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Top 7 Protective Hairstyles For Transitioning Hair

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As you begin transitioning from relaxed to natural hair, the new hair growth may require a revamp to your styling routine. 

But with new textures comes new opportunities. 

Protective hairstyles for transitioning hair are truly endless with braids, twists, buns, and more offering versatility and flair without adding tension to your scalp. 

If you need inspiration for transitioning hairstyles to help you along your journey, we’ve got you covered. Here are the top seven protective styles for transitioning hair that will keep your locks looking healthy and happy so you can feel confident every step of the way.

#1 Knotless Box Braids

Box braids are a classic, go-to protective style. But, for those transitioning to natural hair, the knots at the base of the braid can cause scalp tension or hair breakage.

The solution? Try knotless braids. They’re low tension, easy to install, and lightweight.

The key difference between knotless box braids and traditional box braids is the technique.1 Instead of creating a knot at the base of the braid, you start plaiting your own hair first to create a flattering, more natural look. 

Follow these steps:

  • Start with freshly washed and deep-conditioned hair. 
  • Take one divided section of detangled hair. 
  • Braid at the root with only your natural hair at first.
  • Feed in the extension as you continue to braid.

These braids also tend to last longer especially with the right products to maintain them. An oil, such as PATTERN’s Jojoba Scalp Oil, helps to keep your scalp moisturized and braids looking shiny and brand-new.

Are Braids Good for Transitioning Hair?

With braids, you can avoid many of those common big chop mistakes

With transitioning hair, you’re working with two different textures: curly vs straight, natural vs relaxed. The place where your natural texture meets the relaxed ends is considered the demarcation line, and this is the most fragile part of your hair.2 

But, braids keep your demarcation line, as well as the rest of your hair, covered and protected from the elements. They’re a lightweight, stress-free experience for your scalp and edges. That’s why braids are one of the go-to hairstyles for transitioning hair.  

#2 Bantu Knots

With deep cultural origins, this gravity-defying style is a perfect way to blend your relaxed ends with your natural texture while honoring your roots. 

But, how do you achieve this look? Here are some quick steps to help you out:

  • Step 1 – Start on freshly clean, deep conditioned locks.
  • Step 2 – Section the hair into your desired sizes. 
  • Step 3 – Take one section and two-strand twist it from roots to tips.
  • Step 4 – Wrap the twists around itself with one hand and hold the base with the other.
  • Step 5 – Secure with a rubber band or nylon hair ties.

  • Repeat these steps in each section until finished. And when you’re ready for a new style, you can unravel your knots for big, juicy curls. Two hairstyles for the price of one!

    Try PATTERN’s Styling Cream rich in shea butter and oils when twisting to guarantee joyful results. 

    #3 Cornrows

    The epitome of versatility, cornrows allow you the freedom to switch up your hairstyle at a moment's notice. This simple, go-to style tucks your transitioning locks away and gives them a much needed break. 

    Simply plait your hair texture back or into a braided bun and you’re ready to start your day. With cornrows, you have plenty of other options, too:

    • Put a wig over it
    • Add weaves or hair extensions 
    • Wear a head wrap or scarf
    • Rock your locks as-is

    Remember not to braid too tightly. You won’t want to risk breakage, especially if you wear a protective style for longer than two to three months.3

    #4 Head Wraps

    Curious how to wrap your hair with a scarf? Look no further. 

    Head wraps, scarves, and curly hair accessories of this sort add a pop of color while keeping your hair safe from environmental elements. There are plenty of ways you can style a head wrap or scarf with your transitioning hair. Here are a few ideas to explore along your hair journey:

  • Updo or top knot – Style your hair into an updo or messy bun. Then, wrap your scarf around your head or around your bun’s base.

  • Full coverage – This style is perfect with cornrows or any style that lays your hair flat and close to your scalp. Fold your square head wrap into the shape of a triangle. Place the longest side along your neck. Take the two ends and tie them into a knot behind your head.

  • Low bun – This low knot, or rosette twist, starts with a folded scarf in a triangle shape. Place the folded part along your forehead. Then, take the two ends and twist them together until they spiral. Create a bun with the spiraled twists.

