Protective Styling

protective styleTwist it up. Braid it up. Tuck it under. It doesn’t matter what you do, but if your goal is waist length hair and being able to wear a BAA some day, you gotta protect those precious ends! I had never heard of protective styling until I joined, but really, it makes sense. When I was a kid, my mom hardly ever let me and my little sister wear our hair down and curled. That type of a do was reserved for very special occasions. When I asked her why, she said “wearing your hair down breaks your ends off.” Well, she must have been on to something with all those plaits and twisted ponytails because every last one of us had hair that reached below our shoulders.

Just remember that no matter what, your hair grows…period…about four to six inches per year. On the high end of this, that’s about ½ inch per month. Now of course everyone wants their hair to grow on the high end of that average but everyone’s hair may not. And it may grow faster or slower than this average. Your health and genetics play a role in how long and well your hair will grow. Certain medications can also affect your hair’s overall health and its growth. But ya gotta know there are NO miracle products out there that will going make your hair grow longer or faster than your predetermined make up; it’s what you do to protect your ends that will determine whether or not you retain length. Wearing your hair in protective styles and avoiding constant manipulation of your nappy hair, which is actually very fragile is part of the secret. One of the hardest things to get through newly nappy heads is the notion that nappy hair is meant to be combed and styled every single day. It’s not. Every twist, turn and bend in your hair represents a potential weak spot, just ready to snap off if it’s not being treated gently and protected the majority of the time. Besides twists and braids, below is a list of a few styles that can offer your hair the protection it needs to grow long strong and healthy.

  • Bantu knots
  • Comb coils
  • Finger coils
  • Heat Free Strawset
  • Shrunken fro (basically, you don’t pick it out at all)
  • Locs
  • Box Braids (Back in my day they were just called plaits)

As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways that nappy hair can be styled protectively and attractively while promoting length retention. If ya haven’t figured it out by now, we’ve got the most versatile hair on this planet and yes, it has the potential to grow very long, if it’s cared for properly. So don’t forget…protect your precious ends if you want longer hair!

20 Responses to “Protective Styling”
  1. LaRhesa says:

    I am have some troubles with my hair. See, I have like 5in of hair but I don’t know how to style it. My hair SHRINKS like not other and when it does it is tightly curled. I could get my mom to braid it out every night but that seems to just make more hair come out. I really want to do some protective styles but I am out of idea. Can you please help, I really want to make my hair healthy in 2007 because I think it just broke off a lot in 2006. And I know this should be a concern but I do want to max my hair growth. Can you help?

  2. nappyme says:

    Hi LaRhesa,
    Welcome to Nappturology 101. Let me tell you, most every nappies start out style challenged. About the only thing I knew how to do when I first started working with my nappy hair were twists. And boy did they look horrible. But I was determined to wear them. Although everyone said they were cute, inside I was like “yeah right.” But I wore them anyway like I had the cutest hair style on earth. From there I taught myself how to flat twist. Again, my early ones were just ok, but they got much better with practice.

    You say you have about five inches of hair, that’s more than enough length to start wearing two strand twists. You’re just gonna have to go for it and yes, practice does make perfect. Also, I have a link to a wonderful tutorial. Simply go to the top of this page and click on Hair Videos. Then click on the link for doing two strand twists.

    If you have any more questions let me know and good luck!

  3. Angela Davis says:

    Hey! I did my big chop jan 07 and I sporting the twa… My question is….Should I wear a protective style in my hair when I just did the big chop? Should I let me twa breathe or protective style is better.

  4. nappyme says:

    Hi Angela,

    Depending on your length, you may not have a lot of protective styling options other than a shrunken fro. If you’re seeking to retain length, you can still get there by wearing your twa. Just keep it well moisturized. Sta Soft Fro is a popular product for a lot of folks with twas as is any curl moisturizing product. You also need to refrain from constant picking like with a pick in an effort to achieve a bigger look. Picking your hair will cause your fragile ends to just pop off all over the place making it hard for your to retain length. If you like the look, just wear your twa in it’s shrunken state. When your hair gets longer you can start putting your hair in twists at night and taking them down in the morning to give you a more stretched out from.

    Hope this helps and sorry it took so long to get back to you.

    Take care and thanks for visiting Nappturology 101.

  5. tiffanie says:

    hey, i was wondering if micros would be a good choice for a protective hair style. My natural hair has completely grown out and i was wondering if it would be safe for me to get micros. And if you had micros before, how long did yours keep up?

  6. nappyme says:

    Hi Tiffanie,
    Micros are an excellent choice of a protective style. They can last up to three months. As long as you don’t let your braiders braid to tightly and you get your edges redone every six weeks or so to avoid breakage you’ll do fine.

    I wore mine nonstop for nearly three-and-a-half years.

  7. Randy says:

    I have short hair but im going to let it go because i want to have braids….my question is how long should you have your hair in order to start braiding? (including micro braids)

  8. Farahly says:

    It is so difficult to do twists and braids because my ends don’t stay I tried dabbing a little honey on my ends but the next day I woke up and my hair was looking dry, I didn’t even bother doing the other half. What do I do? My texture is on the softer side of nappy?

  9. nappyme says:

    Hi Farahly,
    I’m sorry sis, I’m clueless on this one. I actually have about four to five different textures on my own head, and in the back I have a couple of spots that don’t like to stay twisted. If my whole head was like this, I think I’d be in the same boat as you. There are just some textures that just don’t hold twists well and yours maybe one of them.

    The one thing about wearing your hair natural is accepting what your hair will and will not do. That doesn’t mean you don’t try but don’t become obsessed or upset with it (not saying you are) when after your best efforts you can’t make it do something it doesn’t want to do. That just means you cater to and style your hair in a different fashion.

