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Protective Hairstyles 101

Protective Hairstyles 101

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By Amy Elisa Jackson

It’s always protective style season. Braids & twists are a go-to for easy, travel-friendly summer hair. Plus, winter months bring a chill that only moisture & protective styles like Faux Locs or Cornrows can beat back. Protective hairstyles are also a great way for those with any curly hair type to allow their curls to grow & take a break from the tension & wear that can come from regular styling. But what’s the best style for you& what’s the best way to care for your protective styles? Let’s get into the basics of protective styling for curls, coils & tight textures. 

Do Protective Styles Help Hair Grow?

Protective styles can support hair growth by reducing the amount of daily wear & tear on your hair from manipulation. This in turn reduces breakage & allows hair to grow healthy & strong. Protective styles for natural hair can also protect your hair from environmental stressors such as sun, heat or cold. This is why protective styles can be very popular during the summer or winter. 

What is the Best Protective Style for Natural Hair?

Protective styles are a personal choice that may be determined based on your individual style, hair length, your lifestyle, or your hair’s needs. You may prefer to use your natural hair exclusively as is, or you may opt to include some extensions. The best protective style is the one that is best for you.  

Bantu Knots

Bantu knots have their roots with the Zulu people of Southern Africa. For a Bantu knot, the hair is sectioned, twisted & wrapped upon itself into “knot-like” spirals or buns. This popular hairstyle can be completed with some luscious curly hair cream, Edge Control & Edge Brush for a polished finish. 

Faux Locs

Faux locs are a temporary hairstyle designed to look like real locs. Faux locs can be created on hair as short as 2 inches. As opposed to braiding hair, which typically looks best when fresh, this style often looks better & more natural the longer you wear them. You may have also heard of goddess locs. Goddess locs are similar to faux locs except they have curly ends.

There are two methods to creating faux locs. The first method involves braiding the natural hair then wrapping extensions around the braids to create the loc-like look. This technique can be helpful in aiding moisture retention as wrapping the extensions around the hair can help seal in the hair’s natural moisture. For this reason, we encourage you to start with Curl Cleansing Shampoo, Deep Conditioner & Jojoba Scalp Oil so that each hair strand is clean & hydrated underneath any extensions. The second method involves braiding the hair then crocheting the locs into the braids. This approach is best for those using synthetic hair. 

Here are a few pro tips for those considering trying faux locs: 

  • If your locs feel stiff on the day of install, try lightly dipping them in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them. 
  • Frizz is our friend & some frizz on faux locs makes the style appear beautifully natural. However, on faux locs you want to manage the frizz a bit as you may be dealing with synthetic hair. Without proper frizz maintenance, the faux hair may become difficult to manage or deinstall. We recommend moisturizing with our Hydrating Mist & lightly trimming away a bit of the frizz to your preference.
  • Caring for faux locs includes cleansing, but instead of drenching their hair, mix our Hydration Shampoo & Water in our Mist Spray Bottle & spray the scalp. Lightly massage with fingers & thoroughly respray with clean water. You don’t want to soak the hair but you do want to eliminate any remaining shampoo and conditioner for natural hair. The process may be a bit messy but it will help the style last longer as soaked faux locs may become too loose.  
  • When de-installing faux locs, it may be best to seek the assistance of a professional or at least a friend to ensure that you don’t accidentally cut your own hair. Keep in mind that your own braids are beneath the extra hair. 


Braids are one of the most popular protective styles as they are extremely versatile & last a long time. One can experiment with a wide variety of updo braids that may include hair extensions (i.e. crochet braids or knotless braids) or a natural hairstyle such as:

  • Ghana braids
  • Cornrows
  • Fulani Braids
  • Box Braids
  • French braids
  • Halo braid
  • French braid 

This style may be great if you work out frequently. The tightness of the braids helps to maintain the style even during co-washing out sweat. 

Here are a few tips on caring for braids: 

  • Similar to faux locs, you want to focus on shampooing just the scalp; however, braids can withstand a traditional shampoo. 
  • When shampooing, massage vertically between the braids to keep the hair laying in the direction of the hair. Avoid creating unnecessary friction. 
  • Because braids can trap water, it’s important to both rinse & dry thoroughly as you want to avoid allowing any mildew or fungus to grow in the hair. You may choose to only complete this wash process once or twice during the entire time you wear this protective style. For more information, read our blog post about how to plop your hair properly. 
  • Moisturize with our Jojoba Oil Blend or Argan Oil Blend to keep your natural hair underneath moisturized.


    A top knot, messy loose bun or chic low bun are sleek & easy protective styles that can prevent your hair from experiencing too much wear & tear while transitioning hair. If wearing repeatedly, we encourage being very selective about the gel you use to slick back your hair. Use a Strong Hold Gel with humectants such as Sea Moss or Aloe & opt for an Edge Control with Castor Oil for hair. Moisturizing & hydrating natural hair care products help ensure that your hair remains healthy as some gels may dry out healthy hair or block moisture when used repeatedly. For those who will repeatedly wear a bun, it is recommended to pull the hair loosely into a Satin Scrunchie instead of a traditional ponytail holder. The satin will protect ends. Loosely holding the bun instead of tight styles will protect the hair & scalp. While a traditional ponytail holder is great for a special occasion, if you plan on wearing your bun for a few days, you may want a hair accessory that will reduce the probability of tangles or knots. Also, keep in mind to protect the outer layers of your high bun that are still exposed while you sleep. Wrap your hair in a satin scarf or sleep on a silk pillowcase. 


