The idea of protective styles seems to encompass all sorts of looks in the natural hair community.

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Image: @syeda_bombom

A common misconception is that the two things are the same, or that low manipulation is just a protective style that isn’t super tight, and neither of these is correct. Let’s take a look at protective styles vs. low manipulation styles.

What is a protective style?

A protective style is one where the main goal of the style is to protect the ends of your hair. This can be a bun, braids, or wearing a wig to let your strands get a break from styling. The main component of a protective style is that your ends are tucked away.


Image: @spstyled

What is a low manipulation style?

A low manipulation style is less about the ends and more about creating a style that requires less touching overall. This can be a pineapple updo, braids, wash and go, puffs, and other styles. Any style that doesn’t require you to touch your hair too much is a low manipulation style.

How do you know when to wear protective styles vs. low manipulation styles?

When to wear one over the other is a little less clear-cut. While the main point of both options is to help prevent breakage and damage, as well as helping you retain length, the matter of when to wear protective styles may depend on the state of your ends. If you are looking to protect your ends or they are looking a little frazzled, a protective style is the way to go. If you are looking to just handle your hair less, a low manipulation style is best. When choosing between the two, you should also consider the amount of maintenance for the style. If you are looking for something to last longer, a protective style is usually better than a low manipulation style.

Are you in need of more protective style advice?

Read one of these NaturallyCurly articles.

4 Ways to Protect Your Hair… Without Extensions

My Hair Care Routine Post-Protective Styles


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