Whether you’re trying to grow out your hair or prevent hair damage, protective hairstyles can help make all the difference in your natural hair’s overall health — especially for those with curly and coily hair. As the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports, natural hair can be especially fragile and prone to damage, so protective styles can help keep your strands healthy.
If you’re looking for hairstyle inspiration to decide on what your next protective style should be, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 20 of the hottest protective hairstyles for natural hair, complete with products you can use to create these stunning looks.
The Benefits of Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair
As you may have guessed, a protective hairstyle involves wearing your hair in a way that shields your natural strands from elements that may have the potential to damage your hair, such as heat, excess styling and color. Braids, twists, and faux locs are just a few of the popular protective hairstyles you may come across while scrolling through your social media feeds, and as the examples below show, they’re easy to maintain at home.
What Protective Style Is Best for Natural Hair
While there are so many protective hairstyles for natural hair that you can try, a handful of them never seem to go out of, well, style. Here’s your cheat sheet for picking the right protective style for you.
1. Marley TwistsThese twists get their fluffy appearance from the required hair extensions that are aptly named after reggae legend Bob Marley, who was also well known for his freeform locs. Marley twists allow you to flaunt a gorgeous pattern while keeping your natural strands tucked away. The style involves wrapping your length over and under itself with Marley braiding hair to create a two-strand look that gives off a textured, natural finish.
2. Goddess BraidsGoddess braids start off like the box braids you know and love, but they also feature curly strands of free-flowing hair for an ethereal look. Goddess braids can be done at home or in the salon, but At home, refresh the curls with the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Refresh & Reshape Leave-in Spray.
3. Box Braids
Box braids are another protective hairstyle you’ve probably seen on everyone from your neighbor to your favorite A-list celebrity. This style can be worn in any length of hair and looks great when hair extensions are added to create longer and thicker braids. A day before your braids are installed give your hair a quick wash with the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Push Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Seal Conditioner so you start your style with a clean foundation.
4. Knotless Box Braids
Knotless box braids are a form of the aforementioned that are also versatile and easy to style. The hairstyle is created using a feed-in braid technique instead of creating a knot at the root like with traditional box braids. As a result, there’s less tension on the scalp, which can help minimize the risk of hair breakage (and especially great for those with thin or fine hair).
5. Senegalese Twists
These twists are a beautifully twisted protective hairstyle that has roots in Senegal. The most commonly used types of braiding hair for Senegalese twists are Kanekalon (silky braiding hair) and Toyokalon (yaki braiding hair). This style requires dividing sections of your hair and twisting them around each other to form larger twists. Book an appointment with a hairstylist to get the best results.
6. Faux Three Strand Braided Ponytail
Braided ponytails are still having a major moment in the beauty world right now, and we can see why. They’re easy to style, low maintenance, and can pull together any look in minutes. To get the look, rub a small amount of the L’Oréal Paris Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In through your strands to smooth out any hair flyaways. Then, grab some hair extensions and start creating a long braided ponytail. Remember, don’t gather your hair too tight — your protective style isn’t that if it’s not really protecting your hair from damage.
7. Bantu Knots
In case you haven’t heard — everything ‘90s is back in style, including this protective 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. Grab some hair gel, like the L’Oréal Paris Studio Line Mega Gel, if you need to add a little hold to your roots.
8. Faux Locs
Faux locs can look gorgeous on both women and men and it’s a pretty simple style to maintain. You can use two different methods to install your faux locs — wrapping loose braids with hair extensions or by crocheting the hair into cornrows. Faux locs may require an appointment with a faux locs specialist if the locs style you want requires time and specific techniques, especially if you’re going for a longer length.
Be sure to use a hair mask, like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Savior Fiber Mask, Paraben-Free before and after installing faux locs to give your hair a dose of hydration. A protective style should never be a neglected style.
9. Passion Twists
Can’t get enough twists? Neither can we. Passion twists (also known as spring twists) are a mix between Senegalese twists and goddess locs. They are formed with two-strand twists that are created using wavy hair extensions. Book an appointment with your stylist to get the look since the style may be difficult to do at home.
10. Goddess Locs
Speaking of goddess locs, If you’re looking for a more relaxed faux locs look, this is the style for you. Goddess locs are generally lightweight, easy to style, and the locs are left loose and curly to give off a more carefree vibe. For this style, book an appointment with an experienced loctician, as it requires specific braiding and wrapping techniques.
11. Fulani Braids
This West African braiding style is a detailed hairstyle that features a few cornrow braids down the center of the head and several cornrows braided in a row going out towards the temples on either side. The stunning braids pair well with beads and metallic hair accessories.
12. Flat Twists
Flat twists are a combination of cornrows and traditional two-strand twists, and they’re a great hairstyle to opt for when you want to get a more uniform curl pattern. To create sleek twists with clean parts, be sure to apply a bit of styling gel to give your twists some hold, and finish it off with a spritz of the L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Hold, Light Hairspray Unscented.
13. Butterfly Faux Locs Bob
This chic and short take on faux locs is great for those who want the style but don’t want to sit in the stylist’s chair all day (installing long locs can take several hours). To achieve this distressed hairstyle, you’ll need to get packs of curly hair braiding extensions to wrap around your braids. Be sure to check out an online tutorial if you opt to DIY at home.
14. Pineapple Updo
A pineapple updo is a protective style that can be worn to bed and out on the town. First, gather your curls at the top of your head. Apply a curl-enhancing product, like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Non-Stop Dreamy Curls Leave-in Conditioner to your hair, then scrunch and air dry for soft, bouncy curls. Loosely secure your pony with a hair scrunchie or satin hair tie, pull the hair forward, and position it where you want for an effortless, fun updo.
15. Jumbo Cornrows
For a braided hairstyle that doesn’t require sitting for hours on end in the salon chair, opt for jumbo cornrows. There are so many different ways to spice up the look if you don’t want simple straight-backs, including stitch braiding, zigzag parts and colored hair.
16. Crown Braid
If you want a hairstyle that will be the star of your beauty look, a braided crown to help you look like the queen you are. Combine the style with a low bun for a look that’s chic, elegant, and beneficial to preserving your strands.
17. Side Swept Cornrows
Cornrows are one of the most versatile ways to style and protect curly and coily hair. For a side-swept look, create a deep side part and divide your hair into two sections. Take the larger section and weave it into thin, sleek braids that run perpendicular to the part. Allow the rest of your hair to hang free for extra movement.
18. Stitch Braids
These braids feature a stitch pattern in front, and you can have the braids end in a bun, jumbo braid, or let them hang loose. Since the braids will lay close to your head, don’t be afraid to ask your stylist to use a light hand so there will be littletension on your edges.
19. Reverse Cornrows
This unique look is a twist on the classic cornrows we all love. Instead of starting your cornrow at the front of your head, grab your braiding hair and start braiding your hair from the nape of your neck. When you get to the front, continue braiding until you have a completed plait. Then, you can either let the braids hang loose in front of your face with a barrette, or you can tuck or pin the braids up into a bun.
20. Glueless Lace Front WigWearing a wig isn’t sometimes seen as a protective style, but it can be a great way to shield your natural hair for those who like to switch up their look often. Your hair can stay safe and sound in braids underneath, so you don't have to worry about any damage. Glueless lace front wigs are particularly protective because you don’t have to apply hair glue or adhesive products to your edges, which can thin out the hair and pull out your baby hair. This will keep your hair protected from the elements without causing any further harm to your mane.
Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Katy Andrascik, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Melina Kemph, Wardrobe Assistant: Kayla Martinez, Model: Juli Deng
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