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A protective style is as it sounds: A style that protects your hair from everyday damage and breakage mostly mechanical (manipulation). A protective style and a low manipulation style differ in that a low manipulation style can still cause you breakage if the way you handle your hair is not ideal. A ponytail for instance, is a low manipulation hairstyle yet since you still have to re-do the ponytail every day, probably comb it through, etc, the potential for breakage is ever there.
With protective styles, your hair is literally completely out of the way and does not break because you are not manipulating it. Braids, twists, weaves and to some degree wigs all fall under protective styles. While braids and twists will still leave your hair exposed to environmental factors such as excessive sunshine or cold, wigs and weaves can be the ultimate protective styles because they eliminate both mechanical and environmental stresses from the hair.
Weaves formed a larger part of my hair journey than did braids and I count them as one of the reasons that I successfully grew my hair to mid back length. Wigs on the other hand failed me not least because I could not find one that looked completely natural on me, but the fact that I could take the wig down so often meant that I was still able to manipulate my hair more often that was necessary.
When looking at whether weaves or wigs are a better bet for protective styling, there are pros and cons for each method that you should consider:
With the recent popularity of lace wigs I fully expected to see a downwards trend in black women wearing weaves but this is just not the case. Even with all the different type of wigs available, weaves have remained as popular as ever for women seeking a more longer term solution to protecting their hair while wearing a great style. For my money, I say weaves win hands down every time!