Popular African Braided Hairstyles
Extra-long braids have been going strong all summer with people opting for box braids and twists that are waist length and longer. Even with this length trend, the variations in braid sizes, feed-in technique, and even hair texture used allows for customized styling. It’s best to start any braided look with your hair roughly blown out. It makes the braids easier to twist without too much tugging. Use the Pracaxi Nectar Straight Blow Dry Cream beforehand to prevent any heat damage. Once you’re all smoothed out, give one of these popular looks a whirl.
1. Goddess Braids
One of the most visually stunning braided hairstyles for natural hair that you may be seeing a lot these days are goddess braids. This look combines cornrows of different sizes, often in an intricate pattern, that looks like a work of art. Thin braids appear to take the place of traditional parts and sit adjacent to chunky braids.
2. Triangle Box Braids
Triangle braids can be a nice departure from classic box braids. This version takes the style up a notch by creating triangle-shaped parts instead of classic, square versions (reminder, the foundation of the box braid is how hair is parted). Our advice: Try bold or super-chunky triangle box braids to amp up the style.
3. Fulani Braids
What differentiates this style from others is that it’s a hybrid between cornrows and box braids. Hair is cornrowed downward on the scalp where your natural curls meet the extensions. It’s usually about one to two inches of cornrows with narrow parts in between. These parts are woven into free-flowing box braids.
4. Lemonade Braids
This super long and flowy style is visually interesting in that it’s a side-swept style. It’s a variation of Fulani braids, with a mix of long cornrows that fall on one side of your head to accentuate your features.
5. Spiraled Ends
This style is all about texture mixing. Think of it as traditional box braids that can be done in any diameter (chunky or super thin), but with undone ends. The best hair to use curls and has a slightly kinkier finish so that you can really play up the texture difference between the braid itself and the loose ends.
6. Passion Twists
The style itself isn’t new, but the more recent variation mixes passion twists with traditional box braids. You get the clean lines of the box braids blended with looser pieces of hair. The twists themselves look like bubbly two-strand twists.
To create this style, start by parting your natural hair as you would do for box braids. Apply a leave-in hair cream to help moisturize, and then a light hold gel like the Pracaxi Nectar Style Control Gel to each section before securing into a tiny rubber band. Two-strand twist the loose ends of your hair, and use a crochet needling technique to add curly textured braid hair to each section. Twist your natural hair together with the extension hair, and slightly pull sections of each to loosen at various points to create little bubbles down the braid.
7. Knotless Braids
If your scalp tends to be more sensitive to tension, or if you just like the more natural look at the root, try knotless braids. Some box braid installations wrap extension hair around your strands at the root to create a knotted effect. Knotless braids consist of weaving braiding hair into your own hair as you braid in a flat formation. It either continues into cornrows or comes off your head similar to the Fulani braids style. This type of braid puts a lot less tension on fragile edges, protecting them from breakage.
8. Braided Pony
Hair is cornrowed up to the crown of your head and then secured into a ponytail. Each braid then hangs down from the pony. This is a good style to try the aforementioned alternating braid sizes.
9. Detailed Halo Braid
What differentiates the African halo braid from traditional versions is that the center of your head at the crown is also braided into thin cornrows. You can have them braided straight or with more detailed patterned parts. The crown is cornrowed outward, and the center braids are woven into one chunky braid that circles your head.
10. Snake Braids
Cornrows that are twisted into a wavy pattern on your head are called snake braids. These can be done either chunky or slim, your choice.
11. Braided Bob
If you’re not into long hair, a braided bob may be more your speed. It’s done the same way that traditional box braids are styled except each braid ends at your chin. Typically the ends are smoothed for a cleaner, more classic interpretation of a blunt bob.
How Long Do African Hair Braiding Styles Last?
African hair braiding styles are meant to last a while. You can usually get at least four to six weeks of wear out of them, depending on how you prep your hair beforehand and how you maintain your braids after install. Here’s a quick guide to help get the most out of your braids.
1. Wash and condition beforehand. Before getting African braids, make sure that your hair is deep cleaned and conditioned. You’ll want to make sure that your hair is product-free, and your scalp is clear of any buildup that can cause itching and flaking. Work the Wash Day Delight into your scalp and thoroughly through your hair to help clear away any dirt and excess oil. Follow it with a repairing conditioner to help heal any existing damage and prevent future breakage.
2. Detangle thoroughly. Ensuring that your hair is free of knots and tangles will make for a smoother install and a lot less breakage when you remove your braids. Use the Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme to coat hair and create slip before detangling from the ends upward to the roots with a wide-tooth comb.
3. Add moisture. Keep hair pliable as it’s braided by hydrating it well before styling. You don’t need to go overboard on moisture. A lightweight leave-in like Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-Styling Milk followed by the Monoi Oil Sacred Strengthening Serum will soften and infuse hair with much-needed hydration to help keep it from matting and breaking. You can always apply an oil on top of your braids and to your scalp after to rehydrate.
4. Prep your scalp. No matter what, braids will create some level of tension on your scalp. The tugging can make your scalp feel tight and itchy. To help prevent this, swipe the Mimosa Hair Honey onto your scalp. You can also add a bit more after your braids are in to help soothe any sensitivity that you feel. It’s good to reapply once per week to keep dryness and flaking at bay.
5. Condition after the take down. Once you remove your braids, it’s really important to treat hair to a deep conditioner. Use a repairing hair mask in tandem with heat (either with a conditioning cap or hair steamer) to help replenish any lost moisture and make detangling a lot easier.
Can I Do My Own African Braids?
Absolutely. Just be prepared to spend a few hours installing. There are plenty of tutorials online that walk you through each step of the install process for the particular style you’re trying to pull off. A word of advice: If you’re not well versed with cornrowing your own hair, skip the feed-in, knotless, and straight cornrow styles; instead, go with the crocheted type of braids and twists. It won’t require braiding your own hair down onto your head, and you won’t have to worry about it not looking super straight or neat. You’ll literally just be attaching extensions on to secured sections of your natural hair. Keep in mind that whether you’re crocheting or cornrowing, sectioning can be time-consuming, especially if you’re super meticulous about having razor-sharp parts.
Short Hair African Braided Hairstyles
You only need a couple of inches of hair to create African braids. For shorter hair, feed-in styles are typically more ideal since it’ll help ensure that your natural hair is tightly secured with the extension hair. A professional African hair braider can also do the classic knotted base, but this technique is a little trickier to DIY. Another style that works well for short hair is anything that allows for loose ends, such as a braided updo that lets loose into curls.
For even more style inspiration and proper care tips, here’s Your Guide to Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair.