7 Convenient Protective Styles For Athletes

Athletes live a busy lifestyle. Following this career path requires blood, sweat, and tears. Emphasis on the sweat, the amount of effort you need to put in is insane. During all this hard work, it is very easy to neglect your look. In particular, your hair seems to take the brunt of the damage.

We have good news. You can use protective styles to keep your hair in excellent shape. So, what is the best protective style for athletes? Box Braids, Cornrows, High or Low Buns, Twists, Curly Pony, Space Buns, and French Braids are all excellent options that will give your hair the care that it deserves.

There’s a lot more to it than just selecting a style. You need to know why you picked it and what you can do to keep your hair safe in this style. Before anything else, we need to know why traditional styles won’t cut it when it comes to your hair.

Why You Can’t Wear Traditional Styles As An Athlete

Why You Can’t Wear Traditional Styles As An Athlete

The question that may be on some of your minds may be “Why can’t I just enter the ring with my hair out in the open?” There are a few key reasons why you can’t do that.

1. High Levels Of Movement

First and foremost, as an athlete, you can constant moving. Not only will a style that is not secured in place be very comfortable with hair flying all over your face, but it will also hinder your mobility and potentially lower your performance. Furthermore, all that friction generated from the movement harms your hair strands and makes your hair frizzy.

2. Added Exposure To Sweat

This one is pretty obvious. Exercise is an important part of your daily life. Naturally, you sweat a lot more than the average person. Sweat is great for getting numbers off the scale and cooling your body down. What it’s not good for is your hair.

Sweat has a lot of bacteria and it tends to contain a lot of salt which dries out your hair. If you don’t to get your hair dirty and bone-dry, ensure that there is enough moisture in your hair at all times.

3. Styling Requires Time And Effort

If you are a professional athlete, chances are you don’t get a lot of time to yourself. Between all the training, required rest periods, and games, you don’t get to have an elaborate beauty routine that you can invest hours into. You may need to jump out of bed and run to practice on some mornings.

That’s why you can’t style your hair in front of the mirror for a long time. Also, manipulation is never good for the hair so the lesser you do with your hair, the better.

Why Protective Styles Are The Solution

Why Protective Styles Are The Solution

So now you know why a normal hairstyle won’t work with your lifestyle. Who’s to say that protective styles don’t have the same problems? These 6 unique benefits will mitigate all those issues in a jiffy.

1. Offers All-round Protection

It is literally in the name: these styles are meant to protect your hair. They create a dome around your hair that doesn’t let any harmful foreign elements such as heat and humidity enter. It even keeps dirt and debris out. What’s more, it locks in the moisture and stops it from escaping and leaving your hair dry and frizzy.

2. Super Healthy For Your Hair

It doesn’t just keep your hair safe but it also improves its quality. The aforementioned moisture lock mechanism ensures that your hair has that silky shine at all times and gets all moisture it needs to stop it from getting brittle and breaking off.

Along with that, these styles also lock in nutrients and hence, promote hair growth and reduce hair breakage. On top of that, you are minimizing styling damage as once these styles are in, you don’t need to style them again.

3. Holds Your Hair In Place

It is extremely annoying when you are working out and a strand falls on your face. Since protective styles pull back any rogue strands, you will never face this problem during your workouts.

4. Bold choice

Hair can symbolize a lot of things. When you wear unconventional styles, it shows courage. You challenge norms and expectations set by the sports community. These challenges are welcome as they drive positive change that inspires inclusivity.

Protective styles have undergone scrutiny in this field and continue to be a  challenge for Black women. They experienced a lot of pressure from the social standards that forced them away from their natural styles.

Even massive superstars such as Gabby Douglas and Sha’Carri Richardson, have faced backlash for their unique and beautiful hairstyles. This shows societal judgment is still a major issue. Black women as expected to fill in a mold that was crafted years back.

5. Holds Great Historical Significance

Protective styles have faced discrimination beyond the realm of sports for a long time. It is a testament to the strength of the black community against racism and social stigma. It represents empowerment and standing up for your beliefs even if the world is against you.

A real-life example of this perseverance was shown by  Sloane Blakely and her teammates at the University of Florida who wore protective styles to every tournament and proudly express their culture to the world.

