Think locs aren’t for you? Then you haven’t discovered butterfly locs. This boho-casual protective style is the daintier, more feminine version of traditional dreadlocks.
Get in on the trend early! Learn how to style and maintain your boho butterfly locs in our complete beginner-friendly style guide.
What Are Butterfly Locs?
Butterfly locs, sometimes called butterfly braids, are one of the trendiest protective styles we’re seeing right now. This modernized, ultra-feminine version of traditional locs is characterized by a few unique features.
Butterfly locs feature wavy or curly hair crocheted through hidden braids, then wrapped around them with a special technique to give the resulting “locs” a casual, undone, and textured look.
Butterfly locs are a looser, more textured version of the faux locs we all know and love. Instead of the tightly-bound, neat look, these locs feature a distressed texture with curly loops.
They give you more volume than similar loc styles and look better over time as the style “settles in.” Think of butterfly locs as the messy bun of protective hairstyles! Butterfly locs are usually created with the help of wavy braiding hair and/or filler hair (like kinky marley hair).
Typically, the process looks something like this:
- Natural hair is plaited into basic box braids
- Filler hair is added to braids if additional length or thickness is needed
- Water wave hair is crocheted through the base of each braid
- Wavy hair is wrapped around the length of each braid to form loops along the way
- Ends are sealed (not burned) to finish the style
We’ll cover the details and get more specific in the how-to section of this guide so you can try this style out. First, let’s take a look at how it differs from some of the most similar styles and look over the pros and cons of this protective style.
Butterfly Locs vs. Distressed Locs
While butterfly locs can be described as a distressed look, they’re different from distressed locs. Distressed locs have that same messy-casual look but don’t feature the characteristic curly loops that define the butterfly loc style.
Butterfly Locs vs. Faux Locs
Faux locs look neat and tightly wrapped, so in a way, they’re the opposite of boho butterfly locs. Both feature wrapped hair around a hidden braid to create the illusion of dreadlocked hair.
But faux locs use tightly-wrapped, straighter hair to achieve the neatest look possible, while butterfly locs use wavy hair and are purposely wrapped to make the resulting locs look more textured and casual than faux locs.
Butterfly Locs vs. Goddess Locs
Goddess locs can be confused with locs of the butterfly variety, but there are some key differences. The biggest is that goddess locs are always left open-ended so the loose hair at the ends can flow and move naturally.
Butterfly locs, on the other hand, are sealed at the ends to keep the style intact. You can see that while butterfly locs or braids have things in common with other protective hairstyles, it’s the curly-textured loops in the style that really set it apart.
If you want flirty, boho texture in your protective hairstyle with the easy care and maintenance of faux locs, this is the best option to try!
Butterfly Locs Pros and Cons
There are tons of benefits to rocking this pretty protective style, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s an honest look at what you can expect from butterfly-style locs – the good and the bad.
- Universally flattering: Undone, voluminous texture like you’ll see in butterfly locs is flattering on all face shapes and hair types and can be slimming for rounder faces. If flat styles braided close to the head don’t seem to look good on you, you’ll love the feminine and flattering effect of this style!
- Less pain and tension on scalp: Butterfly locs don’t tug on your scalp and hair as much as some protective styles do because they’re basically box braids with curly hair crocheted in and wrapped around. They can be a little heavier than box braids because of the added hair, but overall, this is a low-tension style that won’t wreak havoc on follicles or leave your head aching and sore after installation.
- Looks better over time: Some hairstyles look great when you first get them done but go downhill the longer you wear them. Fortunately, butterfly locs aren’t like that. They look even better over time as they settle in and naturally loosen up a bit. A little natural frizz and flyaways only make the style more textured with that signature bohemian vibe.
- DIY and beginner-friendly: If spending big bucks to pay a braider isn’t in the cards for you, it’s nice that butterfly locs are 100% DIY and beginner-friendly. As long as you know the right type of hair to buy, it’s easy to try this pretty style at home!
- Protective style for natural hair: Butterfly braids or locs are a type of protective hairstyle that safeguards natural coily or kinky-textured hair from all types of damage. Your natural hair is safely braided and contained inside each loc to protect it from heat, chemical, environmental, and physical damage for the duration of the style.
