11 Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair That Are Trending in 2022

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Ask anyone in the natural hair community and they’ll tell you how essential protective hairstyles are to keeping hair healthy. Whether it’s the dead of winter or the hottest day of the year, there are plenty of looks to minimize manipulation, promote hair growth and reduce tangles. There are the classics (i.e. box braids), the low-maintenance ‘dos (i.e. top bun or wigs) and the latest trends at your disposal. So, whatever look you’re interested in, we asked a few hairstyles to give us the most popular protective hairstyles for natural hair to try out in 2022.

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1. Bantu Knots

In 2022 (and forever honestly), you’ll see Bantu knots pop up everywhere. “Bantu knots are beyond a trend,” says Marty Harper, celebrity hairstylist and texture expert. “It’s a style that hits season after season. You’ve seen celebs like Rihanna, Cardi B and Yara Shahidi rocking this style in some incarnation. It’s protective, stylish and an easy look for all hair types.”

The best part is you don’t have to book a salon appointment. Harper suggests prepping your hair at home with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner before using a leave-in to help detangle and divide your sections. Once that’s all set, start twisting each section clockwise before wrapping the twisted piece around itself until the ends are secured tightly and repeat. (If you’re a beginner, consider a hair tie or bobby pins to keep them in place.) The fun part is you can decide the placements, the number of buns and the size.

2. Flat Twists

“This classic style has been popular for decades with no hint of slowing down,” Monae Everett, celebrity hairstylist and texture expert, tells us. “Twists are a versatile option that people love because they can be created and styled in so many ways.” Grab two sections before wrapping them together to create a singular braid. Again, it’s totally up to you how many twists you want to show off. Everett recommends refreshing the style using a mousse (like the African Pride Moisture Miracle Rose Water & Argan Oil Curl Mousse) that can reduce frizz and dullness. Once you apply it on the twists, wrap a silk scarf around your hair until it dries. The second you remove the scarf, it’ll look spankin’ new again.

3. Faux Locs

While traditional locs take more time and maintenance, some folks are opting for the popular look minus the full commitment. “We will see a lot of fake locs of all colors and lengths and people [in general] wearing a lot of very modern hairstyles [with them],” notes Felicia Leatherwood, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Brush with the Best. “These styles are temporary, and give you the opportunity to try something new without fully committing to the locs.” Although they’re easier to maintain, Leatherwood still recommends keeping hair moisturized and conditioned with a good ol’ leave-in conditioner (like Carol’s Daughter).

4. Ready-to-wear Wigs

Sometimes you want to give your hair a break, or at least experiment with a new look without actually making it a permanent style or color. Enter ready-to-wear wigs. “This wig style is so popular because of the ease and simplicity associated with it,” per Brittany Johnson, licensed hairstylist and senior content manager for Mayvenn. “Lace fronts are amazing, but they do require some level of wig expertise. Ready-to-wear styles are low-maintenance and often have a limited amount of lace and parting space, so they require less customization.”

5. Knotless Braids

Knotless box braids are a low manipulation hairstyle that supports hair growth and protects the wearer’s hair from split ends, breakage and dryness,” says Annagjid “Kee” Taylor, celebrity hairstylist and natural hair YouTube creator. “They can be styled in a variety of ways, from long to thick to evoking the Poetic Justice 90's aesthetic.” When it comes to knotless braids, stick to a wash and styling routine that can better help maintain the look. Taylor recommends a scalp cleanser, hair oil, foaming mousse and bonnet to protect, clean and condition braids.

6. Cornrows

We can’t emphasize enough how braids will always be a staple in the protective hairstyle world. Just look at cornrows for proof. “Cornrows are versatile and can be worn in a plethora of styles,” Everett tells us. “It can be a base style to hide underneath crocheted styles or it can be used as a way to set the hair for waves. Cornrows have stood the test of time and it’s a hairstyle that dates back to ancient Africans.” So, whether you want a laidback look, or you’re interested in channeling your inner Zendaya with waist-length braids, cornrows can be anything you want them to be. To protect your strands and scalp for the next few weeks, consider cleansers and conditioning products to maintain moisture, reduce frizz and keep look refreshed.

7. Princess Ponytails

Trends come and go, but the classics are always here to stay. However, this year we’re going big…literally. “[Ponytails] are a forever trend,” Leatherwood insists. “It’s classic, easy and complements every hair type. [But] for 2022, we’ll specifically see the full princess pony.” Celebs like Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union and Ciara have recently rocked these voluminous, waist-length ponytails. It’s the low-maintenance ‘do that definitely makes a statement. Leatherwood also suggests sleeking down your baby hairs to bring the whole look together.

8. Goddess Braids

Goddess braids continue to be a timeless protective style that works with every season. While box braids are great, goddess braids take it a step further. “This style definitely is a modern twist on knotless or traditional box braid singles, but the extra fun part is that you can include wavy and curly hair throughout your braids to create a more ethereal look,” Johnson tells us.

9. Fulani Braids

Fulani braids are all about getting the best of both worlds. “This style incorporates two braiding [techniques]: cornrows in the front and box braids in the back. A stylist can truly flaunt their creativity through this style,” Taylor explains. Also known as feed-in braids, Fulani braids are not only chic but, hold a cultural significance, as they are derived from the Fulani people of West Africa and the Sahel region. Hence why it’s encouraged to customize your braids by adding accessories like beads, shells or accents. Taylor also recommends checking out Pinterest for more style ideas and techniques to show your braider.

10. Extensions

FYI, braids and twists aren’t the only methods that fall under the protective styles umbrella. Extensions are a great alternative, and believe it or not, they can be worn in quite a few different ways. From sewn-ins to clip-ins, the style is a popular pick this year. Everett notes, “Many people love to use sewn-in extensions as a way to transition from relaxed to natural hair. This style is protective because the ends of the hair are tucked away and don't need to be manipulated daily. While the sewn-in hair extensions of today are styled a bit differently than the ones of the ‘90s, they are just as popular. More recently, people are wearing long hair extensions and more natural-appearing curly and coily hair textures.”

11. Baby Hair Galore

Here’s a sign not to neglect your edges. Leatherwood proclaims, “Baby hair is the rage! It’s here now and we’ll see more people incorporating baby hair intricate looks in their everyday hairstyles to add some individual style.” When it comes to sleeking down your edges, don’t be afraid to experiment with every swirl, swoop or length. Just grab a stronghold gel, an edge brush and go to work on your baby hairs. Plus, take it a step further and bedazzle (like Alicia Keys) for an all-out glam moment.