Protective styles are more than just a means to shield hair and minimize maintenance time. For Black women, they're a cultural staple. From box braids to twists, cornrows and faux locs, the creativity of Black women is repeatedly reflected in the many ways we've learned to style our hair all while showing appreciation for centuries of beauty. That's why protective hairstyles aren't just relegated to a season. They're a year-round staple that everyday people and celebrities alike have and will continue to embrace.
"Protective styles are ever changing and evolving, but at their core they are deeply rooted in Black culture," Naeemah Lafond, celebrity and editorial hairstylist tells The Zoe Report. "The importance and significance of protective styles can be dated far back to our ancestors. The braids, twists, weaves, and wigs we wear hold as much cultural, social, and personal significance now as they did then. It’s more than a hair style, it’s a statement, one that says that we are free to express ourselves, embrace our culture, and wear our crowns as we see fit."
But with so many options, and so much inspo out there, it can be hard to keep up. Let alone, pick the style that you think fits you best. To help that, we've plucked some of our favorite protective styles, as seen on our favorite celebrities for you to choose from, no matter what time of year.
Protective Style Idea: XL Box Braids
Justine Skye transitioned into fall with large box braids that take half the time to style — and last just as long.
Protective Style Idea: Cresent Cornrows
Rather than having her cornrows braiding the traditional way, going straight back, Ashanti's cornrows were marked by a crescent-like patter than was parted down the middle.
Protective Style Idea: Jumbo Senegalese Twists
A look that takes minimal effort but appears so intentional, these jumbo Senegalese twists require minimal effort and are easy to retwist in the case that one becomes unraveled.
Protective Style Idea: Double Cornrows
While this super-sleek look may require a higher skillset, it's perfect for both daytime and nighttime looks.
Protective Style Idea: Multi-Blonde Box Braids
Zonnique used not one but three blonde shades of braiding hair to create a multi-dimensional highlight look for her braids.
Protective Style Idea: Mermaid Twists
Keke Palmer rocked a super-undone Senegalese twist look that was made to look more rugged with several loose pieces falling randomly.
Protective Style Idea: Threaded Box Braids
There's no better time than now to incorporate some color into protective styles. Celebrities like Eva Marcille are doing so by wrapping multi-colored thread around their box braids, and hanging ornaments like mini-dreamcatchers at the bottom.
Protective Style Idea: Blonde-ish Box Braids
For a highlighted rather than dyed effect on your braids, the use of both natural toned and lighter braiding hair creates the illusion of custom-colored styles.
Protective Style Idea: Braided Bangs
A beautiful way to spruce up braid bangs is to put a gold bead at the end of each strand. It adds an elegant twist to the already elevated look.
Protective Style Idea: Embellished Bantu Knots
A protective style that dates back centuries, bantu knots can be decorated anyway you see fit. Celebs like Marcille did so by incorporating gold rings trailing down the middle.
Protective Style Idea: Fulani Braids
This incredibly sleek style is created by crafting two rows of braids. The bottom row is cornrowed straight back, while the top row, is parted down the middle and braided diagonally in opposite directions.
Protective Style Idea: Two-Strand Twists
This incredibly low-maintenance protective style is super simple to recreate. All you need to do is part the hair, separate into two parts, and twist down to the end.
Protective Style Idea: Middle-Part Cornrows
This quick style is created with a top and bottom row of cornrows styled around the perimeter horizontally rather than the traditional vertical style. To create a cornrow, part the hair straight back. Then, braid the hair along the part, collecting the loose hair with every pass to secure the braid to the scalp.
Protective Style Idea: Jumbo Passion Twists
The twist style, which creates more of a rugged appearance over time, is the perfect vacation look which can be adorned with accessories like gold hoops and string. The two-strand twists are created using synthetic, high-shine braiding hair.
Protective Style Idea: Boho Box Braids
Celebrities like Lizzo enjoy protecting their hair with small boho box braids. The look is created with curly kanekalon hair that is only braided halfway down the hair shaft for the undone, curly look.
Protective Style Idea: Blonde Small Knotless Braids
If you want to incorporate color into your braids without manipulating your own hair, using colored braiding hair is the perfect way to add highlights to your protective style.
Protective Style Idea: Faux Locs
The style that looks better over time. Faux locs, created by wrapping synthetic braiding hair around a braid base, creates the appearance of real locs. You can incorporate a few strands of color in your faux locs to frame the face and spice up the look.
Protective Style Idea: Beaded Horizontal Cornrows
Jazz up horizontal cornrows by adding beads at the bottom and sprucing up baby hair.
Protective Style Idea: Large Knotless Braids
Rihanna has been loving knotless braids during quarantine. The style takes half the time of smaller knotless braids due to larger sections of hair, yet still is sleek and chic.
Protective Style Idea: Jumbo Marley Twists With Gold String
The style is super easy to recreate at home. Simply begin the twist at the base of the hair, twisting all the way down. The coarse texture of the Marley hair, which sets it apart from passion twists, will make for a longwear style.
Protective Style Idea: Tendrilled Knotless Braids
Woods is styling her small knotless box braids in an array of fun styles these days. To copy her updo, simply take two face-framing braids out of your half-up style and let them hang loose.
Protective Style Idea: Goddess Braids
The undone yet intentional style is marked by several loose strands falling from the braids. This is created by removing strands of hair while braiding down the shaft. It can be done on both small and large box braids.
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