Protective Styling Boring?



On Sunday, I decided to start going through my photo “archives” from 2011 to present to build a Protective Styles album on Facebook. And, it started me thinking about the recent questions I’ve been receiving about how I’ve been able to “grow” my hair long. I put grow in parentheses as I think “growing” hair long is generally a misnomer. As many of us know, absent a medical condition, our hair is always growing. Shoot, how many used to relax every 4-8 weeks, because that new growth was coming in so fast? So, yeah, that smashes the concept that our hair doesn’t grow. However, what is often happening when hair plateaus at a certain length is that we aren’t retaining that growth.

Enter protective styling. Now, there are a variety of factors that I believe have contributed to my ability to achieve my current length, which is the longest my hair has ever been, though it’s still a work in progress. What I do know is that protective styling (i.e. wearing styles where my ends are tucked) has played a major part in helping me get where I am now and will continue to be of benefit. But wait. Let me be more precise. Low manipulation protective styling has played a major part in helping me get closer to my goals.

You see, unlike those with hair of heartier stock, my fine strands can’t deal with too much pulling, tugging, braiding, twisting, cornrowing, flat-twisting, etc. So, I learned about a year and a half ago that my hair fares much better when I stretch it with twist-outs or TnCs and then place it in protective styles that can be done in 5-15 minutes with large sections of hair and pretty much left alone for several days or even a week at a time. Although I love the idea and look of small twists, mine tend to unravel. So, having to re-twist every couple of days kind of defeats the purpose of that particular protective style (though, I still wear twists on occasion). And wearing my hair down results in tangles, knots, splits and breakage due to friction and debris!

Now, to my real point. I have often read the sentiments like the following about protective styling: “What’s the point of growing your hair long if you always have to hide it?” and “Protective styling is boring.” But, I’d like to posit that “hiding” one’s hair can be anything but boring and is actually fun! In the last year and a half, I have done more simple, protective styles than I can even remember. The key for me has been to:

  1. Play around with a few gentle tools and accessories (i.e. banana clips, satin scrunchies, bobby pins, Spin Pins, Comfort Flex barrettes, flowers, hair sticks, headbands and *gasp* braiding hair! *lol*).
  2.  Search YouTube for inspiration from all sources, not just naturals with my texture and/or length (shoot, one of my favorite Youtubers for protective styling inspiration is Lilith Moon, a Russian blonde with naturally straight, shoulder length, thin hair).
  3. Use my imagination.

With those things, I have found protective styling to be enjoyable and generally prefer to wear my hair up and hidden, over down and out, most days of the week.

So, with some creativity, a few hair tools, a little time and patience, I think protective styling can be fun, fancy, and fierce for hair of all different textures and lengths. And, bonus!!  Switching up protective styles from week to week can save our strands from repeated tension on the same areas, which can cause thinning and breakage. With that, here is a sampling of the protective styles that I’ve done over the last year and a half. The same old plain bun and twists aren’t our only options!!

(Check out the Style Library to find tutorials for most of the styles pictured.)


Do you love/prefer protective styling or do you find it boring? What challenges do you face with it? 

28 responses »

  1. Shelli I so agree with what you say here. Protective styling CAN be fun. I wrote a post very similar to this a while back. Not sure you saw this one called, “Protective Styling Natural Hair and Making It Fun Here it is:

    There’s not a barrage of styles there but it shows a simple style that’s fun using something as simple as a bracelet!

    OK I think I’m seen a lot of your protective styles (love ’em) but going to check out the style library just in case I’ve missed any.


  2. Reblogged this on haircoustics and commented:
    Protective styling aids growth no matter what your hair type is. Everyone’s hair grows but the icing on the cake is growth retention. I know twins where one saw rapid hair growth compared to her sister all because she tucked in her ends most days. What’s your protective styling regimen like? Let’s swap some ideas!


  3. I love this post! This is why you caught my eye in the first place. Of course your hair is beautiful but you have such a variety of unique styles. I needed to see this right now. I have been wearing my hair down a lot lately and while I can’t FEEL the damage, I know it has to be happening so I need to start experimenting. Thanks Shelli!!


    • Awwwww, thanks Valencia:)!! You know I say that you’ve been my cheerleader from the very beginning and I sooo appreciate your continued support and encouraging words:)!!


