The Best Natural Protective Hairstyles

May 20, 2021 6 min read

Young african woman with blonde box braids wearing protective face mask

By Toia Barry

The best thing about natural hair is how versatile it can be. Whether you are trying to get your hair longer, protect it from damage, or just maintain some hydration, there are so many different protective hairstyles for natural hair. Not only are protective styling options helping you achieve some of your hair goals, but they’re also just super fun to wear and can be a huge time saver. If you’re looking for the best natural protective hairstyles to pull off this summer and beyond, we are here to guide you!

What is a Protective Style?

A protective style is any hairstyle that keeps your ends tucked away to protect your hair and minimize damage. Protective styles protect your natural hair from tugging, pulling, and breakage due to manipulation, heat, and environmental factors. As far as environmental factors go, the summer brings heat and humidity, while winter brings extremely cold temperatures and dry air. Both can cause damage to the hair, so protective styles are perfect year-round. Natural hair is very fragile, so if it’s under a lot of stress, it can cause breakage. Protective styles are perfect if your hair just needs a break, you’re going on vacation, or you just want to switch up and keep it fun. 

How Do I Know Which Style is for Me?

There are many different protective styles out there, such as crochet braids, a Bantu knot, Senegalese twist, a high bun, goddess locs, etc. If it’s time to choose a protective style and you aren’t sure where to start based on your hair length and hair texture, we’ve got you covered. Try thinking about where you’re going and the activities you might be doing while you plan to have your style in. For example, if you’re going on a girl's trip or a baecation to somewhere tropical and want to get in the water, you should consider a braided style such as box braids. Box braids quickly dry, and you won’t have to do any real manipulation to your hair after you take a swim. 

When choosing the right style, consider your hair type. Type 4 hair is more dry and prone to breakage, so choosing the right protective style is key to helping your hair retain moisture and stay healthy. Those with stronger hair may not experience the same amount of breakage from certain styles like braids, which may pull on the hair or edges tightly. Knowing your hair type, identifying your hair goals, and figuring out the functionality of the style will help guide you to the right protective style. Later we will get into all the many styles to choose from, so you can make the best decision. 

In need of products to nourish your curls? Our Type 4 collection has all-organic products specific to your hair type! Shop now!

How Do I Prepare for a Protective Style?

After picking the style you want, it is super important that your hair is in a good and healthy state before getting any protective style installed. Here are two steps before installing any protective hairstyle:

Get a Trim 

The first thing you’ll want to think about in preparation for your new look is how recently you got a trim. If you’ve noticed any split ends or haven’t gotten a trim within the last 3 or 4 months, we recommend getting a cut or trim before your protective style. This step will support hair retention and overall hair health. 

Cleanse and Condition 

Before installing a new wig or getting some fresh box braids, your hair must be thoroughly washed, conditioned, and moisturized. Deep conditioning your hair before installation is ideal to ensure your hair is as strong and healthy as possible before putting in the style for the next few days or weeks. We recommend using Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Strengthening Masque. This masque is infused with natural ingredients like rosemary, honey, coconut oil, and biotin to help your hair stay hydrated and get longer. This natural hair product is perfect to give your hair the moisture and strength it needs before putting it in a protective style. 

How Can I Maintain a Protective Style?

If you just got a wig or twists installed, you’ll want to maximize the style and the money you probably just paid for it. To keep your new style looking fresh and hydrated, you will need a good nighttime routine. Wear a headscarf, or use a silk pillowcase. Tie a satin or silk scarf around your head to keep the style frizz or tangle-free. Using a satin or silk pillowcase helps maintain moisture. The next morning, you will be ready to go, with little manipulation needed. The perfect product to freshen up and slick back your edges in the morning and throughout the day is our Pomegranate & Honey Blend Super Hold Edge Gel. We also recommend applying hair oil to your scalp every day or so to keep it moisturized and healthy. The perfect product for this is Mielle’s Rosemary Mint hair oil. This oil supports healthy hair, nourishes hair follicles, and prevents dry scalp. Just what you’ll need for your new protective style hair routine. 

How Long Can I Keep A Style In?

Typically, protective styles are worn for at minimum a few days, up to one month. Some protective styles can be worn for up to two months, but we recommend keeping a style in for about 5-6 weeks. You won’t want to keep a style in for longer than two months because your hair can start to become dehydrated, have increased scalp tension, and cause a lot of build-up. Another thing to take into consideration is the break you need to take in between styles. Don’t just jump directly from one set of box braids, faux locs, then to a wig. You should aim to take a break to let your hair breathe, get another trim if necessary, give your scalp a break, remove build-up, and moisturize before styling again. Depending on the needs of your hair, try taking a few days up to a week or two. 

What are the Best Styles?

So, what are the best protective hairstyles for natural hair? Protective styles include braids, twists, wigs, and so much more. The possibilities are pretty much endless, but we are here to put you on to the best natural protective styles to promote healthy hair!

Box Braids

Box Braids are achieved by sectioning the hair off into box-like shapes, and then braided. They are one of the most common protective braids styles and most often installed using extensions. They are versatile and can be worn in all ranges of length, size, and color. Box Braids can last for 6 to 8 weeks with the right amount of TLC. It’s a perfect style year-round but is super popular in the summer because your hair is protected from heat, humidity, and water. Keep in mind that the installation process will be a test of your patience. The process of getting box braids can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the size and length you want. There are so many braided hairstyles for natural hair so don’t be afraid to experiment?

Crochet Hair

Crochet is a special method of braiding that builds off of cornrowed hair to which extensions are added, using a crochet needle. You can add any type of hair into the cornrows to create so many different styles. You can rock braids, big ringlets, locs, fros, and ponytails. This style is perfect because it will not cost you a lot, it's quick to install, and is an easily maintainable protective style. 

Senegalese Twists

Senegalese Twists are also known as ‘rope twists’ are two strands of hair wrapped around each other to create a twist. Most people like to add hair extensions to give it a more striking look with long hair. When creating this look, get either Marley or kanekalon hair. You can wear twists free-flowing, in a low bun, a braided ponytail, and half up half down styles. Can’t decide between braids vs. twists? Try out both and see which is best for your hair goals!

Faux Locs

Faux Locs are achieved by braiding your natural hair or installing box braids and then wrapping hair extensions around each braid. You can also achieve faux locs using the crochet method, by attaching premade locs to your cornrows. The crochet method is much quicker, but the first method of achieving faux locs will give you a more realistic look.


Wigs are a great protective style since they are super versatile, coming in all shapes, cuts, and colors. When choosing a wig, you’ll want to figure out your budget to help you make the best decision. If you have a smaller budget, but still want to get the versatility of wigs, look for synthetic hair wigs, but keep in mind that they will not stay as fresh for as long. If you have a bit more to spend then look for human hair wigs. Human hair wigs are an investment but can last you over a year, depending on how often you wear them. 

The Bottom Line

These are some of the best natural protective hairstyles you can wear to help your hair get longer, protect it from damage, or if you’re just looking to wear something fun. Remember to keep your scalp moisturized, and to take breaks in-between style. Make these styles your own, by adding different colors of extensions, and hair accessories, like pearls, shells, yarn, or wooden beads. These protective styles will have your natural hair longer and flowing very soon! 

In need of products to nourish your curls? Our Type 4 collection has all-organic products specific to your hair type! Shop now!


  1. Glamour. 31 Cool Protective Hairstyles You’ll Want to Try This Year.
  2. My Revair. Protective Styling: Everything You Need to Know.
  3. Better lenghth Hair. 7 best protective hairstyles that actually protect natural hair for black women.

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