125 Protective Hairstyles that Make You Look Your Best

Protective hairstyles have been around for far longer than most people think. They have a rich and diversified history that is worth knowing. However, the truth is that not everyone is on board with them. 

In fact, professional hairstylists are divided when it comes to protective hairstyles. Some say they are very beneficial, since they can allow the hair to grow underneath in a healthy way. But others say that they lead to breakage since natural hair won’t get proper hydration. 

We’re here to talk about all that and more. Let’s take an in depth look at all the details regarding protective hairstyles. What are they, where do they come from, what types of protective hairstyles are there, and what are the pros and cons of wearing them?


What Are Protective Hairstyles?

The first important thing we need to do is establish exactly what qualifies a certain hairstyle as being protective or not. To put it as simply as possible, protective hairstyles are very simple hairdos meant to keep the ends of your hair as safe and as healthy as possible. They have to stop the hair from breaking, tangling, or falling. 

Therefore, a simple bun can qualify as a protective hairstyle, as long as you twist it properly and tuck the ends of your strands in. The same goes for weaves, wigs, and braids.

However, a crucial thing must be mentioned here. All these protective hairstyles could, in fact, end up being harmful if not done correctly. If you do not get your weave or braids installed in a proper way or if you do not put up your bun correctly and slather it with too much hair gel, the results could be harmful. For example, the added weight could pull on your roots or the product could buildup in your hair being almost impossible to remove. 

You should always remember that the word here is protective. Therefore, it will never suffice just to put your hair in a bun, wear a weave or a set of braids. They must be done correctly to protect your roots and make sure you can grow healthy and happy hair underneath.

What Types of Protective Hairstyles Are There?

Protective hairstyles are very popular not just because of what they can do, but also because they are incredibly versatile. Here are the most common types you can typically find. 

  • Braids

Do they need any kind of introduction? Humanity has been wearing braids since times immemorial. That’s just a way of saying, of course, because, as it turns out, the oldest realistic depiction of a human being is that of a woman wearing braids. It dates back to 35 000 years ago, it’s called the Venus of Brassempouy, and it was found in France. As far as protective hairstyles go, you can opt for cornrows, box braids, goddess braids, two and three strand braids, Ghana, French or Dutch braids, milkmaid, micro, bubble or waterfall braids or the ever classic fishtail.

  • Twists

These protective hairstyles are often confused with braids, but the difference is quite impressive. As opposed to braids, which usually use three stands, twists employ two strands coiled around each other. Therefore, the hair in itself is separated into sections that will then have the freedom to move around the head. Some examples of twists include Havana, Marley, or Senegalese twists, mini, chunky, or kinky twists, and faux twists. The latter are also sometimes called locs. However, they are not to be confused with ‘locs’ in the sense of dreadlocks which are a separate type of hairstyle.

  • Updos

Even though the term is incredibly mundane, an updo is any type of hairstyle that asks you to style your hair in such a way that you can tuck it, smooth it, or simply pull it away from the face. The main goal here is not usually an aesthetic one since updos of this kind are meant to be protective hairstyles. However, that doesn’t meant you can’t mix business and pleasure so to say. In other words, you can have your protective hairstyles in the shape of updos and still make them look beautiful if you need to go to a formal event, for example. Different types of updos in this case include a chignon, a bun, a top knot, a beehive, a ninja bun or even pig tails.

  • Wigs and weaves

Some might say that wigs and weaves do not represent actual hairstyles, as much a type of hair accessory that you can use on top of your natural hair. That is why there is such a debate around them. However, seeing as both a wig and a weave allow you to keep your natural hair safely underneath, they are worth including on this list of protective hairstyles. 

What Should I Know Before Getting Protective Hairstyles?

As mentioned previously, the key to protective hairstyles is doing them correctly. That is the only way in which you can make sure your hair is actually protected and growing in a healthy way. Here are some things you need to know before you get one of these hairstyles.

  • Choose a style that will not harm your hair

That should be a no brainer, right? Well, you would be surprised how many so-called protective hairstyles are, in fact, damaging to your hair. There are a lot of braids, twists, or weaves that are absolutely stunning. They will keep you in your stylist’s chair for hours or even days on end, they require tremendous skill to create, and they might even ask you to go above your budget to get them.

However, that doesn’t also mean they will protect your hair. As it turns out, they can be too small, too long, too heavy or too tight. This, in turn, means they can cause breakage, they can pull at the roots of your hair or at the follicles or they can even give you neck pains because of the extra added weight.

Always remember that, when it comes to protective hairstyles, it all about being gentle and nourishing to your hair. It’s not about how good it looks!

  • Your hair will still get dry and break off

Unless you moisturize it. Here’s another piece of truth about protective hairstyles. Most women wrongly believe that once they install their braids, twists or weaves, that’s it. These protective hairstyles will magically do the job for them. But that’s not true. Your hair is still under there and it needs your attention as much as possible. And that means moisture. 

If you haven’t prepared your strands as you should have before installing the braids or twists, you could actually make your hair weaker than before. The lack of moisture will make it dry and brittle, as well as very prone to breaking. 

The same goes for when you leave your protective hairstyles in for too long. The lack of moisture will cause your hair to break off.

  • Protective hairstyles don’t have to be big

Another major misconception about protective hairstyles is that they absolutely have to be a gigantic do. But that’s really not the case. All you are trying to do here is protect your ends and add as much moisture to your hair as you possibly can. Therefore, if you use conditioner and hair oil and then put your hair up in a bun, you’re good to go!

