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Protective styles are about more than just giving your natural hair a break or shielding your strands from environmental elements, like cold weather. Protective styles are freedom for Black women. These looks allow us to add (or remove) volume, length, and texture to our coif.

Whether you want to rock a lace front one day, or add some attitude with Beyoncé-esq Lemonade braids the other — protective styles can give you a fresh look sans permanent commitment.

You're Going to Be Seeing These Protective Styles Everywhere in 2022
Credit: Getty Images

With the new year just around the corner, we decided to hit up hair trendsetter and celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen — who has worked with several of your favorite stars, including Rihanna, Zendaya, and Mary J. Blige — to ask her to round up her predictions for what she thinks will be the most popular protective styles of 2022.

Keep reading — then be sure to make an appointment with your braider.

Oversized Cornrows

Gone are the days where cornrows were only to set your hair up for a wig or weave.

The ancestral style is now featured all over the runway and red carpets alike, and you'll continue to see this style in various forms all 2022.

"Zendaya really loves rocking large cornrows on the red carpet, she really owns that look," shares Stephen. "[They] are a great protective style that can be dressed up or down,"

Oversized cornrows are a quick and easy way to update your hair — they can last you up to two weeks and take less than an hour to remove. On top of that, they're super easier to accessorize. Gold jewelry, or even braiding in other colors, can change the entire look.

"For extra edgy glam, you can add metallic hoops to the cornrows," the hairstylist suggests. Take Zendaya's Lancôme Idole ad as an example.

Once you've got your braids in, maintenance is easy — just be sure not to leave them in too long. "I love cocktailing the Living Proof Curl Moisturizing Shine Oil with the Dove Amplified Textures Define 'N Moisture Styling Gel," says Stephen. Simply run the mix over the top of the cornrows and tie the hair in place with a silk scarf. "This helps to refresh your braids and keeps the frizz to a minimum."

Box Braids

You're Going to Be Seeing These Protective Styles Everywhere in 2022
Credit: Getty Images

Box braids are beloved style that have always be around, and will forever be here to stay.

"I love styling [box braids] because they are so versatile and can be manipulated into really fun updo styles like I did on Celeste O'Connor for the Ghost Busters premiere," shares Stephen.

Powerful Ponytails

This effortless style has been updated with a few modern twists.

Whether you are wearing your ponytail sky high a la I Dream of Jeannie with art-like edges, or down low at the nape of your neck exploding into voluminous curls, you can't go wrong with this classic hairstyle silhouette. Ponytails are a great way to protect fragile ends and a great style to go for if you are overdue for a trim.

The ponytail that Stephen created on LaLa Anthony for a trip to NYC in September 2021 is quickly becoming a popular go-to for the it girls. "It was sewn-on, which is stationary, so there is way less manipulation on the hair, allowing for healthy hair growth," Stephen says of Anthony's hair.

The style is easy to achieve and even a great DIY option for those of you taking a break from the salon. "All you need for this simple style is pomade, hair ties, a needle and thread," explains Stephen. "The TIGI Bed Head Manipulator Texture Paste is my go-to product for this look."

Double-Strand Twists

You're Going to Be Seeing These Protective Styles Everywhere in 2022
Credit: Getty Images

When you are growing out your hair, it's all about minimal manipulation, which is what makes protective hairstyles so alluring with the "set it and forget it" vibe. But don't think you necessarily have to make a trip to the hair store to grab extensions first. Naturalistas can lean into double-strand twists when they need a quick protective look.

"They are really versatile and create a really beautiful texture in natural hair," Stephen swoons. "The great thing about this style is the twists can be left in for a long time. And once they are removed, you can wear the strands loose with beautiful texture," explains Stephen.

Opt for a curling cream like Mielle Pomegranate and Honey Twisting Souffle to help set the hair while twisting. This product nourishes your curls, as the formula contains sesame seed oil, which promotes growth and conditions dry hair.

Wigs, Wigs, Wigs

You're Going to Be Seeing These Protective Styles Everywhere in 2022
Credit: Getty Images

"Wigs are a great way to protect the hair while achieving trendy styles throughout the season," shares Stephen. "Cardi B is someone who has rocked some really cool and beautiful wigs. The ability to change between extreme looks while protecting your hair is ideal."

But while wigs are a great canvas for creating nearly any style imaginable, as with any protective style, you want to ensure you are actually protecting your natural hair.

"I always recommend treating the hair with extra nourishment to keep strands strong," Stephen suggests. Opt for products that will give additional hydration and lock the moisture into your strands. Nexxus Sulfate-Free Curl Define Shampoo combines marula oil and silk protein into its formula for strong curls that shine, then follow-up with your favorite moisturizing leave-in conditioner. A great year round option with powerful oils to penetrate your hair shaft is Aunt Jackie's Quench Moisture Intensive Leave-In Conditioner. The product contains shea butter and olive oil, which packs fatty acids and antioxidants to nourish your scalp and hair. 

Bantu Knots

Bantu knots aren't solely a style that can be used to give you a voluminous bantu knot-out. Rocking the knots themselves are a great way to show off your face, and there are so many creative ways to personalize the look. You can do bantu knots with braids or even opt for triangle parts for a funky effect.

"This style trends because some really cool celebs have been rocking them in different ways. I saw Rihanna rocking some really cute ones recently on Instagram," says Stephen. While the style may look complicated, at its most basic level, it's actually quite easy to achieve and great for any beginners to the natural hair scene.

"All you need is pomade! Bed Head Manipulator by TIGI is one of my faves," reveals Stephen. To achieve the style, simply part your hair into as many sections as you want bantu knots. Apply the pomade to each section before twisting to keep the hair in place and double secure with a bobby pin, if necessary.

Natural and Faux Locs

You're Going to Be Seeing These Protective Styles Everywhere in 2022
Credit: Getty Images

"This style is fun and has become more versatile over time," states Stephen. But if you don't want to loc your natural hair, you can always opt for faux locs in an array of styles, like butterfly or goddess locs.

If your hair is already loc'd, think about adding some color in 2022. "I love how Chloe Bailey updated hers by adding some blonde to her hair," says Stephen. Just make sure you are keeping your scalp and hair moisturized with penetrative oil like Shea Moisture 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil — it easily absorbs into most hair types and replenishes protein loss.

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.