Braiding hair is a tradition that’s been around since 3500 B.C. There’s evidence that shows the cornrow hairstyle has been around since the Stone Age. African hair braiding was an integral tradition of the early tribes because the braided style could indicate one’s status, age, or tribe affiliation. Since then, different braiding styles have emerged and evolved to many of the looks we see today.
There are many types of braids for Black women to learn about, and each one can complement your unique style preferences. From the durability of micro braids to the soft, smooth texture of Senegalese twists, there’s a braid style that can please just about anyone.
We’ll cover some popular braids for Black women and how you can incorporate some of these looks into your daily style.
1. Cornrow braids
This popular hairstyle is a winning choice for both short and long hair, and for both Black women and men. The braids are typically thin and lie very close to the head. Cornrows also offer plenty of options for patterns as the braids are guided by how your hair is parted.
You can experiment with other hair braiding styles using cornrows as the foundation. Some of these looks include lemonade braids, soft locs, Ghana braids, faux locs, knotless braids, goddess braids, and crochet braids. No matter your aesthetic, cornrow braids will keep your hair healthy and you feeling your best.
2. Box braids
Box braids are not only a protective, low-maintenance way to wear your hair, but they’re also deeply rooted in Black history. Their origins go back as far as 3500 B.C. The name itself is due to the distinct box-shaped part at the root of each one of these three-strand braids.
You can wear box braids long and loose, pulled back into a braided bun or ponytail, or even styled as a half-up, half-down look. If you’re having trouble deciding on the thickness of each plait or if you’re interested in adding extensions, you can talk to a braider to get their expert opinion.
3. Triangle box braids
You’ll still get free-flowing locks with this style, but there is a noticeable difference in how the hair is sectioned off with this slightly tweaked version of box braids. A simple change in part — from box to triangle — makes a big difference and gives this classic look an edgier upgrade.
Play around with braid thickness, side and center parts, or even hair color to make this style all your own. Chalia Mangrum, an Ohio-based braider, calls triangle box braids a trend suitable for a wide variety of hair textures. Like the regular box braid, you can be creative with how you style the plaits. Box braids can last between four and six weeks with proper care.
4. Senegalese twists
If your hair could use a break from daily styling and the excess use of hot styling tools, Senegalese twists are a stunning way to look after your hair and promote hair growth.
To create these types of braids, synthetic or human hair is attached to the root of your natural hair, separated into two strands, and wrapped all the way down each hair shaft. The result? Sleek-looking twists that can be swept to the side or pinned back. They offer a slightly different texture than a classic three-strand braid.
5. Nubian twists
The Nubian twist is another style with origins that can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The installation process is somewhat similar to that of the Senegalese twist, but the result is quite different — specifically in terms of texture and length.
Tight coils are the most obvious visual difference between these twist braids and the Senegalese alternative. You’ll also find Nubian twists worn with shorter hairstyles, often resting just above the shoulder.
This look is an attractive option for those who prefer a style that is lightweight, versatile, and a bit faster to install than other braid types.
6. Micro braids
Of all the different types of braids for Black women, this braiding style may not look much like a braid at all. In contrast to the varying thickness of cornrows and box braids, micro braids are always created using very small sections of hair. This results in plaits that look and feel more like a thick strand of hair rather than interlaced braids.
As you can probably imagine, this style can’t be completed in a quick hour-long session at the salon. You should set aside a whole day for your appointment and plan to spend a bit more money than you would for other braid types. However, patience pays off since this look can last for up to eight weeks with proper care.
7. Fulani braids
Fulani braids are one of many tribal African braid styles that have become more mainstream. These are characterized by just one straight-back braid paired with others that flow in opposite directions across the crown of your head, often toward your ears or temples. The intricacy and beauty of this look make it one of the more popular styles of braids for Black women.
Another appealing detail of Fulani braids is the combination of scalp-hugging cornrows on the top and the volumizing effect of box braids in the back. Feel free to get creative with this style by adding curls, extensions, or a pop of brightly colored beads.
8. Flat twist braids
If you’re hoping to turn heads at your next formal event, book an appointment to install flat twist braids. Let your braider help you design a one-of-a-kind look by parting each section in varying widths and angles.
You might choose just a couple of thick twists starting at your hairline, part them to the side, and sweep them down into a low bun. Or separate your hair into multiple sections of medium thickness that will later be incorporated into a sophisticated updo.
