How Long Should Protective Styles Stay In for Maximum Length Retention?


Style Icon April

In my previous article, I briefly mentioned how keeping a protective style (PS) in for a short time can prevent you from retaining the maximum amount of length. I did also say that the determination of what constitutes a short time is indeed individual but the basic principles really do not change. The aim of protective styling is 3 fold:

a. Reduction of Manipulation : Eliminating the need to do handle individual hair strands on a daily basis, ideally no detangling with a comb or even finger combing.
b. Eliminate Tangling: Preventing hair strands from intertwining and forming complex knots where 3 or more strands are involved in the tangle.
c. Eliminate Breakage: Preventing breakage at ends (tiny wisps) as well as mid shaft breaks (longer strands of hair with no hair bulbs visible).

These 3 principles are the ones you should score when deciding how long you want to keep a protective style in for length retention. For example:

1. PS for 2-3 Days
Example Styles: Buns, Free hair updos, Pinned twist outs/knot outs/braid outs
These type of styles in general do keep ends tucked in and also prevent hair from rubbing against clothes. They do, however, usually involve some amount of manipulation e.g retwisting at night or minor detangling to restyle the bun in the morning.
a. Reduction of Manipulation: 2/5
b. Elimination of Tangling: 3/5
c. Elimination of Breakage: 2/5

2. PS for 1 Week
Example Styles: Large/Medium twists, Own hair braids, Partial braided styles e.g front flat twisted, back open, Large cornrows e.g two French braids
These type of styles allow hair to be manipulation free for at least one week. This can be sufficient for some people, but if you normally find that your hair experiences breakage during the wash session or if left open and manipulated at the weekend, you may find that your retention is compromised by frequently redoing the hair.
a. Reduction of Manipulation:3/5
b. Elimination of Tangling: 3.5/5
c. Elimination of Breakage: 3/5

3. PS for 2 Weeks
Example Styles: Small/medium cornrows, Small twists, Own hair braids
By moving up to two weeks, the interval with open hair is reduced. Additionally, there is no harm in performing your normal wash e.g weekly or biweekly, while your hair is in the protective style. You may find that this increases frizz (fuzz halo as I like to call it) and you have to decide if this ok with you or not.
a. Reduction of Manipulation: 4/5
b. Elimination of Tangling: 3.5/5
c. Elimination of Breakage: 3.5/5

4. PS for 3-4 Weeks
Example Styles: Own hair braids, Mini twists, Partial styles e.g part small cornrows, part mini twists
Once more, moving up from 2 weeks to a 3/4 week interval, further reduces the time when hair is open and susceptible to tangling or breakage. This is the general limit that many people will find is suitable before hair starts to mesh within the protective style. Care also has to be taken when taking down the style as the ends of hair may have tangled.
a. Reduction of Manipulation: 5/5
b. Elimination of Tangling: 4/5
c. Elimination of Breakage: 4/5

Do note: The numbers given in this article are a general guide, you should rescore each style and each time period according to your own experience. Additionally, not all hair requires protective styling in order to retain length. This article is directed at those who do or who are not sure but think that they need an extra retention kick.

Ladies, how long do you keep your protective styles in for? How does it work for your length retention goals?