Protective Styling 101: What’s the 411???

Lately, we have been coming across a lot of social media posts about protective styling, which is normal because we are in the middle of winter and naturals want to keep their precious tresses safe from the harsh conditions. Sadly, we have noticed that often the posts end in disappointment and, in some cases, disbelief about the realities of certain protective styles. Especially from those who try them for the first time.


Protective styling is the ultimate key to preserving the ends of our hair. Black hair is extremely fragile and, in certain environments, it needs to be kept safe from breakage and knots. This is especially true for hair that goes beyond shoulder length because friction plays a massive role in hair breakage. Protective styles are, in essence, styles that keep the ends of the hair up or fully or partially tucked away.


Essentially there are two types of protective styles which can be used together to create a third type. Complete protective styles keep the ends of the hair completely out of sight and can be achieved without heat—they are highly protective. Low manipulation styles are medium term styles that don’t need daily combing or brushing. Used interchangeably, these styles greatly reduce the chances of hair breakage and so they improve length retention.

  • Complete Protective Styles – Buns, French rolls, tucked styles, puffs, and pin ups etc.
  • Low Manipulation Styles – Roller sets, spiral sets, braid outs, twist outs, Twists, cuts etc.
  • Combination Styles – Cornrows, braids, weaves, crochet styles, wigs, etc.


Even though protective styles are super effective at keeping our hair’s health in check and have been proven to improve length retention, they are not absolutely necessary for growing hair—growth happens with or without protective styles. They do, however fit very well in a healthy hair care regimen and, when done right, they are greatly beneficial. If retaining length has been a problem for you in the past, it may be worth giving protective styles a shot.


We often joke about how certain stylistS would braid your eyebrows if they could and, sometimes, that joke is pretty close to the truth. When done right, braids, weaves and wigs are an awesome way to experience the versatility of hair without having to colour, cut, or straighten your own. Also, because they can be worn weeks at a time, they are extremely low maintenance which our hair loves!

That said, misusing these styles can (and often will) result iN breakage, thinning, and hair loss. Far too often, the hair growth benefits of these styles are stunted by poor execution and neglect—they are thought of as a passport to weeks of little to no hair care. Hair doesn’t see a drop of clean water for daaaaaaays!


The styles alone won’t protect your hair, we still have to do some of the work. If you’re considering a protective style that involves extensions, try these tips before you visit the salon:

  1. Evaluate the health of your hair—look for signs of weakness or breakage—and solve any underlying issues beforehand.
  2. Cleanse thoroughly
  3. Deep condition your hair well—begin with a protein treatment and follow with a moisture conditioner.
  4. Detangle with your fingers or a large toothed comb.
  5. Moisturise with a water based moisturiser and seal with an oil or a butter.


  • Don’t be afraid to take your own hair products to the salon with you.
  • Do be actively involved in the process of styling your hair.
  • Don’t allow the stylist to pull too tight.
  • Do tell the stylist to leave your baby hair alone.
  • Do anchor braids down with your finger as your stylist is braiding to counter the tension.
  • Do Spritz each section lightly as your stylist installs the braids.


If you catch yourself lying awake at night questioning your sanity because you have to sleep face down, your style is probably too tight. How do you tell if a style is too tight for sure?

  • Small red or white bumps forming along partings, and at the hairline and edges.
  • An extra shiny look to partings and exposed areas of your scalp.
  • White tipped hairs sticking up from your braid where it starts at the hairline.
  • Excessively dry, flaking skin along parts, particularly at the frontal hairline.


  1. Wash and condition every seven to ten days – dilute your shampoo and conditioner in two separate applicator bottles for easier application. Make sure you rinse thoroughly.
  2. Spritz your hair daily (even twice a day) to maintain moisture of the hair and scalp.
  3. Seal with an oil or butter every now and then after spritzing and/or washing.
  4. Ensure that your hair dries fully after a wash to avoid unwanted odours.

All in all, when done well, protective styles are great for keeping our hair in a good condition and for encouraging length retention. Allowing our hair to rest for two to four weeks between styles and not keeping styles for more than eight weeks ensures healthy maintenance of our hair.

*Information sourced, summarised, paraphrased and quoted from The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis Sivasothy.

Bantu Knots, Beauty, Braids, Dreadlocks, Hair Care, Hair Extensions, Healthy Hair, Locs, Natural Hair, Natural Hair Products, Protective Styles, South Africa, Twists, Weaves