Growing up, I rarely saw black celebrities without their hair straightened. While protective styles like braids, locs, and twists have been around for centuries, they were practically nonexistent outside of smaller black communities. Even there, straight hair was considered special-occasion hair. It wasn't until my college years that I finally began to see styles like Havana twists and Fulani braids represented (and, no, they are not Bo Derek braids).
But really, protective styles are more than a trend—they’re black-girl magic personified. Not only are they relatively low-maintenance, but they're also a reminder of who I am and where my people came from. I've been keeping a running list of celebrity looks bookmarked to get me through to the fall. Loving them is easy. Choosing which to wear next? Well, good luck.
There's a reason you're seeing knotless box braids all over your feed this summer. Because the braiders start with your natural hair (instead of adding extensions at the root), it doesn't create as much tension at your scalp—meaning it's more comfortable with less chance of breakage.
Solange took her Fulani braids to the next level with beads that take up almost the entire length. Shook is not even the word.
Pearls are everywhere this season—on collars, on earrings, and definitely on locs, as Lupita Nyong'o so beautifully demonstrates.
All faux ponytails aren't created equal, and Tracee Ellis Ross leveled up both length and texture with this fishtail braid.
Braiding cornrows back into a faux pony gives you the best of both worlds: intricate style and maximum volume.
Topped off with a gold accessory, Yara Shahidi showed off not one but several three-strand braids.
Tender-headed? This may be the perfect style for you. Just put your hair up into a high bun, attach your braid, and voilà.
Take a fresh approach to a mainstream chignon by styling it with Senegalese twists. Although it may look complicated, it's anything but: Just pull back your twists into a high pony and swoop to one side.
If you're anything like me, sitting in a styling chair for hours is a killer. Larger Havana twists tremendously cut down on twisting time.
This look is a mix of two—flat twists and Bantu knots—proving there's no one way to do protective styles.
Add a layer of textural dimension to Fulani braids with defined baby hairs.
Increase the drama of long box braids by parting them into bigger sections. (Bonus: It saves braiding time and keeps maintenance to a minimum.)
Mix up standard box brands by incorporating some bright pops of color. Add some extra edge by throwing two ponytails in with pieces left out at the front.
The more braids the merrier, as this swept-back bun proves.
Want to break up the uniformity of your box braids? Add a few strands of colorful thread for some extra dimension.
Combine box braids into bigger strands and finish them off with a few floral accents for an instant protective style update.
Pick a color (any color) for an update on this classic protective style.
Some prefer the more rugged look of goddess locs versus faux locs. The ends are unsealed and a silkier hair is required. Opting for natural hair rather than synthetic to achieve the ultimate sheen is also an option.
Weaving box braids into a halo braid gives you double the texture for a truly unique look.
I'll stan for any hairstyle Jackie Aina tries, but this faux crown braid is a winner.
Who needs jewelry when you can add hair cuffs to a full halo braid? If you're looking for the illusion of straighter hair or a sleeker finish, just look for silkier Kanekalon bundles and get to braiding.