The Editors
Updated on March 22, 2023
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African-American women are blessed with thick dense hair that can be skillfully shaped into breathtaking hairstyles. However, the 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

Protective hairstyles are priceless, since besides a flawless elegant look, they keep your hair ends tucked and protected from aggressive damaging factors. In addition, they help to maintain moisture, retain length, and protect the edges from thinning.

In addition to wearing protective hairstyles, you can boost the health of your coils by following these tips for kinky hair:

  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 or a head wrap to protect your hair from high or low temperatures.
  4. Protect your coils overnight by sleaping with a satin scarf on your head.

Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair

Now let’s see how you can style your hair in a protective way. Flat twists, a pineapple hairstyle, or a side part updo – which protective hairstyle will be your new iconic look after browsing these ideas?

1. 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.

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.

medium length thin box braids

Instagram / @modernsalon

3. Upswept Updo with Twisted Layered Bangs

The shorter layered twists look great, and it’s a perfect example of modern easy protective hairstyles. The front section can work as bangs framing the face and bringing in a cute asymmetrical element into your updo. The back is styled in an elegant upswept style that delivers a little extra height and a lot of classy vibes.

Upswept Protective Updo Hairstyle

Instagram / @brianalynee

4. Headband Flat Twist Updo

Part your long or short hair on the side and twist the front sections into an ultra-feminine Bohemian braid. The hairstyle is fast and easy to accomplish at home with no special tools involved. It’s a great way to pull your hair into a protective hairstyle quickly, and then undo it at a moment’s notice.

Protective Updo With A Headband Twist

Instagram / @essie__n

5. Flat Twisted Updo

The versatility of flat twists are unmatched and you are really only limited by your imagination when creating a flat twisted hairstyle. As is almost always the case when it comes to flat twists, this flat twisted updo is elegant and can be achieved on almost any hair length.

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.

Short Twists Protective Hairstyle

Instagram / @modernsalon

8. Side-Parted Two Chunky Twists

Two long twist braids are a wonderful choice for medium length natural hair when it needs to be protected from damaging heat and sun. The braids are just perfect – feminine and attractive with no special colors or accessories added.

Two Twist Braids For Medium Length Natural Hair

Instagram / @dr_kami

9. Criss Crossed Cornrows

Like flat twists, cornrows are the MVP of hairstyle versatility. This cornrow hairstyle is absolutely perfect if you’re looking for a fresh take on braids for the summer. The lower back length braids are totally beachy and laid back. Just remember to be gentle on your edges during installation.

Protective Cornrows and Ghana Braids

Instagram / @shellyafrikhair

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. Chic Natural Mohawk Updo

Protect your natural curls with a series of buns piled on top of your head like a Mohawk. Buns are a popular protective hairstyle for black women because they look simple and classy and work even for shorter hair.

Protective Mohawk Hairstyle For Black Women

Instagram / @dr_kami

12. Medium Layered Twists

Wearing your hair in medium layered twists is a quick and easy way to protect it as it’s growing out from a shorter length. The twists are given the desired direction and cascade beautifully on your shoulders and upper back.

Quick Layered Twists Hairstyle

Instagram / @returning2natural

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.

Simple Protective Updo

Instagram / @modernsalon

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. Chunky Mohawk Braid for Natural Hair

A single chunky braid makes an impact when it’s plumped up into a big, voluminous Mohawk. The chunky middle section and an extra thin tip of the braid create a cool contrast. It’s perfect for natural hair that needs to be protected in a comfortable, easy-to-manage style.

Protective Voluminous Mohawk For Natural Hair

Instagram / @dyacoiffure

16. Twists and Cornrows Updo

Short hair can be braided into a series of curvy cornrows to achieve a modern and attractive protective style for natural hair. The loose twists on top add extra height and a feminine touch. Their ends fall to one side creating some sort of playful bangs.

17. Natural Bun Updo with a Side Twist

A supersized bun is a fabulous way to wear your long, natural hair if you want a style that is feminine and easy to do on your own at home. A single thin twist adorned with golden cuffs winds around the bun and acts as a crown, framing the face in an elegant way. Baby-soft sideburn curls add a cute princess-like appeal.

