If there's one thing every person with curly or textured hair knows, it's this: Winter can be hell for your tresses. Whether it's cold air and windy conditions blowing them around, or wool hats and scarves sliding across them, your coils are exposed to tons of potential damage — and it's just as bad in the summer. (See: sun, sea, and heat exposure.) The reality is, taking care of your hair in harsh weather — no matter the season — is tough. The solution, however, is easy: protective styling.
"The number-one benefit [of protective styling] is that you're protecting your hair from environmental damage and potential heat and styling damage," celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen tells us. If Stephen's name sounds familiar, it's likely because she owns an eponymous salon in Brooklyn and has worked with celebs like Rihanna, Laverne Cox, Naomie Harris, and Taraji P. Henson.
According to the pro, protective styling is ideal for those with curly hair and many African-American women, because our coils can be extremely delicate. "We need to take [styling] breaks so we don’t abuse our hair," she says. That means turning to protective styles like box braids, cornrows, and wigs to keep hair safe and allow it to grow. However, Stephen cautions that while the styles are inherently protective, they can be damaging if you don't strike a "good balance." (Too much of a good thing is not great, but more on that later.)
First things first: You need to know your hair type and texture. And, of course, be sure to follow steps to maintain and clean your hair appropriately, so the style stays fresh. Note that these styles also work for more than just natural hair — they can benefit those in different stages of their hair journeys, from relaxed hair (which Stephen notes is "already dry" and may need a break) to natural curls — and everything in-between. That is, a protective style can "get you over the hump" of transitioning, if you don't want to chop your relaxed lengths or ends.
Convinced? Great, let's get started! Ahead, we've rounded up 15 celebrity-approved protective hairstyles — and everything you need to know to give 'em a go now.