23 Stunning Protective Styles for Natural Hair

Hairspo for every natural texture and length.

protective hairstyles
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When it comes to styling natural hair, the options are endless. But when it comes to protecting your hair from damage, maintaining optimal hydration, and retaining length, it's all about protective styles—finding the right low-tension look that can keep your hair tucked away. That's where box braids, cornrows, and twisted styles come into play. Choose your style and set it, then let your natural hair flourish and grow. Bored of the old faithfuls? These examples are proof that protective styles don't have to be basic and repetitive. From a scarf-adorned braided pony to flower-embellished box braids, here, you'll find options for every occasion. Read on for 23 of the most stunning protective styles to screenshot and save.

low ponytail
@lovingyourhairInstagram
1 of 23
Issa Rae's Low Puff

Jazz up your low puff by embellishing with accessories like a rope, like Issa Rae's look created at the hands of Felicia Leatherwood.

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stitch braids
@LacyRedwayInstagram
2 of 23
Tessa Thompson's Stitched Cornrows

There's nothing like a classic low-maintenance cornrow look to keep your strands protected. Look to Thompson's effortless stitched style, dreamed up by Lacy Redway.

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twisted high ponytail
@jordandunnInstagram
3 of 23
Jourdan Dunn's Twisted High Pony

The high ponytail will forever serve as one of the most effective means to easily securing your strands. Dress it up with a statement accessory. Then do as Jourdan Dunn has here and finish with a bouncy twist for added flair.

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beverly hills, ca   january 07  actor logan browning attends the 2018 instyle and warner bros 75th annual golden globe awards post party at the beverly hilton hotel on january 7, 2018 in beverly hills, california  photo by joe scarnicigetty images for instyle
Joe Scarnici
4 of 23
Logan Browning's Flat Twisted Updo

Logan Browning stuns in a side swept flat twisted look, complete with mini buns.

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braided top knot
@joyjahInstagram
5 of 23
Joyjah Estrada's Braided Top Knot

Reimagine the top knot by braiding your strands before wrapping into a high bun. For even more flair, style out your baby hairs, like model and influencer Joyjah Estrada.

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2016 bet awards   arrivals
Jason LaVerisGetty Images
6 of 23
Gabrielle Union Senegalese Twist

Gabrielle Union effortlessly slays Senegalese twists on the red carpet in an elegant side swept fashion.

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50th naacp image awards   red carpet
Paras GriffinGetty Images
7 of 23
Marsae Martin's Low Bun

It's safe to say that a classic low bun will never go out of style. Marsae Martin stuns with a braided low bun and strategically placed swirls of baby hairs on the red carpet of the 50th Annual NAACP Image Awards.

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bantu knots
@LacyRedwayInstagram
8 of 23
Zazie Beetz's Effortless Bantu Knots

Keep your tresses protected while making a statement with this Bantu knot look. Lacy Redway makes the case for the protective style by creating an effortless iteration on actress Zazie Beetz.

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new york, ny   july 12  exclusive coverage actress teyonah parris attends survivors remorse new york screening at roxy hotel on july 12, 2016 in new york city  photo by noam galaigetty images
Noam GalaiGetty Images
9 of 23
Teyonah Parris's Floral Box Braids

Take a cue from Teyonah Parris and play up your box braids with the strategic placement of flowers throughout your style.

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braided faux hawk
@LacyRedwayInstagram
10 of 23
Yara Shahidi's Braided Faux Hawk

Imagined by hairstylist Lacy Redway on actress and activist Yara Shahidi, this intricately braided faux hawk is a masterpiece!

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faux locs
@ciaraInstagram
11 of 23
Ciara's Two-Toned Faux Locs

It's clear that Ciara can pull off every hairstyle that she debuts, and this two-toned look is no different. Whether you're contemplating a loc journey or seeking to temporarily switch up your look, faux locs are a bold and low maintenance style to try on your natural hair.

