60 Easy and Showy Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair

How much time daily would you like to spend on your hair styling? I bet minimum but you definitely wouldn’t like going out with your hair sticking out in some sort of explosion on your head. Well, African-American women are blessed with thick dense hair that can be skillfully shaped into breathtaking hairstyles. However, natural dryness and brittleness of kinky hair is the other side of the medal that needs special care. Protective hairstyles aim to limit the stress of environmental factors on natural hair. Here we are going to share 60 easy yet very showy protective hairstyles and tips on how to care for your natural hair.

Benefits of Protective Hairstyles

  1. Protection from the elements;
  2. Maintenance of moisture;
  3. Length retention;
  4. Stylish look.

Protective hairstyles are priceless in themselves, since besides a flawless elegant look, they keep your hair ends tucked and protected from aggressive damaging factors. How can you boost the protective effect?

Tips for Natural Hair Care

  1. Nourish your hair and scalp with natural oils or apply hydrating balms before styling your hair;
  2. Let your hair dry overnight;
  3. Wear a hat to protect your hair from high or low temperatures;
  4. Sleep with a satin scarf on your head.

Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair

Okay, so now let’s see how you can style your hair in a protective way.

#1: Protection for Shorter Hair

Cornrows work for short relaxed hair and natural hair that needs to be extended and protected. A quick trip to a salon will leave you feeling beautiful and confident in days to come.

#2: Classic Braids

When it comes to free-hanging shorter protective hairstyles, the bob-length multiple braids all over the head are ideal. The best part of braids? They last for weeks and take slim to zero effort to maintain.

#3: Sealed with a Twist

Smooth out your natural hair and twist toward the nape of the neck. Secure with a low bun and you’re done! This hairstyle is youthful and vibrant, but it can be easily pulled off by a woman of any age.

#4: Braided Crown and Low Bun

One of the easiest ways to elevate a basic low bun is with a braid. The crown style in this look instantly transforms it from informal to formal; an ideal updo for women who need to go to events straight from the workplace.

Chignon with Crown Braid Natural Hairstyle

Instagram/ @sashabasha2

#5: Natural Flat Twist Style

One of the most common protective styles is flat twists because they resemble cornrows, but are easier and faster to do. If you are attempting to do an updo on your own and you want it to last for a couple of days, this is a must-try look.

#6: Pineapple Updo

A pineapple updo is when you pile your hair at the front of your head. It can also be used as a way to sleep with curls and twist-outs without crushing the style.

Natural Hair Updo with Twists and Curls

Instagram/ @jd_winters

#7: Twisted Protective Style

Women with short natural hair have to deal with shrinkage after washing, which makes hair appear more cropped than it really is. Because of this, many updos are out of the question. If you want to add texture or flair, try individual twists or braids.

#8: Updo with Flat Twists

Some protective hairstyles like box braids and jumbo cornrows can pull on edges or weigh your strands down, which is the exact opposite of what you want. In order to combat this, you can opt for twists. They have the same effect but are lighter and easier to wear.

#9: Mixed Textures for Short Styles

You can easily jazz up a short hairdo by mixing two different textures together. Cornrows in the front and twists in the back are a quick and easy way to add visual interest to a style without needing to use heat or hair accessories.

#10: Twisted Chignon from Flat Twists

This is not a hairstyle to do at home easily, but an experienced braider can copy it for you. Once it’s done, you’ll see it’s low maintenance and you’ll wear it with pleasure for a while. It produces a fun, fresh look that can be viewed as both sporty and elegant. If you don’t like flat twists, you can easily substitute for cornrows.

Flat Twist Low Bun

Instagram / @kinkycurlybeauty

#11: Simple and Sweet Natural Style

A Dutch roll is one of the easiest protective hairstyles for natural hair to master. It’s ideal for wash and go mornings or those inevitable times when your twist out doesn’t come out exactly the way that you planned. The simple updo always looks polished and pretty.

#12: Twist and Side Bang

Soft curls like the bangs shown here can work in protective hairdos as long as you don’t use curling or flat irons. Try using flexi rods instead; the larger the rod, the looser the curl.

Twist Updo with Bangs

Instagram/ @modelesque_nic

#13: Side Part Updo for Natural Hair

A low bun is an easy and classic look for any occasion, but if you want to make it more elegant, you can add a face-framing roll. This is ideal if you have a work presentation, lunch meeting or after hours event.

#14: Asymmetrical Halo Braid with Highlights

Are you in the market for a braided hairstyle that looks great and is fast and easy to put together? Go for this diagonally parted chunky asymmetrical braid. The bright bronze highlighting is a spicy touch that makes all the difference.

#15: Multi-Size Bun

Buns are nothing new, but by combining large and small braids you can make them feel fresh. Just ask your stylist to braid your hair into a ponytail, which will give you the versatility to wear it in a coil as well.

High Black Braided Bun

Instagram/ @kiakhameleon

#16: Upswept Flat Twists Updo

Put a unique spin on natural hair braids by manipulating your kinky curls into a contemporary upswept updo with flat twists. As well as promoting healthy hair growth, it keeps your tresses out of the neck in warm weather.

#17: Asymmetrical Protective Braided Updo

The one problem about wearing individual braids as protective styles for natural hair is that they can be bulky and their weight could pull on your edges causing breakage. Instead of opting for box braids, consider asymmetrical cornrows that end into a side ponytail or a cute side bun. This will cut down on the heaviness.

#18: Asymmetrical Twist Braid to Side Bun Updo

This is one of the most elegant and sophisticated 4c natural hair styles and you can do it yourself! Team with statement earrings for a dazzling smart casual look.

#19: Crown Twist Braid with Chignon

The crown twist braid with a chignon is a unique “quick and cheap” option for 4c black hair that looks very elegant and sophisticated. Best suited to medium length hair, it can be worn to office or even as a wedding hairstyle.

Low Rolled Updo with a Twist

Instagram / @lawandapierrehair

#20: Gorgeous Goddess Braids

When it comes to protective styles for natural hair, cornrows are versatile and multifunctional, as they can serve as a foundation for a weave or be an independent hairstyle. Whether you decide to experiment with a weave or try fancy goddess braids, you’ll end up with a creative style that protects your hair and every time catches someone’s eye, because natural braids are really pretty. Here’s an example.

Thick And Thin Goddess Braids with Beads

Instagram / @steph_odia

#21: Short Natural Twist Updo

Just because you have short hair does not mean that you don’t have options. Bigger twists allow you to have a textured updo even if your hair is too cropped to grab into a ponytail or bun. An ombre or surface highlights will also add visual interest and dimension to thick natural hair.

#22: Crown Updo with Spiral Braid

The spiral braid involved in this protective style offers a point of difference, as it starts from behind one ear and winds around until it reaches the top of the head. Cute and simple to construct once you give it a few tries, it looks fabulous both in pictures and in life.

Black Brown Braid Updo

Instagram / @kiakhameleon

#23: Side Twist Protective Style

Quick natural hairstyles are ideal on mornings when your hair is wet and you don’t have time for a full twist out. The style shown can be achieved with a simple two-strand twist or even a Dutch roll if you are really crunched for time.

#24: Braids and Curls

Braid or twist your hair close to the scalp, starting at the nape of the neck up to the top. Repeat this in small sections all over the head and top it off with a head full of gorgeous ringlets. The stunning explosion of cute curls up top will become the focal point of your hairstyle at front, while the braids will enhance its visual interest from the sides and back.

#25: Sleek and Serious

Protective hairstyles for natural hair often involve a fusion of many components. In this case, a braid, bun and carefully angled hair parts across the scalp work together for a pretty final result.

#26: Elegant Flat Twists Updo for Shorter Natural Hair

If you don’t have time to deal with cornrows, go for some flat twists to make sure your naturally short hair stays protected. Tightly wound and parted on the side, it’s a style that looks classy and quaint.

Protective Updo With Flat Twists

Instagram / @iprotecttresses

#27: Asymmetrical Updo with Chunky Twist Braids

One of the classiest protective hairstyles for thick locks, the asymmetrical updo involves chunky braids that wrap the head gracefully and create a fancy hairstyle based on the rather simple flat twist technique.

Flat Twists Undo

Instagram / @actually_ashly

#28: Adorable Loosely Twisted Updo for Naturalistas

Quick natural hairstyles can be challenging to create. However, a loosely twisted updo is crisp, fashion-forward, and no nonsense. It’s perfect for those naturalistas who want to indulge in some quick braiding for hair protection.

#29: Low Chunky Bun with Twist Braid

This is an easy protective style for everyday occasions. Create a feed-in twist braid from the side part. Gather the rest of your hair into a low bun at the nape of your neck. The look is elegant and also undeniably chic.

Elegant Low Bun Updo for Natural Hair

Instagram / @westafricanbaby

#30: Nape-To-Forehead Braided Updo for Natural Hair

A nape-to-forehead braided updo is an easy natural hairstyle for those with shorter locks. It protects your hair by keeping it out of the way and looks funky and fresh.

