Bali Babes Love Braids
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Your type-4 hair will thank you.
If you’ve been thinking about trying a new hairstyle for your 4a, 4b, or 4c hair, you already know there are tons of natural hair braid ideas to try—and for good reason: Braids are one of the few styles that can be both a protective hairstyle and a whole new ~lewk~ at the same time. “A lot of hair thrives on braids and protective styling,” says hairstylist and curly hair expert Jasmine “Jazzee” Green, since both the pre-braid prep, along with the actual style itself, can help your hair stay moisturized, detangled, and less prone to damage. And hey, even if the style isn’t protective (ahem, tight, butt-length braids with five pounds of braiding hair), it’s still temporary, right?
So whether you’re looking to change up your style with box braids, micro braids, cornrows, or one of the zillion other options in your camera roll, you’re going to need more inspo before heading to your braider. And if your saved folder on IG could use a refresh, I rounded up the best natural hair braids to try next, from jumbo braids to Ghana braids to braided updos, along with some tips from Green about how to prep your hair for braiding—plus, how long you should actually keep your braids in.
Fishtail braids for natural hair
The key to making an entire head of fishtail braids look a little ~unexpected~? Keeping them a bit non-uniform, like these textured, slightly pulled-out braids on Storm Reid. If you're DIYing these yourself (here's a fishtail tutorial as a refresher), just make sure to gently tug at the edges of each braid when you're finished to fatten them up.
A looped braided updo
Looking for a way to play around with your braids rather than doing yet another half-up, half-down style? Try this looped updo shown on model Farhiya Shire. Just scoop your braids up to your scalp, pinning the ends around the base of your braids to secure them. You can experiment with just a few loops, or a fully-looped updo (bonus points if you've also got the curly bangs to match).
Braid-wrapped high ponytail for natural hair
We love a two-toned brand, like the silvery-white and black braids here on Liesl Tommy. Even if you’re not naturally working with gray or white hair, you can still get in on the vibe with white braiding hair (or try silver or white-blonde), which will give your braided style a similar effect regardless of what your genetics are doing.
Braided double buns for natural hair
Is that the ‘90s calling? Oh, hello there—I think Salem Mitchell borrowed this style from you. After you wrap your braids into double pins, pin them in place, leaving the ends free. Then, to get the same ultra-spiky ends, flat-iron and spray them with hairspray for stick-straight hold. Don’t forget to leave out two face-framing tendril braids to make this a proper nod to the decade of Tamagotchis and Capri Suns.
Micro multi-colored braids
Consider this braided style on Tessa Thompson the blueprint for all undone-yet-intentional hair—you know, the “oh, this ol’ thing?” style that actually took a ton of frickin’ effort. The mix of shades in her braided updo (see: blonde, copper, and caramel hair colors) help give these micro braids major dimension, even when they’re piled into a topknot. To recreate this look, become Tessa Thompson, befriend an expert hairstylist like Lacy Redway, and beg for this style. Or, you can try messing around with a half-up bun on your own micro braids, leaving out a few strategic braids around your head for the full ~chill~ effect.
Ghana braids with wavy ends
One of the best things about Ghana braids is their precise parting—like these sharp, swooping parts on Jourdan Dunn—which makes them look like a whole damn style, regardless of how you wear them (swipe to see Dunn’s long braids pulled back). Just make sure to keep a soothing scalp spray on hand if you’re constantly switching up your braided style; all that tugging and pulling can = aches.
Half-up micro braids
For the premiere of BlacKkKlansman, hairstylist Lacy Redway gave Laura Harrier a head of micro braids and pulled them into a half-up style—a nod to the “the history and culture of box braids,” writes Redway in her caption, which “were used to symbolize your tribe, marital status, wealth, or power,” more than 5,000 years ago.
Natural hair braids with mixed textures
Feeling a lil indecisive about braiding your hair? This style on Lesley of @freshlengths incorporates full-length braids and half-braids with curly ends to prove you don’t need to choose between looks—you can have both. A dual-textured braid will allow you to show off your natural curls (or the curly/wavy braiding hair you added), especially when you pull it over one shoulder.
Jumbo cornrows on natural hair
Want glossy jumbo cornrows like these on Tessa Thompson? Keep your hair moisturized and shiny with an oil-based hair mist. And if you’re already a week in and your braids are lookin’ a little less than fresh, saturate your scalp and braids with a layer of alcohol-free mousse, wrap them down with a silk or satin scarf, and hit ‘em with a blow dryer or bonnet dryer to set (or let them set on their own, up to you).
These long Ghana braids
These Ghana braids are basically the ~best of both worlds~. While some long braids have a tendency to pull and tug at your scalp, especially when they’re super skinny or overloaded with braiding hair, Ghana braids have the benefit of starting off thick, so even this hip-length look will leave you with less tension and damage. Just massage a soothing serum into your scalp every night to minimize any itchiness or aches.
