How to Protective Style Natural Hair - Mercy’s Mane

How to Protective Style Natural Hair

If you’ve ever wondered why you aren’t retaining the length that you grow, it’s probably a good idea to head back to the drawing board and revisit your protective style methods. It may be that you could be doing an even greater job of protective styling in the best possible way to achieve the best possible results for maintaining healthy natural hair. Protective styling is especially important if you’re like me and you’re living in a climate where you have winter seasons. As we all know, during the colder months, our natural hair is more prone to dryness. Even when it’s not so cold outside, protective styling is an essential way to protect our natural hair.

In this post, I’ll explain why protective styling is so important to retaining inches, how to protective style natural hair and provide suggestions on the best protective styling options for natural hair.

What is Protective Styling, and Why Does it Matter?

Protective styling is a way to style your hair so that your ends are tucked away. It typically involves low manipulation which means that you touch your hair less throughout the duration of the hairstyle. Your hair strands are usually grouped together protecting them from the stress of environmental factors such as cold weather. 

Natural hair is much more fragile than straighter hair types which makes it prone to breakage, knots, split ends and dryness. As the oldest parts of our hair are the ends, it is important to protect them from breaking off. If your natural hair is constantly breaking off each time it grows, you’ll barely see any length retention. This causes many naturals to believe that their natural hair is not growing which is totally untrue! Your hair is growing, you just aren’t retaining the length.   

Safeguarding your hair by protective styling, strengthens it and gives you a better chance of retaining the length that you grow. The Trichological Society estimates that hair tends to grow up to half an inch every month. Sure, there are certain factors which may affect the speed of hair growth but, if you can effectively protect your hair during the growth cycle you could be able to retain up to 6 inches of growth per year!

Protective style ideas for natural hair |

How to Protective Style 

Step One

Choose What Protective Style You Want To Do

Decide in advance what protective style you would like to do. There are so many to choose from such as:

  • Braids
    • Knotless
    • Box
    • Halo-braid
  • Twists
    • Rope
    • Marley 
  • Updo
    • Flat-twists
    • Buns
  • Crochet
    • Faux Locs
  • Wig
  • Cornrows
    • Ghana weave
  • African Threading
  • Bantu Knots

There’s nothing worse than getting through your washday and having no idea what hairstyle you should do. You can get some protective style inspiration for natural hair from the Mercy's Mane Pinterest Page - check out our collection of protective styles here.

Step Two

Prepare Your Natural Hair for the Protective Style

Ensure that you have thoroughly cleansed your hair with a clarifying shampoo. Your scalp needs to be clean as you’re going to keep your protective style installed for a minimum period of 2 weeks. It is also very common to keep your protective style in for 4-6 weeks. Don’t feel the need to have your hair tucked away for any longer than that. A clean scalp, rid from bacteria, dirt and sweat is the perfect base for healthy hair growth. 

You’ll also want to treat your natural hair with a deep conditioning hair mask. This will repair and deeply moisturise your strands, setting them up for the protective hairstyle that you choose to do. 

Free DIY deep conditioning recipe to download at

Other protective style preparations include gently detangling your hair and effectively sealing in the moisture into your strands using hair oil, hair grease or hair butter.  We recommend using our Extra Sheen Mango Butter Queen which is lightweight and works to seal the moisture into your hair strands for a long period of time.

Step Three

Installing Your Protective Style

For ease of installation, many start with stretched natural hair. This can be achieved either by using heat with a hair dryer or without heat such as banding or stretching. When using heat remember to use an adequate heat protectant. My personal favourite is the Blow-dry Crème by Tresemme which I can purchase from Superdrug or Savers. It is also important to use the right hair tools such as a wide tooth comb to detangle your hair as a smaller toothed comb will pull and break off your hair.

You may choose to install your desired protective style by yourself or to visit a hair stylist. Speak up to your hairstylist if they are using the wrong tools for your hair or if their grip is too tight! Don’t let them bully you into thinking you are tender headed. In the end of the day, it is a service that you are paying for and when you eventually take down the protective style you don’t want to end up with no edges and a receding hairline.