Inverted Braided Mohawk

Instagram / @nakawunde

#31: Two Knotted Braids with Symmetrical Cornrows

This style is rich in cultural heritage and has a cool boho vibe. Its two knotted braids are gorgeous and self-sufficient, but when complemented by the beaded cornrows, they create the hippie look that was made for happy sunny days.

Braids To Bun Protective Hairstyle

Instagram / @ayeciara

#32: Tiny Cornrows with Lush Twisted Bun

One of the best hairstyles for natural hair is the kind that protects the hair from the scalp to the ends. Tiny front-to-back cornrows that feed into chunky twisted braids give you the best of both worlds: beauty and protection!

Black High Twisted Bun With Cornrows

Instagram / @thegriynthumb

#33: Nape-to-Forehead Braided Updo

Long, thick natural hair looks spectacular in this creative protective hairstyle that is quick to braid. The subtle burgundy highlighting draws attention to the pompadour-style top section. The long side pieces elongate the face and provide an extra feminine touch.

#34: Thin Black Fulani Braids

Want to protect your natural hair and look like a celebrity? It’s easy to do with Alicia Keys-inspired Fulani braids, shown here in jet black. The center part accented with one single braid down the middle keeps it simple, straightforward and elegant.

Long Fulani Braids Hairstyle

Instagram / @dare2beslayed

#35: Shoulder Length Ultra Violet Faux Locs

Faux locs are a temporary protective style installed by twisting or braiding your real hair and then wrapping additional hair around the shaft of the braid or twist. Vibrant and youthful, faux locs are particularly great when they are colorful. Ultra Violet in faux locs for natural hair of medium length is a cool, fashionable example.

Beautiful Colored Fauxlocs

Instagram / @nel_makeup_kriola

#36: Formal Chignon with Asymmetrical Twists

Designed to appear polished and put together, the chignon with asymmetrical twists is perfect for formal or dressier occasions. There are various different elements involved, which will only make you stand out in a crowd for all the right reasons.

Black Low Bun Updo

Instagram / @jackofallhair

#37: Inverted Flat Twist Updo with Curly Top

Sometimes protective styles for natural hair can take a little more time to complete, but we think this one is worth it. The bent twists are directed upward and forward to give way to the fun curly top. It’s the perfect choice if you prefer a hairstyle with a little extra height.

Natural Curly Updo With Twists And Curls

Instagram / @badubeauty

#38: Easy Side Twist Updo

Who knew that a simple side twist could make such a gorgeous updo? Easy and quick, this style is a windfall for the days when you need an elegant look in no time.

#39: Upswept Updo with Side Twists

“Come on baby, let’s do the TWIST!” We don’t know if Chubby Checker had a twisty hairstyle in mind when he wrote that signature song, but we do know that a fantastic twisted hairstyle like this one can become your signature look. Twist your twists around the head in a fabulous updo — we’re gonna twisty twisty twisty!

Protected Twisted Natural Updo

Instagram / @genevieveanyiah

#40: Curly Mohawk Hairstyle with Flat Twists

If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional protective braid-based hairstyles, try winding your locks into small flat twists and leave them loose at the ends. The irregular curved pattern has a fantastic appeal and the flowing caramel curls ooze some serious feminine vibes.

Mohawk Updo With Side Twists

Instagram / @hairbyryane

#41: Jumbo Twists to Low Buns Updo

A fun and expressive look for young women, this protective hairstyle contains jumbo twists that fluently glide into quirky low buns. You can request that your hairdresser braids as many twists as you want; but, with this style, less can definitely be more.

Two Low Buns Protective Updo

Instagram / @lipstickncurls

#42: Color and Style

This hairstyle is so flawless and awesome in texture and color that it really makes a picture-perfect look! The same hairstyle idea can be re-created with Senegalese twists or box braids. An elegant wrap like this one is anything but ordinary.

#43: Natural Updo Style

Protective styles for natural hair can be as sweet and simple as this one shown below. Being a smart combination of braids and top knots, this style has been popular for generations and continues to thrive due to its ease of execution and timeless beauty.

#44: Pretty Twist Braids for Natural Hair

One of the prettiest and most feminine hairstyles for natural hair involves parting your hair horizontally, diagonally or down the middle and twisting it into two chunky twist braids. It’s youthful and easy to complete, which makes it a very appealing protective option for casual wear.

