As a Black African woman, my hair is my crown . I have been blessed with tightly coiled hair that can be skillfully shaped into a multitude of gorgeous hairstyles, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
My hair is super kinky. It is wild. It is free. I just love my hair. And for the record, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my hair for as long as I can remember, but in the recent years, I’ve really grown to love my hair — deeply!
Don’t get me wrong, my hair is nothing like my fabulous sistahs’ on YouTube with absolutely long and luscious tresses. Oh no no no it isn’t. My 4C hair is just a little past my shoulders and I still struggle with breakage, dryness, split ends, length retention, dandruff, and you know, all that we 4C naturalistas complain about. But the love I have for my hair is mainly because it is so much healthier than it’s ever been in my entire adult life and I just feel really good about it. Enough about my hair, for now, let’s get to my protective styles.
This kinky hair of mine has a high propensity for dryness and brittleness, and this is something I always have to deal with; hence protective styling. Protective hairstyles help me limit the stress environmental factors have on my natural hair. And when it comes to protective styling, braids are my absolute favourite.
Braids are an easy and oh so pleasant way to forget about hair styling for weeks thanks to their low maintenance; giving your hair some much-needed rest and protecting it from harsh environmental factors. Plus, with braids, their versatility is unmatched. Braids can go from the boardroom to a night out with your girls or your boo, from a black-tie event to a family barbecue and you will still look absolutely stunning. Braids work in any and every occasion and I absolutely love them.
Braided hairstyles leave lots of room for creativity, with the different intricate braiding techniques making every style unique. Besides, you can experiment with length, colour, texture, accessories, patterns, shapes, etc. Once you pick a desired braiding style and have your hair braided, you may shape your braids into gorgeous hairstyles both for every day and special events.
However, before getting your braids done, make sure that your hair is clean and healthy enough to handle the installation; because when your hair is already weak, the manipulation of the braids or twists could easily cause breakage to your fragile strands. Therefore, a good hydrating shampoo and deep condition are a definite must before braids are installed. Also, too tight braids/twists are the biggest no-no. This will only cause permanent damage and hair loss which is the total opposite of what you are seeking to achieve with a protective style.
Another important thing to practice is to try not to keep your braids/twists in too long (4 – 6 weeks is my magic number). And also, give your hair a break from protective styles from time to time. It’s best to opt for natural hairstyles such as a braid/twist out during your time off to let your hair and scalp breathe before the next protective style.
Protective style options can be overwhelming and you may not always know where to start. So here are my favourite braiding/protective styles ideas for inspiration!
Box braids are top of my list as regards braiding styles. They are just a fun hairstyle which can be worn at any time of the year. Box braids offer an excellent opportunity to extend one’s hair length and could be worn in a variety of ways where you could look like the girl-next-door on one day and exquisitely polished the next. There was a time when most people considered box braids only as a vacation hairstyle, but with the explosion of the natural hair movement, you will find more and more box braids in boardrooms and even worn to formal events like weddings and black-tie events.
One of the best things about box braids is that they are extremely low maintenance and look lovely in any colour, length and size. However, as a slight word of caution, if you have weak brittle hair it may be advisable to stay away from the very long and thick braids, because the hair extensions used may exert an uncomfortable amount of weight on your hair which might lead to hair breakage. On the other hand, the really thin or micro box braids may look aesthetically pleasing but they also put lots of tension on your hair because the hair sections are really small. These are all important things to consider before installing your braids.
When that time of the year comes when all you want to do is chill out, relax on some beach somewhere and care only about your bottomless mimosas and mojitos, the last thing you want to worry about is your hairstyle. In other words, box braids are the perfect vacation hair. Even though just letting you braids fall freely are a perfect way to style your hair for a relaxed carefree look, other awesome ways to style your braids include an elegant bun or an updo if you are ready to rock a formal look, whip your braids to one side for a side-swept sexy look (perfect for date night), add in some gold cuffs or beads to jazz up your braids or just dress up your braids with a scarf if you are going for something with more flair. Limitless styling options.
Personally, I do not wear coloured braids. I love them on others but on me, I’ve never felt comfortable in any coloured hair extensions. My favourite ways to wear my box braids: Side-swept, half up and down and top bun. And when it comes to accessorizing, given that headwraps are my thing, you would often see my braids tied in a high bun with a very colourful scarf or headwrap. Box braids – what’s not to love?
