Hi I'm new to transitioning too. My last relaxer was july 1, 2011. I think protective styles are meant to protect where the relaxed hair meets the new growth since that connection is very weak and it could break if there's too much stress (heat,tension,dryness).
Braids and twists are good for transitioning since basically you're just leaving the hair alone and letting it do its thing. You just have to moisturize and clean them. I opted for kinky twists for now and I plan on redo-ing the front and back as needed. Then after idk 2 months ill take them all out wash, deep condition, let them have a break then put braids or twists back in.
Weaves and wigs are good for transitioning too, as long as you pay attention and take care of your real hair underneath it. Ponytails, to me, can do damage if they're pulled too tight (bad experience lol).There are a lot of options, you just have to pick the one best for you.
O and I'm still trying to find the right shampoo as well, I never paid attention to the sulfates and cones until now.so if you find one,let me know please.