Yarn Braids: A Cute, Whimsical Take on Classic Protective Hairstyles

Eunice Lucero | 04 May 2017

Go as subtle or as creative as your heart desires with yarn braids.

We all love to people-watch, and one of the great things about living in New York City is that we all get to see a wealth of creative expression, particularly in hair. A robust and diverse melting pot of cultures gives us front-row seats to a variety of quirky looks on the daily. Yarn braids are one of these fun looks that have caught our eye on the street (and on social), and although this hairstyle isn’t necessarily new, it’s certainly a cool and creative trend that, yes, can also look really natural and beautiful when done correctly.

The Basics of Yarn Braids

brown yarn braids on long hair
Acrylic yarn retains moisture and comes in a variety of colors, from natural shades like black and brown to brights and pastels.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind with yarn braids is that it’s a more affordable alternative to hair extensions. Acrylic (and not wool!) yarn can run you around half or even just a third as much as weave hair. Acrylic yarn also gives you a lot more color variety—the possibilities are endless!

Yarn braids can also yield pretty awesome results that can rival the look of other protective hairstyles that use regular extensions, provided the ends are sealed off properly.

1. They’re natural looking.

That said, a lot of women choose acrylic yarn that’s close to human hair color (such as black or brown) for a more natural-looking braided style. To create yarn braids, just like with regular hair extensions, acrylic yarn is secured onto the root with a few twists then braided towards the ends. The ends are commonly burned off to ensure a natural-looking tip.

short yarn braids
A few yarn braids near the hairline and cut in a lob length make for a trendy, fashionable look.

2. They’re less upkeep.

Said to be easier to clean up than regular weave extensions, yarn braids are also relatively simple to manage. Yarn retains moisture too, which makes them a great protective hairstyle for naturalistas whose hair can run on the very dry side. However that also means they can get really heavy when wet, so you don’t really need to do much in terms of hair care: Just making sure your scalp and natural hair are clean before braiding, and an occasional application of a hair oil or a leave-in conditioner is enough to moisturize.

3. They’re super fun.

Since yarn is cheaper and comes in a wide spectrum of shades, the world is quite literally your playground! Experiment with darker, natural hues, or run the gamut and try out every color imaginable, without your hair ever touching a drop of dye or bleach—such is the boon of having this protective hairstyle. Bright, colored yarn does have a noticeable fade though, so fans of yarn braids say it’s best to leave them in no longer than six weeks.

blonde yarn braids near fringe
Lighter-colored yarn braids mimics the look of highlights.

4. They’re highly tweak-able.

Whether you just want a subtle pop of color or texture on your regular braids or want the whole nine yards, yarn braids can be tweaked and personalized to fit every taste and commitment level. Some women like the look of a few accent pieces near the fringe (à la highlights), while others crave the whole shebang and go for the full protective look. However way you want your braids to look is completely up to you, so go on and get crafty!

Want more protective inspiration? Check out our roundup of different twist hairstyles.

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