    There are plenty of style I CAN’T do because of my texture and you’ll find the same is true for you.

    So good luck sis, you’ll find something, some style that is the bomb, so don’t sweat not being able to do twists.

    Take care,

  10. yasu419 says:

    If I may, you may want to try twisting them in smaller sections to see if they stay better. Also if you twist each twist before twisting them together (also called senegalese), that may encourage the ends to stay a little better.

    Or you can try combination styles like flat twisting the half of hair that won’t stay on the ends, then two strand twisting the half that does.

  11. QLF719 says:

    I recently took the first step towards becoming natural. I cut off some of the permed hair and chose two strands as my protective style. I was told to come back in 2 months to get them redone and I will be getting the rest of my permed hair taken off at that time. In the meantime, what can I do to take care of my hair while it is in its protective style?

  12. cece says:

    I been natural for about 8months. I grew my hair out for 8months then got a BC! now my hair is growing pretty well. it’s really thick but fine. I want to know r there any products that will help define my curls patterm besides gel.

  13. Selah says:

    I am currently in Spain, and there aren’t too many options for african american women so I’ve pretty much gone natural while out here. I’ve also taught myself to cornrow, so I do braidouts most nights. However, I’m sort of a lazy person (lol) and I was wondering: if I wear an afro puff, is that considered a protective style? Thanks in advance 🙂

  14. nappyme says:

    Hi Selah,
    welcome to NPP101!
    Well, I don’t personally consider an afro puff to be a protective style. It leaves my ends exposed to the elements and every evening I have to finger detangle and then twist it up so it doesn’t shrink up more over night and be even more tangled in the morning. THEN, every morning I have to take it down and finger fluff it so that it looks good.

    Get the picture yet? Tooo much manipulation. Plus, no matter what, whenever I wear a puff, I get single strand knots up the wazoo.

    Now that’s what happens to me, so I’m not a particular fan of afro puffs. That’s why I only wear them very occasionally.

    On the flip side of that, someone else might tell you that yeah, it can be a protective style as long as you don’t manipulate it for days on end, but beware if you do that, by the time you get around to taking it out, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time detangling — been there done that and in order to minimize breakage I had to detangle my whole head by hand. I was very successful, but it took me five hours to do it.

    One more example of why I don’t consider a puff to be a protective style… My niece (before her mom let her get a perm late last winter) had brastrap length, natural hair that she wore in the cutest puff for the majority of the fall and winter months. Everytime she’d get her her done up in twists, I’d notice her hair getting shorter and shorter. That dang puff and all that manipulation was popping her ends off like you wouldn’t believe. By the time she got a relaxer, her hair was barely shoulder length. It was interting that her beautician blamed the texture of her hair for the horrible state it was in as opposed to blaming the hair care practices/styles for the state of her hair.

    Anyhoo…I digress just a little. All that to say absolutely not, I don’t consider puffs to be a protective style in the least. At best wear them occasionally, but if you’re looking for protection, stick to braids, twists, buns etc to keep your hair healthy in the long run.

    Good luck and God bless,

  15. Jay says:

    Hey there,

    Are drawstring ponytails a protective style? I know that the combs may be questionable and this is why I am asking. I have had trouble retaining length and I am just now beginning to work with my own hair instead of hiding it under wigs and such…not conditioning every day…etc. I am considering cornrowing my hair (or flat twisting…not so sure yet) and then possibly adding a ponytail, or pinning on a long braid into some intricate bun style (not sure of this either). Anyhow, my hair right now , when stretched reaches about an inch and a half below my collarbone and shrinks like crazy. I’m trying to get that big fro going on by next May. My hair grows about a little under an inch every 2 months (so it’s possible). Anyways, I got off track, drawstring ponytail, Y or N?

    Oh and another question, I sweat heavily while working out and I have trouble with this when wearing synthetic hair braids. How do you care for individual braids if you work out a lot? I end up taking them out after a month bc I end up washing them so often. If I didn’t….there would be a smell….eeeeew :).

    • nappyme says:

      Hi Jay,
      Yes I would consider drawstring ponytails a protective style. Don’t know how long I’d leave it in though because I’d be afraid that the band holding the ponytail might eventually break my hair off. That would defeat the purpose of the protective style in the first place.

      With regards to working out, go check out the Crown and Glory method of caring for braids. Here’s the link:

      Good luck!

  16. Roshun says:

    I was wondering if you are familiar with Cathy Howse, founder of Ultra Black Hair. Her techniques for growing out black hair are quite interesting (and her hair is amazing!). Thanks for your site!

    • nappyme says:

      Yes, I’m very familiar with Cathy Howse. I tried using her techniques when I had relaxed hair. I saw no results and I followed her advice and routine to a T with absolutely no success. I’ve had better lucky growing my natural hair sans chemicals, heat and styling methods.

      So whatever she’s doing it works for her, but as far as advice that worked for me, I’m obviously not impressed.

  17. Kethura says:

    Hi, i stopping using relaxer about 2 months now. I visited most of the sites mentioned, and have read of products and procedures, my only problem is i live in the Caribbean, and most of the products that u guys have suggested i dont have access to it. I have alot of family in the States and i can easily order it online. but i was wondering if there are any simple natural products i can use in the mean time……Thanks so much!

    Running out of options

    • nappyme says:

      Hi Kethura,
      I’m not an expert on using natural products. I think you’re going to have to visit various sites and see what people are using. Most black hair boards have a natural products forum that could give you ideas. You can try my board, or or to get some ideas.

      Good luck!

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