Wearing your natural texture out is awesome, but sometimes you also need the longevity that protective hairstyles offer. Twists and braids also offer up a lot of styling options for switching up your day-to-day look. Not only are black braided hairstyles a stylish way of wearing your hair, they also do a good job of shielding your natural texture from everyday damage from dryness, washing and manipulation.
We’ve put together a short list of some of favorite braids for black women that we hope will inspire your next ’do. Whether you’re into shiny, sleek-looking twists, are more of a ’90s box braid gal or want to get loc’d and loaded once and for all, there’s definitely a set of black hair braids just for you. Read on:
Perhaps one of the most popular braided hairstyles for black girls, cornrows have undergone a reboot the past few seasons via a similar look worn on non-natural hair called the Dutch braid. Both essentially feature the same stitch: an under-braided link that results in a bumpy, built-in plait from your hairline to your nape. You can wear them with only a few strips on the crown or sides behind your ear, or go all out and do your entire head in neat, uniform rows.
2. Dutch Braids
Not necessarily considered black braid hairstyles per se, Dutch braids employ the same technique as cornrows—the sections of a three-strand plait are crossed under the middle (as opposed to over), to result in a raised, banana-like braid as you go down the head. A lot of women love the super-secure feeling of wearing this look in pigtails, resulting in its nickname “boxer braids,” as it’s certainly a no-budge gym hairstyle. Whatever it’s called, it’s definitely got a campy, edgy feel that’s got everyone taking to the look like bees to honey.
3. Box Braids
Another popular look—as well as a hot protective alternative—is a set of box braids. Strips of hair extensions are tied onto natural hair and braided downwards in a regular three-strand stitch. The result is a sheath of long, shiny, multiple braids that can then be styled into a multitude of looks usually reserved for long, straighter hair, such as a top knot or half-updo.
Steeped in heritage, dreadlocks, like cornrows, have always been a culturally-rich hairstyle among the natural community. The look entails dividing hair into skinny sections, twisting each section into ropes, and then splitting each rope twist to further texturize and seal it off. Some hair types don’t require much product to help keep each loc secure, while some straighter, less textured hair types do. You can wear dreadlocks on any length of hair as well, with the bobbed version gaining a lot of traction on street style stars as of late.
5. Crochet Rope Twists
That said, rope-twisted extensions also offer a lot of variety apart from your everyday natural-textured hairdos. Colored extensions can be woven into the base of an existing cornrow with a crochet needle (hence the term), and then styled however way you want on the mid-lengths and ends—even by switching the stitch midway from a braid to a twist, as above. Shake things up (and also look ahead of the pack during festival season) by coiling a few sections into bantu knots, and then wearing the rest of your crochet twists long and loose.
6. Senegalese/Havana Twists
Rounding out our favorite protective hairstyles are the Senegalese and Havana twists, which both feature extensions tied onto the base of natural hair and then twisted to create that telltale rope-like pattern. The difference lies in the width and texture of these twists, with Senegalese twists being shinier and skinner, and Havana twists being chubbier and retaining more of a natural texture. Both result in a sexy, frizz-proof sheath of hair that’s a great summer option too.