Updo & Bun Hairstyles

The 30 Best Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair

Whether you’re trying to grow out your hair, grow back your hair, or prevent hair damage, protective hairstyles can help and make all the difference in your hair’s overall health. What is a protective hairstyle? As you may have guessed, a protective hairstyle involves wearing your ‘do in a way that protects your hair from elements of your environment that have the potential to damage your hair. And when it comes to scoping out the best protective hairstyles for short hair, medium hair, and long hair—we’ve got you covered. Read on for the 30 best protective hairstyles for natural hair of all lengths.

The Best Protective Hairstyles for Short Hair

Have short hair and want to learn about protective hairstyles to try? Look no further!

1. Short Twists

Twists are a relatively easy way to style your mane into a protective fashion. Simply take a section of hair from your root (use a smaller section for a smaller twist or a larger section for a chunkier twist), divide it into two, and twist the section all the way to your ends. Once you get to the ends of your hair, gently release the pressure to allow the twist to settle into place. This protective hairstyle works well on natural hair because the curl at the ends of your locks will help your twist stay intact.

2. Cornrows

Cornrows are another classic protective hairstyle that can be done on all lengths of hair. First, take a section of hair starting at the front of your head from the root. Then, split that section into three even sections. Braid your hair as you normally would, but after you’ve braided the hair once, add hair to each strand as you continue to braid down the back of your head. When you reach the end of your scalp, continue braiding normally down the length of your hair before securing the hair with a clear elastic. Repeat this all over your mane.

3. Short Braids

Similar to short twists, you can also opt to create short braids throughout your mane. Simply grab sections of hair of equal size (choose their size based on how big you want your final braids to be) and braid a traditional three-strand braid down the length of your hair. Repeat this process throughout your hair.

4. Chignon

Want to get your hair out of your face and off your neck? A chignon is an elegant updo that will also protect your locks.

5. Low Twisted Buns

Another updo option is to create two low twisted buns. Think space buns, but at the nape of your neck rather than on top of your head. Separate your hair into two equal sections, create your buns, and secure into place!

6. Beaded Braids

Want to take your braids up a notch? Consider adding some beads to your hairstyle! You can apply them throughout your braids, solely on the ends, or on a few braids here and there. This is a simple way to add your own personality to your braided ‘do.

7. Top Knot

A top knot will not only keep your hair out of your face, it’ll also protect your locks. Add some detail to the style by creating cornrows along your scalp before throwing the ends of your hair into the bun.

8. Sleek bun

A simple, sleek bun looks super chic and can help protect your locks. Consider using a hair gel, like the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle LOCK IT Clean Style Gel, to slick back your hair before putting it into a low bun.

9. Space Buns

On the hunt for a protective hairstyle that’s truly out-of-this-world? Space buns are the way to go! Split your hair into two even sections, create high buns on top of your head, and pin into place.

The Best Protective Hairstyles for Medium Hair

Have a medium-length mane? No worries! Here are more protective hairstyles to try on your natural hair.

10. Colorful Twists

Who said twists had to be boring? Take them up a notch by adding some color! You can do so easily, and without making a commitment, by using temporary hair color. Take your pick from one of the beautiful shades from the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup 1-Day Color or the L’Oréal Paris Colorista 1-Day Spray lines. Both temporary hair color options wash out in just one shampoo!

11. Bantu Knots

In case you haven’t heard—everything ‘90s is back in style, including this protective style. To create the look, take a section of hair and twist it from root to end until the hair starts to twist into itself. Form your twist into a bun on top of your head and secure into place! Repeat this process all over your head.

12. Braided Crown

Want a protective hairstyle that will be the star of your beauty look? Look no further than a braided crown. Combine the style with a low bun for a look that’s chic, elegant, and beneficial to your strands.

13. Box Braids

Box braids are another protective hairstyle you’ve likely heard of. This style can be worn on just about any length of hair but is particularly stunning on those with medium and long hair. Check out our step-by-step tutorial, How to Create Box Braids.

14. Side Twist Updo

Another elegant updo option, this side twist updo hairstyle can be worn anywhere from work to a wedding. First, create a side part. Then, split your hair into two. Split those sections into two and twist as if you were creating a traditional twisted hairstyle. Make sure to twist towards the side of your part! Once both sections are formed into two large twists at one side of your head, twist your ends together. Finish the style by twisting that remaining hair into a bun and pinning into place. Phew—that’s a lot of twists!

