I have been experimenting with braiding since transitioning from relaxed hair to natural. It has been a long, messy but overall worthwhile journey and braids were an amazing tool throughout this whole process.
In this post, I will share some of my favourite braid hairstyles for afro hair with you.
There are so many different types of braids, and we will run through 24 of the best braid hairstyles for black girls.
We have even gathered some videos tutorials here to help you out along the way.
Black hair is beautiful and versatile. With braids, twists, and dreadlocks as your styling options, you can easily style your hair for any occasion.
Transitioning to Natural Hair
Since I can remember and at a very young age I relaxed my hair. I would do it at the salon or at home. The main goal was to get that hair tamed and straight.
Growing up in the 90’s with an afro hair and a white mother was quite interesting. Combining her inexperience with my type of hair and my desperation to fit in with the current beauty standards of that decade was rough.
Afro hair was not trending or cute back then. It was looked down on, considered messy and ugly. There was no afro hair representation that could convince that generation to embrace their natural curly hair.
For years I straightened my hair. Years of damaged, weak and lifeless strands that would break easily.
It was not pretty at all and I was always trying the next new product that promised that Black American Girl bone straight hair that we saw on tv and on the relaxer boxes.
Little did I know that those gorgeous girls were not using the same product that I was. Years later I learned about weaves and wigs and I was not impressed.
Years of harsh chemicals to achieve the unachievable hairstyle I saw on tv. Lots of money and tears to not get even close to that.
Fast forward to a few years later when I said enough is enough. My hair was at the verge of giving up for good and I was sick of never getting that healthy luscious hair.
I decided to go natural and to finally embrace my natural curls. Bare in mind I didn’t even know the natural texture of my hair. I literally had no idea of what to expect but I was convinced.
It was like I was discovering a new identity. I had a few failed attempts but eventually I got on with the program and sucked it up.
There was more and more girls showing their transitioning journeys and much more products marketed to afro hair. Things were looking promising until I realised my hair had 4 different textures. It was definitely the hardest part.
At the roots the hair was strong and healthy, but the ends were splitting, weak and breaking. It was a nightmare to adjust and it would take me ages to detangle it.
I was getting extremely frustrated and impatient. No amount of leave in would make it look nice. I would have to use a specific product on the roots and another on the ends.
I watched dozens of youtube videos and learned dozens of texturing techniques, but or they were too complicated and time consuming, or the results would just not be it.
What are Good Protective Hair Styles?
After all of this struggle, I landed my eyes on protective styles. That’s when I met weaves and wigs and my favourites, the box braids.
Wigs were a straight no. Although they are a great way to add length and mix things up for women with short hair, I found them very expensive and high maintenance. Also I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea. Weaves were a bit more of an option but after one try I gave up.
For some reason it felt hot, uncomfortable and itchy. I took it off after a few days. It is a great option, it just wasn’t for me.
Now on to braids. Because of the different textures of my hair I got fed up and chopped a big chunk of hair off. It was great to see so much healthy hair and felt very freeing.
The problem was the length. I was always obsessed with long hair. And for the first time my hair was above my shoulders and I have to say I freaked out a little.
After a few days trying to adjust to my new bob and new texture I gave in and tried box braids for the first time. But only after a full detailed research.
I learned a lot about traction alopecia and of how important it was to tell your hairdresser to not make them too tight and protect your baby hair. I saw home horror stories so I took all the possible precautions.
After some calls I found this really nice Nigerian hairdresser in Dubai. She was kind, and patient and answered all my questions before I sat on her chair for 5 hours straight.
How Long Does it Take to Braid Hair?
I know, I wasn’t completely ready for the long process and how much time it would take to do the box braids. I was glad I took some snacks. She did tell me it would be a while but 5 hours was not what I was expecting.
It was so worth it though. It looked so beautiful and fresh and I can’t recommend it enough. I eventually learned to do it myself so I play with colours and I love how versatile and sexy it looks.
So let’s have a closer look at my favourite braid styles for afro hair and for black women who are transitioning to natural hair and need some ideas.
If you want to try out something new or you’re looking for inspiration, here are 24 braided hairstyles to try.
Different Types of Braided Hair Ideas for Black Hair
These black braided hairstyles are some of the best protective hairstyles you can try, and are suitable for day to day or a special occasion.
These styles can be worn by women and also little girls.
These braiding styles listed below include classic styles, and some with a more unique design so you can find your perfect look, whatever your personal preference. Different styles will compliment your facial features, and help to create a cool look, or a sexy look – whatever unique hairstyle you are looking for, you came to the right place.
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This is my favourite. Like I mentioned before, you can play with different colours and length to change the overall look.
Be aware that if you add too much length it can be hard to adjust to sleep. Long braids can be a bit heavy and hard to manage.
I would always spray some of my favourite oils, put it in a high bun and add a scarf for bed. But you do what works for you.
These are gorgeous. Cornrows are a series of tight three strand braids that are weaved close to your scalp. The difference with cornrows is that rather than braiding each strand “over” you braid under.
Using this technique, you can get some really amazing designs. Always keep in mind to not make it too tight.
These are not technically braids but it gives a similar look. Same as the braids, you can be quite playful with colours and length.
