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Low Manipulation Vs Protective Styles: Everything You Need To Know

Women wearing protective hairstyles

When I went natural 10 years ago, I thought giving up my bi-annual relaxer appointment and tossing out my flat iron was all I needed to do to get my curls back in fighting shape—ha! Months after ditching my straight strands in favor of an ever-present super tight bun, my curls still didn’t have any of the bounce and definition I was hoping for. In fact, it seemed as though my hair was actually becoming more damaged! I soon learned that chemical services and heat styling weren’t the only things wreaking havoc on my fragile mane. The buns and ponytails I’d been wearing and perfecting for years were beginning to take a toll on my strands.

That’s when I came across low manipulation and protective hairstyles —styles just as committed to the health of your mane as they are to racking up Instagram likes. To get the most out of these styles, I knew I needed to learn more, so I sat down with Ashley Brown, Mizani artist and owner of Cheveux Salon in Wisconsin, to get to the bottom of all of my burning questions

Whether low manipulation and protective styles are a staple in your styling routine or you’re hoping to incorporate more, continue reading for everything you need to know.

What is a low manipulation hairstyle?

A low manipulation hairstyle is one that does not require you to overwork or touch (aka, manipulate) your hair too much.

“If they are done properly and with the correct products, they can help to improve the overall health of the hair over time,” Brown says.

Low manipulation hairstyles are great for everyone, but they’re particularly excellent for people who have a hard time managing their hair or anyone experiencing damage who wants to give their strands a bit of a break.

“By focusing on low manipulation styles, you can avoid over manipulating which can lead directly to mechanical damage,” Brown explains.

What is a protective hairstyle?

A protective hairstyle is one in which the primary purpose is to shield your ends by tucking them away. Your ends are the oldest part of your mane and, therefore, the most fragile and prone to breakage.

“Protective hairstyles are similar to low manipulation hairstyles in that if they are done properly and with the correct products, they can help to improve the overall health of the hair over time,” Brown says.

Protective hairstyles are best for anyone who is experiencing, breakage, damage, or trying to retain length. Whether you’re suffering from dryness, mechanical, heat, or chemical damage, Brown says protective hairstyles are a vital part of your mane’s recovery.

Can a style be both low manipulation and protective?

Yes! Styles can be both low manipulation and protective; you just have to be sure they match the respective criteria. A hairstyle that is both low manipulation and protective is one that doesn’t require you to overwork your hair and keeps your ends tucked away from the elements.

If you’re looking to add a few low manipulation and protective hairstyles to your styling arsenal, Brown’s got you covered. She’s breaking down her five favorite styles to add your styling routine.

The Best Low Manipulation Hairstyles To Try Now

Good hair day by @thenotoriouskia.

Wash And Go

Wash and go’s are the ultimate low manipulation style—all you have to do it wash your hair and go! Okay, there are actually a few more steps, but they’re so quick and easy, this will easily become one of your style staples. The key to the perfect wash and go? Using the right styling products.

“Use Mizani's True Textures Perfect Coil Oil Gel to define the natural texture and lock in the natural style,” Brown recommends.

Good hair day by @styledbyreece.


If your curls begin to get frizzy around day three of your wash and go, it may be time to throw your hair up in a pineapple. This simple, yet stunning style is great for lounging in the house, a night out with your girls, and still, totally appropriate for work.

“Use Mizani's 25 Miracle Oil to maintain effortless shine and frizz reduction, not to mention the intoxicating fragrance,” Brown suggests.

Good hair day by @iamsiannarenee.

Half-Up Top Knot

If you can’t decide between a wash and go and a pineapple, we’ve got the best of both worlds: a half-up top knot. Looking for a style with a bit more flair? Brown suggests playing around with different half-up styles. Braid your bun or double them, for double the fun!

“When styling looks of this nature, I always give the hair a very lived-in and effortless finish using the Mizani Lived-In Finishing Spray,” Brown says. “It smells AMAZING and adds volume to any texture without drying it out. Just a little stylist hack for ya!”

The Best Protective Hairstyles To Try Now

Good hair day by @heidydelarosa.

Feed-In Braids

Feed-in braids are cornrows that are styled with added synthetic or human hair to give the braids a fuller appearance. There are plenty of braiding styles that fall into the protective hairstyle category, but Brown says it’s not necessarily the style of braid that has the most significant impact on your hair. Rather, it’s how many braids you settle on.

“In my professional opinion, sticking to two to eight feed in braids will provide the most protection to the hair, while causing the least tension and stress to the scalp,” the stylist explains. “Some clients can withstand tension to their scalp without running into issues. But more often then not, individuals do not have a scalp that can withstand the tension that having more than two to eight feed ins braids, can potentially apply.”

If you opt for feed-in braids, Brown recommends picking up the entire Mizani Scalp Care line to keep your scalp and mane in tip-top shape while you slay your protective style. “The Mizani Scalp Care System is literally for everyone and is phenomenal at keeping the scalp healthy. It gives great stimulation and blood flow to the scalp, and really keeps those pores open,” she says.

Good hair day by @styledbyreece.

Crown Braid

They say you’re not supposed to pick favorites, but with a style this stunning, it’s sometimes hard to play by the rules.

“A crown braid, also known as a halo braid, is one is my all-time fav protective styles. One that I wore throughout my youth and frequently go back to as an adult,” Brown says. “More often then not, I will use the Mizani Thermasmooth system to stretch and blow out the natural texture prior to braiding the hair in a crown-like fashion.”

Interested in a professional low manipulation or protective hairstyle? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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