Two Twist Braids Hairstyle

Instagram / @thegowdygirls

#45: Pulling It Back

This hairstyle is ideal for a hot summer day or a fancy evening out. It can work on both longer natural hair and extensions, making it a universal pick for African Americans.

#46: Individual Braids with Beads

Braid clips are extremely popular now thanks to Queen Bey, who can be seen sporting them in various braided styles on her Formation World Tour. Individual braids or Senegalese twists are great for women who want the smooth look of relaxed hair.

#47: Flirty Faux Locs

Faux locs are an excellent way to see how you would look with dreadlocks without the long-and-permanent process of actually locking your hair. Be aware that this style requires twice the amount of added hair that box braids would, so the extra weight of the hair takes a moment to get used to.

#48: Goddess Braids in Updo

Luckily, braid crowns are coming back in style because they are perfect for naturalistas on the go. Easy natural hairstyles can be done the night before so that in the morning you simply take off your silk scarf and head out without giving your hair a second thought.

#49: Side Bang with Undercut

An undercut is an easy way to experiment with designs that do not require too much commitment because you can simply let your hair down to cover your undercut up. Twist-outs, like the side bang shown, are the secret trick to any loose natural style because they create defined curls without the need to use styling heat.

Natural Updo with Nape Undercut

Instagram/ @sashabasha2

#50: Short and Sassy

Styles for curly hair can be just as cute and snappy as relaxed styles. This updo pairs traditional cornrows with a twisted crown for a creative protective hairstyle you can do on shorter natural hair.

#51: Fauxhawk with Cornrows and Twists

Sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. Cornrows are an interesting way to achieve a Mohawk appearance and intricate designs without shaving your head. Most natural hair protective styles are not only beautiful, they are also supposed to aid in hair growth.

#52: Thick Side Swept Braids

Not very fast to install, but easy and fun to style, chunky side swept braids can be time consuming but at the same time very rewarding in terms of their chic and neat appearance along with protective qualities. This fairly good look is definitely worth all the effort.

Thick Individual Braids

Instagram / @slayedby.c

#53: Vertical Feed-in Braids with Crown Bun

Vertical cornrows are one of the most popular protective braid styles. It’s artistic in nature, polished and comfortable to wear. Style as a high bun or a pony, but first get some neat and tight feed-in braids!

Nape-To-Crown Feed-In Braids

Instagram / @probraids

#54: Circular Cornrows with Short Front Twists

Creative protective styles for short natural hair can be difficult to find. This circular cornrow design with front twists is unusual in lines and adds an intriguing, sassy touch to traditional braiding.

Cornrows for Short Hair

Instagram / @natural_jc

#55: Flat Twist Crown Braid Updo

If you’re in search of easy hairstyles for natural hair, then this might be the one for you. A flat twist crown braid updo is straightforward and eye-catching, and it’s ok if it’s not as neat as intended because it’s meant to look casual and effortless.

#56: Underbraids Updo with a Low Bun

The lovely braided updo uses plaits of different sizes to provide some textural interest. Thinner braids flow between the chunky staples to create an innovative and attractive aesthetic.

Thick and Thin French Braids Updo

Instagram / @thehairqueen

#57: Asymmetrical Updo with Chunky Twists

There are simple protective hairstyles to do yourself, and there are sophisticated looks to trust to a professional braider. This one requires precise parting and some experience in flat twisting, however, it’s not impossible to do at home.

Protective Chunky Flat Twists Updo

Instagram / @transformedbyo

#58: Fluffy Natural Mohawk with Side Cornrows

An open-ended Mohawk in the list of protective hairstyles for short natural hair? Aren’t these styles supposed to protect the ends? Don’t worry! The upswept cornrows protect the shaft, and using a moisturizer and a protective cap when sleeping will ensure your ends are healthy and well-rested in the morning!

#59: Upside Down Braid to Bun with Curly Bangs

Protecting your hair can be as easy as putting it into one upside-down braid and feeding the latter into a top-knot bun. Leave a full burst of curly bangs to flow onto your forehead.

#60: Simple Natural Updo with Twists and Chignon

You can keep your medium length stretched out curls well-protected in a basic updo that combines side and front twists and a chignon-style bun. Since this is an “open” protective style, make sure to moisturize the hair with rich oils or nourishing creams.

Quick Protective Chignon Updo

Instagram / @iprotecttresses

Well, these hairstyles will offer you some variety and a high level of protection for your natural hair. Natural hair can be styled in a creative way. Some of the best proofs are above. Feel free to get inspired!