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The Difference: Low Manipulation and Protective Hair Styles

Child with low manipulation style

The phrases "Protective Style" and "Low Manipulation Style" are often used interchangeably within the Natural Hair Community. A healthy hair regimen will give you the foundation needed to grow your hair to great lengths, but ultimately these styles aim to aid in retaining hair by preventing breakage and damage. Although both types seek to obtain the same goal, it is a misconception that they are the same. If you want to clarify the difference, here's an overview to help.

 

Defining, Protective Styles

Children with protective box braid hairstyles

 

Protective Styles are styles that protect the ends of your hair. Hair ends are optimal for our hair's health, as they are our older hair follicles and significantly impact the appearance of our crowns. Wearing protective styles such as braids, twists, and weaves protects your hair from environmental factors while protecting its ends by "tucking them." 

 

Preventing Damage from Protective Styles

As their name implies, protective styles are to protect your hair, but there are instances in which they can be counterintuitive to your hair growth journey. If done incorrectly or if you do not maintain the style properly, protective styles can result in breakage and damage to the hair. Be cautious of the following;

  1. Tension: Protective Styles such as braids and twists can result in tension, causing damage over time. If your protective style is too tight, you'll often experience pain or tension bumps.
  2. Extensions: Hair extensions are often added to protective styles to amplify the look. Be mindful of adding extensions as they cause friction to the hair. These styles can cause split ends, especially if your hair is already in a fragile condition.
  3. Prolong Wear: It's tempting to keep our protective styles for a prolonged period; when you leave your protective style in for too long results in a lot of product buildup, tangles, and dryness which often result in breakage. 
  4. Rushing Take Down Process: When taking down protective styles, it's natural to want to rush the process. The most important aspect of protective styles is length retention. You don't want to be too rough during your take-down process as your hair is fragile - take your time.
  5. Wearing Protective Styles back-to-back: Tugging and pulling while installing protective styles can weaken and stretch hair strands over time. It's essential to allow your hair to rest between installations of these styles. 

 

Defining Low Manipulation Styles

Low Manipulation Children's Hairstyle

Low Manipulation Styles require infrequent manipulation of the hair requiring you to style your hair less often. Styles like - twist-outs, updo, ponytails, buns, and wash-and-go's are great examples of low manipulation styles. The goal is to keep these styles hydrated to promote the duration of wear. 

 

Preventing Damage from Low Manipulation Styles

Like Protective Styles, Low Manipulation styles pose risks, although not as many. The most important thing to watch out for when rocking these styles is - tension. 

  1. Tension: Low Manipulation Styles such as Buns and High Ponytails can result in tension and stress on your strands, causing breakage over time. Repeatedly pulling your hair into a ponytail or bun and securing it with an elastic band results in friction. Constant friction can lead to breakage. Make sure that low manipulation styles are not too tight, and you change the position and implement periods where your hair can flow naturally.

 

Protecting Your Style

Rocking a Low Manipulation or Protective Style doesn't eliminate your need to wear a Satin Bonnet, Scarf, or Durag at night - even if you add extensions. Wearing either a Satin Bonnet, Scarf, or Durag at night with your protective style will aid in maintaining the style by reducing frizziness and friction and maintaining the moisture in your natural hair. Additionally, a Bonnet or Scarf helps to protect the edges. Some Bonnets, often referred to as Braid Bonnets or Caps, cater to longer protective styles like Box Braids and Twist. These particular Bonnets are also great for Locs.

 

The Style Best for You

Choosing between a Protective Styles or a Low Manipulation Style is a matter of preference. You will find many individuals throughout the Natural Hair Community who've maximized their hair growth by implementing either one type of style or both. The goal of both Protect and Low Manipulation Styles is to promote and support the overall health of your hair. Remember that hair retention is the most critical aspect of both styles and hair health. While your hair is in either of these styles, it is growing, and you want to retain that growth. You can do this by ensuring you abide by a proper hair regimen while and in between wearing these styles and being very gentle during the take-down process. Being mindful of and implementing all these things will accelerate your journey to your hair goals. 

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