Cornrows are some of the most popular protective hairstyles, widely used and adapted by modern-day stylists all over the world. With cornrows, your hair is done (and looks fantastic!) the moment you wake up — every day; reason why many women, young and older, usually opt for this hairstyle to help their natural hair rest from styling and the daily wear and tear…well, at least for up to 6 weeks, which is approximately the longest time you should leave them in.
Cornrows can be with or without extensions (though it is preferable with extensions for a more polished and long-lasting look), chunky or thin plaits or even alternating both plaits to create texture and dimension, more intricately styled like the Ghana or Fulani braids, worn plain or styled with gold cuffs or beads … the styling is just limitless.
Throughout history, cornrows have been used to create simple and beautiful styles, and over time more modern and elaborate looks have been created with intricate braiding patterns, bold colours and hair accessories. However, cornrows do not need to be complicated for them to look stunning. Simple, small cornrows deserve just as much praise as complex African cornrows designs and patterns. They are just so versatile and so many amazing styles are available for you to try, so all what’s left is for you to get creative.
How do I like my cornrows? Medium cornrows with super long extensions. Too thick or too tiny cornrows put a lot of tension on my hair strands, which I am always trying to avoid when doing a protective style. I also love to wear my cornrows in a minimalistic way — just as they are, with very few or no other embellishments, letting the braids and braiding pattern be the star all by themselves.
Want a protective style that oozes effortless elegance, go for Senegalese twists (also known as rope twists). Senegalese twists are a protective style which serves as a very essential addition to any hair styling repertoire not only for its functionality but for its versatility as well. They are an easier alternative to box braids, are gorgeous in all lengths and sizes, but as an added advantage, can be done with Marley hair extensions as well.
As with box braids, you can customize your twists in a myriad of ways; size, colour, length, accessories. For a unique take on large Senegalese twists, add in a few light highlights using colours such as caramel or copper which look amazing with black hair. Curling the ends of your Senegalese twists is another beautiful way to customize this do.
Styling Senegalese twists is an absolute breeze – throw them into a half updo, mid-parting, side-swept or high ponytail look and feel like a queen. If you are patient enough to sit for long hours, try out micro twists. They are just like hair, very lightweight, only more polished, and more manageable. Wrap your twists into a chic little updo or a low side ponytail with a rolled detail to elevate your style with more texture and visual interest for any elegant and formal setting. So chic!
I love my Senegalese twists medium or thick in size and very long to my waist, usually worn as a high bun if I’m going for an elegant look. But sometimes to switch things up I get medium Senegalese twists with intricate cornrows on the side, to achieve the mohawk appearance. This is a great look if you want something edgy but you don’t want to go all the way by shaving the sides of your head. From the sandy beaches to the boardrooms, with Senegalese twists, you are guaranteed to look stunning.
Dreadlocks have a long, rich and beautiful history and culture attached to them. Faux (fake) locs allow anyone who loves locs but isn’t ready or simply doesn’t want to go the permanent route of actually loc’ing their hair, to experience the dreadlocks look. They are fun and dramatic and are an absolute breeze to style — whether wrapped up in top bun or side-swept for a sexy look, your only limitation is your imagination. I have a soft spot for super long goddess faux locs styled accessorized with a few scattered gold cuffs, casually side swept for a sexy look.
Something to be aware of with this look is that this style requires twice the amount of hair needed for regular braids, hence the extra weight which takes some getting used to or can get uncomfortable for some. However, you could always choose to use crochet faux locs which weigh far less and are equally very pretty; so be sure to check out all the available options before deciding to rock this do. And just like with any braided style, you can play with colour, length, texture and accessories to personalize to your liking.
Faux locs are the perfect vacation hair; especially the goddess or mermaid version of this style. You can experiment and personalize as you like and they will still look so sexy and absolutely stunning on anyone. However, if you want to wear your faux locs to the office, it’s best you avoid the ultra-long locs and stick to neutral colours like black or dark brown with little to no hair cuffs or accessories, so as not to garner unwanted attention to your hair or yourself at the office. Meanwhile, if you are working in a creative non-conventional workplace, then experiment away and enjoy your locs.
Personally, I love dreadlocks so much and will be loc’ing my hair permanently this year. I have put it off for so long but have finally set a date and all of that with my hair person. But if you happen to see me in faux locs, chances are they will be done as crochets in mermaid or boho locs. I am obsessed with those styles. I love them long to mid-back at least, with just a few gold coloured hair cuffs here and there. Styling-wise, a bun or headwrap is my go-to, but for dates or night outs or beach weddings, side-swept locs cascading down my back and shoulders. Incredibly sexy…😜
Some protective styles like box braids or thick cornrows can pull on your edges or weigh your strands down, which is the exact opposite you desire when going for a protective hairstyle. In order to combat this, you can opt for 2-strand flat twists.
Two strand flat twists are the simplest and quickest style when it comes to hair braiding techniques. They have been a go-to style for African women for generations. With today’s trends, these twists have evolved into a multitude of captivating styles. A flat twist updo is adorable and convenient for women who are active but still want to look beautiful. So, whether you choose to add in extensions to your twists or use your really long hair, the sky is the limit for what you can create with flat twist braids.
Due to the texture of black hair, flat twists hold just as well as 3 strand braids and open up the doors for a variety of both easy and complex looks. However, they are a lot easier to create than regular cornrows because you are essentially just twisting the hair. Sometimes you can even combine regular 3 strand braids with your flat twists for a statement look. If you are a working woman who wants a cute and low maintenance hairstyle with lots of personality to make you stand out, but minimal stress on your strands, flat twists are definitely the way to go.
Twists are one of those vintage coifs that have twisted their way back into a new wave of popularity, from the sweet ultra-feminine low bun to the funky mohawk with flat-twisted sides to the polished and sophisticated fancy twisted updo or chignon with asymmetrical twists. Flat twists are simple, charming and appropriate for all occasions and age range. They are excellent for kids because they put very minimal stress on the hair strands. Experiment with twists size, parting, plaiting angles and accessories. Your style will never be boring again!
Flat twist hairstyles are fun to wear and convenient for a variety of reasons – be it work, weather or the desire for a new look. Most salons can produce the more elaborate twist looks, while the simpler ones can be done at home or with a friend. The trick to excellent twisted hair is using a quality hair product and making sure your hair is as healthy as can be. My go-to flat twists style? Anyone. Any which way I do two strand flat twists, they always look pretty. I love to add in extensions to my twists though, so they look more polished and last longer. And in case I’m going for a sophisticated and glamorous look, a couple of flat twists fed into a high or low bun produces an absolutely stunning result.
Is there anything as chic or sophisticated as the timeless bob? As a matter of fact, there is – Bob Braids! Braids don’t have to be very long to look absolutely sublime. A shoulder-length style is just as lovely, elegant and edgy and oftentimes more practical, taking a slim to zero effort to maintain. What’s not to love?
Classic bobs are sleek and smooth, so to shake things up a bit, why not add in some vivid colours woven into a few strands of your braids or add some hair jewellery? You can choose to have your bob braids done as 2 strand twists or 3 strand braids or even faux locs, in any size of your choosing, with a side, middle or no parting and still look gorgeous in this style. They are perfect in any of these styles and for any age.
Are you looking for a protective style that’s unique, with the perfect amount of sass? Chin length bob braids are right along that alley. Easy to style, universally flattering, and extraordinarily versatile, bob braids can go from edgy to polished, ranging from short (just below the jawline) to mid-length (shoulder or base of the neck) to long (below clavicle to breast bone.) — so maybe it’s time to explore a brand new ‘do.
A bob braided hairstyle will suit everyone and suit any occasion. This is a style that can go from cute to sexy, and quirky to edgy in one turn. A blunt lob (long-er bob) is a classic silhouette which gives just the right amount of hair to frame the face beautifully, proving that braids don’t have to be complicated to look amazing. I love my box braids at that length that goes just past the shoulders keeping it simple or with just a few accessories to jazz up the hair.
These right here are the latest addition to my protective styles. This hairstyle has so many different names I can’t even keep up. I call it passion twists but you will hear other names like spring twists, bomb twists, fluffy twists or bohemian (boho) twists; but just know it’s essentially the same hairstyle maybe with minute variations.
So what are passion twists? These are basically a beautiful blend of Senegalese twists and goddess locs. They’re a new form of two-strand twists that are done using wavy hair extensions, creating a boho look with more texture.
Passion twists are the epitome of sexy hair. I am currently obsessed with them. If there is one hairstyle you would like to choose for vacation, passion twists are the way to go; incredibly light, with a free-spirit vibe to them, they are low maintenance and as a winning argument: they look better with time, which is an excellent thing because you may want to rock them for a fair bit of time before taking them down. One of the best ways to wear Passion twists: long and flowy or side-swept for a sweet and sassy style, letting their curly texture shine. But you can also opt for a messy updo or simple top bun. Whichever way you choose to wear your passion twists, you are sure to have heads turning in admiration.
When it comes to hairstyles, I may not be big on colour. But if there is one particular hairstyle where colour just makes the hairstyle bloom even more, it’s passion twists. These twists are exceptionally beautiful with the addition of colour with either one hue for all your braids or a beautiful blend of 2 or more colours for a multi-tone look. Have fun injecting pizzazz to your hairstyle through colour and/or hair accessories.
There’s nothing more to add concerning these twists. Just admire the sultriness and marvel at their beauty! They are so lightweight and sexy as hell. These twists scream vacation. So do not hesitate to try them out on your next vacation, or you know, just because 🤷🏾♀️. You will find them extremely beautiful in whichever case. I love my passion twists medium and very long … but who am I kidding? I love them any which way and would wear them all year long if I could.
Last but definitely not least on my list of go-to protective styles are crochet braids. Crochet braiding is a technique used to add hair extensions through a looping method to your natural hair to create a distinct hairstyle. Crochet braids, also sometimes called latch hook braids, are typically made from synthetic hair extensions which are looped under cornrows using a crochet needle (essentially a hook) and secured with a knot of sorts. So, in essence, crochet braids are not about the hair itself, but it’s actually the method being used to add the hair. These crochet styles can look mesmerizingly real despite being nothing more than hair extensions attached to natural hair.
In addition to being modish, crochet braids are exceptionally easy to install and are low maintenance afterwards. Depending on the type of hair you utilize, it’s possible to pull off just about any type of style. They run the gamut of existing protective hairstyles – box braids, Senegalese twists, faux locs, passion twists, bouncy curls, have your pick. The customization options are simply unlimited since everything from the length, colour and texture can be varied according to personal preference, allowing you to express your unique style.
Another perk to this style is that it protects the integrity of your natural hair. With crochet braids you could wear box braids, Senegalese twists or faux locs without having to sit for long hours to have them individually done, nor deal with all the extra weight from heavy hair extensions. Because the entire head of hair is braided and tucked under the extensions during the duration of the hairstyle, it is an ideal styling option for someone who has delicate strands or is just trying to grow their hair out or cover up bald edges.
I am very much a big hurrr don’t currr girl. I love big bouncy curls. But since I can’t recreate this hairstyle with my natural hair, I rely on crochet braids to achieve this look. It’s big, bold and incredibly sexy. Also a favourite style of mine. I also prefer crochet braids for my faux locs styles. Crochet locs are just easier to install and lighter to wear and so I don’t have to weigh down my hair strands with heavy extensions. All in all crochet braids are a definite must for any protective style repertoire.
One of the main reasons why people choose a protective style is due to their extreme low maintenance. But remember, the ‘set it and forget it’ method doesn’t work if you’re looking to maintain healthy hair while braided up; your hair absolutely still needs to be cared for while in a protective style! So, to get the most out of your braids, spraying a lightweight leave-in conditioner to your hair is a great way to keep your hair underneath healthy and hydrated. Also, make sure you protect your braids at night with a satin bonnet. If your braids are too long and can’t be completely covered with a satin bonnet or scarf, pile your braids into a pineapple or loose high bun and sleep on a satin pillowcase.
So, before getting any protective style, always do your research and get advice from your hairstylist when it comes to choosing:
- the type of hair extensions
- the number of packs of hair
- the best length and
that would work best for your face shape and complexion so that you can achieve the most flattering look.
Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to protective hairstyles so start freely experimenting with some of these styles. You can style chic, sophisticated hairstyles for special occasions or rock your styles every day in simple and effortless ‘dos. The diversity of protective styles knows no limits, so feel free to get inspired and go on and be your flawless self.