Your chosen protective style should not cause you to crane your neck for the first couple of days because it is too tight. Neither should it be too heavy or too small.

Speak up!

Ensure your installation is not stunting your chances or retaining the most length!

Step Four 

Maintain Your Natural Hair Underneath the Protective Style

Once you have installed your protective style, don’t go on holiday! What I mean by this is that, you shouldn’t just assume that all is good under the hood and forget about your hair until the next time you decide to wash it. The danger of doing so is that you risk limiting yourself from getting the best out of your protective style. 

As your ends are tucked away, and your style of choice should be relatively low maintenance, you wouldn’t have to stress yourself too much to keep your natural hair happy underneath the style. 

Things to do include, refreshing your scalp with light sprays of a Hydrating Hair Mist. This will help to soothe the scalp and prevent or relieve itch. We offer a botanical blend of organic hibiscus flowers or Aloe Vera Juice to help soften and replenish moisture to your scalp. You can also lightly spray this over the rest of your hair. Don’t worry, using a hair mist will not ruin your hair style as the spray comes out in a delicate fine mist. Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle filled with water.

After refreshing your hair you may want to seal it with hair oil or butter. A classic favourite is our Herbal Hair Growth Oil which also works wonders to stimulate growth and nourish your roots which is perfect for bringing you optimal results when you eventually take down your protective style! 

Maintaining your natural hair underneath your protective style should ideally be done once or twice a week. Ultimately, it depends on you. The key here is to not neglect your hair for the full duration that you have your protective style installed.

Step Five

Removing Your Protective Style

One factor that isn’t often discussed is how to properly take down your protective style. Like I already touched upon, you don’t want to keep your natural hair in a protective style for too long. Too long looks like more than 4-6 weeks.

Firstly, this is no longer cute. You’ll have an accumulation of lint and dust and dirt which isn’t the kind of grounds for healthy hair to grow from. Remember that a clean scalp is so important for healthy natural hair.

Secondly, if you stretch your protective style for too long, your natural hair will start to stink. Okay stink might seem like a strong word here but truly, your hair won’t smell nice. This is poor hygiene especially when you’re around people.

Thirdly, extending your protective style could lead to greater knots and tangles. This is because your protective style will trap shed hair as our natural hair sheds every day! So the tangles can give you a hard time when you finally decide to take down the protective style. If care is not taken you could end up breaking off even more hair when you should be rejoicing at the new length you’ve retained.

Following on from this point, you want to ensure that you take down your protective style gently so as not to undo all the hard work that you’ve done. I’d recommend doing a hot oil treatment which can be done using our Herbal Hair Growth Oil. This will help soften the hair and loosen the knots, helping to easily glide shed hair off. Other naturals enjoy getting their hair damp first and then using a conditioner with great slip to help detangle their hair as they take down their protective style. I tend to go for the hot oil method only because I’m not always ready to jump straight into the bathroom to wash my hair immediately after taking the protective style out. 


Hopefully you’ve been able to understand how to protective style your natural hair. I’ve shared that it’s about keeping your ends tucked away for a period of time to protect it from things such as rubbing on your clothing and splitting or excessively drying out due to the environment. I took you through the process of protective styling to show you that it is more than just one isolated event of getting your hair done! There’s other things to consider such as effectively preparing your hair for the protective style, speaking up to your hair stylist and not neglecting your hair once you have installed the protective style. 

Don’t forget to sign up to receive your FREE DIY DEEP CONDITIONING RECIPE’S GUIDE by clicking here.

If you would like a one-one discussion on how to change up your protective styling game to give you optimal results, send me a direct message over on Instagram - @Mercysmane! I don’t like to keep my friends on read so you can expect a response from me within 24hrs. Can’t wait to hear from you so we can get you to your healthiest hair yet!


As always sis, 

Stay blessed X

Back to blog