How to Choose Your Braids
Like any other natural hair look, choosing a braid style is very personal. However, there are a few universal notes to keep in mind before locking into any particular look. Braids are super practical, but some styles hold up better than others. Think through when and how you’ll be wearing them.
Consider whether or not your braids will get wet. If you’re braiding with extension hair and going to be in and out of a pool or the ocean, opt for braids that will hide your natural hair securely within. When you braid your hair, it stretches out your natural curl with each braid. So, particularly with textured hair, once the braids get wet, your natural texture will shrink back up within the style. You may notice it more if your natural hair is on the shorter side, but pieces of your own hair may start to peak through the braided hair. It’ll look fuzzy or frizzy on top and going down the braid. This most often happens with a style like cornrows that sits close to your scalp.
The same considerations should be taken if you exercise. Braids are great for keeping your natural hair in place when working up a sweat, but certain styles can also frizz up once your body temperature spikes. Also, if you don’t want too much added weight when working out, consider a chunkier sized braid like a jumbo ponytail braid or a crown braid. This may sound counterintuitive, but the tinier and more dense your braids are, the heavier your overall style will be—and extra weight may mean more sweating.
25 of the Most Popular Braids for Natural Hair
Once you’ve decided on how and when you’ll be wearing your braids, it’s time to pick your braided style. Here, find 25 different types of braids.
1. Box Braids
Consider box braids your intro to plaits. Hair is parted like a checkerboard and each square of hair is braided downward. It’s the best base style to build off of if you want to then style your braids into an updo, do a braid-on-braid style, or accent with accessories. If you’re twisting up in preparation for a beach vacation, you may want to go with a choice like box braids that gives you the flexibility to easily switch between a loose hanging look and having your hair up and out of your face. In fact, on second thought, that kind of versatility is pretty convenient for any occasion.
While you can turn to a pro to have your box braids woven for you, this is also a look you can DIY at home. To learn how, follow Your Easy Tutorial for Creating Box Braids.
This style is another classic but can be interpreted in a number of different ways. For this option, hair is braided down onto your head with the hair twisting outward so that the braids you form are raised and closely attached to your head. Cornrows can be done in a straight pattern, or more skilled braiders can do a wavy style or other designs. The actual braid is guided by how the hair is parted. You can have thin cornrows or chunkier ones depending on how big the sections of hair you’re braiding are. Typically, regardless of size, cornrows are a style that features tight braids for a super streamlined look.
Cornrows are also popularly worn with perfectly laid edges. After styling your braids, turn your attention to your baby hairs and smooth them with Mimosa Hair Honey.
3. French Braid
Similar to a cornrow, but instead of twisting the hair outward as you braid, this version twists the hair inward, so it looks inverted. The technique needed to create French braids is different in that it’s an overhand technique, as opposed to cornrows, which require an underhand method of braiding. While cornrow hairstyles often feature many braids, with French plaits, people tend to opt for a smaller number, like two or three.
Exactly how it sounds, a braid on braid is when you take a braided base style and build on it by twisting your braids together. This is best done with skinnier box braids.
5. Crown Braid
A crown braid refers to a single braid that swoops around the perimeter of your head like a halo. The end result is positively royal. Of course, to get it, you’ll need a bit of length so that the hair can wrap fully around your head. If your hair is on the shorter side, feed extension hair into your braid as you go. It’s best to start just above one ear and work your way around the front and then to the back.
6. Senegalese Twists
The same technique used for box braids is the core of this style, except instead of doing a traditional three-strand braid, you’re only using two strands. What you’re left with is a series of twisted braids that look like beautiful spiraling ropes.
7. Shoulder-Length Braids
Braids don’t have to be super lengthy to be chic. While long cornrows and other longer braided styles make a serious statement, shoulder-length braids can do the same. Try weaving your hair into a bunch of braids that just barely skim your shoulders to see what we mean.
8. Cornrow Pony
Another style within a style, a cornrow pony is a high ponytail fully made out of braids. Your hair is sectioned into parts going around your head from the front to the back, and then cornrows are created. These can be braided as long as you want. For a more dramatic pony, add some length with extensions. Gather all of your cornrows right at the crown of your head and secure them into a ponytail. The ends can hang loose, or you can gather the braided tips into one chunky braid.
9. Feed-In Braids
One of the trendier types of braids right now are knotless braids or feed-in braids. If you take a look at traditional box braids, you’ll see that at the base, closest to your scalp, the braid starts with what looks like a little knot. This is done by wrapping extension hair around a chunk of your own hair to anchor it. While it helps secure the style, it also tugs quite a bit on your roots, which after lengthy or repeated wear, can be damaging and cause hair loss or thinning.
So, what are knotless braids? Well, they are just what they sound like: Instead of starting with a knot, the extension hair is fed into an anchor braid that’s started with your own hair. So, the braider will start braiding your hair, and then a few inches in, they’ll add the extension hair to put less stress on your roots.