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cornrows
@karruecheInstagram
12 of 23
Karrueche's Blonde Cornrows

Get into these '90s-inspired straight back cornrows. Add a bold statement to the classic style by going blonde like Karrueche.

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los angeles, california   june 23 meagan good attends the 2019 bet awards on june 23, 2019 in los angeles, california photo by rodin eckenrothwireimage
Rodin EckenrothGetty Images
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Meagan Good's Goddess Locs Into a Side Braid

Goddess locs are another style iteration to keep on your radar. These faux locs complete with curly ends adds a whimsical boho touch. Make like Meagan Good and try a side-swept French braid.

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hollywood, california   july 09  beyonce attends the premiere of disneys the lion king at dolby theatre on july 09, 2019 in hollywood, california photo by jon kopalofffilmmagic
Jon KopaloffGetty Images
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Beyonce's Finger-Waved Cornrows

Bey hit the red carpet of the 2019 Lion King premiere rocking finger waves, reimagined. The singer shows off intricately styled cornrows braided into a swirled pattern reminiscent to the 1920s look.

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beverly hills, ca   september 10  ashley blaine featherson attends netflix presents def comedy jam 25 at the beverly hilton hotel on september 10, 2017 in beverly hills, california  photo by david crottypatrick mcmullan via getty images
David Crotty
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Ashley Blaine's Embellished Halo Braid

ICYMI: Going for a braided style is the perfect go-to when wearing protective styles. Ashley Blaine looks absolutely regal wearing a statement-making halo braid complete with gold cuffs.

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solange knowles, fulani braids
hairbysusyInstagram
16 of 23
Solange's Beaded Fulani Braids

Dress up your Fulani braids by adding beads and hair cuffs. Solange lets her blonde braids do the talking by accenting her look with statement-making red beads.

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newark, new jersey   august 25  brandy attends black girls rock 2019 hosted by niecy nash at njpac on august 25, 2019 in newark, new jersey  photo by paras griffingetty images for bet
Paras GriffinGetty Images
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Brandy's Multi-Colored Marley Twists

Experiment with color without a permanent commitment by opting for fun pastel extensions to incorporate within your protective style. Emulate Brandy's sweet Marley twist with various hues of pink.

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tracee ellis ross, ponytail
@traceeellisrossInstagram
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Tracee Ellis Ross's Ribbon Braid

Play around with your favorite scarf by adding the accessory into your hair. Here, hairstylist Araxi Lindsey complements Ross's eyeshadow and ear cuffs by intertwining a scarf into her super long braid.

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los angeles, california   june 23 ryan destiny poses for portrait at the 2019 bet awards on june 23, 2019 in los angeles, california photo by rodin eckenrothwireimage
Rodin EckenrothGetty Images
19 of 23
Ryan Destiny's Long Braid

Singer and actress Ryan Destiny stuns with her hair pulled back into a Rapunzel-like braid on the red carpet at the 2019 BET Awards.

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jhene aiko, box braids
@JheneAikoInstagram
20 of 23
Jhene Aiko's Knotless Braids

Jhene Aiko's braided styles never cease to amaze. Here, the singer shows off long knotless box braids. Give this look a try if you're looking for a versatile style that lasts six to eight weeks.

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justine skye, space buns
@JustineSkyeInstagram
21 of 23
Justine Skye's Bunned Faux Hawk

Justine Skye reimagines the classic high bun by parting her hair into three sections and adding mini space buns in the form of a faux hawk.

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tessa thompson, jumbo knotless box braids
@LacyRedwayInstagram
22 of 23
Tessa Thompson's Jumbo Box Braids

Here, stylist Lacy Redway plays around with proportion by creating jumbo knotless braids on actress Tessa Thompson. The beauty in this look: the install takes half the time of traditional box braids.

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cornrowed buns
@vernonfrancoisInstagram
23 of 23
Amandla Stenberg's Cornrowed Bun

How stunning is this look? Hairstylist Vernon François worked his magic on Amandla Stenberg to create stitched cornrows complete with a chic bun and gorgeous subtle swirls of baby hair.

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