How to protect fragile Type 4 kinky hair

Senora's bantu knot protective style

The author has worn a variety of protective styles since she went natural, including this bantu knot-out/twists hairstyle.

Most of those with kinky hair are all too familiar with the challenge that comes with maintaining a healthy mane. For different reasons most will resort to protective styling as a way to combat split ends and breakage that all type 4s experience.

Protective styles are ones that don’t consist of most, if not all, of the hair being worn loose. Wearing the hair in a protective style requires that the ends, the oldest and most fragile part of the, are usually tucked away and sealed with some kind of moisturizer. Popular protective styles include but are not limited to braids, twists, bantu knots, and shrunken afros.

Protective styles can be achieved with just about any hair length. Those with TWAs can wear shrunken fros, or opt for coils if they have enough hair to twirl around the end of a ra-ttail comb. But with more length, there are more options. These include but are not limited to braids, locs, twists, bantu knots, and buns.

See more photos of protective hairstyles here and add your own!

So for the majority of the time, the appeal for those who wear protective styles is the length that they can achieve with them. A lot of type 4s have trouble with getting their hair to surpass the length of their shoulders because they aren’t protecting their ends from the friction created from their clothing, as well as harsh weather. Constant combing and handling of tightly coiled hair can be also be damaging since it’s so prone to breakage. But protective styles require very minimal manipulation, which is essential to helping to grow out kinky tresses.

Others who wear protective styles just prefer the low upkeep requirement. Hair length does not necessarily equate hair health, so that is not as great of a concern to everyone. Styling type 4 hair alone can be time consuming, and those with busy lifestyles simply do not have the time to dedicate to weekly hair maintenance. Protective styling has the benefit of keeping hair looking presentable without losing valuable time.

Finally, there are those who wear them because they simply like them. Kirstin Hayes, 20, alternates between her DIY twists and twistouts from week to week. Hayes takes pride in the feeling she gets whenever she flaunts her work. “I like my twists… I think they fit me perfectly. I set myself apart from others.”

They can be styled and adorned with hair accessories just like loose hair. For example, it is common to see chignon buns decorated with a flower, curled two-strand twists, afros pinned back with colorful headbands, or locs assembled into an updo.

But whatever the reason one chooses to do protective styling, it is still a great way to help maximize hair health, something that everyone needs.

Enjoy this video about protective styling: