What are Some Protective Styles for Short Hair?

Woman with Bantu knots
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Reader Question: What are Some Protective Styles for Short Hair?

My hair is too short for traditional protective styles like braids and twists, but I want it to grow longer. What styles can I wear to protect my hair even though it's only a couple of inches long?


Let's say you've recently done the Big Chop. You're enjoying Total Hair Freedom right about now, which is wonderful! After a while, though, you may be looking for more versatility, and you really want your hair to be longer.

You know how beneficial protective styling is, but your hair's only a couple of inches long. Are there styles that will keep tresses this short protected?

The answer is yes -- you may have fewer styling options than ladies with more length, but there are ways to keep your delicate ends from drying out and breaking off. Plus, all of these styles multi-task: you can wear them as-is for several hours or days, then undo them and enjoy another style.

Protective Styles for Short Hair

  • Comb coils or comb twists is one hairdo that you can try, even if your tresses are super short. These would work on hair as short as one inch. You only need a rat tail comb and gel or pomade to style. Make small partings about 1/2-inch and wrap your hair around the tail end of the comb, starting from the root and working outward, gently releasing the comb from your hair at the ends. You can also style coils with your fingers if you prefer.
  • Bantu knots are another option. Either create simple, basic parts that travel from the front to the back of your head, or get fancy and design diamond-shaped patterns. Use a gel or pomade and gently twist small sections of hair into "knots." Natural hair only needs to be tucked into the base of the knot to secure. Once released, your hair will be well-defined waves or kinky curls.
  • Your hair doesn't have to be very long to do twists, either. This hairdo works on hair as short as two inches or so. If you want a more controlled look to your twists, be sure and direct them the way you want them to fall, i.e. toward one side or toward the back. Again, gel or pomade works well in creating this style. When you're ready for something different, simply undo your twists and enjoy a twist-out.

Products to Try:

  • ORS Lock & Twist Gel
  • Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Butter
  • M&M Products Nothing But Mold & Hold Wax
  • Shea butter

If this doesn't seem like a ton of styles, keep in mind that short tresses don't rub against shirt and coat collars the way longer ones do, so you're already experiencing less stress. Some ladies prefer to keep their tresses protected with wigs or braid extensions until their hair gets longer. If you go that route, don't forget to clean and moisturize regularly. Wigs should be removed every night to allow your hair and scalp to "breathe," and extensions shouldn't be too tight.

Remember to be realistic, too. With all of the information out there today, including so many images to view and aspire to, waiting for your hair to grow can sometimes be an exercise in frustration.

One of the great things about cutting your hair and starting anew is that with each inch you gain, you get to explore more possibilities. Instead of rushing through the journey, enjoy each stage of it by learning what styles you can do at two inches versus four. Sometimes, there's not much more you can do than cover your mane at night or sleep on a silky pillowcase. And that's fine, too!