Kimberly Lewis

Protective Hairstyles: 5 Ways They Damage Your Hair and Hurt Hair Growth

Protective Hairstyles: 5 Ways They Damage Your Hair and Hurt Hair Growth

 Have you heard this one before?

"Protective hairstyles grow your hair. It's protecting your hair from the elements." 

That's funny because most of the people I know with long hair wearing their out...While the people I know with short hair have been wearing protective styles for ages.

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In this post, I will show you how protective hairstyles can ultimately result in damage to your hair in its natural state. 

Let's get started!


  1. Tension is the number one reason to avoid protective styles. 
  2. Adding hair or hair extensions causes excess friction in the hair. 
  3. Protective styles trap shed hair which causes tangles and single strand knots.
  4. Protective styles limit your ability to clean your hair. 
  5. These issues build up and ultimately result in breakage. 

Funny how protective styles aren't so protective. 

This will be a great read if you have textured hair, curly hair, tightly curled hair, or kinky hair. Here's a YouTube video if you don't feel like reading. 


#1 Tension is the number one reason to avoid protective styles.

Tension and strain from the pulling of braids and cornrows can cause significant damage to your hair over time.

In order to achieve these styles, your follicles get seriously stressed as the hair is pulled into place.

More often than not, this stress is concentrated on the most sensitive parts of your scalp like your edges.

Your precious edges are getting the most tension because they are short, soft, fine, brittle hair that doesn't want to be tamed. 

This brings me to my personal war on edge control but I digress. Leave your edges alone. 

Natural Hair Edges

Tension can be worse when you have short natural hair because the braider has to pull tighter to get all of your hair into the braid.

Braids can seem like a better alternative to straightening your hair because there is less risk of ruining your natural texture but that doesn't mean there is no risk. 

And many styles even go a step further by adding extra weight.

The excessive use of ponytails weaves, and extensions are working double-time to give you tension damage. 

And what happens when your hair is pulled tightly and something heavy like extensions is weighing on it? 

You guessed it, BREAKAGE.


Kim CEO of CurlMix Box Braids

#2 Adding hair or hair extensions cause excess friction in the hair.

Often times protective styles don't simply mean, braiding or twisting your hair, they usually mean you are adding some type of extension to your hair. 

Protective styling with extensions was popular even before the natural hair movement. 

Here are some examples of protective styles with extensions:

  • Box Braids
  • Marley Twists
  • Senegalese Twists
  • Wigs
  • Sew-Ins

These are the styles people refer to as protective but many of the extensions added to the hair rub against your natural hair.

Regardless of whether you use real or synthetic hair, this friction can cause the cuticle layer of the hair to lift. And too much friction can lead to split ends.

The friction will mostly occur with box braids, twists, kinky curly twists, and Senegalese twists since the added fibers come in direct contact with your natural hair. 

You are also probably not cleansing your hair weekly like you would if you wore a Wash + Go. 

CurlMix Shed Hair Wash and Go Wednesday

#3 Protective styles trap shed hair which causes tangles and single strand knots.

Ask any black woman who has gone through postpartum shedding, that shedding produces a TON of single strand knots, as well as multiple strand knots and its the worst. 

What is shedding vs breakage?

  • Shedding means your hair is falling out in full-length strands with the white bulb on the end. They are coming from the root (your scalp), so you should see a white bulb on the end of the hair strand. 
  • Breakage means your hair is falling out due to damage, in small short pieces of hair. They aren't coming from the root, so you don't see a white bulb on the end of the hair strand. 

How often do you shed natural hair?

When you are wearing a protective style for 2 months (60 days x 100 pieces = up to 6,000 pieces), you are combing out up to 3,000 to 6,000 pieces of shed hair. 

That sounds like a detangling nightmare.

Surely some healthy strands get caught up in this process and can result in an excessive loss of hair, preventing hair growth.

Many black women wear protective styles to grow their natural hair long, but a lot of the results will hinder growth. 

I am not sure why we think these styles grow our hair, perhaps growing up in the black community, this information had been handed down through the ages.

I do think protective styles without extensions can actually be protective and they are usually MUCH cheaper when you don't get extensions added. I appreciate a good conrow with natural hair. 

When it comes to protective styling, we are spending money, too much money on something that is so damaging. 

Kim CurlMix CEO Shed Hair Wash and Go Wednesday

#4 Protective styles limit your ability to clean your hair. 

My normal hair routine includes a weekly shampoo and conditioner, and sometimes deep conditioning. I use very few hair care products because I use CurlMix.

My favorite line is the Vanilla Berry Wash and Go System with Organic Castor Oil

When I wear protective styles, I, like most women, don't shampoo my hair for weeks and sometimes months.

This causes oil, dirt, and dandruff to build-up on your hair, preventing it from receiving water and water is such an important factor in hair growth.

When your hair doesn't receive water, it becomes overly dry and results in breakage. Women who wear sew-ins and wigs often avoid shampooing as well.

Most of us need to shampoo and condition our natural curls weekly. Just make sure the shampoo doesn't have harsh chemicals or anything that will completely strip your hair. You can review the ingredients on the Environmental Working Group to check their toxicity. 

Kim and Tim with Protective Hairstyle

#5 These issues ultimately result in breakage. 

The worst part about protective styles is that all of the issues I mentioned before can be happening in your head all at once.

And you might only realize it when its time to take them down.

Just think about the last time you took out braids. Shed hair and dandruff litter the floor, lint and dirtballs flying out, and worse of all those bald and low patches that you can't cover-up.

It's like a scene straight out of your nightmares. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you have a lot of breakage from "Protective styles", you just have to be patient and avoid those styles in the future. 

Bonus: How to prevent damage from protective styles.

Take out any excess weight and let your hair be free.

Go back to a regular hair routine of shampooing and conditioning weekly.

And make sure you are wearing styles that don't have tension.

And if you MUST wear them make sure the braider isn't pulling tightly on your hair and don't wear them longer than 2 weeks

I love the way box braids and Senegalese twists look but once your hair is damaged, the only thing to nurse it back to health is patience.

The risk is too great, so I just don't wear them.

But before you go...I want to hear from you

If you used protective styles in the past, was your hair better or worse when you took it down?

Leave a comment and let us know! 


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