Honestly there was a time I thought low manipulation styling was the same as protective styling and to make a distinction between the two was just another way for us to have something to argue about.
Well get those boxing gloves off because even though both styles have very similar goals and many women use these terms interchangeably, there are very distinct differences between the two.
In the interest of providing a simple definition, a protective style is considered a long term style that does not have to be redone regularly.
On the other hand a low manipulation style can be worn with minimum manipulation and styling maintenance throughout the week.
Types of low manipulation styles include buns, updos, twist outs, braid outs and even wash and go’s.
Of course a low manipulation style can be turned into a protective style by just deciding not to redo it. I have known women to retain moisture in their hair by damp bunning and forgetting about it for 3 weeks at a time before washing and restyling.
In that instance, even though the hair has not had the benefit of moisturization or weekly deep conditioning* sessions, the ends have remained tucked away from the elements so have not lost too much moisture.
What Low Manipulation Styling And Protective Styling Have In Common
They both help to retain length
One of the major brownie points of either styling method is length retention. Whether your hair is natural or relaxed if your goal is length then one sure fire way to achieve it is to protect your hair at all costs.
Low manipulation helps with retention because you are not constantly using brushes, combs and other tools to maintain your hair daily. Additionally in some cases your hair is removed totally from your shoulders and back to protect it from constantly rubbing on the fabric of your clothes which can lead to breakage.
Length retention with protective styling is a no-brainer really. Your hair is not being manipulated with combs or any other tools over a longer period of time ranging from 3-8 weeks which allows you to retain all the length gained in that period.