30 Best Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair

Hair inspo for every natural texture and shape.

laura harrier with protective style braids
(Image credit: Mike Marsland/Getty)

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. “Protective styles can help you give your strands a break from damage incurred by styling, like heat styling or color treatments,” explains celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway (opens in new tab). “Your hair is hidden and tucked away, which sometimes prompts growth as well.” 

To help get your hair in the healthiest state possible, make sure you load up on moisturization while your hair is in a protective style. If you are wearing braids, Redway recommends using a hydrating product on both the scalp and throughout your the length of your hair. Some of her favorites to get the job done? The Nexxus Curl Define Leave-in Conditioner (opens in new tab) and the TRESemmé One Step Style Smooth Cream (opens in new tab)

Of course, there are old faithfuls like box braids, cornrows, and twisted styles to choose from when deciding on your protective style. But there are also tons of looks that are anything but basic. From low-tension ponytails and flower-embellished box braids to bobs perfect for summer, we’ve rounded up inspo for every occasion. Read on for 30 of the most stunning protective styles. 

Chelsea Hall is the Assistant Fashion and Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she covers celebrity style, fashion trends, skincare, makeup and anything else tied into the world of fashion and beauty

With contributions from