6. Allows You To Express Yourself

Speaking of expression, you have every right to do that yourself. Your cultural identity is important and it must not be belittled or sacrificed under any circumstance. Whatever sports you are playing, whether it be a sport with a major black community such as basketball or even a predominantly white one in volleyball, you should have the right to show who you truly are.

Even in a space where black athletes have already made strides, versatility is always welcome. You can wear a different type of protective style and represent a different facet of black culture. Through this shared representation, you create a stronger community and a sense of camaraderie.

This is an advantage that extends beyond race as well. You also get to create your own image through the means of fashion. The hairstyle you wear is a good way to show the world your personal preference and set yourself apart from hundreds of other athletes.

Which Protective Styles Are Right For Athletes?

Which Protective Styles Are Right For Athletes

You can’t just pop on any protective style and call it a day. For example, weaves are notoriously uncomfortable when exposed to a lot of sweat. You need to follow criteria to maximize your comfort and performance. If the style has these 3 characteristics, they will work.

1. Quick And Easy

Low maintenance is the name of the game when it comes to protective hairstyles for athletes. You won’t get a lot of time to look after your hair as you will be swamped with training sessions and busy competition schedules. You need to find a style that requires minimal manipulation and an easy-going haircare routine.

2. Loud And Proud

People tend to shy away from the bolder looks. If that’s how you want to look, don’t let anyone stop you. Eye-catching hairstyles are perfect for athletes as you get to showcase your confidence and individuality on the field, ring, or court.

You may even opt for hairstyle accessories such as hair ties, hair bands, or heavy-duty clips. You can incorporate these trinkets to quickly enhance your overall look.

3. Extremely Secure

Not all protective styles are equally secure. While they all tuck away your ends, not all of them get rid of your bangs. Also, some of them are tied extremely loosely and can come off easily. You also can’t tie them too hard as the pressure is bad for your hair.

You need to find a style that not only keeps all your hair away from your face and stops it from obstructing your vision but you also need to find a style that can be secured with minimal pressure.

7 Best Protective Style For Athletes

Are you convinced that you need to switch to a protective style for the betterment of your hair? Good. These 7 styles fit all the criteria we mentioned and will slide right into your lifestyle easily and make you look absolutely stunning.

1. Box Braids

Box Braids

Who says simple is boring? Box braids are perhaps one of the most common types of braids out there. That said, you can customize it however you like. The only constant is a boxed-off sectioning technique. This means that you can express yourself to your heart’s desire by creating your own take on tried and tested style.

2. Cornrows


Speaking of tried and tested, we go to a style that has been around for thousands of years. Cornrows are an excellent style if you want to give your hair proper ventilation and stand out from everyone in the room. This is an incredibly expressive look so be warned that it doesn’t suit everyone.

3. High or Low Buns

High or Low Buns

If you are looking for something that suits everyone, high or low buns are a good choice for you. This is another fairly simple style. It may not be as loud and out there as some of these other styles but it has this air of elegance that you just can’t overlook.

4. Twists


There is a lot you can do with twists. You can wear a more modest two-strand twist or go all out with a Senegalese twist. You have a lot of options to go for. The only bad news is that you simply can’t do twists naturally if you don’t have curly hair. You can use heat treatments to achieve curly hair but we also recommend against them.

5. Curly Pony


A curly pony is not a style you will find everywhere. It may look simple but it takes a lot of finesse to execute. Ensure that you find an experienced stylist who can style your hair this way, otherwise, you’ll end up with a boring standard ponytail.

6. Space Buns

Space Buns

Carrie Fisher won everyone’s hearts when she first dawned on those white space robes as Princess Leia. Those robes are not what gained the Star Wars character the title of a fashion icon, however. Her unique hairstyle, space buns, continues to be a super stylish look even after all these years.

7. French Braid

You can never go wrong with classics and it doesn’t get much more classic than a French braid. This style has stood the test of time for a reason. It is hard to beat the allure of a cute French braid. There’s just something about its simplicity that charms even the harshest of critics.

