What is a Protective Style?

Whether the goal is to keep the hair to stay put or to grow it out, a protective style can achieve many things in healthy ways. 

It is a must, especially in the afro hair community, when it comes to locking in hair nutrients. There are a wide variety of protective styles, and many options for people of all hair types.  

What is a Protective Style?

A protective style is any style that keeps the hair tucked away and free from manipulation. The goal for a protective style is to give the hair a break from stressors and allow it to grow healthy and free from any breakage. [1]

A protective style can keep your hair safe from:

  • Heating
  • Chemicals
  • Tugging or pulling
  • Environmental factors (wind, rain, sun, etc)

Common protective hairstyles for natural hair include braids and wigs, but there are many other styles to choose from as well. A protective style is also not limited to people with one particular hair texture, all textured hair can use protection!

Types of Protective Styles

There are many protective styles to choose from. Let’s take a look at each one:

#1 Braids

Traditionally, when people think of protective styles they think of braids. Braiding is especially good for afro hair because it allows for the natural hair to be moisturized and in its natural state before it is left in that style. 

There are many different kinds of braids that can be done – cornrows, box braids, fishtail, french braids, and more. The most popular braiding styles for afro hair are cornrows and box braids. 

These styles are particularly effective for afro hair – especially type 4 coils – because they lock in moisture. Moisture is important for curly hair because the hair tends to be drier than other hair types, which makes it more prone to breakage. 

Read: Curl Types and Charts

Braiding box braids usually includes adding artificial hair into the braids, which also helps to protect and cover the hair from the environment.

Another reason why box braids are so popular is because they are easy to maintain, especially the bigger they are. 

They do not require any additional styling after they are done, and they can last for up to 3 months. The smaller the braids, the longer they last.

Cornrows are braids that lay flat on the scalp, restricting any movement and locking in moisture for an extended period of time. They can be worn by themselves, but also are usually done before installing a wig or weave. 

#2 Twists

Twists are very similar to braids, except they are done with two strands instead of three. 

Twists are especially good for type 4 afro hair because they look their best when moisturizing products, such as leave-in conditioner, are put into the hair before it is styled.

Twists are achieved by the curls of the hair wrapping around each other and keeping the twist in place. This is a style that is mostly effective for curlier and coarser hair types because looser and finer textures tend to unravel. 

Twists are not as long lasting as braids, but they generally are easier to do. Some examples or twisting styles are havana, bantu knots, and sanegalese twists. 

#3 Wigs

Many women braid their hair before installing a wig or a weave. In doing so, they tuck in the hair automatically and keep it free from manipulation. 

Adding a wig on top of your hair, gives it full coverage from the elements. Most wigs are able to completely cover the natural hair without any of it having to be left out. 

There are many kinds of wigs, the most popular are probably the lace front and the full lace wigs. Both of these wigs give full coverage to the natural hair. 

Lace wigs have a sheer lace panel around the edges to blend in with your scalp and aid in giving the appearance of baby hairs. They are more natural looking than non-lace wigs. 

For lace wigs, there is a risk of damaging the hairline due to the usage of glue in order to lay the lace on the head. If the glue is not removed correctly, some of the hairline can be pulled out.

Wigs give the versatility that many crave, without having to apply the stressors of heat and chemicals on the natural hair. 

#4 Crochet

This recent trend has saved a lot of time and effort for those that do not know how to do certain styles, or just don’t have the time to spend on them. 

Crochet styles involve pre-braided, twisted, or locked hair that can be crocheted into cornrows or small sections of hair wrapped in rubber bands.  

Crochet styles are similar to box braids, but take less time and skill to achieve. Many people have recently flocked to this method because of how easy it is and less expensive to do than going to a hairstylist. 

Popular crochet styles include – faux locs, senegalese twists, and box braids.

#5 Weaves

Weaves are good ways to provide coverage for the hair and leave it completely untouched. The natural hair is usually put in braids before installing a weave, which gives the hair more of a chance to retain moisture. 

