Maintaining natural, type 4 hair can be a lot of work. Tight coils need to be detangled very gently, styled using a strategic cocktail of curl products, and deep-conditioned religiously — all of that can tire out your arms. Daily styling can exhaust your strands, too, which is why wearing protective styles for natural hair every now and again is a great idea.
Protective styles “give your hair an opportunity to breathe which allows for length retention, and ultimately sustained growth,” founder and CEO of Heat Free HairNgozi Opara tells Bustle. Braids, of course, are probably one of the most common go-tos for protective styling. I used to be a fan, but the last few times I’ve worn braids I found myself taking them out shortly afterward. My scalp just couldn’t take the tension, and I started getting nervous about traction alopecia which Lulu Pierre, former hairstylist and founder of Boho Locs, tells Bustle can happen if your coils get braided too tightly.
“If there is too much tension on the hair follicle, it will cause the follicle to release the strand,” she explains. Breakage can also ensue if you (or your stylist) install too much hair — gravity takes its tolls on the extra weight and “this can cause permanent damage to the hair follicle and hair loss,” says Dr. Kari Williams, a trichologist and celebrity stylist who’s worked with Meagan Good and Ayesha Curry. Williams reminds her clients that protective styles are simply meant to give your natural hair a break from daily manipulation and don't have to be created with extensions. Traditional cornrows and two-strand twists can be just as fantastic.
Now that I’ve been on the hunt for looks that won’t cause as much tension, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of other options to chose from. Read on for five protective styles for natural hair, that are quick, cute, and super easy to maintain.