Editor’s tip: Worried you’ve worn a braided style that caused damage? Get to work on repairing your hair with the Monoi Repairing Anti-Breakage Spray.
10. Jumbo Pony Braid
For a more dramatic look, try a voluminous braid. Before braiding, using hair moisturizer can help make hair more manageable. Once your mane is moisturized, start by securing your own hair into a high pony. Wrap extension hair around the base of your pony and secure it with bobby pins. Take what’s hanging and plait it, weaving your own hair in as you go. Secure it at the end with a hair elastic or bead.
11. Fulani Braids
Fulani braids are small to medium-sized cornrows that start at the front of your head and taper into loose hanging braids in the back or at the sides. You’ll often see Fulani braids accented with beads at the end, and you can have fun with picking the perfect bead shapes and shades to make this look your own.
12. Braided Bob
If you’re looking for braids for short hair, here’s an ideal option: the braided bob. You can go a little chunkier with these braids by parting your hair into wider sections. Then create box braids that are cropped at the chin in the style of a bob; from there, each braid can be adorned with a jewel or bead at the tip for an extra dose of style.
13. Side-Swept Braids
If you take the concept of a Fulani braid, you have the start of this side-swept style. Cornrows are done in a wave pattern from one side of your head all the way across to the other, and then they drop like a waterfall over your shoulder.
14. Colorful Braids
Braids with color are, simply put, one of the coolest braided hairstyles. You can take any woven look and add a bright color into the mix to take it to the next level. We love everything from hot pink box braids to rainbow cornrows.
15. Braided Bun
Similar to the braid-on-braid idea, this style takes your braided base and builds on it. If you’re wearing box braids, you can easily twist them together into a single braid and create a chignon at the nape of your neck. Another option is to gather your braids at the crown of your head, section into two halves, and create one two-strand twist. When done, wrap the twist into a braided top knot and secure with large bobby pins.
16. Space Bun Braid Updo
What’s better than one bun? Two. For this look, you won’t start with a completely braided head of hair. Instead, split hair down the center and before braiding, detangle your strands with the Black Vanilla 4-in-1 Combing Creme. Once knot-free, create French braids on both sides that go back until you hit the top of your head. Then gather your ends, working on one side at a time, and wrap the hair to form a bun. There you go, an out-of-this-world space bun style.
17. Half and Half Braids
For a more intricate braid design, this variation on the classic cornrow style is a mix of braids that are twisted in perpendicular directions. If you section your hair into five or six rows from front to back and then take each of those rows and create mini braids on the perpendicular, you’ll get this half and half look. The mini braids are done first and then woven into larger, straight-back braids.
18. Reverse French
Depending on how you style it, this look can easily be a party in the back, business in the front look. What you’re doing is creating a French braid or jumbo cornrow from the nape of the neck, going straight upward into a ponytail. How you style the front is totally up to you. You can either slick it back and have the braid as the focal point or create multiple large cornrows in the front that can connect to your single braid in the back.
19. Jumbo Braids
Taking it back to the box braid base, this style is a variation on the style you’re already familiar with. The difference is that you have anywhere from 10 to 15 larger sized box braids instead of a bunch of smaller ones.
20. Butterfly Braids
If you let a halo braid cascade down one side of your head and over your shoulder, you’ll have a butterfly braid. A giant cornrow is loosely plaited from the center of the forehead, going around one side of the face and then hanging down, draped over one shoulder.
21. Braided Mohawk
Section out a four to five-inch chunk of hair going down the middle of your head. Slick both sides up and in with a hair gel and then braid the loose hair in the middle into a big cornrow. It should look like you created a mohawk down the center of your head.
22. Stitch Braids
Attention to detail when creating stitch braids is everything. It’s meant to look like an actual stitch. You divide hair into five to seven rows from front to back like you’re doing cornrows. In fact, you’ll be building off of your knowledge of how to create cornrows. You’ll create larger cornrows divided by a minor thin braid that runs parallel to the bigger ones. So, the pattern goes large, thin, large, thin, and so on, all the way across the head. Finish things off with a little bit of hair oil to nourish your braids and boost shine.
23. Ombré Braids
A fun alternative to classic braids is to use extension hair in a different shade than your natural strands to get an ombré effect. This can be done by starting with extension hair that matches your base and then halfway down the braid, weave in one or multiple new colors.
24. Rodded End Braids
Rodded end braids can start out as either box braids or twists. What makes it different is that instead of braiding all the way down, you leave about three to four inches of hair loose at the ends. Use a foam styler or mousse to moisten the ends and then curl them using a flexi-rod set.
25. Side Braids with Hair Rings
Hair accessories can really elevate a hairstyle, and braided looks are no exception. Try adorning side braids with hair rings. Pick the metal tone that matches your jewelry for a chic, coordinated look. This is a popular option for festivals, but you can spice up your plaits anytime.
Next: Need natural hair products to help style your braids? Check out our list of 20 Natural Hair Products to Try in 2020.