Important Hair Care Tips For Athletes

These tips and techniques will help you maintain and care for your hair while engaging in grueling athletic pursuits. If you follow these 3 pieces of advice, rest assured that your hair will look gorgeous.

1. Create A Customized Routine

Everyone’s hair is different. You need to find what works for you. Research your hair type, experiment with different routines, or consult a stylist. You can just copy someone else’s routine and expect the same results. Finding that routine can take time but it is certainly worth it.

2. Stick To That Routine

A lot of people get discouraged when they don’t see instant results. As an athlete, you should know better than anyone that good things take time. You need to make sure that you strictly follow the routine you’ve built for yourself. Think about haircare as you do for your diet and exercise, discipline is key when it comes to these things.

3. Use Only The Best Products For Your Hair

Last but not least, you need to scout out the right products. Far too often, we’ve seen people grab products filled with paraben, sulfates, and other harmful chemicals. Don’t do that. Get good quality natural products. Trust us when we say the difference in hair product quality is reflected in your hair.


How to do athletic protective hairstyles?

Divide your hair into sections and braid them tightly or create cornrows for a secure and protective style.

Is short hair better for athletes?

Short hair can be more convenient for athletes as it requires less maintenance and is less likely to get in the way during physical activities.

How do athletes keep their hair in place?

Athletes often use hair ties, headbands, or hair clips to keep their hair secure and prevent it from falling into their face during workouts or sports activities.

How can I hide my bangs for sports?

Use bobby pins or headbands to pin back or secure your bangs while playing sports to keep them out of your face.

How do runners wear their hair?

Many runners prefer to tie their hair in a ponytail or bun to keep it off their neck and prevent distractions during their runs.

Is it okay to workout with braids?

Yes, braids are a popular and practical hairstyle for workouts as they keep the hair contained and minimize tangling.

How can I protect my black hair while working out?

Consider wearing protective styles like braids, twists, or buns that keep your hair secure and reduce friction during workouts. Additionally, use moisture-wicking fabrics and sweat-absorbing headbands to protect your hair from excessive sweat.

What protective hairstyles prevent sweaty hair?

Protective hairstyles such as braids, twists, buns, or cornrows help minimize sweating directly on the hair and scalp, keeping them more protected during workouts.

How can I protect my hair while working out?

Use moisture-wicking fabrics, wear protective hairstyles, and avoid excessive heat or sweat by using sweat-absorbing headbands or wraps.

Should I wear my durag to the gym with braids?

Wearing a durag to the gym with braids can provide additional protection and help maintain the shape of your braids during your workout.

Do braids damage curls?

Braids, when done correctly and not too tightly, can be a protective style that helps maintain the health of your curls without causing damage.

How do you wrap braids at the gym?

To keep your braids secure at the gym, you can wrap a headband or scarf around your hairline to absorb sweat and prevent frizz.

Why is it healthier to sleep with a braid?

Sleeping with a braid can help prevent tangling and friction between your hair strands, reducing breakage and promoting healthier hair.

Do feed-in braids grow your hair?

Feed-in braids, when done properly and without excessive tension, can be a protective style that helps retain length and promote hair growth.

Do protective styles help retain length?

Yes, protective styles like braids, twists, or buns help protect the ends of your hair from damage and reduce breakage, thereby aiding in length retention.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Taking care of your hair is never easy. When you have a career that you requires to exert so much energy, this task gets even more difficult and sometimes, annoying. That’s why a protective style offers a good solution.

But what is the best protective style for athletes? Simply put, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. It all depends on your personal fashion choice, your hair type, and how much time you are willing to wait for the installation process.

Whichever style you choose, the bottom line is that you need to take care of it. Neglected hair is always going to look significantly worse than hair that is cared for. If you want to elevate above the level of an average athlete and look like a sports superstar, you must care for your hair.

By Cindy Mahlangu

Hey there! I'm Cindy Mahlangu, a pro hairstylist with a serious passion for natural hair care. My mission? To inspire and educate others on the beauty and benefits of protective hairstyles. Through my creative writing, aim to empower individuals to embrace their unique hair texture and confidently care for their locks. So, whether you're rocking locs, braids, or twists, join me on this hair journey and let's achieve healthy, fabulous tresses together!

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