Protective Styling: Why You Should Wear Protective Styles

protective stylesDo you wear protective styles to encourage length retention? Stay tuned, because today we’re going to ask you to rewrite the rules around protective styling.

We believe that many ladies often limit the concept of protective styling to only wearing protective hairstyles, which we don’t necessarily think is the best approach to natural hair care. Now, this isn’t always true, so I’ll explain.

The Goal of Wearing Protective Styles for Natural Hair

Life insurance is used to protect our families when we die. Sunscreen is used to protect our skin from the adverse effects of the sun. Alarms systems are used to protect our homes from potential burglaries.

Policemen carry firearms because they have a duty to protect society. This act of protecting things that are valuable to us is a common part of society.

The basic concept is to preserve “something valuable” from damage, injury or harm.

If one of your hair goals is to preserve your hair from damage, then you should incorporate protective styling into your natural hair regimen whenever possible.

Protective styling is a concept that reduces ongoing manipulation of your hair, encourages growth retention and protects the ends of your hair strands, reducing knots and tangles.

Now that you understand the concept of protective styling, it’s important to understand a protective style shouldn’t require much daily upkeep or constant manipulation.

Beautiful Braided Protective Style

This beautiful braided protective hairstyle basically involves parting your natural hair and twisting it towards the nape area of your neck. The good thing about this sort of hairstyle is that it’s cute, vibrant and youthful.

Braided Crown with Low Bun in the Back

One of the most effective ways for you to give your basic low bun an edge is with a braid. This braided crown style has the capability to immediately transform it from an informal look, to a formal one.

Chucky Flat Twist Protective Hairstyle Tutorial

Braided Twists

This is one of the most common protective styles when it comes to braided twists. This is because it often involves cornrows, but is much easier and faster to do. If you would like a nice-looking hairstyle that can last for several weeks, this is definitely a good choice.

Pineapple Updo

This is a gorgeous pineapple updo with the hair gathered towards the front of your head.

Simple, Sweet Natural Style

This simple, sweet protective style works great on transitioning hair and relaxed hair. It’s also one of the easiest, beginner protective hairstyles for natural hair. Even though it’s a relatively simple style, it has a very elegant appearance.

High Natural Hair Bun

In some cases, a high bun is not viewed as a protective style. However, any hairstyle that tucks the ends the of your hair away, puts minimal stress on your hair edges and doesn’t require constant manipulation can be viewed as protective. This is often a great protective style for short hair.

Short, Natural Twist Updo

New naturals often think that protective styling significantly limits their hairstyle choices; however, there are plenty of beautiful protective styles. This style is uses big twists to create a textured updo hairstyle.

Cute and Professional Protective Style

Protective styles are very popular nowadays, especially as more women embrace their natural hair. This is simple updo with buns, but it’s amazing. It’s also perfect for a day at the office or school.

Natural Protective Updo

Protecting short natural hair can be quite simple, but this updo works for a natural with longer hair. This style is cute, elegant and professional.

The Truth about Protective Styling

There is a lack of understanding within the natural hair community of exactly what protective styling really means. Let me explain why protective styling is so important.

Failing to incorporate protection into your natural hair regimen is one of the reasons that several women experience excessive hair breakage and fail to retain their desired hair length.

Furthermore, protective styling, which is an acceptable term within the natural hair community is admittedly limiting and leaves out a very important component. Usually when we refer to the concept of protective styling, we’re speaking specifically about the various protective hairstyles that can keep your ends safe and tucked away – that is protected.

However, protective styling is only one component of your journey. You must focus on your entire natural hair regimen and look for ways to incorporate more protection across the board.

The term protective styling is often used in a limiting fashion. It should really refer to the process used to style your hair and not the actual style that you choose to wear. The actual style that you decide to wear should be referred to as a protective hairstyle. It can be confusing when you think about it, but let me clarify why the distinction is so important.

Protective styling is really about increasing the number of good things that you do for your hair and decreasing the number of bad things that you do to your hair.

Let’s look at an example of how you can incorporate more protection into your natural hair regimen.

If you fail to take your time and be gentle when combing your hair, it’s relatively easily to stress your hair strands and cause unnecessary breakage.

To mitigate this potential cause of hair damage, you can incorporate more protective styling. For example, use wide tooth combs, seamless bone combs, or incorporate finger combing into your regimen.

If you decide to incorporate finger combing as a protective measure, just be sure to remove any jewelry that you’re wearing and make sure your fingernails are well trimmed. Keep in mind that this is just one example of how you can mitigate potential hair damage when styling your hair by incorporating more protective styling into your natural hair regimen.protective styling


  • Thank you so much for posting this. I had begun to get confused with so many people talking about keeping your hair in a protective “style” and not discussing ways to protect it while actually styling and caring for it.

  • I was confused too. I thought protective styling meant painful cornrows…nice to know there are more options.

    • Danielle, that’s likely a common believe, but as you mentioned there are many more options. Actually, protective styling can be very flexible.