However, weaves tend to pull on the hair a lot, and if they are left on the head too long, they can do the opposite of protecting your hair. 

Many women wear weaves to increase their hair growth potential. Beyonce is one example of a person who has worn weaves for many years, and she has been shown to have very long and healthy hair. 

One of the benefits of hair weaves or extensions is that you can buy them in many colors.

Coloring afro hair can be difficult, especially if you are trying to go lighter. In order to color hair that is dark brown or black (which most afro hair is), then you will first need to bleach the hair. 

Bleached hair is damaged hair. Period. 

Bleaching is very hard on any hair type, let alone dark curly hair because it needs to set longer to get to the appropriate shade for adding toner. 

I usually bypass damaging my own hair and reap all the benefits of trying a new color through extensions. When I’m tired of the color, I don’t have to wait for my hair to grow out, I just take the hair off my head. This is a huge plus for me. 

It really depends on the person to do the right things when they have a protective style, and how well they take care of it determines how effective it becomes.

Read: Do Weaves Damage Your Hair?

What are some natural protective styles?

Natural protective styles are styles that do not include any artificial hair integrations. These styles mainly aim to keep the hair moisturized and set in one place. Some of the most popular natural styles include buns, flat twists, and bantu knots. 

One of the more underrated natural protective styles are headscarves. Styling with a headscarf keeps the hair fully covered, and is very easy to use.

What is the most protective hairstyle for sleeping?

Sleeping is the time where protection is also needed for hair. The best protective style for sleeping is braiding the hair. It can be in one braid, french braids, and many more. [2]

Braiding the hair prevents it from tangling and breaking while also cutting down the frizz. Another good hairstyle for sleeping is a twisted top bun. It keeps the hair in one place, and is also comfortable to sleep with.

Wearing a silk bonnet or scarf is also a protective style to wear that aids in keeping the hair from sweat, breakage,  and rubbing the hair too much on the pillow. 

What are some protective hairstyles for swimming?

Chlorine is NOT a friend to hair, especially afro hair. Everytime I jumped in a pool with my hair out, the results were dry and brittle strands I did not want to deal with afterwards. 

Having a protective style before taking a swim will help the hair retain moisture. Popular protective styles for swimming are box braids, cornrows, and french braids. The more your natural hair is not left out to be completely immersed in the water, the better. [3]

Adding moisturizers to the hair like shea butter, before putting it into a style will also add a protective layer to the hair that the chlorine will penetrate less. Of course, a swim cap also helps. 

Which hairstyle grows hair faster?

Braids are very good for helping hair to grow. They lock in moisture and other hair nutrients that are placed into the hair, and keep the hair from being exposed to environmental elements. 

Braids for hair growth are most effective when the hair has not been treated with heat or chemicals.

It really depends on the person how much hair grows when in braids. I personally have seen my hair grow a good 2 inches in 6 weeks when I wear box braids. 

However, growth is just a result of the hair being healthy. Your hair is in its healthiest, best looking state when it is left alone.

Read: How to Grow 4c Hair to the Waist

What are protective styles for white hair?

Usually, when talking about protective styles people think of afro hair. However, all hair needs protecting. Popular hairstyles for type 1 and 2 hair can include different variations on buns and braids. [4]

Curly hair, as I have mentioned, tends to require protective styling the most, but any type of hair needs to be protected every once in a while. 

Popular Protective Styles for White Hair:

  • Fishtail Braids
  • Halo Braid
  • French Braids
  • Low Buns
  • Double Low Buns
  • High Buns 
  • Wigs

The Final Word

A protective style is an essential part of hair care. Many people should be aware of how they need to treat their hair at any given moment. 

Protective styling is not just limited to one ethic group or hair type, it has benefits for everyone striving to get their hair to its healthiest state.

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Janine Griffiths

Janine is a blogger/editor that edits and creates content for Afro Lovely.
She previously studied economics and journalism at college. After working for two major marketing agencies, she now uses her marketing prowess to create helpful advice, tips and blogs for our audience.
She currently lives in Leeds, in northern England.

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