    Twists are created by twisting two small sections of hair around one another from root to tip. Twists can be either very thick or thin. This protective hairstyle can be left in for days or weeks. It is easy to wash hair while in loose twists once or twice. They are easy to take down making them a favorite of protective style lovers.  

    Senegalese twists, sometimes referred to as rope twists, can be created on natural hair or using extensions according to your preference. They can be thick or thin depending on your style & can easily protect your hair from the elements.  Marley Twists & Havana Twists can incorporate synthetic hair or extension hair to create the look. Flat twists lay flatly against the scalp in a cornrow-like manner. This style can also create a beautiful corkscrew-like curl in the form of a twist out when unraveled. Other twist styles we love include:

    • Passion twists
    • Mini twists
    • Coil twists

    Afros and Puffs

    While hair is still left out in these styles, they are still technically considered protective styles as they lift the hair off of clothing & jewelry which may cause friction. However, it is cautioned that tighter textures pay careful attention to how they style their afros & puffs. Loose tight hair texture has a tendency to curl on themselves making them vulnerable to knots & tangles. Using a heavier Styling Cream or Curl Gel to smooth the cuticle & provide a little weight can help prevent knots. Also, deep conditioning hair with a restorative, hydrating formula like our Intensive Conditioner or Heavy Conditioner can help keep hair supple & soft making it less prone to unpliable tangles & snagging.

    What is the Longest-Lasting Protective Style?

    If you’re looking for a low-maintenance protective style that will last you for a while, natural hair box braids are an excellent option. Knotless box braids can last up to two or three months in the braided style. The tightness of the braid itself allows for more frequent washing without the hair expanding & moving. For this reason, the style lasts longer. Box braids are also excellent for reducing knots & tangles due to the tight & tidy braiding pattern that prevents a lot of movement amongst the strands.

    What is the Most Protective Hairstyle?

    The aforementioned hairstyles are all highly protective. The key is to not allow the hairstyle itself to become the source of stress on your strands. Protective hairstyles such as braids or faux locs may require some tension to create & can have risks of their own if worn frequently without breaks. Let’s talk about how to protect your hair while wearing simple protective styles.

    It’s important to always protect your hair. A protective hairstyle can protect your hair from repeated friction, wear & tear. However, you still want to make sure that your hair is healthy in those styles. Washing your hair regularly with protective hair products such as a slarifying shampoo & using a hydrating conditioner can ensure that your hair stays moisturized. Treating braids & twists with oils such as our Argan Oil Blend or Jojoba Oil Blend can help protective styles retain moisture as well. A daily refresher such as our Hydrating Mist can revive hair & rehydrate hair between wash days. 

    Avoid wearing your hair in the same style for 6-7 months. When you love a style it can be tempting to take a two-day break & then repeat it immediately. However, switching up your style gives different parts of your hair a chance to breathe & grow. For example, if the style you love requires tension around the hairline, you may want to alternate with a style that does not, so that the follicles & strands around your hairline have a break from those stressors. This can prevent unnecessary breakage.

    Take care of your scalp as well. Tight protective styles can create tension on the scalp, & when worn repeatedly, can cause traction alopecia, a form of hair loss. Be sure to let your scalp relax from time to time, avoid wearing styles that are too tight, & pamper your scalp with oils like our Scalp Serum which contains Lavender, Peppermint, & hair Rosemary Oil

    What’s your favorite protective style for the season? How do you normally take care of your protective styles? 


    1. BGLG Marketplace. 3 Protective Styles for Maximum Length Retention of Type 4 Hair. Accessed July 11, 2021. https://bglh-marketplace.com/2013/07/3-protective-style-regimens-for-maximum-length-retention-of-type-4-hair/#:~:text=When%20it%20comes%20to%20length,a%20longer%20duration%20than%20twists.

    2. Byrdie. The Complete Guide to Two-Strand Twist Hairstyles Accessed July 11, 2021. https://www.byrdie.com/all-about-twists-or-two-strand-twists-hairstyles-400274

    3. Black Hair Information. Shrunken Afro, A Protective Style?  Accessed July 11, 2021. https://blackhairinformation.com/by-type/natural-hair/shrunken-afro-a-protective-style/

    4. Naturally Curly. Are buns an effective protective style? And are hair doughnuts safe?  Accessed July 11, 2021. https://www.naturallycurly.com/questions/hair-and-health/are-buns-an-effective-protective-style-and-are-hair-doughnuts-safe-1067#:~:text=buns%20can%20be%20truly%20protective,too%20tightly%20on%20your%20roots

    5. Byrdie. A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Bantu Knots Accessed July 11, 2021.  https://www.byrdie.com/bantu-knots-5075639#:~:text=What%20Are%20Bantu%20Knots%3F,to%20form%20a%20spiraled%20knot

    6. Glamour. 31 Cool Protective Hairstyles You’ll Want to Try This Year Accessed July 11, 2021. https://www.glamour.com/gallery/cute-protective-styles

    7. This is Essential. Protective Styling; Everything You Need To Know About Faux Locs. Accessed July 11, 2021. https://www.thisisess.com/protective-styling-everything-you-need-to-know-about-faux-locs/#:~:text=What%20are%20Faux%20Locs%3F,the%20base%20for%20the%20dread.

    8. Loccessories. Everything You Need To Know About Faux Locs: Newbie Questions Answered Accessed July 11, 2021. https://loccessories.com/everything-you-needed-to-know-about-faux-locs/#:~:text=Yes.,as%20two%20inches%20of%20hair

    9. Neroli salon & spa. How to care for your braids Accessed July 11, 2021. https://nerolisalonspa.com/2020/08/24/how-to-care-for-your-braids/


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    Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

    With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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