Flat twist braids are similar to cornrows because of how they lie flat on your scalp, but the texture of a twist — as opposed to a three-strand plait — gives this style a soft, elegant flare.
9. Havana twist
If big and beautiful is your preferred plait aesthetic, head to the salon and request Havana twists. Nubian twists, as you know, are coiled tightly and most often kept at mid-length. In contrast, Havana twists tend to be worn in long, thick strands for ultra full-looking hair that can be left loose or pulled back into a bun, ponytail, or half-up hairstyle.
10. Braided ponytail
We admit this is cheating a little, but the braided ponytail is the perfect way to add variety to many of the styles listed here. Box, Fulani, Ghana, and many other types of braids can all be pulled back into a high or low ponytail for a change of pace.
11. Braided bun
Similar to the braided ponytail, a braided bun is another way to change up your hairstyle. You can vary the look by pulling all of your braids into a bun or only using the top half while leaving the remainder hanging down your back.
Braided buns also offer some hair-loving benefits. They give your hair a rest from products and styling so it can have time to grow and refresh. Buns are also a low-effort style that goes beautifully with casual or formal outfits alike.
12. Colorful braids
You can freshen up any braid style by incorporating color. Threading in colorful extensions or weaving in beads is a quick way to completely change your look and add a splash of brightness to your braids.
13. Crochet braids
Especially popular in the 1990s, the crochet braid is making a comeback. This style is accomplished by first braiding your natural hair in cornrows. A crochet hook is then used to weave the crochet hair into the cornrows. It’s a flexible style that allows for plenty of variation, including curly looks, with all the types of crochet braids.
14. Faux Locs
If you’re looking for a style with less commitment than locs, give faux locs a try. Instead of becoming a permanent installment in your hair, faux locs will last for four to six weeks. To get this look, your natural hair is twisted or braided. Then additional hair is wrapped around the twists or braids to protect it.
15. Ghana braids
These lovely braids are an excellent choice for curly hair. They’re a type of cornrow that uses a different braiding technique to create a unique look. Instead of feeding your extension hair in from beneath the braid, you’ll feed it over the braid. Ghana braids are also often thicker than some of the other styles listed here, making them a perfect fit for those with thicker locks. Some popular styles include twisted Ghana braids, chevron Ghana braids, and horizontal Ghana braids.
16. Goddess braids
Photo source: Jazitup, a stylist from Mableton, GA
When you want a style that won’t be installed for a long time but will give you a glamorous, fresh look, try goddess braids. These thick braids are done by braiding the hair close to the scalp. The result is a soft and flexible hairstyle that’s perfect for when you want to grow out your hair.
17. Jumbo braids
If you’re looking for a variation on the traditional box braid, consider a jumbo braid style. Instead of many small braids, you’ll end up with between 10 and 15 larger ones. This is a better choice for long hair since the braids will be too heavy for those who prefer short hairstyles.
18. Knotless braids
Also known as feed-in braids, knotless braids are an alternative to styles that wrap the extension hair around a knot at the base of your hair. Instead, knotless braids rely on hair that’s fed in as you go. This puts less stress on your natural hair and creates less tension. Many people love knotless braids because they’re nearly painless to install and wear, there’s much less breakage involved in the braiding, they’re not heavy, and they work well with fine hair.
19. Stitch braids
Stitch braids use an alternating pattern of thick and thin braids to create a stunning look. Your hair is divided into five to seven sections. Between each of these thicker sections, you’ll leave a thin segment. Each part is then braided close to the head. The result resembles Ghana braids but with the variation of the thin braids in between the bigger ones.
20. Bantu knots
This look is another traditional style with roots in the southern part of Africa. To achieve it, you’ll first section off parts of your hair for each knot. Then, you’ll twist and wrap each section to create the knot. Expert braiders and stylists can create intricate styles, patterns, and parts that upgrade the traditional look of Bantu knots.
21. Marley twists
Marley twists are similar to other twists we’ve mentioned on this list. The main difference is that this look specifically uses Marley hair. With this style, your final look will be reminiscent of locs thanks to the curly texture of this braiding hair.
