18 gorgeous protective hairstyles we’re double tapping RN

Ladies, stylish protective styles for natural hair do exist!  

Naturalistas, gather around! If you’ve found yourself in a beauty rut as of late, and want to stylishly switch up your mane, you’ve come to the right place. To turn your natural hair into a work of art, you need to try out one of these gorgeous protective hairstyles we found on Instagram.

From dazzling braid styles to perfectly-sleek wigs and everything in between, we’ve unearthed 18 non-boring protective styles for natural hair that’ll take your mane game to the next level.

protective hairstyles: close up shot of woman with braids and beret, posing outside and wearing black jacket
When it comes to protective hairstyles, box braids are the most popular. Credit: Instagram.com/sephorak

1. Box braids

While we know it takes time to get this protective hairstyle done (depending on the size you go for), we can’t help thinking of what we’d give to rock ultra long box braids like this.

Just make sure to pair this gorgeous look with a beret and you’ll be a street style star in no time. Credit: @sephorak

close up shot of woman with short bue ombre box braids, wearing leather jacket and black striped shirt with sunglasses, posing outside
Looking for short protective hairstyles? Try this! Credit: Instagram.com/leddi_g

2. Bob braids

While we adore long box braids, shorter ones equally deserve some attention, too! Take this Instagram beauty, for example, who has gone for some ultra-stylish blue ombre bob braids (swoon). Credit: @leddi_g

Next read: 5 other short box braids hairstyles you have to see.

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with cornrow ponytail hairstyle, wearing glittery top and black trousers
Love cornrows? Try this ponytail + cornrow combo! Credit: Instagram.com/eziemela

3. Braided ponytail

If you’re not totally sold on full-blown box braids, here’s another beautiful braided protective hairstyle you should give a chance: the cornrow ponytail.

This cornrow style keeps your hair protected while letting you get in on the ever popular high ponytail trend. And what’s more, it’s perfect for days or nights where you want to exude high-fashion vibes (so basically always!). Credit: @eziemela

Editor’s tip: Loving all these protective hairstyles for natural hair? Just because your hair is protected, that doesn’t mean you won’t need a leave-in conditioning spray (like the TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Hydrating Mist) in your life.

This must-have product helps give your natural mane a much-needed boost of moisture and will leave your locks smelling like a tropical cocktail. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

close up shot of woman with fulani cornrow braided bun with bead detailing
Fulani braids will make you feel just like a royal! Credit: Instagram.com/naturalbabe10.11_pro

4. Fulani braided bun

A sleek, perfect Fulani braided bun (complete with pretty bead detailing) is sophisticated and destined for any oh-so-luxe or casual events you might be attending this year.

Dealing with shorter natural hair? Using braiding hair extensions, like this beauty has done, will easily help you achieve this glam protective hairstyle. Bye-bye boring buns! Credit:  @naturalbabe10.11_pro

close up shot of woman with bantu knot protective hairstyle, wearing big earring and posing on the street
It’s hard to knot fall in love with this hairstyle. Credit: Instagram.com/curlkit

5. Bantu knots

Looking for party-ready protective hairstyles for short natural hair? Well, believe it or not, with just a few inches of hair, you too can achieve this beautiful bantu knot hairstyle.

Need some extra guidance? Just check out our bantu knot step-by-step tutorial, here, to nail the look. Credit: @curlkit

Editor’s tip: Give your bantu knots a sleek and frizz-free finish by smoothing a few pumps of the Nexxus Oil Infinite Serum Oil through your strands before you create them.

close up shot of woman with twist box braids hairstyle, wearing black jacket and blue jacket
Twist and shout! Credit: Instagram.com/natalyneri

6. Twists

Box braids aren’t the only protective hairstyles for natural hair you need to know about… In fact, box twists (which this Insta babe totally slays) are equally stunning and super-stylish, too.

We’re sure you’ll agree that her kinky twists look amazing in this half-up ponytail style, showing off her pretty long lengths to a T, while also keeping her tresses off her face. Credit: @natalyneri

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with long dreadlocks, wearing white headband and shirt, posing in a studio
Show off your boho style with these lush dreadlocks! Credit: Instagram.com/lei_smokahontas

7. Faux locs

Thanks to a few iconic black celebrities (ahem, Zendaya and Rihanna!), faux locs have fast become the protective hairstyle to rock this season.

So, if you’ve always loved the look of dreadlocks (but can’t picture yourself going through the long process to get them), opting for faux locs is your next best option. And as you can see, they look utterly mesmerising when adorned with different accessories! Credit: @lei_smokahontas

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with curly crochet weave hairstyle, wearing striped top
Did you know that crochet braids are actually a technique? Instagram.com/kiitana

8. Crochet braids

Dream of switching up your hairstyle on the regular? Then consider getting crochet braids done. Don’t know what they are? Well, they’re simply created by crocheting hair extensions into pre-cornrowed hair and can be worked with so many different styles…

From voluminous curls to sleek and smooth hairstyles, with this fast method, you’ll be able to live out your mane fantasies (all while protecting your real hair). Yay! Credit: @kiitana

protective hairstyles: close up shot of woman with tree braids with curly ends with butterfly hair accessories, wearing pink strappy top and posing in a studio
These tree braids will make you look like you’ve stepped out a fairy tale. Credit: Instagram.com/badmonbraids

9. Tree braids

This lovely Insta-babe and Alicia Keys have something in common: they’ve both rocked cute and curly tree braids! Unlike crochet hairstyles that conceal cornrow braids, this ‘do works to spotlight pretty plait designs. Credit: @badmonbraids

Next read: Butterfly hair accessories have been fluttering up everywhere and we are obsessed.