  • Great article, I totally agree. I’ve learned so much about my hair and hair in general these last 10 months I’ve been on my journey and lately I had been thinking about adding more styling to my regimen. (about 50% more) I’m trying to reach APL by mid-late summer and BSL by sometime next year. When I did my last set of mini twists I noticed that in my crown at some point, ocurred some breakage (which I think is due to lack of attention and moisture) leaving it a half inch shorter than my front. I also can see the parts of my hair that had become very thin due to excessive heat use. My plan is to wear mini twists more that way I can focus on those areas and get it caught up. So YES! Protective Styling is extremely important!

    • @ambeejai1 Cool! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. Heat can definitely have adverse effects on your hair causing breakage, robbing your hair of moisture and many other things. Prior to using heat in the future (if you aren’t already doing this), make sure that your hair is clean (remove product build-up), has been well conditioned (deep conditioned) recently, that you use a heat protectant and that you keep the heating appliance moving consistently. There are a few other tips that you should consider, like making sure the appliance has “logical” heat controls that you understand how to manipulate and that it ultimately isn’t too hot. There are some additional tips that might be beneficial, but if you start with these you’re way ahead of the game.

      Take care.

  • Very great article. I have started to incorporate more finger combing and less brushes and combs. This protective styling has greatly increased my hair length in just 3weeks and it’s amazing!!

  • Thank you so much for the information. I had to learn the hard way about protective styling. Just wnet through a journey of damage hair and had to get a lot of my hair cut off amd was considering the BC, but my stylist saved my hair. Now I’m ready to take only wise advice from those that are truelt about natural hair care.

    • Kim – Sorry to hear about the hair damage that you experienced. Unfortunately, I hear stories like these more often than I would like to. It sounds like you have a plan in place to get things back on the right track, which is good.

    • Waltyne – Typically, when I mention protective styling I’m referring to the process used to style your hair and not the actual style that you choose to wear. However, it sounds like you’re interested in incorporating a few protective styles into your regimen. If I misinterpreted your question, then please let me know and I will respond accordingly.

      Having said that, if you’re looking to add a few protective styles to your regimen, you can start with updos, buns or french-roll type styles. Depending on the characteristics of your hair specifically, those style types tend to work pretty well for ladies with locs.

  • I like how you broke it down. Great job! For my hair I finger comb it or comb my hair in the shower with conditioner. It really makes it easy for my hair.

  • Thank you so much for the clarification! I love the education you’re giving to the natural hair community.

  • WOW. I didn’t even know that protective styling actually meant what you use to style your hair! Dang, I guess that’s not something that goes through a 17 year olds mind. Sorry, I’ll change that. Thanks for the info!!!! :D

  • Thanks for the info because of this site I’ve learned about protective hairstyles and protective styling.

  • This is my first time since I was a child that I am getting my hair in braids, as a protective style, my concerns are on my edges and nape area which as a kid I never had that problem. Well since time has changed a lot and me educating myself I learn that hair is an extension of ourselves and need care, so as I move forward with this protective style I prepare my hair first to begin with! I pre poo, I shampoo, I give myself a protein treatment, I deep condition and bag over night, and the next day I will seal and apply a Shea butter treatment for moisture. Today is Tuesday and my appointment is on Friday! I hope I’m doing this correctly and if I can keep my hair braided for 3-4 weeks I will be satisfy and upon taking them out I wonder beside shampoo & another deep condition should I protein again? Cause of everything else that happens during my protective style I read witch hazel or AVC to keep the scalp clean was necessary and to keep the braids moisturize, but that sounds all good for box braids but I’m getting cornrows! It’s a lot more then I remember as a child! But am I heading in the right direction?

  • I agree with the article. I have seen several naturals refer to a hairstyles protective when it would require some maintenance or manipulation that would defeat the purpose of having a protective style. The style should only require minimal to no manipulation but just care to maintain the style which protects the hair.

  • I have recently started to transition from heat damaged/ relaxed hair to completely natural. I have been looking for protective styles that I can do myself, but I am having trouble (I am not very experienced with my hair) I have to keep my hair pulled back in a neat bun daily, due to my profession so I cannot experiment very much. I am noticing that I am losing quite a bit of hair on a daily basis, although most is from the root, it makes me very nervous. I only finger comb, but my hair tends to entangle itself so much that I have a hard time doing that. Help!

    • Hi Robbyn,

      The weekend is a great time for you to experiment with styles. You can experiment Friday nights and see how the style holds up overnight.

      Learning to twist and braid are great styles to start with.

      Your hair could possibly be in the shedding phase. Or, if you feel that the shedding is longer than normal, it can be linked to other factors like stress and hormones.

      Detangling with a conditioner that has BTMS in it, like Kinky Curly Knot Today, is wonderful for making the hair slippery where detangling.


  • Any advice on how to put hair up for the night. I have long hair. I have satin pillow cases since it helped keep its moisture and I don’t wake up fuzzy. But I’m trying to find a way to keep my hair nice at night without looking boyish

  • Very well put! I would also like to say how happy I was to see that the time is taken respond to everyone’s comments. I’ve really enjoyed reading the articles. It is apparent that a great deal of passion and hard work is spent on putting out accurate information relevant to naturals everywhere. Keep it up

    • We have dedicated years and countless hours to helping women rewrite the natural hair rules and it has paid off. When a women that was struggling with her hair gets an ah-ha moment or her confidence increases, we know we are doing the right thing.
      Thanks for your comment and thanks for noticing :-)


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