Holistic Protective Styling: Why “Marginally Protective” Regimens Can Still Be Successful

When we think of protective styling, most of us think of boring buns, tired twists and variations of these hidden away styles.  But the truth is, protective styling is so much more than just styling and hiding our hair 24 hours a day. Although the styling element is important—to be successful, a healthy hair care regimen must go beyond simply arranging the hair into elaborate buns, updos and twists.  A change in the way we understand protective styling is needed.

To get the maximum benefit from protective styling, we must learn to view it from a holistic standpoint—where the entire regimen from cleansing to conditioning and general handling is followed with protection in mind. Actual hair styling then becomes a subcomponent of the total protective styling regimen picture.  When all of the pieces of protection (styling and otherwise) are combined and applied, length retention is maximized in the shortest time.  This of course, is optimal— but it isn’t the only way.

I may get some flack for this, but it is okay to have . . . fun.  Many of us focus too intently on the styling aspect of protective styling, to the point our hair is held captive 365 days a year.  We get overprotective, and while this works well for some (like me) who don’t mind protective styles—for others, it can be limiting and lead to boredom and disillusionment.  By adopting a holistic mindset about protection, we can free ourselves from feeling like we have to hide our hair 24 hours a day to see results.  And if we are enterprising and daring enough, we can even find the freedom to *gasp* play around with color, straighten, swim, hang out in the sun and—well— still have hair to show for it! But especially true for those who are always hiding hair away—when we adopt a regimen that is protective overall, we can afford to wear our hair freely more often without jeopardizing our length or other personal hair goals. If we are protective everywhere else, we can afford to “let go” a little in other areas every once in a while.  Enjoying your hair out and free from time to time will not hurt your hair if you exercise due care.  In fact, change is a good thing— and changing your look is a tried and true confidence booster!   There is still considerable room for fun and freedom in our regimens!

Finally, with everything— we must exercise moderation.  This applies in both directions along the hair care spectrum, from overprotection to not enough. And of course, this also depends heavily on the hair “no-no” you are about to commit—wearing your hair out for a few days a month doesn’t carry the same penalty that say coloring or relaxing might.  So you’ll have to weigh your risks. But for my ladies who are afraid to have one strand “out” ever— it’s okay to lighten up.  I’m not saying abandon your regimen entirely or break out the flatirons weekly— but to just trust that the extra protection and padding you’ve already built into your regimen in other areas has earned you some leeway and freedom to enjoy your hair!

For more insight from The Science of Black Hair, visit us on the web at www.blackhairscience.com and check us out on facebook & twitter.



  1. Good stuff. ITA! I wear weave or half wigs sometimes but my hubbub hates buns. I have started taking pretty good care of my hair so I think its okay if I wear it out. It probably won’t retain as much length as some ps’ing 365 but I’m not compromising my confidence booster. My hair is still growing just fine.

  2. Allison M Wallace says:

    It’s funny that I stumbled upon this article because I was just thinking about people that BRAG about wearing their hair is protective styles 90-99% of the time especially the women with longer hair on Youtube. Isn’t that just a bit extreme? I absolutely LOVE the versatility of my hair and I explore it in many ways with a variety of styles, many of which happen to be low manipulation and protective styling. This exploration allows me to retain length just fine. I pride myself so much in being natural FREELY, like you said hair shouldn’t be “held captive”. Where’s the fun in that? 🙂

  3. Thanks ladies for your input!


  1. […] Last week we discussed the importance of looking at protective styling from a holistic standpoint.  (A holistic protective styling regimen is one where protective measures are instituted throughout the entire regimen from cleansing to conditioning and general handling.) Actual hair styling is just a bullet point in a holistic protective styling regimen.  When all of the pieces of protection (styling and otherwise) are combined and applied, length retention is maximized in the shortest time. Now, as I mentioned before, this is the optimal scenario. […]

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