Bun Updo For Long Natural Hair

Instagram / @abbiecurls

18. Elegant Flat Twisted Chignon

This flat twisted hairstyle that is pulled back into an elegant chignon is totally giving us a summer wedding vibe. Whether you’re a natural hair bride, bridesmaid or simply a wedding guest, this flat twisted chignon should definitely be on your short list of hairstyles.

Protective Twist Updo for Natural Hair

Instagram / @stylequeenbeauty

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. Feminine Center-Parted Braided Updo

Show off your beautiful forehead and smooth skin with a braided updo that’s a bit different from the typical protective hairstyle. Two chunky braids are parted in the middle and wrapped around the head, creating a feminine silhouette that works great with natural hair or extensions.

Center-Parted Braided Hairstyle

Instagram / @itsmebfairley

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.

Twisted Updo for Natural Hair

Instagram / @soglossy

22. Side Swept Flat Twisted Bun

Another style that displays the versatility of flat twists, this is the perfect hairstyle for anyone looking for a fresh take on a classic bun. Suitable for every occasion, be it staying at home or heading off on vacation, this style is a great option for keeping hair protected and off your neck and back during the hot summer months.

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.

Side Twist for Natural Hair

Instagram / @mahoganycurls

24. Protective Hairstyle with 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.

braided updo with a curly top for black hair

Instagram / @yourhair_mycare

25. Sleek Natural Hair Braid Style

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.

braided protective hairstyle for natural hair

Instagram /

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. Cornrow Updo With Mini Twist Bangs

Updos with bangs are always in a winner in our books and these mini twists are great because they offer minimal styling. Let them hang free to one side or pin them over for a sleek side-swept bang effect. Perhaps our favorite way to style twisted bangs is to pull them back into a pompadour. So chic!

29. Mini Cornrows and Fluffy Two Strand Twists

Pairing cornrows and two-strand twists is a great way to add additional texture and visual interest to a hair style. Twists add a softness that braids do not provide which makes them perfect for styles with bangs such as this one.

Protective Twisted Curled Lob

Instagram / @sandybeautyhair

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. Cute Protective Flat Twisted Updo

The simple lines of these flat twists are cute and eye-catching. Angled sections of the dark brown hair are laid out in an organized geometric pattern. It’s a practical protective hairstyle for natural hair that is fantastic on most women. The delicate laid edges add a sweet, feminine flair.

Cute Twisted Updo For Natural Hair

Instagram / @syeda_bombom

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. Braids and Flat Twists Updo for Short Hair

The combination of simple flat twists and French braids make this short hairstyle a popular way to protect your delicate and damaged hair shafts while you are between more aggressive braided styles. It’s a cute updo that shows off your natural texture even when it’s braided.

Simple Braided Updo For Short Natural Hair

Instagram / @itsdonnalianne

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. Neat Twisted Updo for Natural Hair

The diagonal side part and simple, no-nonsense lines of this twisted style work great for short natural hair. Two side twists are quick and easy to put in and take out if you don’t want to commit to a more complex protective hairdo. It’s a low-key and understated way to wear your hair when you are taking a break from products and processing.

Easy Updo For Short Natural Hair

Instagram / @dillishmathews

43. Side-Parted Twisted Bob

A chin-length bob with peek-a-boo bangs is a simple option if you’re seeking classic and timeless protective styles. The deep side part and layered twists add a bit of depth and eye-intrigue, and the sections that are directed behind one ear lend a cute asymmetrical touch. No need for unusual coloring or jewelry here; it’s just a good, self-sufficient protective hairdo.

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. Flat Twists and a Big Low Bun

The vibe of this exotic Nubian hairstyle is unique and glamorous. A stark center part and flat twists feed into a massive bun at the nape of the neck. It’s a dramatic cornrow style that is as protective as it is stunning.

Cornrow Updo With A Big Low Bun

Instagram / @chimeedwards

46. Formal Updo with Side Braids

The angled, braided sections of this side-parted updo are orderly and formal, creating a pretty hairstyle that can be worn to special events such as a wedding or holiday party. Your natural hair stays protected in braids and a low chignon bun. The result is a dainty, feminine hairdo you’ll love to wear for a while.

