When it comes to protective hairstyles for black women, African hair braiding styles are a must-try. From easy and simple to intricate and wild, there are endless designs, patterns, colors, and accessories that suit every personality type. Are you ready to be inspired and get creative? Look at some of the best African hair braiding styles in this list.
What Are African Hair Braiding Styles?
African hair braiding styles refer to the different hair braiding patterns and designs that emanated from Africa since 3500 BC. These are often adorned with hair jewelry for braids like beads, pearls, shells, clips, and rings. Today they also come in different colors like blonde, burgundy, and blue.
Historical Significance of African Hair Braiding Styles
Each African hair braiding style represents a distinct culture and identity throughout history. Aside from distinguishing tribes from one another, they also indicate age, marital status, power, and wealth. During the slave era, hair braiding patterns conveyed escape routes. Today, they are not only perceived as aesthetic hairstyles but also regarded as works of art with rich social significance.
Practical Use of African Hair Braiding Styles
African hair braiding styles did not solely exist as a cultural symbol; more importantly, they serve a practical purpose. They are protective hairstyles that tuck away natural hair to help minimize damage because of too much heat and humidity.
Best African Hair Braiding Styles
There is an array of African hair braiding styles. While each varies in size, length, thickness, color, pattern, and design, they all look stunning and stand out!
Box braids are probably the most popular African braid today. In this hairstyle, the natural hair is sectioned into small squares that look like boxes before they are weaved with hair extensions. With box braids, you get a protective hairstyle and additional hair length.
There are endless possible ways to style your box braids. You can flaunt it and let it fall on your shoulder. Wear them in a high bun for a classic look. If you want to be cute, make two-side ponytails. You can also experiment with colors and play with accessories. With these braids, you can create multiple gorgeous looks for different occasions!
If you want to add some volume and flair to your African hair braiding styles, boho braids or bohemian braids are a must-try! Boho braids are essentially box braids with undone and curly ends. The beauty of boho braids is you can play with them however you want. You can wear loose or tight curls, short or lengthy, tied or flowing. This is a casual-looking hairstyle that exudes an effortless and feminine vibe. Be prepared to charm everyone with this romantic look on your next night out.
Tribal Half Up Half Down Braids
Closely resembling boho braids is the tribal half-up, half-down braids. Tribal half-up, half-down braids are one of African braids with endless possibilities. Tribal half up half-down braids consist of a combination of two hair braiding styles. First is a braiding design from the forehead to the crown that lies close to the scalp. The second is either a box braid or a boho braid falling from the back of the head until the hair ends. This hairstyle is perfect for everyone who loves to frame their face and flaunt their braids simultaneously.
One of the modern evolutions of African hair braiding styles is playing with colors. And blonde braids are undeniably one of the most popular ways to wear any braided hairstyle. Blonde is hot, chic, and appealing. It is eye-catching whether you let your blonde braids naturally flow down, style them with accessories, tuck them in a high ponytail or high bun.
Today’s generation of women expresses love for African hair braiding styles with these heart-shaped braiding scalp patterns! Heart braids are gaining love from young and old alike. It is a variation of the traditional cornrows. Instead of braiding hair in parallel lines, they are plaited to form heart shapes.
There is no rule on how to wear heart braids. You can create heart braids on the side or back of your head. Play with colors and accessories if you like. You can curl the ends for a boho vibe. However you style them, heart braids can make people fall in love with your hairstyle.
Thanks to Beyonce’s 2016 album titled Lemonade, the Lemonade braids became popular once more. Lemonade braids are the modern name of the side braid or a side-swept curved braid that lies close to the scalp and flows down. The curved patterns make this hairstyle look more feminine compared to the pointed designs of most African hair braiding styles. If you want to look gorgeous and sexy all the time, then give this one a try!
When we talk about Fulani braids, you are right to think of Alicia Keys. This hairstyle originated from the Fula or Fulani people of West Africa. It consists of thin to medium plaits that lie close to the scalp. This African hair braiding style cannot be complete without beads, shells, or pearl accessories. Fulani braids are your go-to hairstyle for those who prefer more traditional than modern African hair braiding styles.
As the name suggests, stitch braids resemble the look of stitches. These are uniformly sectioned braids. They can either have consistently thin or alternating thin and thick patterns. Stitch braids are perfect for those who love a clean and neat hair braid finish. This type of African hair braiding style can be paired with crown braids or halo braids like the photo above.
The snake braids are one of the modern evolutions of the classic cornrows. Instead of creating straight and parallel plaits, snake braids feature a series of S-shaped or snake-like curves. If you love to experiment with the latest designs and patterns, you have to try snake braids. The result is undoubtedly unique and eye-catching.
