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3 Protective Styling Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Length Goals

Avatar • Jan 16, 2015

One of the reasons I decided to follow a protective styling and low maintenance regime was because of the overwhelmingly positive effects I saw on women who used this method. Over the past five years, I have largely found that protective styling is indeed very effective in retaining length and allows for easy styling once hair has reached one’s desired length goals.

However I have also learned that NOT ALL PROTECTIVE STYLES ARE CREATED EQUAL. Both the styles you wear and how your care for your hair in certain styles can influence the extent to which your protective style leads to hair health or hair breakage.

Mini Braids That are Too Small and Tight

These styles are a favorite option among some women because it allows for long term protection, while also allowing for one to display length. I have worn this style and experienced mixed results. Mini braids, for example, were a “one and done” style for me mainly because they were extremely difficult for me to unravel after a few weeks.

Mini Braids

Mini Braids

While taking down my mini braids I had to use a bobby pin to undo some of the braids because the hair was so tightly braided. In this case the style had diminishing returns. In the future I might braid hair in significantly larger sections to make the style more effective.

Mini Twists on Hair that Hasn’t Been Stretched

Overall, I’ve had better experiences with mini twists than with mini braids and can generally say that they meet the goals of protective styling. However, for my tightly coiled hair, twisting the hair without blow drying first can lead to tangles galore. In my experience mini twists on my hair without heat stretching first, can lead to breakage caused by the excessive knots I encounter during the take down process. This is in part due to my current length (a bit above waist length after a recent trim) and my tightly coiled hair type.

Mini Twists

Mini Twists

Braid Extensions that Tangle and Take Long to Install

One of the protective styling options I get the most questions about via email are braid extensions. Extensions and weaves can be damaging or beneficial depending on how they style is installed. I am not a professional stylist and I don’t personally have much experience with weaves or extensions, so I can’t give directed advice on how they should be installed. However, if you are wearing a long term protective style using your hair, be sure to take the following into consideration:

1) Possibility of tangling

2) Time cost benefits of the style (the length of time it takes to complete the style vs. how much time you save in weekly styling).

Although long term protective styles like mini braids or twists (with natural hair), can make your hair regimen a breeze for a few weeks, it can ultimately lead to a setback.

What are your favorite long term protective styles? Which long term protective styles help you to retain the most length?

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Shaun
Shaun
5 years ago

I totally agree with this article about protective styles that are not as protective as one would think. I have always cringed at getting extensions because I think of the time it takes…the upkeep of my own hair while in the protective style…the matting that takes place and the taking down of the style. It takes a toll on your hair as you take it down…takes a great deal of patience and time. I remember getting the braid extensions during my last month of pregnancy and enjoying the time dedicated to my new baby instead of my hair. BUT.…taking it… Read more »

Talisa Garbo
Talisa Garbo
5 years ago
Reply to  Shaun

Matting is only an issue if you’re neglecting the hair under/within the braid extension. Keeping up a moisturizing regimen just as with any other style(if not even more so) is key. I have KINKY 4c hair and my hair has never matted from braids.

Imade Iyamu
4 years ago
Reply to  Talisa Garbo

neither has mine. moisture is important, esp when removing the braids

Vikki
Vikki
5 years ago

Nice post. The best protective styles for me, require my hair to be cornrowed (such as crochet braids, sew-ins, or simply having it braided under wigs). I had a stunt in length this year and realized it was a result of wearing marley twists. My hair would tangle and break while in this style despite daily moisturizing, but I didn’t realize the severity of the damage. I was too enticed by how quickly and easily marley twists could be installed and now I am paying the price.

Adía
Adía
5 years ago

I usually have braid extensions and if I keep them in for 7 weeks or less, I’ll be fine. But the 2 month mark creates too many knots. Otherwise the extensions slide right out when I taken them down

herlucidsky
5 years ago

The best protective hair styles for me are buns. Sometimes I will do a loose messy bun or my favorite braided bun. Buns are simple, require very low manipulation, keeps the ends hidden and is a great way to hold in moisture for longer periods of time. My hair is at butt length approaching thigh length and I know for certain that wearing buns as my protective style for all these years, is one of the main reasons for retaining most of my length.

mjslyfe
5 years ago

I usually protective style my hair by wearing a goddess crown and individual twists. I take both down every 2–3 days and finger detangle to remove hair that has shed. I also spray with water morning and night. I wash with conditioner after a hard workout and repeat the process. Works wonders for me!

SHL
SHL
5 years ago

I have mid length hair. I have also found that mini twists on wet coiled curls lead to massive tangles. I think because wet curly hair tends to bounce or rather retract in the twist the hair somehow creates tons of single strand knots. Even when i tried making the twists bigger i had this experience. Since I stopped twisting my wet hair the tangles also stopped. So there has to be an association between these two. I find braids to be more forgiving because the three strand pattern does not allow for much free movement of the hair. I… Read more »

Thunda
Thunda
5 years ago

Cornrows all day!! My hair has seen significant growth due to keeping it braided up. I let my stylist change up the parts when she wants so I don’t have unnecessary tension on my scalp, but taking my proper multi and drinking water adds to the length I see when I keep my hair in cornrows. She only does between 9–12 braids so they are easy to take down 🙂

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