Side-Parted Formal Braided Updo

Instagram / @christian_byshe

47. Sleek Shiny Double Crown Braid

Not one, but two thick matching braids wrap around the head in the shape of a princess’ crown. Part it straight down the center and braid your hair safely into this protective natural hairstyle, allowing it to rest and get healthier within a few short weeks.

48. 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.

simple elegant updo for natural hair

Instagram / @afroliciouswomen

49. 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

50. 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.

Protective Updo with Twists

Instagram / @4adaniels

51. 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.

Cornrows Into Individual Twists

Instagram / @hairstress_ae

52. 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.

Asymmetrical Cornrows with Side Bun

Instagram / @modernsalon

53. 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.

54. 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.

55. 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.

56. Flat Twist Updo with Soft Twisted Bangs

This style is a perfect contender for a signature look. It’s simple and elegant with super soft bangs that are great for daily wear to work or school. It’s also totally appropriate for more formal functions. Pulling the flat twists forward adds additional protection for your rends and creates an option for trying different looks with the style. Try wrapping the ends into a bun or pinning them up in a knot. You can also experiment with pulling the twisted bangs from the face. Truly versatile.

Protective Two-Tone Short Twists

Instagram / @stylequeenbeauty

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. Box Braided Bob with Side Cornrows

How cute is this style?! We love the medium-sized box braids that add weight to the bob without being bulky and the side cornrows that add extra visual interest to what would otherwise be a simple style. The burgundy braids also elevate the style without being overwhelming and even in a still photo, you know that this is a style that is just full of movement and fun. Go ahead and imagine yourself walking in slow motion with this style and then go out and get it!

Protective Burgundy Lob Braids

Instagram / @trancascaroline

59. 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

60. Flat Twisted Updo and Bangs

When it comes to cornrows and flat twists, the parting is as much a part of the style as the actual cornrows or flat twists themselves. This flat twisted updo is a great way of experimenting with creative yet simple parting and the end result is much more interesting to look at and wear.

Natural Upstyle with Flat Twists

Instagram / @kiabia2121

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!

Protective Flat Twists Updo medium length thin box braids Upswept Protective Updo Hairstyle Protective Updo With A Headband Twist Protective Updo with Flat Twist Braids Natural Hair Updo with Twists and Curls Short Twists Protective Hairstyle Two Twist Braids For Medium Length Natural Hair Protective Cornrows and Ghana Braids Flat Twist Low Bun Protective Mohawk Hairstyle For Black Women Quick Layered Twists Hairstyle Simple Protective Updo African American Two Braids And Side Bun Updo Protective Voluminous Mohawk For Natural Hair Protective Updo Style For Short Natural Hair Bun Updo For Long Natural Hair Protective Twist Updo for Natural Hair Low Rolled Updo with a Twist Center-Parted Braided Hairstyle Twisted Updo for Natural Hair Creative Protective Twisted Upstyle Side Twist for Natural Hair braided updo with a curly top for black hair braided protective hairstyle for natural hair Protective Updo With Flat Twists Flat Twists Undo Natural Black Updo with Cornrows and Twists Protective Twisted Curled Lob Inverted Braided Mohawk Braids To Bun Protective Hairstyle Black High Twisted Bun With Cornrows Cute Twisted Updo For Natural Hair Long Fulani Braids Hairstyle Beautiful Colored Fauxlocs Black Low Bun Updo Natural Curly Updo With Twists And Curls Simple Braided Updo For Short Natural Hair Protected Twisted Natural Updo Mohawk Updo With Side Twists Two Low Buns Protective Updo Easy Updo For Short Natural Hair Protective Twisted Bob Style Two Twist Braids Hairstyle Cornrow Updo With A Big Low Bun Side-Parted Formal Braided Updo Protective Natural Hairstyle With A Double Braid simple elegant updo for natural hair High Black Braided Bun Protective Updo with Twists Cornrows Into Individual Twists Asymmetrical Cornrows with Side Bun Black Protective Twisted Updo Mohawk Braid Updo Natural Twisted Updo with Low Bun Protective Two-Tone Short Twists Protective Chunky Flat Twists Updo Protective Burgundy Lob Braids Elegant Low Bun Updo for Natural Hair Natural Upstyle with Flat Twists
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