  • Don’t forget about your scalp

Just because you are now wearing braids or twists or any other type of protective hairstyle, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of your scalp anymore. In fact, this is one of the common mistakes women do, thinking that protective hairstyles will be enough. But hygiene should still be a priority for you!

  • Start with braids

If you’re a newbie and this is your first time trying protective hairstyles, the best thing to do is to start with braids. They are very simple to do and will keep your hair safe and healthy. Apart from that, they are very easy to style and won’t put too much of a strain on your hair straight away.

The Pros and Cons of Protective Hairstyles

Are protective hairstyles something you should pick up or are they better left in the ‘do not try’ list? Let’s find out right now with this exhaustive and objective pros and cons rundown!


  • They are very versatile

Protective hairstyles such as braids and twists come in a very wide variety, just like we pointed out above. What does this mean for you? That you will never get bored of them. You can try out different hairstyles and change them up all the time, so that you don’t fall prey to a routine. Get your inspiration from your favorite divas and queens of Hollywood such as Rhianna and Beyonce.

  • Get any color you want

This also falls under the umbrella of versatility, but in a different way. Protective hairstyles the likes of twists, braids, and weaves often include extensions. They can be natural, made of real human hair or they can be synthetic. You can even get some extensions or braids made of yarn.

The idea here is that they come in a huge rainbow of colors to choose from. You can try natural shades such as blonde, brown, and brunette, but you can also go for more daring, non-natural colors such as pink, blue, green, and yellow. Using extensions in these colors will save you from having to dye your natural hair and expose it to chemicals and bleach. Not to mention how much cheaper as easier to maintain they are.

  • Protective hairstyles are very low maintenance

Seeing as the only thing you need to do is make sure they are clean and properly moisturized, protective hairstyles will surely be very time effective. This makes them perfect for girls out there who hate spending lots of time in front of the mirror or who simply don’t have time to do so.


  • Protective hairstyles can damage your hair

How is that possible, you will ask. If they are protective hairstyles, how can they end up damaging my hair? But this paradox is entirely true. The process of installing and removing extensions, braids, and weaves from your hair can break it or cause it to fall out. Especially if it’s not done correctly. 

One of the most damaging things of all when it comes to protective hairstyles is always overbraiding. In other words, not giving your hair and scalp a break in between the periods when you have braids put in. Remember to allow your hair to relax and breathe before you install a whole new set of braids, especially if you’re using extensions as well.

  • Proper hygiene is quite difficult

Of course, it all depends on what type of protective hairstyles you have on. For examples, braids and twists make it a little easier to carry on with your normal hair care routine once you’ve put them in. However, weaves allow no access to the scalp at all. As a result it will be increasingly difficult to maintain proper hygiene.

  • Braids are difficult to wash

Speaking of proper hygiene, most women who have worn braids as protective hairstyles at least once state the following. They are very difficult to wash in the shower like you do your normal hair. Not because of the washing in itself but rather because they fail to dry completely. The residue moisture could lead to mold growing underneath your braids. In turn, the mold could cause itchiness or even your hair to fall off.

Which Protective Hairstyles Should I Choose?

The type of protective hairstyles to go for largely depends on many factors. What you fancy the most and inspiration from your favorite celebrities as well as what’s in style at the particular time you’re doing your hair should be top of the list. You want to feel comfortable and empowered by your protective hairstyles. But there are other factors at play here as well.

For instance, think about the circumstances you will be in for the next month or so. This will help you decide which type of protective hairstyles you should get.

If, let’s say you are going on holiday and you know you will be swimming a lot, then get box braids or twists. They are very easy to pin up and you won’t have to get them wet at all.

If ‘natural hair’ is the look you’re going for, then try some crochet curly or kinky hair. However, if you don’t have any time to spare but you absolutely need to get this done, some quick five or six jumbo braids will do the trick for you and your hair.

Some other factors that you will also need to take into account are the thickness of your hair, how much product you typically use on it, and how much time you want to spend each morning styling your new hairdo.

When Should I Take out My Protective Hairstyles?

This is a very important question to ask with an even more important answer. Not knowing when your hairstyle’s expiration date is can have dire consequences on your scalp and on the strands themselves. 

For example, most women who keep their protective hairstyles in for far longer than they should report the following. That their scalp smells very foul. A lot of sebum, dirt, and oils gather at the root of your hair, especially since protective hairstyles don’t exactly allow for the perfect cleanse. Not only that, but you can also see lint in your hair, a lot of frizziness, and growth.

In fact, all of these can be fantastic signs that you need to replace your twists, braids, wig, or weave. However, the best thing to do would be not to wait until your scalp smells or until your can see lint in your hair to do it.

The best marker you have is your own hair. When you can notice a few centimeters of growth at the roots, it’s time to take out your current protective do and replace it with a fresh one. In between installations, however, it’s always best to allow your hair to rest for a few weeks up to a month. This will not strain your roots. It’s very difficult to say when that will be since everyone’s hair grows at a different rate. 

You can also do it when too much buildup has settled in your hair, in case you have opted not to wash your hair during the time your are wearing your protective hairstyles. Doing so will refresh your entire look.

What about you?

Now that you know so many things about protective hairstyles, what do you think about them? Do you prefer twists, braids, weaves, wigs or simple top knots? Let us know in the comment section below how you feel about them. Or share your knowledge with us in case you are already wearing protective hairstyles or have done so in the past! We would love to hear from you!

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