  • There are two types of headscarves: square scarves and rectangular scarves. Square scarves are the most popular and easiest, especially for beginners. If you prefer to have extra fabric, then rectangular scarves are your best bet. 

    #5 Marley Twists

    This protective style combines the look of faux locs with two-strand twists and is named after reggae musician, Bob Marley. It’s a low-tension look that intertwines Marley braiding hair extensions with your transitioning locks for a fun, carefree vibe. 

    But before you can enjoy this easy protective style, it's important that you prep your hair. Your hair will be easier to manage and style if it's stretched and well moisturized. It will also help avoid excessive shrinkage. 

    So what are your stretching options?

    • Blow drying – This is the quickest and easiest option when you’re pressed on time. Make sure to keep the blow dryer at least five inches away from your strands to protect against the heat. 
    • Braiding –  A no-heat alternative is to braid your hair the night before. That way, when you wake up in the morning, your strands will be stretched and ready to go. 
    • Banding –  Another no-heat option, this method involves wrapping rubber bands down your hair to stretch it. Banding does take a bit more time compared to blow drying and braiding, but if you aren’t on the go and have the time, it will be well worth it.

    Two-Strand Twist Options

    Braids are a fun, low-tension look. However, braiding your own hair requires skill and dexterity. Two-strand twists are an easier alternative that doesn’t require a professional to do. 

    Curious as to what other two-strand twists options are out there? There are a variety of styles and looks to choose from, such as:

    • Senegalese twists
    • Passion twists
    • Mini twists
    • Jumbo twists
    • Havana twists
    • Yarn two-strand twists
    • Nubian twists
    • Flat twists
    • Three-strand twist

    And afterward, you can unravel the twists and rock a twist out for a few days to extend the style.

    #6 Flexi-Rod Sets

    While your hair transitions, you may be wondering how to achieve full, voluminous curls with two textures. With flexi-rod sets, you can blend your new hair growth with your relaxed ends and protect your strands for up to a week. 

    So, how can you achieve this look? First, you’ll need:

    For the best results, wrap a section of your hair around the flexi rods when it’s wet. Then, twist the ends of the rod to secure it in place.

    #7 Silk Press

    In between protective styles, your hair may need a little break. So, what can you do with your transitioning hair during that time? A silk press is a straightening style for textured and transitioning hair that doesn’t require the use of chemicals for a sleek look.

    You may be concerned that straightening your already fragile locks will cause heat damage. Here are a few ways to protect your curl pattern when heat styling:

    • Use a heat protectant spray before style ironing or blow-drying. 
    • Heat-style your hair on the lowest possible temperature setting. 
    • Use a leave-in conditioner such as PATTERN’s Leave-In Conditioner for all curls, coils, and textures.
    • Next time you wash your hair, follow up with a hair mask to restore curls. PATTERN’s Transition Mask can help revitalize and nourish your hair back to optimal health.

    When done occasionally, a silk press can tide you over until your hair type is ready for its next protective style.

    Protect Your Crown with PATTERN Beauty

    Protective styles give you endless options for rocking your locks while letting your hair grow and flourish. To keep your style looking sleek and spot on, make sure to incorporate hydrating transitioning hair products into your daily routine.

    Protect and hydrate your hair with PATTERN hair care products. We understand your hair needs, and our products are created with your texture in mind. Our Hydrating Hair Mask is infused with hair Rosemary Oil, inspired by ancestral home remedies. And our Scalp Serum uses essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, and rosemary for a soothing feel. Shall we say more?

    Your crown deserves to be protected and cared for as your hair transitions. We're here to help you shine during your natural hair journey!


    1.  "How To Do Knotless Box Braids." LOreal Parishttps://www.lorealparisusa.com/beauty-magazine/hair-style/braid-hairstyles/how-to-do-knotless-box-braids 
    2.  Perkins, Sabrina. "THIS is How You Avoid Breakage During a Transition to Natural Hair." Curly Nikkihttps://www.curlynikki.com/2016/08/this-is-how-you-avoid-breakage-during.html 
    3. "Hairstyles that pull can lead to hair loss." American Academy of Dermathologyhttps://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/hairstyles 
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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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