Protective Styling 101

Protective Styling is the idea that styling your hair in a way which reduces or eliminates daily manipulation promotes length retention. Protective styling requires the tips of the hair to be tucked away and not worn loosely for an extended period of time consisting of days, weeks, or even months.

First, let’s discuss the truth about hair growth, shedding and growth retention.

Hair Growth

Hair grows at an average of ½ inch per month or 6 inches per year. African-American hair tends to grow slightly slower than the average. The rate in which your hair grows is purely genetic and cannot be changed. Optimal health is the perfect environment to grow hair at its’ greatest potential.


Hair shedding is completely normal. There is no cause for alarm when you have a few stray hairs after detangling. In fact, hair is shed at approximately 100 strands per day.

Growth Retention

African-American hair is typically fragile due to the kinky nature of its’ texture. Therefore, it is more susceptible to breakage and appears to shed hair more than normal. Due to its’ fragile nature, it is important to reduce hair manipulation in order to retain length.

So how can protective styling help? Everyone has a personal preference in regards to protective styling. Below I will discuss my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of protective styling.



  • Styles typically last between 7-30 days. Low manipulation reduces instances of breakage and helps to retain length.
  • Hair stays moisturized longer. After cleansing and conditioning the hair, when a protective style is used the moisture is retained longer because the hair is tucked away and the moisture cannot escape into the air.
  • Hair styles are versatile. Although some view protective styling as boring, the style can be dressed up and changed with different accessories.
  • Maintenance is low. Protective styles do not need to be refreshed daily and night time protection usually involves simply wrapping the hair or wearing a satin bonnet. Due to the low maintenance nature of these kinds of styles, it can be a huge time saver for those busy go-getters of the world.

braids7  braids4

Protective styles9 Protective styles3



  • The longer the protective style is kept, the less moisture is retained within the hair. Hair styles that last longer than seven days typically need to be re-moisturized and depending on the style used it could be difficult to moisturize the hair.
  • Braids and sew-ins are popular protective styles but depending on how tightly the hair is braided it can cause damage to the hair follicle which is essential to hair growth.
  • Single box braids and sew-ins are typically kept for weeks and in some instances months, which could cause dirt to accumulate, provide an environment where mildew can grow, and make it difficult to cleanse and moisturize.
  • Some styles take a significant amount of time to install such as single braids, sew-ins, and cornrows. Once installed however, the style can last weeks.

weave mildew

In the picture above mold grew on a sew-in weave that was installed for six months.

follicle damage

follicle damage2

In the above pictures follicle damage occurred due to the tension that can be put on the hair during the process of braiding the hair for cornrows, single braids, or sew-ins.

It’s important to find a style that suits your lifestyle and hair growth goals.

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