Many people ask are faux locs damaging to hair? As long as you maintain these well, they are no more damaging than any other kind of braided hair style, and you should keep these for up to 4-6 weeks.
Marley twists are a type of two strand twist that takes it’s name inspiration from the famous Bob Marley. These are so cute and very easy to apply.
You add length you will use similar hair extensions just like with the box braids but the installation is slightly different, as is the type of hair you need to select. Marley Twists are achieved by using kinky-textured Marley braiding hair extensions
These are very versatile and amazing as a protective style.
With this, you need some practice and patience but it can be worth it for the results. This is a bit more time consuming if you are a beginner like me but the results are incredible if you take your time.
Fulani braids originate with the Fulani people of Africa. This style can be adapted in multiple ways, and Alicia Keys even wore them on the cover of her debut album Songs in A Minor (one of our favourite CDs!)
These braids are defined as:
“Fulani braids, made popular by the Fulani people of Africa, is a style that usually incorporates the following elements: a cornrow braided down the center of the head, one or a few cornrows braided in the opposite direction toward your face just near the temples, a braid wrapped around the hairline, and often accessories, such as beads.”
You can see a variety of different Fulani braid hair styles here.
As you are braiding, with whatever type of hair extensions you’ve chosen to use, instead of braiding straight down you can try guiding the hair towards one side to create different patterns and looks to mix things up.
Goddess Braids can be a quicker alternative to traditional cornrows as they are braided slightly larger which takes less time. They also end up being raised higher, due to the size.
With tree braids, you use a combination of braiding and leaving some of the extension hair free falling. This creates a look that’s a crossover between braiding and having a weave.
With halo braids, as the name suggests you are creating a halo type shape within your hair. Here’s an instruction video from Youtube to take you through.
Dutch braids are created by braiding “under” just like with cornrows, but rather than completing a full head of cornrows one alternative is to make two larger dutch braids.
Check out this tutorial video
Havana twists are jumbo twists. By switching up the size of your two strand twists, and by adjusting how tightly or loosely you twist the air you can create some different looks and effects.
Check out this tutorial which gives a super natural big hair look with the mambo twists
As you can guess from the name, Ghana Braids like Fulani braids, are another traditional African style. This is a protective style involving cornrows that go straight back across the head.
This style of braiding is also known as straightbacks or pencil braids and sometimes also referred to as Cherokee braids.
Bantu Knots originated with the Zulu people.
These are a beautiful style where sections are twisted and wrapped up into knots shapes on the top of the head.
Lemonade braids are named after Beyonce’s lemonade album. They are a type of creative side cornrow style, and many people even braid shapes into these such as heart lemonade braids.
Micro braids are super super thin braids. The aim with these is to get the braids so small that they resemble strands of hair. Obviously, this is going to be an extremely time consuming braid style
Chunky Braids (Chunky Box Braids)
On the other side of the scale you have chunky braids. These are thicker and quicker box braids. Of course the bigger the braids, the less braids you need to complete and the quicker your whole head is finished.
These are also referred to as Jumbo Braids (Jumbo Box Braids). Just because they are quicker, they are no less gorgeous. Check out this tutorial video
Poetic Justice Braids
This is another name for box braids, particularly if they are long rope braids and this name came after Janet Jackson’s movie Poetic Justice in 1993 brought them into the spotlight.
Poetic Justice braids are considered a 90s fashion style but this is something timeless that we can easily take forward into 2022 and beyond.
Two strand twists are one of the quickest and easiest braided styles that you can use, and does not require any equipment or hair extensions.
This is a simple style that even children can do for themselves, and is a great option if you are looking for something low maintenance that won’t require a lot of time investment.
The results of this protective style will be slightly different based on your hair type, and whether you twist your hair wet or dry.
Ever tried braiding with yarn? This material is another alternative for synthetic hair that you can use to achieve your braided hair styles
Yes, fishtail braids can be done on black hair. This style has Princess Elsa vibes and you can make it your own. Check out this gorgeous tutorial
The difference between Senegalese twists and Marley twists is in the type of hair that you will need to use.
Both of these type of twist braids are pretty easy to achieve.
You can get some amazing results by braiding just a section of your hair and leaving the rest big and natural, to keep it tidy but let your natural volume and beauty shine.
How to Care for Braided Hair
Last but not least I would like to say that washing and conditioning your hair thoroughly, and blow drying it before any of these hairstyles is a must for the best results
These hairstyles are made to last a few weeks. Some can stay up to 6 weeks so you have to make sure your hair is clean before starting it. This is the best way to make sure that your braids last and look good for a long time.
You can obviously wash it during the time you have it on but it is not the same so do not skip this part of the process.
Make sure to research about your specific hairstyle maintenance techniques.
There are plenty of videos and information online about products and how to keep them looking fresh for long. So do your research.
Also research about the hair brands available. I always use the same brand but there is an immense variety of suppliers so see which one is better for you and your hair type or hair texture.
Detangling is also very important. I chose to blow dry my before braiding because I have a lot of hair.
Blow drying your hair helps managing it through the braiding process and personally I think the finished look seems more fresh, tidy and flat.
Hope this shines a light to everybody looking for protective styles or is transitioning to natural hair, and that we gave you some inspiration for your next hair appointment.
Be patient and good luck!
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.