8 of the Most Beautiful Protective Styles to Try Year Round

Give your hair a well-deserved break.

Someone with platinum blonde box braids
Photo: Clarissa Carbungco/Unsplash

After a long day, the last thing you want to do is detangle and retwist your hair before bed. This is why some women who are natural may opt to install protective styles to save time and limit damage.

Another perk of protective styles is that they usually don't require a lot of maintenance. Since you typically only need to focus on cleansing your scalp and roots, multi-hour wash days turn into breezy 30 to 45-minute cleansing treatments every few weeks.

Daily care for protective styles is even more stress-free and less time-consuming. Keeping the scalp moisturized through the use of water and oil usually does the trick. And if done frequently, with the right products, this method can also help to stimulate growth and repair breakage.

So whether you want a more low-key wash day routine or want to switch up your existing look without trimming your curls, the eight protective styles below will help your hair remain stylish and keep your hair healthy any time of year.

Marley Twists

As the name suggests, Marley twists were inspired by legendary Reggae musician Bob Marley's iconic, long hair.

A popular alternative to faux locs, Marley twists were created to model the appearance of natural locs. The use of long synthetic kinky-curly "Marley hair" sets this hairstyle apart from other twist styles. The voluminous and frizzy Marley hair is bonded together using the traditional two-strand twist method.

The lightness of the Marley hair makes this protective style one of the least damaging on the scalp. Depending on the texture of your natural hair, some stylists begin the style with knotless box braids that ensure the twists won't loosen and fall out.

Knotless Braids

This protective style is a popular one for a reason. Knotless braids provide you with great style versatility without the fear of adding unnecessary stressing to your scalp.

Based on the size of the braids, knotless braids can be styled into beautiful updos, braided together to make even larger braids, or left out, flowing down your back. These braids also come in different lengths, from right under your chin to past your hips.

Unlike traditional box braids, which feature mini knots at the top of the scalp, the knotless braiding method avoids knots at the roots that can cause tension, which often leads to hair breakage.


Cornrows come in many shapes and sizes. There are the traditional front backs, zig-zags, and dozens of other styles you can choose from.

Short cornrows, in particular, provide opportunities to add additional hair that transforms the popular protective hairdo. The addition of added faux ponytails or faux buns is a go-to option for many that want to add volume or texture to the cornrow look.

Long cornrows can also provide the length necessary to create braided updos that offer the same level of protection as short cornrows.

Faux Locs

Faux locs like Marley twists are another great way to receive the desired look of natural locs without having to make a long-term commitment.

This protective style has become increasingly popular over the years not only because of the beautiful look and feel but also because of the way that it is installed. Some stylists braid the natural hair, then wrap hair extensions around each braid, while others braid cornrows and crochet the faux locs onto the natural hair with a latch hook. Both methods lessen the tension that faux locs have on the scalp.

Arguably the best thing about faux locs is that they look better with time. The more frizzy they get, the closer they look close to natural locs.

VIDEO: Normani Just Got Waist-Length Cornrows for Summer

Senegalese Twists

Right behind cornrows and box braids, Senegalese twists are the most popular protective style.

The appeal of Senegalese twists, outside of their beautiful appearance, is the ease of having them installed. Many stylists use the crochet Senegalese twists method that crochets pre-twisted strands of hair into your natural cornrows. This method takes three hours or less.

Some stylists still prefer the traditional Senegalese twists method of using braiding hair to install two-strand twists that combine your natural hair. Both methods provide a similar look and protection.

Fulani Braids

Fulani braids were inspired by the beautiful traditional hairstyles that were created by the Fulani people of West Africa.

These braids are by far one of the most artistic and intricate protective styles. To achieve the desired look, stylists cornrow braiding hair from the middle of the head to the sides, often adding one cornrow down the middle and two side cornrows that were braided from the back of the head to hang down alongside the front of the face.

To amplify the regalness of the look, you can add beads and metal clips to the top section of your hair as well as to the ends.

Halo Braid

If there was ever a protective style that made you feel the most like royalty, this is the one. Halo braids rest gently on the top of your head like a crown.

The style is typically achieved by creating one large jumbo braid that is wrapped around the head and sits directly above the ears. You can opt to create a cornrow design in the middle of the crown or leave the center of your hair in a slicked-down style.

Beads and clips make the halo style look even more like a royal crown.

Crochet Braids

Crochet braids are arguably the protective style with the most versatility.

The crochet braiding technique requires you to install simple front-back cornrows using your natural hair, then the style you have after that is completely up to you. Using the crochet method, pre-styled hair is attached to your natural cornrows using a latch hook.

The best thing about crochet braids is that you can select to add in pre-styled braids or twists or non-braided hair that models curly natural hairstyles.

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

Updated by
Erin Lukas

Erin is a Brooklyn-based beauty editor and has been with InStyle since 2016. She covers all facets of beauty for the site.

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