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Beautiful Protective Styles for Short Hair

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Short hair can seem like a one-hit-wonder, but with a little imagination, there are many ways to style it, particularly when it comes to protective styling. Depending on your hair's length, you can try looks without any additional extensions or try shoulder-length styles that can last up to six weeks.

Twisted Updo

Twist-outs are among the most popular protective styles, not to mention some of the most versatile. To keep your twists hydrated, try the LOC (leave-in, oil, cream) or LCO (leave-in, cream, oil) method to lock in the good stuff from your products.

Bantu Knots

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

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I love a Bantu knot, and Rihanna's cropped knots show off her beautiful face while protecting her natural texture. Bantu knots can act as a simple way to create waves in the hair, so to keep your options open, use a lightweight gel, like Dove's Amplified Textures Shine & Moisture Finishing Gel ($7) for a soft, flexible hold.

Face-Framing Pop of Color

@amandlastenberg

Amandla Stenberg's braided bob has an element of surprise, thanks to the lavender face-framing highlights. If lavender isn't your color, don't be afraid to try an alternative to add a pop.

Juicy Twists

@stacysinterlude

For strong and hydrated hair

Learn more

Twists are a go-to protective style for most naturals, regardless of hair length. Amanda Stacy Wicks's juicy twists are easy to recreate on short hair and can be an effective way to combat breakage.

Braided Bob

Subtle loose ends on a braided bob give this style some texture and make for a beautiful short protective 'do any time of the year.

Ombré Mini Twists

@_harrisjanae_

Hair color wax is one of our favorite products because you can try bright colors without damaging your hair. Since hair color wax rinses out easily, if you grow tired of your blue hair, you can rinse it away without taking out your protective twists.

Mini Braids

ishonest No.312 - Prevent Acne

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@jourdandunn

A bunch of little braids, like these seen on Jourdan Dunn, are an easy and fun way to keep short hair protected for summer—or any time of year. Aside from helping keep hair moisturized, mini braids are easy to wash (or co-wash) without too much disruption.

Beaded Braids

@yarashahidi

Yara Shahidi's braids take me back to my childhood, but she makes the look, well, Grown-ish with muted regal colors and soft glam makeup.

Fanned-Out Braids

Volume and structure for your hair

Learn more

A truly regal protective style for short hair, Danai Gurira's set of braids stays close to her head at the top, then evolves into a statement bob, with loose ends creating a silhouette that stands out from the crowd.

Pink Braided Bob

No matter the season, this pastel pink bob will protect your curls and turn heads. You may have to get your stylist to custom-make this color for you, but it will be worth the wait.

Bob-Length Locs

Faux locs can be heavy, especially when they're long. Try a bob length so you can still rock the style without the extra weight.

Short Jumbo Braids

@protectivestyles

ishonest No.232 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

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These large plaits offer up a great way to protect and stretch your coils at the same time. If you’re concerned about unraveling ends, try adding poly-bands to your ends. These are a better choice than traditional rubber bands since they won’t snag the hair and cause breakage.

Gold Embellished Twists

@curlycandi

Gold-adorned mini twists are a stylish way to minimize manipulation that can cause breakage. If you find your ends getting dry, wet them and apply a little olive oil.

Loc'd Updo

This beautiful updo can work for locs and minis. Be sure to keep your hair and scalp moisturized along the way. To do this, I fill a continuous spray bottle with water and aloe, spritzing it liberally when my hair feels dry.

Cropped Bantu Knots

Activates the microcirculation of scalp and strengthens the hair follicles to stimulate hair growth

Learn more

If you have a cropped natural cut, mini Bantus are a great way to switch things up. You'll need a good pomade to keep edges in place. I enjoy using Oyin's Handmade Burnt Sugar Pomade ($14) as edge control because it keeps my 4C hair in place, and is made with a mix of hydrating butters and candelilla wax.

Box-Braid Bob

@zaziebeetz

If you can't tell, I'm a sucker for a bob. What I love about this chin-length cut is how simple yet sleek it is.

Classic Cornrows

@naturalhairstylestz

ishonest No.172 - Pre-Sun Exposure

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Cornrows are a protective style classic. Learning how to braid your own hair can take some practice, but once you get the gist of it, you'll be asking yourself why you didn't learn sooner.

An Angled, Twisted Bob

@jaleesa

The slim twists and angled shape take this look up a notch. You may need to find a way to seal the ends so they don’t unravel.

Beaded Cornrows

A protective style that doubles as a Met Gala-worthy updo, Issa Rae's cornrows look has a sleek profile. Achievable with a short to medium length, the style's highlight is face-framing pieces with bold beading, a creative aesthetic that takes the place of a statement earring.

The Headwrap

@ceeceesclosetnyc

Headwraps are a great go-to protective style. Remember to wrap your hair in a silk or satin scarf first to shield your hair underneath.

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