15. Senegalese Twists

Can’t get enough of twists? Neither can we! Senegalese twists are another beautifully-twisted protective hairstyle. First, take a small section of hair and split it into two. Then, split those sections into two so you have four equally-sized sections in total. Take two strands and twist them around each other as you normally would, then take the other two sections and do the same. Finally, to complete your Senegalese twist, wrap your two twists around each other by moving your right hand in a clockwise motion and your left hand in a counter-clockwise fashion.

16. Flat Twists

Flat twists are a combination of cornrows and traditional twists. They’re great for both natural hair and relaxed hair. Start by using a rat tail comb to section your hair from your hairline to the nape of your neck. The section should be about one inch wide. Clip the rest of your hair out of the way. Split the section into two and begin to twist as you normally would, starting at the root. As you continue to twist, incorporate hair from the section into your twist. Once you get to the nape of your neck, twist the remaining length as you normally would.

17. Twisted Low Bun

This updo involves the same steps as the twisted side updo, but is at the back of your head instead of the side. It’s the perfect ‘do for any occasion and will keep your mane off your neck and out of your face!

18. Braided Faux Hawk

Faux hawks are in! Choose what type of braid you’d like to rock (cornrows, twists—you name it!) and braid in an upward fashion all over your head. Then, take sections of your remaining hair and create rolls on top of your head, pinning them into place.

19. Pineapple Updo

A pineapple updo is a protective hairstyle that can be worn to bed and out on the town. It’s also super easy to do! First, gather your hair at the top of your head as if you were to create a high ponytail. Loosely secure the hair with a scrunchie. Pull the hair forward and position it how you like for a messy, fun updo.

20. Halo Braid

A halo braid is another updo hairstyle that will not only protect your locks but will also steal the show. This intricate ‘do involves gathering all of your hair into a beautiful braid that goes around your head. Learn how to do a variation of the style in our article, Look Like an Angel: Mixed Halo Braid Tutorial.

21. Bun Mohawk

Another faux hawk style? A bun mohawk! Slick your hair upward before creating three to four equally-sized buns down the center of your head. Feel free to braid the sides or slick them back with hair gel.

The Best Protective Hairstyles for Long Hair

Have long, luscious locks? Here are the best protective hairstyles for you:

22. Side Twist

Similar to a side twist updo, you want to part your hair to one side and twist your hair to that same side. Rather than twisting your ends into a bun, continue twisting downwards to create a twisted side ponytail.

23. Ghana Braids

Ghana braids involve a combination of cornrows and traditional braids. They’re thick, beautiful, and typically require using hair extensions. First, create cornrows that go to the nape of your neck, making sure to include your extensions! Then, finish the braids off by weaving the remaining length of your hair into traditional three-strand braids.

24. Chunky Box Braids

This variation of box braids is perfect for those who prefer a chunky, more voluminous look as opposed to tight, small braids.

25. Crochet Braids

Crochet braids refer to the style in which hair extensions are added to your hair. First, your hair is braided in cornrows. Then, the hair extensions are crocheted under your cornrows. This is ideal for those who may not want to risk damaging their hair with clip-ins.

26. Dutch Roll

A Dutch roll is another easy protective hairstyle. First, put your hair into a low ponytail at the nape of your neck. Then, pull your hair apart just above your hair tie to create a pouch. Tuck the ends of your ponytail into the pouch you created and pin away. Easy, peasy!

27. Double halo crown braid

They say two is better than one—and we can’t argue with that when it comes to this double halo crown braid. This hairstyle is the same as a traditional crown braid but has two braids going across your head instead of just one.

28. Havana twists

Similar to regular twists, Havana twists are used to incorporate hair extensions into your mane while protecting your natural hair. The style involves twisting two strands of hair around each other, all over your head.

29. Twisted Updo

Throw your twisted locks into an updo! Whether you have traditional twists, flat twists, Senegalese twists, or another type of twist, you can switch up your look by gathering your strands into a large, textured bun on top of your head.

30. Sade Braid

This signature braided hairstyle is sure to turn heads. First, slick your hair back against your head, then secure it with a clear elastic at the nape of your neck. Finally, braid a traditional three-strand braid! You’ll want to have thick, long hair to get the full effect of this style. 

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