Our Guide to Protective Styling

If you have tight curly hair, you’re probably very familiar with protective styling. It’s a method used by many type 4 naturals to protect their hair from harsh elements (e.g. wind, sunlight, cold air, etc). The main idea is to use low manipulation hairstyles, that tuck the ends away, to reduce breakage and retain length. In this article, we’ll review different types of protective styles and discuss whether they truly work. Additionally, we’ll discuss the ABCs to successful protective styling.

What are examples of protective styles and why are they beneficial?

Buns, two-strand twists, braids (with extensions or without), wearing a headscarf and wigs are examples of low manipulation hairstyles. The pictures below highlight the variety of protective styles that can be used on curly hair.

But do they work?

The ends of the hair are the oldest part and most prone to dryness and breakage. Protective styles allow us to hide the ends of our hair and reduce their exposure to friction (e.g. rubbing against clothing) and weather conditions. They also allow a hairstyle to be worn for several days, without restyling or combing, which makes the hair more susceptible to breakage. All of this in return makes it easier to keep the hair hydrated, which as we know is the key to healthy hair. 

Besides all of the health benefits, let’s talk about the amount of time protective styles save us. Curly hair is beautiful, but let’s face it, it takes more effort than straight hair to care for. Since your hair stays in protective styles for several days to weeks, it trims time off of our morning routines.

Tips for successful protective styles.

Now that you’ve had an idea of what protective styles offer before you run out and start practicing this method, there is a general rule of thumb you should follow. Like most things, not all protective styles are healthy. There are some things to avoid when using protective styles.

Keep it loose.

Just because your ends are tucked away in braids or a bun, doesn’t mean you’re protecting your hair. A tight, slicked-back bun should be avoided because it put strains on the hair, and more severely puts you at risk for traction alopecia.

Defined by wikipedia as “…gradual hair loss, caused primarily by pulling force being applied to the hair. This commonly results from the sufferer frequently wearing their hair in a particularly tight ponytail, pigtails, or braids…” 

Tip 1: Try low buns that allow you to wear your hair loosely tied back. 

Tip 2: Try asking your hairstylist to install loose twists or braids and try not to braid your edges.

Don’t forget water is your best friend.

Wearing a wig or installing braids, doesn’t mean you can forget about your hair for a couple of weeks. Be sure to mist your hair with water (and apply a bit of leave-in) every 3 – 4 days to keep it moisturized. And remember to cleanse your scalp if you plan on having a protective style for longer than 2 weeks.

Beauty sleep.

At night, be sure to sleep on a satin pillowcase or use a satin scarf to tie your hair up. Cotton pillowcases increase friction and dry out the hair.

multipurpose head turban wax print
Our multipurpose satin-lined turbans

Protective styles are a beautiful way to keep your hair protected, but also to unleash your creativity. If you’re talented at styling your hair, you can really have fun with different styles. Or you can just keep it simple. Either way, your hair will thank you for giving it a break from all of the styling. 

Do you wear protective styles?