Protective Styles versus Low Manipulation Styles: What’s the Difference?

Protective Styling V. Low Manipulation Styling

Photo Credit: CreateHer Stock

One of the main challenges of natural hair is maintaining its health and keeping it free from breakage. The normal wear and tear your hair incurs on a daily basis leading to breakage and split ends, can definitely put a halt how much your hair retains its length. Hair grows without a doubt, but it is the constant breakage that stops you from seeing the fruits of that growth. That’s why most women choose to make protective styling or low manipulation styling an integral part of their natural hair care regimen to retain their hair’s health and length.

Protective styling and low manipulation styling are often used interchangeably. Most women think they are one in the same when they are actually pretty different. So, what’s the difference between protective styling and low manipulation styling?

Protective Styling involves completely protecting the ends of your hair.

Natural Hair Protective Style

Photo Credit: CreateHer Stock

The idea is that as your hair is growing, the length of your hair is being retained due to less breakage and split ends that can incur through daily manipulation of the hair. The long terms effects? Longer, healthier hair! Protective Styles:

  • Range between short term and long term styles.
  • Often do not have to be redone on a regular basis.
  • Protects your hair from the unnecessary breakage that comes with everyday styling and upkeep by keeping your ends tucked away. Since the ends are the oldest part of  the hair, they are  fragile and more susceptible to breakage and dryness.
  • Include braids, weaves, wigs, crochet styles, roll, tuck, and pins, and cornrows. Any style the does not require your ends to be out is a protective style.

    Natural Hair Protective Styles

    Photo Credit:  CreateHer Stock

Low Manipulation Styling, on the other hand, does not require that your ends be completely protected.

Low Manipulation Styles

Photo Credit: Dwyane Hills via CreateHer Stock

The idea behind low manipulation styles is that if you do simple styles that require minimal manipulation, the length of your hair can still be retained. In other words, if you have to style or re-twist your hair every single night for it to look good the next day, you’re doing too much, boo! Low manipulations styles:

  • Doesn’t necessarily require that your ends be tucked away, but it does require you to keep combs, brushes, and your fingers out of your hair as much as possible.
  • Are sometimes easier to install than protective styles.
  • Allow more flexibility for naturals who get bored with the same hair style for long periods of time.
  • Can easily be maintained since all of the hair is not tucked away, which tends to be the main gripe when it comes to protective styles.
  • Include mini twists, puffs, wash n go’s, braid outs, twist outs, etc… If you’re one of those naturals that love rocking twist outs or braid outs, I suggest making sure your twist out/braid out technique is perfected so you don’t have to re-twist every night due to lack of definition. Once the technique is perfected, you can just pineapple for bed, and shake & go in the morning while still maintaining the curl definition!

    Natural Hair Low Manipulation Style

    Photo Credit: CreateHer Stock


  • One of the main ways low manipulation and protective styling are similar is that they both help to retain length. Though protective styling seems a bit more “protective” because your ends are tucked away, low manipulation styling helps with length retention as well because it eliminates the use of combs, brushes, or other tools to help maintain your hair on a daily basis. You’re manipulating the hair less, hence the name “low manipulation,” which leads to more length retention.
  • Length retention with protective styling helps maintain length simply because your ends are completely tucked away, eliminating dryness that leads to split ends and breakage. The less breakage you have with both styles, the more you are able to see your growth. Avoiding every day styling will allow you to see the difference in your hair’s health and length over time.

Are you a protective styler, or low manipulation styler?


4 thoughts on “Protective Styles versus Low Manipulation Styles: What’s the Difference?

  1. LC

    Not sure how those uf us with shorter and finer hair typea are supposed to pineapple. My hair just stands up ot gets smashed because it is such a soft texture. Suggestions welcome.

    1. sparkle

      my hair isnt short but i have fine 4a/b hair and the pineapple doesnt work for me either. Instead i just put my hair into loose ponytails. how many depends on how the hair is parted but usually 3-4. i wake up take out the ponytails and shake and go i wore a twist out for 3 days this way hth

  2. Pingback: PROTECTIVE STYLING – naturalkinkstrinis

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