22. Passion twists
Photo source: Talysha Pope, a women’s haircut Pro from Drexel Hill, PA
Passion twists are achieved by creating two-strand twists using curly extensions. Many people describe this style as a gorgeous combination of goddess locs and Senegalese twists. You can pull off this look with different lengths, thicknesses, and colors to make this style uniquely yours.
23. Yarn braids
These types of braids use yarn instead of braiding hair to style and protect your natural locks. Yarn is a great material to use if you want to try specific colors that aren’t available with braiding hair. Yarn is also much more affordable and accessible than braiding hair. Many people recommend using acrylic yarn you can find at craft stores.
24. Tree braids
Tree braids are a great option if you don’t want your hair completely braided down. To do this, you’ll braid your braiding hair into cornrows at the top of your head. You’ll let the rest of the braiding hair flow freely after it’s secured to your hair.
25. Braided faux hawk
Faux hawks are a fun style to do with your braids. The best part is that you can change up your look with different sizes of braids and different designs. You can ask your braider to create an intricate design on the side and create the faux hawk with a bigger braid in the center. Or you can leave your hair natural in the center for a big and voluminous faux hawk.
26. Lemonade braids
Photo source: Chicago Braider, a braids Pro from Chicago, IL
This look combines a few different types of braids to create one show stopping style. You’ll cornrow your hair on one side to let the rest of your hair sweep over on the other side. You can create wheel patterns, have your braids wrap around your head, and even use different sizes of braids to create an intricate pattern.
27. Poetic Justice braids
Poetic Justice braids are the style Janet Jackson rocked in her movie Poetic Justice in the ‘90s. She wore thick and long box braids in many styles throughout the movie. Some people use “box braids” and “Poetic Justice braids” interchangeably. If you want to channel your inner Janet, tuck these braids under a newsboy cap or tie them up in a high ponytail with a white headscarf and leave the ends straights.
28. Braided bob
Contrary to the length of Poetic Justice braids, braided bobs typically stop around the shoulder. Going for short braids lessens the weight you’ll carry around and opens up the door to many different styles. You can get braids with fanned ends, loose curls, or creative parts.
29. Braided braids
Create a new look by wrapping your braids into one big braid. Small braids are versatile since you can manipulate them to create different styles. Try making two large plaits with your braids and loosely weaving them to make a big twist.
30. French braids
French braids are another fun style you can incorporate with other styles of braids. You can have the majority of your hair in French braids while having parts of your hair in micro braids. You can also ask your braider to braid them around your head or to create different sizes to mix things up.
31. Kinky twists
You can create kinky twists by first braiding the extensions into your natural hair to secure it. Then you’ll twist the rest of the hair to form the plait. These twists tend to fall on the thinner side compared to other types of twists.
What to consider before picking a braid style
The main factors to consider before picking the right braids for your hair are:
- The length of your hair
- Your hair’s natural texture
- How long you want to keep your braids
These will all impact the style that’ll work best for you, so let’s look more closely at each of these considerations.
Your hair should be at least two inches long for short braided styles and four to five inches long for lengthier versions. Why? Short hair can’t accommodate long extensions without risking damage to your hair. If your hair is longer than four inches, it should be strong enough to hold longer extensions.
The natural texture of your hair is also critical to getting your braided style right. Very fine hair will work better in smaller braids, while thick hair can handle thicker braids.
Finally, textured hair is easier to style in braids because it’ll hold them in better than straight, smooth hair.
The process to install braids takes several hours and can be quite expensive. Since they’re an investment, you’ll want to take care of your braids. The key to a long-lasting braided style is proper maintenance using natural hair care best practices as part of your routine.
With the right care and maintenance, braids typically last between four and six weeks. Some can last as long as eight weeks depending on the style and how well you care for them. A good rule of thumb? The thicker the braid or twist, the quicker it’ll frizz. Small, tight braids and twists will last longer.
There are so many gorgeous braids for Black women to choose from. Although it’s tempting, you shouldn’t pick a style just because it’s on trend. The trick to a great look is knowing your hair’s specific features and how it’ll react to each braid style.
Whenever you’re ready to update your look or give your hair a break from daily styling, make sure you connect with a stylist specializing in braiding. They’ll work with you to help you achieve your desired results. They can also take the time to learn about your hair history, hair goals, and your lifestyle to create the best look for you.
Search through our community of braiders today to find someone in your neighborhood who can help you get the braids of your dreams.