Sunday, 20 July 2014

Protective styles vs Low Manipulation Styles

My hair journey has taught me lots of things. The most important of these is that my hair doesn't do well open. On the few occasions I have dared to wear an Afro or a puff, it has turned into a shrunken, tangled, single-strand-knotted mess by the end of the day. Detangling after always involves a tearing sound that pierces my length-chasing heart and I usually have to follow with a trim. Not good.

Does this mean I never wear my hair open?
The truth is, not that often. My usual routine is to wear twists or knots from Sunday night to Friday then undo them on the weekend. And even then, only if I'm going out out, like to dinner or for drinks or for a dress-up event. On the rare occasions when my hair is open, it is mostly in a bun which gives some protection from tangling and knotting. Sounds boring I know but my life is sooo much easier this way. 

So what is the difference between a Protective Style and a Low Manipulation Style? The simple answer is: How much your ends are protected. 

Protective Styling

A protective style is one in which your ends are completely tucked away. Your ends are the oldest, most fragile part of your hair. Their cuticle has worn down with time, leaving them prone to dryness and breakage. Keeping them hidden away prevents them breaking off from the daily wear and tear caused by handling your hair, rubbing against things like your car seat and clothing or simply tangling together. This means you are able to retain much more length. 

Protective styles are mostly favoured by people who want to grow their hair, 4c hair types like me whose tight coils and kinks makes hair more prone to tangling and breakage and young children, who usually have long hair as a result. 

Protective styles can be either long term or short term. 

Long term Protective Styles

my beautiful niece is always creative with her braided styles

These are styles that keep your hair tucked away for weeks, sometimes months, on end. I can not bear the idea of long term protective styles such as braids, weaves and small cornrows. I like messing with my hair, trying out new products etc so long term protective styles hold no appeal. 

Short Term Protective Styles
Instead, I opt for short term protective styles, with Bantu knots being my favourite. 

tucked away ends

Flat twists (I usually just do two) and kamatana are also good short term protective style options that can also be used long term (I don't know how though, my hair looks crazy after a week in these). Buns and roll-tuck-and-pin styles are also a great for keeping your ends tucked away and are my go to styles for when my hair is open. 

fake bun! lol

Low Manipulation Styles

These are styles that don't tuck away your ends but still keep them fairly protected. 

Twists and braids with your own hair fall under this category; the ends are still exposed to rubbing against clothing and chairs etc. but because they are twisted or braided together, they aren't handled daily so don't tangle or break off easily. 

It is arguable whether Twist/braid/Bantu knot-outs also fall into this category. I think they do because although your hair is open, your ends still have some protection because they are stretched to some extent which prevents tangling and clumped together, which basically offers strength in numbers. This is the only way I wear my hair open, and it's not because I'm chasing curls,  it's because my hair is stays tangle-free all day and I can wear the twist out for several days without needing to redo them. 

I keep dragging out the same ol tired pics

Although some naturals wear their hair out all the time, protective or low manipulation styles are a staple for most naturals. What's your favourite protective style?


  1. Been rocking a TWA for 5 months now. Ive done one protective style, braids which left my hairline too weak. After that I just left my hair open coz its too short to do twist/braid out. Any pointers for protective styles that dont include braiding or weaving?

    1. Lots of naturals like crotchet braids so may be worth a try. I think cornrows are gentler on the hair.