Low Manipulation and Protective Styling

Posted by Adria Marshall on


In today's blog post, we'll delve into the world of Protective Styling and Low Manipulation Styling which I touched on in my previous post, Lemons into Lemonade. We'll explore the distinctions between the two, the advantages and disadvantages they offer, provide examples of each style type, and offer tips on how to properly care for your hair before, during, and after these styling methods. Get ready to learn all about these hair-saving techniques and how they can promote healthy hair growth. Let's dive in!

What is Protective Styling?

In a nutshell, Protective Styling involves keeping the ends of the hair tucked away to prevent breakage and promote length retention. It's important to note that hair is constantly growing, but without proper protection, the length isn't retained due to breakage. By implementing Protective Styles, the fragile ends are safeguarded, allowing for healthier hair growth.

What is Low Manipulation Styling?

A Low Manipulation Style is a hairstyle that helps to minimize the urge to constantly touch and manipulate our hair. People with natural and curly hair often struggle with the Hand in Hair Syndrome. This excessive manipulation can lead to frizz, split ends, and breakage. By opting for Low Manipulation Styles, we can reduce the temptation to constantly fuss with our hair and allow it to thrive undisturbed. These styles help promote healthier hair by minimizing excessive handling and manipulation.

Some Low Manipulation Styles can also be Protective, while others may not fulfill both requirements. For instance, a bun with the ends tucked in can be considered both Low Manipulation and Protective. However, a messy bun might be Low Manipulation but not necessarily Protective. Similarly, braids with tucked-in ends can be both Protective and Low Manipulation, but continuously changing styles may not be classified as Low Manipulation, even if it provides some level of protection.

Benefits and Downsides of Low Manipulation and Protective Styling

There are several benefits of Low Manipulation and Protective Styling, some of which I've already alluded to.

Low Manipulation:

1. Promotes damage reduction by significantly reducing the overall friction of the hair strand.

2. Opens up new style possibilities, kicking us out of a Wash n Go rut. 

3. Gives a bit of time back (in the morning and/or what would normally be Wash Day)

Protective Styling:

1. Promotes length retention by reducing the friction of the ends of the hair strand.

2. Often increases scalp accessibility, making it easier to apply scalp oils and treatments.

3. Opens up new style possibilities, kicking us out of a Wash n Go rut. 

4. Gives a bit of time back (in the morning and/or what would normally be Wash Day)

Of course, as with anything, there are some downsides to Low Manipulation and Protective Styling:

1. It can be quite time-consuming to put your hair into these Styles, depending on the one that you choose.

2. When I frequently put my hair into Protective Styles, you can find yourself missing your curls! Although I knew that Protective Styling would help me achieve my hair goals, sometimes it was a little difficult to stay the course. To mitigate this, I would insert a week of Wash n Gos into my rotation just to mix things up and take the opportunity to appreciate all of my hard work!

3. Leaving your hair in a Low Manipulation or Protective Style for too long a period of time can lead to dry, matted hair, completely defeating the purpose of the Style! So, it's very important to learn to take care of your hair when embarking upon these styles.


How to baby your hair when Protective and Low Manipulation Styling

Full Disclosure: I changed the title of this section just to include a picture of these cuties! I mean, just look at them!

As I mentioned, if your hair isn't treated properly before, during or after a Protective or Low Manipulation Style, it can be absolutely pointless to go through the trouble. Before putting my hair into one of these styles I like to:

1. Clarify my hair to remove all build up and start with a fresh, clean scalp. I love using a half Water, half Apple Cider Vinegar mix to clarify, but you can choose the clarifier of your choice!

2. Protein treat so that my hair is as strong as possible before going into the Style. If you don't have a good protein treatment on hand, consider my Matcha Boost Protein Shake.

3. Deep condition so that my hair is moisturized and pliable. Check out my Banana Cream deep conditioner if you're looking for a good one!

When your hair is in the Style, especially if it's a long-term, it's important to not get lazy! Take time to apply oil and massage your scalp. Even if your hair is on the oily side, a low manipulation style will often hide it! So take advantage of the opportunity to get some nourishing oils applied and that blood flowing! If you're looking for some outstanding oil blends, consider my Moonshine or Cayenne Lemon Squeeze. Also, remember the importance of protecting your hair at night. Not doing so will reduce the duration of the Style, forcing you to redo your hair and defeating the entire purpose!


Protective Styling and Low Manipulation Examples


Protective Styling Examples

Ya'll, I came across this article with FIRE examples of Protective Styles. The only one that I disagree with is the "Curly Fro Ponytail" (or "High Puff") - I'd consider this Style a Low Manipulation one instead of Protective Style since the ends are not tucked away. Although most of the Styles in the article display extensions, Twists, Braids and Buns can be Protective Styles as long as the ends are twirled together to protect each other even if not completely tucked away but Bonus Points if they are! And don't forget wigs! Wigs are a great Protective Style option, just don't forget to take care of the hair underneath!


Low Manipulation Styling Examples

Indeed, any of the styles mentioned earlier can also be classified as Low Manipulation Styles as long as you refrain from constantly touching and manipulating your hair. The key to maintaining a Low Manipulation Style is to resist the urge to constantly fuss with your hair, minimize the need for frequent styling or refreshing, and allow your hair to naturally settle and thrive without excessive handling. Some Styles that make it super easy to live the Low Manipulation life are:

1. Buns

2. Ponytails

3. Space Buns

4. Crown Braids

5. Bantu Knots

6. High Puffs


Thanks so much for making it to the end of the blog! I hope that you found this informative and helpful and will consider trying out or sprucing up your Low Manipulation and Protective Style game!


Happy Slaying!


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  • Awesome article! I’m so glad you explained the difference between low manipulation styles and protective styles. What category do we place flat twists in?

    Rachel Akewushola on

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