I can’t really speak to the pros and cons of protective styles with added hair. The last time I had extension braids in, I was the new girl in 3rd grade. So, here I’m addressing protective styles with just my own natural hair. And I’ve done twists (chunky, regular, mini), cornrows, and flat twists.
But which is the baddest of them all? Let’s compare!
For optimum results pretty much all of these styles require stretched hair. However, if I’m just wearing regular two-strand twists, I can style that on wet hair right after a wash. I just have to keep it stretched while it dries. So, points for the two-strand twists.
Individual twists are more forgiving if my parts aren’t perfect. Not so with rows and flats. The parts are essentially part of the style. Before I started doing my parts on freshly washed hair, I estimate 75% of the time it took to install protective styles was spent just trying to separate those strands and get those parts straight.
Individuals are easier to weave than flats and flats are easier to install than rows. Naturally, the fastest, least fussy protective style to complete are two-strand twists.
Twists are the most versatile because they behave like loose hair. Bun it, put it in a ponytail or even a bigger twist. I love the intricate designs you can create with flats or rows, but you’ll be wearing the same style for the long-term. I sometimes cheat and cornrow so that I can undo the ends without compromising the rest of my braids to add a high or low bun. Obviously, if your hair is really long you can do all sorts of amazing, voluminous buns without loosening the ends.
You can conceivably wash in twists, flats, and rows (I’ve done all of the above), and doing so makes wash day go by in breeze. However, you don’t have full access to your roots, so you have to agitate more vigorously and you still might not get totally clean. And what does all that extra agitation do to these style? We’ll get to how they hold up in the next section.
When it comes to applying products and remoisturizing, twists are easier because they are not all bundled together, meaning most of the hair and roots are reasonably accessible. Flats and rows require you to be much more diligent applying products in a manner that penetrates the nooks and crannies of the braids.
Honestly, this one counts for so much for me. The whole reason I protective style in the first place is so I do my hair less often, so I cause less mechanical damage, so I gain more length retention and see healthier hair for all the effort it takes to install these styles.
Ya’ll, regular twists and flat twists are just not easy to maintain long-term. Because individuals aren’t secured down, they shrink easily. Because flats are not as secure as cornrows, the roots puff up and they come undone faster. Washing and wearing them have been a no-go for me. That means retwisting every week or more frequently depending on how neatly you want to keep them.
Mini twists can be redone, but really don’t need to be more than once or twice, and only a few of the twists, at that. Cornrows really aren’t meant to be redone in the interim. They are pretty much a set it and forget it style for me. They hold up the best after a wash. The roots hold fast, and I’ve found the weave pattern frizzes less.
All in all, I can wear my hair (without embarrassment) for a week with two-strand twists or flat twists, 2 weeks for cornrows, and a month for mini twists.
It goes without saying, the longer you leave your hair untouched, the more shed hairs get trapped in there, the more tangles and matting you’ll find, the more breakage, the more tears, et cetera. This is the main reason I don’t do mini twists but for once every other year. That takedown is a beast.
My roots are the most troublesome areas in general, and the less strands they are separated into the more tangled they are. Three strands (braids) are easier to detangle than two (twists). So, while I may only leave my twists in for a week, taking out my cornrows after two weeks hasn’t proved any more arduous for me. It takes me 2 hours either way.
It depends on your needs, of course! For hair vaycays, mini twists. Hands down. When I’m busy and need quick styles, twists and flat twists. I can easily undo them if I need some pizzazz with a twistout or just bangs.
But, right now, I’m on a length retention goal and cornrows balance regular upkeep with low manipulation, which is what’s best for my needs.
All of these protective styles are winners for me.
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