Ghana braid is one of the traditional African hair braiding styles. The braids begin from the forehead to the nape. Hair extensions are fed gradually to create a fuller and thicker look as the braids go down. This hairstyle is a sure show-stopper.
Burgundy Knotless Braids
Get daring and take your African hair braiding styles to the next level with burgundy knotless braids. This type of hair braiding style is like your traditional box braids. But instead of creating a knot, you gradually feed in burgundy hair extensions to your natural hair. This hairstyle is super hot, sexy, and captivating. It unleashes every woman’s fiery charm from within.
Passion twists are another modern evolution of African hair braiding styles. It weaves two strands of hair to create a rope-like hair braid. Passion twists are easier to install and lighter on the scalp than other hair braiding styles. It also looks more bouncy and curly. That is why it exudes fun and playful vibe, especially when colored and accessorized.
Triangle Box Braids
Do you love your box braids, but you want some more flair? Why not try triangle box braids? Instead of sectioning your natural hair into squares, opt for a triangle-shaped pattern. You still get the lovely hair length plus the creative scalp patterns!
A halo braid is a hairstyle that looks like an angel’s halo. It contours around the forehead, the back of the ears, and the nape. While halo braids are known to originate from ancient Greece, this has become a widely-popular protective hairstyle for black women today. The halo braid is fast and easy to install. It is also probably the most simple and classic hair braiding style you can wear on all occasions.
For those who prefer effortless and casual-looking braids, you should go for jumbo braids! This hairstyle is easier and faster to install. It gives off a relaxed and outgoing vibe!
African Hair Braiding Styles Care Tips
Wash or shampoo African hair braiding styles every two weeks. Shampooing helps remove dirt, oil, build-up, and other impurities. It will also help prevent dandruff and scalp itching. I highly recommend using a sulfate-free shampoo with a safe and gentle cleansing formula.
Any African hair braiding styles must be dried thoroughly every after shampoo. They are prone to develop molds and smell when left damp for a long time. It is essential to towel-dry, air dry, and even blow dry your hair after washing. Be gentle with this step to prevent hair from frizzing.
Protective hairstyles, including African hair braiding styles, can make hair dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. That is why it is necessary to moisturize your scalp and hair as often as you need. You can use a leave-in conditioner or natural light hair oil specifically formulated for textured hair.
Wear A Silk Cap Before You Sleep
All African hair braiding styles must be protected against tugging, pulling, and loosening as we move when we are asleep. Make sure to wear a silk cap to cover and secure your hair. Also, it prevents frizz and allows your hairstyle to last longer.
While you want to wear protective hairstyles to make your hair beautiful and manageable, you also want to keep them healthy. Take down any African hair braiding style after eight weeks or upon the recommendation of your hairstylist. Taking down African braids prevents your hair from drying, damage, and breakage. It will also give your hair time to breathe and regenerate.
African Hair Braiding Styles FAQs
What Are African Hair Braiding Styles?
African hair braiding styles refer to the different braiding patterns and designs that originated in Africa since 3500 BC. The most common examples are cornrows, box braids, halo braids, Fulani braids, ghana braids, stitch braids, lemonade braids, and goddess braids.
How Often Do You Need To Wash African Hair Braiding Styles?
Wash African hair braiding styles every two weeks. Use sulfate-free shampoo with a safe and gentle formula to remove dirt, oil, dandruff, build-up, and other impurities.
How Long Do African Hair Braiding Styles Last?
African braids typically last from 4 to 8 weeks. Remember that the time can vary depending on the braiding type, quality of installation, and maintenance.
How Long Does It Take To Install African Hair Braiding Styles?
The time it takes to install African hair braiding styles varies depending on the type of braid, design, strand length, and hair volume. But on average, short to medium-length hair can take 4 to 6 hours to braid. In comparison, long hair can take 6 to 10 hours.
Enjoy Your African Hair Braiding Styles
There are endless African hair braiding styles that you can try if you need a protective hairstyle for your natural hair. African braids do not only lessen the possibility of damage because of heat and humidity, but they also allow you to uniquely express your personality. There are endless style options, from classic and elegant to modern and messy. Recreate the hair braiding style inspiration in this list that best represents you!
Diana used to work as an Assistant Salon Manager in Los Angeles, CA before she started writing for Union of Barbers. With over 10 years of experience, she has tried hundreds of hair care products and has seen, styled, and treated all types of hair. Now, she shares all of the things she has learned in the hair industry and gives advice on everything about hair. When she’s not writing, you can find Diana at the beach on her yoga mat!