She needs the style to last for at least 2 to 3 weeks because 1) she’s not good at doing hair, and 2) every time she manipulates her hair, there’s breakage. What are her options? 2‑stranded twists wouldn’t work because her hair is fine, and her twists look small and “scalpy”. TWA doesn’t work because with… Read more »

more
more
5 years ago
Reply to  L.u

Thank YOU! i have fine hair it’s not easy to retain without weave. I tried the best that i could and it’s just not going my way

Rainbowfro85
Rainbowfro85
6 years ago

Length retention occurs best for me when I have my hair in flat twists or loose plaits under a wig or even in a crochet curly weave style. I think this is because I still am able to moisturize, oil and massage my hair and scalp. But I also think it is a mental trick because I am not able to see my hair for a couple of months and then I am like “woah” when I take it down. I believe my hair also grows just aS well when I follow low manipulation routines for several months (big chunky… Read more »

rhubarb sky
rhubarb sky
6 years ago

I opt for long protective styling(with extensions, no weaves! I am sworn off weaves for life, I really cannot stand those anymore) when I get extremely lazy with my hair and a busy life-style calls for it. I’m a new natural (big chopped a year and a couple of months ago) and have had some luck with protective styling. Had yarns last year and they helped loads; although the installation process hurt like crazy! I’ve tried twists with extensions as well, but had less luck with those: major breakage during takedown, and I skipped pre-pooing/DCing before shampooing so that didn’t help… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

This poll is skewed. No mention of wigs. My results with braids are not the same as my result with weaves, which are not the same as my result with wigs. I wear nothing on my hair, but my length retention was the most dramatic it has ever been during the three months that I had on a wig.

Crysterical
Crysterical
6 years ago

If someone can tell me how to retain length with 4b/c hair without long term protective styling my ears are wide open! It’s a struggle…

I also recognize that after 2 years natural I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing and I’ve used the blow dryer way too much to manage my hair.

Dananana
Dananana
6 years ago
Reply to  Crysterical

As a “type 4” lady, I protective style, but I don’t really do it for longer than 3 weeks at the most–my hair gets dry and unhappy, and it takes super long protective styling stints as a signal to start locking up. I normally just prepoo/detangle, wash, and loose or two-strand twist twist it, wear the twists for 5–7 days, wear a 1–2 day twist out and repeat. This has helped me retain a decent amount of length, but I’m gonna be real and say that I’m tired of living in the bathroom on my weekends. After I take out… Read more »

Veronica
Veronica
6 years ago

I’m going to express a sentiment that may not be popular. I don’t like buns and updo’s on me. When I wore my own natural hair in twist-outs or braid-outs my hair didn’t retain as much length. I retained length but not four or five inches a year. So then I found myself wearing buns. To be perfectly honest, for my face shape, body type, and age, buns made me look too matronly or older — not like the image I want to project of myself. Buns is the primary way many naturals have retained length. Not all naturals, of… Read more »

Isis
Isis
5 years ago
Reply to  Veronica

What type of extensions are you referring to ?

Melissa
Melissa
6 years ago

I think a lot of the users on blogs read about retaining length with weaves, and shun it due to negative experiences. I went from a pixie cut( think mia farrow) to thick, shoulder length hair in 1 year with weaves and no damage. It all depends on how you take care of your hair and the weave. Just like a diet, everything should be done in moderation. My weaves were installed and left in for one month (with or without leave-out, depending on how i felt), taken down and left out for a week, then my weave went right… Read more »

farrah
farrah
6 years ago

Wigs are a godsend. I always purchase human hair gluesslace wigs in various colors, sizes, and styles. I rotate them but never sleep in them. At night, I take it off, condition my hair with water, Kimmytube’s home made conditioner (found on YouTube), castor oil and jojoba oil. Weekly deep treatements and keeping my hair underneath in nice conrows for 3–4 weeks has helped me in my hair journey. I also take hair pills and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve tried braids but I always feel like a young girl in them plus they break my hair off. Weaves are… Read more »

Kisses
Kisses
6 years ago

I would say none of them worked for me. Here are my reasons. With braids although it gave me the opportunity to do an acv, condition and deep condition I had a lot of product build up n shedding n also my braids was smelling unpleasant due to the conditioning. With weaves.…ooooh Lord that was just murder! I had to find scientific ways on sliding my fingers through the weaves to put oils n leave in conditioner. My hair was so thirsty like the Sahara desert. When I removed my weave it was like I just mawed the lawn (my… Read more »

Love
Love
5 years ago

This post helped me understand my hair so much, thank you. Blackgirllonghair & braidsbysarafina.com are my faves. x

Kristin Bell
Kristin Bell
5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

curly 3C long hair
curly 3C long hair
5 years ago

I first am starting wearing weaves, braids, and extensions
it was the best thing since slice bread. Then I stop eating bread, and realize
it did more damage did good. I then began to take care of my on natural hair it’s
a lot of work, money, and time but in end, I see great results my hair has
grown mid back length and its holding strong. You do have to be ready to
comment to the taking care of it.

Soalways Onit
Soalways Onit
4 years ago

Also factor in weather, diet and water intake. Plays a huge part in hair growth and also how much exercise you do. Sweating is good for hair growth. Steaming your hair monthly and deep treatments regularly also help me to maintain a healthy head. I only wear braids in the winter because the air so dry. I limit the amount of oil and product I put in my hair. (Mainly shea butter, light use of almond oil and coconut oil) I tie it down at night and only wash my hair if absolutely necessary. I drink lots of water and make… Read more »

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