Protective Styles

Low Manipulation vs. Protective Styling

On our last visit we discussed the importance of protective styling and ways even short tressed divas can preserve those precious ends. We also briefly touched on the difference between protective styling and low manipulation styling with the promise we would pass that way again. So this week we return to learn how to distinguish between these two very confusing concepts.

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Once again, let’s take a minute to define these terms. Protective styling is any style that conceals the ends of the hair protecting them from damage caused by overexposure to the elements, friction and environmental pollution.

Low manipulation styling is any style that requires minimal styling or upkeep. Low manipulation can be called the ‘set it and forget it’ method of styling.


By definition one would think it would be easy to distinguish between the two, however, many hair care sites, blogs and forums often use these two terms interchangeably. They are not the same thing and are not mutually inclusive (or exclusive for that matter).

It is possible for a style to be both protective and low manipulation. For example, two strand twists are a low manipulation style because once the hair is twisted there is no other combing or styling performed for several weeks. This does not include using two strand twists in preparation for daily twist outs. Two strand twists can become a protective style if they are fashioned into a bun so that the ends are not exposed.

Here are some examples to illustrate:

Low manipulation                                                        Protective

low manipulation twist style            protective style twist updo

Buns and rolls are virtually the only true protective styles since they keep the ends tucked up and away. However, buns are not necessarily low manipulation since they require styling on a daily basis. Some ladies will leave a bun in for several days, and while this makes the bun low manipulation and protective, doing so can cause unnecessary stress on the edges while hair pins and clips may cut and damage the scalp.

In some instances buns are neither protective nor low manipulation. Below are examples of protective buns and buns gone bad, offering little to no protection for the ends.

Nice Buns!

beautiful protective bunsculpted protective bun style

Buns Gone Bad

buns with ends outends of hair out

Hopefully this explanation of protective vs. low manipulation styling is as clear as the hairs on your head and provides you with a few style inspirations.


L. Marrie is a writer, blogger, radio host and You Tube creator.
The mother of three adult children and one teen, L. calls Southern California home, although she admits she will always be a Texan at heart. You can hear more from L. Marrie by visiting her radio station, Verb Radio at or checking out her You Tube channel at

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  1. Janet says:

    This is actually a question,please explain the term “dust/dusting”.

    1. All this means is that you are doing a light trim. You start right above where you see a split end, and then remove from there.

  2. love the style in the featured image. It’s so simple. I have to try that!

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