- Versatile, attractive hairstyle: You can achieve a range of different styles and looks with butterfly locs as the base. From down and loose styles to updos, there’s no shortage of ways to style these flirty boho locs. With a little experience, you can learn how to arrange your base braids to create different face-framing sections and ensure the most flattering loc placement for you.
- Improper installed locs fall out fast: Proper installation is key to making this style suitable for long-term wear. If you don’t follow the steps correctly, you’ll end up with locs that look good enough right after styling, but fall out quicker than they should. That’s why following the directions is so important!
- Installation takes time: If you’ve been wearing different protective hairstyles for a while, you know that installation always takes time. Butterfly braids or locs can take 6 hours or more to install and seal – less (3-5 hours) if you have short hair, and more (5-7 hours) if you have long hair or want to use filler hair to create the illusion of longer hair.
- A little frizz is part of the look: If you prefer tidy, neat hairstyles with little to no frizz or flyaways, butterfly locs probably aren’t for you. Controlled frizz is an integral part of the casual, messy-textured look, so if you can’t embrace a little frizz, skip this hairstyle in favor of neater faux locs.
How to Do Butterfly Locs
Doing your own butterfly locs seems like a major undertaking, especially if you’re a beginner. Thankfully, the texture of this style makes it look a lot more intricate than it really is! You’ll find that butterfly locs are very simple to create using the braid and wrap method.
It just takes time and careful attention to detail. Gather the materials and supplies you’ll need before you begin. Make sure you get enough hair to achieve the look you want!
If you have very long or thick hair, err on the side of caution and always get more than you think you’ll need. If you don’t plan on using filler hair to fill out your locs or create the illusion of more length, you won’t need the marley braiding hair.
Gather Your Butterfly Loc Materials and Supplies
- 6-8 packs of synthetic water wave hair (22-28 inches)
- 1-2 packs synthetic marley braiding hair (optional)
- Strong hold gel
- Hair crochet needle
- Rat tail comb
- Nail glue (optional)
Pro Tip: Before you begin, we recommend soaking your synthetic hair in mildly soapy water or diluted apple cider vinegar for a few hours. This extra step adds time to the process but removes the coating on synthetic hair that can lead to itching and allergic reactions.
It’s worth it to do a pre-soak and rinse thoroughly before using the synthetic hair if you’re at all sensitive to synthetic hair normally.
Step 1: Section and Braid Your Natural Hair
Start by plaiting your natural hair into box braids in any pattern you choose. Part and section your hair using a rat tail comb to create evenly-sized hanging 3-strand braids all over your head.
Apply a small amount of strong hold gel along each part to keep things neat and secure as you work. If you’re using marley hair to add length to your locs, feed-in the hair at the bottom of your natural braid to increase the length.
If you need a boost in thickness, you can feed-in the marley hair at the roots to get a thicker braid. Create fewer braids for an overall chunkier/thicker loc or a larger number of small braids for skinnier, more lightweight locs.
If you have long hair, we recommend creating more small braids to keep your locs from becoming too heavy. Pay special attention to the braids that will frame your face.
If you have a preferred part (either side or center), make sure you allow for that by sectioning the front properly.
Right now, your braids may look skinny and somewhat bare. That’s okay because you’re adding hair in the next step to fluff up the braids and turn them into butterfly locs!
Step 2: Crochet the Water Wave Hair Into Braids
First, fluff and prep your water wave hair to prime it for your locs. This will give your locs more volume and texture to really nail that butterfly loc look.
Take 2 pieces of your water wave hair and use your fingers to gently separate the curls a bit. Don’t fully separate the curls – just drag your fingers through to loosen up the curls so they’ll better wrap and cover your braids.
Once your synthetic water wave hair is prepped and fluffed out a bit, use your crochet needle to push 2 pieces of hair through your braid at the base. Put both pieces in the crochet needle hook, close the hook, and pull the hair about a quarter of the way through the braid.
You should have about a quarter of the synthetic hair hanging through the back of the braid and the rest hanging through in front. Now, you’re ready to wrap!
Read Next: 30 Crochet Hairstyles We Love
Step 3: Wrap the Braids
Grip the shorter end of your synthetic hair with one hand to keep it in place as you begin wrapping the braid. Using your other hand, start wrapping the hair around your braid and the shorter end of water wave hair 5-6 times to secure it in place.
This is the start of your first butterfly loc. Use the thumb technique (described below) to wrap the water wave hair around the braid to create curly loops and lots of texture along the braid.