    • Hi Stesha! I got almost the same exact question on FB, so I’m going to share my answer there here :):

      I don’t think protective styles are as necessary for TWAs as the hair is not as old and it’s not rubbing your clothing. HOWEVER, that being said, though protective STYLES may not be useful/necessary, being protective is a good idea. So, things like keeping your hair moisturized and sealed, sleeping on a satin/silk pillowcase and/or using a satin bonnet/scarf to cover your hair, gentle detangling (finger or wide tooth comb from the ends to the roots), etc. are the protective things that you CAN do. With five inches, maybe you can try bantu knots as an option to WnGs? I saw this post the other day, within it is a link to another post where the blogger explains how she uses braids instead of twists to stretch the hair more for the bantu knot. Sounded very clever to me!!

      As knots, twists and braids stretch the hair, they can help reduce/prevent single strand knots. So, if you find yourself getting those, you may want to think about doing styles that stretch your ends a bit. Also, if you are experiencing lots of SSKs, I would suggest getting trims so that they don’t cause collateral damage (i.e. more knots and splits on adjacent hair). Some people just leave their SSKs alone, but I see when they snag on my hair, so I do search and destroys to cut them out.

      Hope that helps lady!!


      • You already answered my question 🙂 I was going to ask if protective styling is more important for longer hair, since the ends are a lot older & stressed at that point.


  4. I’ve tried so many of your protective styles over the last year! You make it look good lol because most of them I couldn’t pull off 🙂


    • Awww, thanks Leah!! You’ll find the ones that work for you, just like you found how to do a TnC that works for you. Necessity is the mother of invention ;)!!


  5. I totally love protective styling. Keeps my hands out of my hair. I also workout a lot so I need to keep my hair in styles that give me that freedom to get up and go at 6 am.
    Check out my styles iny hair gallery. I do them myself..


    • Exactly Sawah!!!! When I have it down at work, I’m constantly picking at it, examining the ends, or it gets caught in stuff!!!! I hate that!!! And, when I’m actually exercising regularly ;), that’s another reason to keep it up and out of the way!! Thanks, and I’ll check out your gallery soon!!


  6. I love every protective style you’ve shown (I’m sure I’ve told you already! 🙂 )Since I’m transitioning with two different types of curly, protective styling is best for me, but I almost always end up with a slicked, plain bun. Tried a high big bun with a flower in my hair and styled my babydoll with a protective braided up-do and a matching flower. You couldn’t tell us anything we were styling so hard!! Thanks for collecting all of these styles to make it easy to find and be inspired.


    • Awwwwwww, thank you Nicole!!! LOVE it (you and baby girl!!). Now, why wasn’t that pic posted on my FB page *tapping toe*?!? I wanna see, I wanna see ;)!!


  7. I love protective styling, but my hair still isn’t quite long enough where many styles actually look GOOD. I am right below bra strap length and I think I have to be at waist length, at least, for it to not look anemic. LOL


    • Carla, these are almost all styles from early to mid last year, when I was BSL. So, I totally think you could do these, especially since your hair is thicker than mine!!


  8. Beyond inspirational and SO CREATIVE! I too have fine strands and when I would do a bun it would not even come close to looking “bunny”! After you demonstrated how full your hair looked using a banana clip after, I was sold and have not stop using it since. I’ve tried smaller two stand twists as protective styles and in the end, caused more havoc when taking them down that I just had to give up that option and keep it movin’!


  9. Dangit! Maybe there is something to all this protective styling and low manipulation. I’m about to stalk Lilith Moon to see what she can do for ladies with shorter lengths…did I ever mention how awesome I think your hair is? So many great styles!


    • LOL!!! Awwww, thanks Adrienne. Listen, you did protective styling for a while and didn’t see much additional length. If you are seeing it with loose hair (maybe less manipulation), then leave a good thing alone;)!! That is, unless you can find some low manipulation styles that work:)!!


    • Rece, I didn’t comment on your post in time, but I read it last night and I was like, “OMGosh, now that’s timing!!” LOL!!! So, let me head on over there, thank you for your kind words and share the link to this post.

      And, if I manage to do this curlformers set, I hope to have something cute and new for you all;)!!


  10. Pingback: How I Retain Length – Part Two « hairscapades

  11. I could definitely use more PS options. It typically run to mini twists because they are easy to put in..Not quite long enough to do ALL the styles I want.


  12. Pingback: The Best of Hairscapades 2012 « hairscapades

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