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with red jacket, yellow top, wearing wig and baker boy hat
When it doubt, wig it out! Credit: Instagram.com/crystal_kasper

10. Shoulder length wig

While most of us turn to braids for protective styles, let us not forget the wonders that are wigs! In this example, this mega-babe has gone for a chic shoulder-length style that’s full of enviable texture. Credit: @crystal_kasper

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with halo braid hairstyle on natural hair, posing and wearing red lipstick
If it’s goddess vibes you want to evoke, this protective style was made for you. Credit: Instagram.com/kersti.pitre

11. Halo braid

When it comes to romantic protective hairstyles for natural hair, the halo braid is one of our absolute faves. It’ll have all of your strands neatly tucked away, provide you with a style that’s suitable come rain or shine, and give your look a fresh new edge.

And before you get mane envy, check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to get a halo braid on natural hair, here. Just remember to lay those beautiful baby hairs… Credit: @kersti.pitre

Editor’s tip: Want to tame your baby hairs and make them look on-point? You’ll need a gel spray, like the VO5 Mega Hold Gel Spray and an old toothbrush, to help you smooth them down. Easy, right?

protective hairstyles for natural hair: close up shot of woman with scarf updo hairstyle
There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and rocking a scarf updo! Credit: Instagram.com/glowprincess

12. Head wrap

While every protective hairstyle is a work of art, you can take a more time-effective approach and consider stylishly wrapping your locks up with a printed head wrap, just like this mega-babe has done.

Not only does this otherwise simple head scarf make the perfect protective hairstyle, it will also help you exude a tonne of retro vibes. Credit: @glowprincess

Protective hairstyles: Woman wearing a lonh dark wavy wig
With a wig you can easily get in on the Rapunzel hair action. Credit: Instagram.com/yubasorentino

13. Rapunzel wigs

Dreaming of flowing Rapunzel hair like Kim K-W or Nicki Minaj? We don’t blame you. It can take years to grow your hair out that long though, but if you’re impatient there is another option of course – a wig!

Super long wigs have become a favourite of celebs and normal girls alike, the only thing left to decide is how long will you go?! Credit: @yubasorentino

Protective hairstyles: Back view of a woman with natural curly afro hair in a half twisted updo with loose curly top
Updos don’t have to be overly complicated. Credit: Instagram.com/suite15hair

14. Half twisted updos

The best way to add some variety to your styling repertoire is by trying out a new updo. If you’ve always thought updos are way too complicated for you, you might find a simple twisted version easier to take on.

This simple but effective twisted updo is ideal for protecting your natural hair while still allowing you to show off those stunning curls. Credit: @suite15hair

Protective hairstyles: Selfie of a woman with half up long Goddess braids with curly ends and yarn wraps
Box braids open up a whole new world of styling possibilities! Credit: Instagram.com/ashleynwilliams_

15. Half-up bun

Who says you can’t style braided hair? Box braids are exceptionally versatile, so there’s nothing stopping you from trying all of this season’s hottest looks.

This box braided beauty is showing off one of our favourite box braids hairstyles – the Insta famous half-up bun – and rocking it! Credit: @ashleynwilliams_

Protective hairstyles: Woman with her natural hair in a Ghana braid ponytail with yellow flowers in it
Live your best hair life with these gorgeous Ghanaian braids. Credit: Instagram.com/ashleymsparrow_

16. Ghana braid ponytail

We’re all guilty of slipping into a rut sometimes with our hair, so if that’s you right now, why not consider this Ghana braided ponytail?

Ticking both the style and convenience boxes, it’s a must for the girl-on-the-go. We’ll be wearing ours with floral accessories for spring/summer. Credit: @ashleymsparrow_

Protective hairstyles: Woman with her natural hair in flat twists into pigtails, wearing a floral top and denim jacket
You’d be amazed how many different looks you can come up with using flat twists. Credit: Instagram.com/crownedandbrown

17. Flat twists

While a lot of protective hairstyles require an expert’s touch, there are plenty of braided looks you can do all on your own, flat twists for example.

With a little practice you’ll be able to create all sorts of intricate-looking hairstyles with the basic 2-strand twist method, saving you precious time (not to mention money!) in the salon chair. Credit: @crownedandbrown

Editor’s tip: To keep your twists neat, frizz-free and -even more importantly- well conditioned, apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner to each section before twisting. The TONI&GUY Leave In Conditioner protects tresses against humidity so they look good as new for longer.

Protective hairstyles: Woman with natural hair in cornrows into a low ponytail with beads
Jazz up your cornrows with beads and cuffs for extra detail. Credit: Instagram.com/zeliasoraya

18. Cuffed braids

Cornrows are just calling out for accessories. Whether it’s for a festival or just finding a way to make your everyday braids pop, adorning your mane with metallic cuffs and coloured beads will always look amazing. Credit: @zeliasoraya