If you don’t want to use the thumb technique, make sure you’re making some wraps slightly looser to get the slack needed to create loops throughout the loc.
Master the Thumb Technique
Every 3-4 wraps, slip your thumb in and wrap the water wave hair around it 2-3 times. Pull your thumb back out and wrap normally 3-4 more times, then repeat the thumb technique.
This creates enough slack in the hair to create the characteristic loops in the wrap that give butterfly locs their signature carefree look.
Step 4: Seal the Ends
After messily wrapping the length of your first braid with water wave hair to create lots of loops and texture, you need to seal the ends to finish. The easiest way to seal the ends of your locs is by creating (what else?) a small loop at the ends of the braid.
Pick up the ends of the braid, keeping hold of the wrapped hair so it doesn’t unravel. Create a small loop with the ends and wrap the water wave hair around the loop and back up the braid until you run out.
Rub your palms on the area where your water wave hair ends to nestle it into the wrapped braid/loc for added security. It’s totally optional, but you can use a little nail glue here to firmly secure the final inch or two of your wrapped ends for better hold.
Make sure you don’t get glue on your natural hair if you opt to do this! Now, repeat the crochet, wrap, and seal process for the remaining braids to achieve a finished butterfly loc look!
How to Style Butterfly Locs
Styling your butterfly locs is where the versatility of this protective hairstyle really comes into play. There are so many styles you can try with butterfly locs!
They’re almost as versatile as free-flowing hair, so you can really achieve any hairstyle with this type of loc as the base. Here are some of our favorite ways to style butterfly locs.
Down and Loose
The easiest way to rock your new butterfly locs? Just wear them as-is for a cute style that is appropriate for any occasion, casual to formal. Wearing this type of loc down and loose allows you to really show off the boho, free-form texture that makes this style so special.
This is where the braid/loc placement becomes so important. If you like to wear your hair parted to the side or down the middle, you need to ensure the base braids are properly sectioned to make it happen.
Simply ensure your hair and scalp are moisturized, flip your locs to the part position you want, and slay all day!
Switch things up a bit by wearing your butterfly locs half-up on days when you want to wear a cute style but don’t want to put in a lot of effort. Take a few locs from the top and gather them in an elastic, scrunchy, or hair clip at the back of your head.
Let the ends hang freely to show off your loc texture. Or make it trendy by trying a high half-up top knot for extra volume on top!
Split Half-Up Locs
Try a little twist on the classic half-up hairstyle by trying a split half-updo. Here, you’ll gather the top half (or a little less) of your hair and then split it down the center into 2 equally sized sections.
Secure each section with an elastic and let the ends hang freely or swirl the ends up into small buns for a different look. This look adds volume to the top and sides of your face, so it’s perfect for a round, diamond, triangle, or oval face shape.
Butterfly Loc Ponytail
Even a basic ponytail gets elevated when you’re rocking butterfly braids/locs. Choose your preferred ponytail placement – high, midi, or low – to best flatter your face shape.
- High ponytail: High ponytails are so pretty with butterfly locs and really take on a fun and flirty look with all that texture. They’re best for round or square faces because the added height on top helps visually lengthen the face for a more oval appearance.
- Midi ponytail: Heart and oval face shapes really benefit from the midi ponytail height, where the ponytail is placed right at or just below the crown. This won’t add height or volume on top, which helps keep your face shape balanced and still enables you to show off your butterfly loc texture.
- Low ponytail: Low ponytails minimize volume on the top and sides so they can work really well for oval and heart face shapes. Try a straight-back low pony or part your locs over to the side and gather at the nape of your neck for a more chic version.
Butterfly Loc Space Buns
Space buns are another hairstyle to experiment with when you’re rocking textured butterfly locs. Wrapping the locs into twin buns placed high up keeps the curly, casual texture front and center with the added bonus of containing and securing your hair.
That makes butterfly loc space buns a great option for days spent outside or at the gym! With your head upside down, gather your locs and split them into 2 roughly equal sections. Twist each group of locs in one direction to form a big coil and wrap it around itself until the ends are contained.
Secure the ends with a large elastic for security. Push in a few hair pins to help the buns stay put longer! If your locs are too short for high buns, try half-up space buns or place your buns lower down.
Low Pony With Face-Framing Locs
The pretty texture of butterfly locs makes them perfect for framing your face. Any updo or half-updo can be relaxed a bit by pulling out a few face-framing locs in front, but our personal fave is the low pony.
This is a great style choice for women with square faces because face-framing pieces help soften the style and keep pulled-back styles from looking too “angular” or severe. But any face shape can rock a low pony with face-framing locs!
Just gather your hair at the nape of your neck – leaving out 2-4 small locs in front to frame your face – and secure it with a large elastic.
Butterfly Locs FAQs
Still got some questions about this boho protective hairstyle? You might find your answer in the FAQs below!
Why are they called butterfly locs?
You know they’re cute, but you might be curious about where the name comes from. Messy-on-purpose, loose, and casual, butterfly locs take on a bohemian look that never looks overdone.
The curly loops of hair in this unique protective style are the reason for the name “butterfly locs.” The signature loops in this style are reminiscent of the wings of a butterfly – hence the name!
How long do butterfly locs last?
Butterfly loc hairstyles typically last anywhere from a month (4 weeks) to 6 weeks when they’re properly installed.
If your locs are installed too loosely, they may begin to unravel well before the 4-week mark. This is why it’s essential to properly braid, wrap, and seal each loc if you’re trying this style yourself at home!
Do butterfly locs damage your hair?
Butterfly locs will not cause damage to your hair if you install them the right way (without too much tension on the scalp). If your base braids feel too tight or are giving you scalp pain, take them down and loosen the braids before moving forward with wrapping.
Done properly and not too tightly, butterfly locs actually protect your hair from many types of damage – heat, chemical, environmental, and physical – by keeping your natural hair nestled safely inside the faux hair wrapping the braid.
How do you keep butterfly locs from frizzing?
How do you keep these locs from getting frizzy? You can take steps to minimize frizz and keep the style intact for longer, but some frizz is just par for course. This type of faux loc is intended to look a little undone and messy.
That’s what gives it such a pretty and casual look. Embrace the inevitable frizz, knowing it will help the locs look even more natural and settled in than the day you get them done.
And if you want to cut down on frizz, making simple changes like swapping your cotton pillowcase for a silk or satin version and using a good anti-frizz hair serum on your locs can make a big difference.
Things to Consider
Think this is the next hairstyle you want to try? We support that decision 110%. Just make sure you know what to expect when you get butterfly locs by reading through a few more things to consider.
- Save time by going bigger with your braids. “Chunky” butterfly locs take less time to do because you’re creating fewer braids/locs in the style overall. If you’re not about to sit through 8 hours of braiding, crocheting, wrapping, and sealing the ends, do fewer braids and leave ‘em chunky.
- Try a butterfly loc bob without cutting your hair. Folding your braids will help you achieve a shorter look with your butterfly locs. Take the ends of your braid and fold up to create a loop, then secure the folded ends to the braid with a small elastic. Then wrap your water wave hair over the folded braid. Voila – a butterfly loc bob even on long hair!
- Be smart about thickness if you have long hair. Longer hair is heavier and puts more tension on the scalp when styled in hanging braids or locs. So be smart and make your braids (and resulting locs) skinnier if you have long hair! This will cut down on the amount of tension you put on your scalp and give you more individual locs to play around with when styling your hair.
- Use filler hair if you need more length or thicker locs. Voluminous, lightly textured marley hair is great to use as filler if you need to achieve longer or thicker locs. You can feed-in marley hair at the base of each braid to achieve thicker locs, or add it only to the bottom of your braided natural hair to achieve extra length. It’ll all be covered with water wave hair in the wrapping step.
- Keep the look balanced. Keeping all braids the same size will keep the look balanced with locs similar in size when the style is finished. It also ensures you don’t end up with heavier locs in one area that can disproportionately tug on your scalp. If you’re planning to wear your hair in a specific part (left, right, or center), create that part line first, then draw out the smaller sections on either side to ensure you don’t lose the part line you want.
Are Butterfly Locs Right for You?
Butterfly locs are already one of our favorite protective hairstyles and they’re only growing in popularity. Now is the time to jump on this pretty, bohemian trend!
Not only are these faux locs beautiful and unique, they’re also a great way to protect your natural hair from damage and are easy to style, even for beginners.
Not sure this is the look you want? We have tons of options to show you. Check out 30 different protective styles for natural hair next to see some of the best style possibilities!