Side-swept natural box braids
Feel like you left the salon with your actual soul braided up? Resist the urge to put your super-tight braids in a bun or ponytail for the first few days and instead let them hang down and loose (like this side-swept style). Keep a soothing scalp treatment on hand to massage between your parts after your braids are installed, says Green, and after you eventually take them down.
Two-toned box braids for natural hair
Want to add some brightness and warmth to your style? Try incorporating honey-blonde braiding hair into your box braids, like in this long bob. To play up the golden theme even more, add a few gold cuffs throughout the ends of your braids for a bit of subtle shine that doesn’t feel overpowering.
Ghana braids with curly ends
These side-swept Ghana braids are all about spirals, from the swirled parting to the curled ends (which you can get by asking for our bringing curly braiding hair to your appointment). FYI, if your sensitive scalp can’t handle these braids, ask your braider to go thicker and wider with the parting to relieve some tightness.
Long Pop Smoke braids for natural hair
Have dreams of v long hair? Bring 40-inch braiding hair to your braider and ask for these chunky Pop Smoke braids. As a reminder, the longer the braiding hair, the more tension it puts on the scalp, which can lead to breakage, says Green, making your protective style…not very protective at all. Take them down after four weeks max (the sooner, the better), and clarify your scalp after with a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo that’ll cleanse your hair without stripping it.
Triangle braids with embellished edges
I’ve been in love with Salem Mitchell’s triangle-braided ponytail since she wore it in a Cosmo shoot last year (nbd!). And, if you zoom in, you’ll see individual glitter stars decorating her edges, which are 10/10 for amping up a look. To DIY it at home, just dot eyelash glue over your laid edges, wait 10 seconds for it to get tacky, then place a glitter star, rhinestone, pearl, etc. on top with tweezers.
These triangle-parted natural hair braids
If you like sharp-AF lines, your new go-to style may need to be these triangle-parted braids. But if your scalp is feeling extra tender right after your appointment, you can soothe it and help loosen up too-tight braids by wrapping a warm, moist towel around your roots for up to an hour. Finish by massaging hair oil along your parts with your fingertips for added moisture.
Highlighted natural hair braids
The honey-blonde braiding hair in this fountain ponytail gives Marsai Martin’s braids a highlighted, I-chill-on-the-beach-all-day feel. If you want to recreate a similar look on yourself, bring some blonde bundles to your braider, then sprinkle gold cuffs and golden charms throughout your braids to really play up the golden-hour vibe.
This puff with long micro braids
Wanna get Winnie Harlow’s mega bun? Green’s favorite trick is teasing and pinning a few packs of braiding hair onto your braided bun to get major height and volume (à la this bun with braiding hair tutorial). Leave a few braids out of your bun before securing the teased puff, then wrap and pin them around your mega bun for some defined texture.
This dual-textured updo for natural hair
Jourdan Dunn wins the award here for Style I Am Most Likely to Screenshot because I legit love this dual-textured braided updo (and Dunn’s hella-fierce pose). But if your scalp is crying just thinking about this style, between the micro braids, the tight half-up ponytail, and the wavy braiding hair, ask your braider for knotless braids that won’t tug so easily when pulled up. You can also suggest going slightly bigger with the braids; you’ll still get all that dimension without so much tension.
Braided top-knot with wavy ends
Instead of braiding to the ends of your hair, ask your braider to seal them with the last 3 to 4 inches of curly braiding hair left loose to copy this look. Pull your braids into a half-up knot, leaving the ends untucked to show off your curls. Opt for ombré braiding hair to add even more dimension throughout the braids and in your bun.
Shiny knotless box braids for natural hair
You can’t get through a list of natural hair braid ideas without adding at least one of Zendaya's braided moments, like these hyper-shiny knotless box braids. If you want yours to also look like they’ve been drenched in liquid glass, smooth a hair oil along your braids and stand outside and beg the blinding sun to morph you into Zendaya herself.
Braided bangs with cuffs and beads
If you’ve never tried braided bangs (like these on Kerry Washington) because braiding hair tends to irritate your skin, you’re not alone: The chemicals used in synthetic hair can trigger an itchy reaction in some people, says Green. So before you head to your braid appointment, shampoo your braiding hair to remove those chemicals (a lot of people swear by soaking the extensions in warm water and vinegar). You can also opt for braiding hair formulated for sensitive skin with non-irritating ingredients, like Unclouded, which has a full line of braiding hair in eight colors.
Jumbo braids for natural hair
Jumbo braids, like these on Gabrielle Union, are a great low-stress protective style for when you’re growing out your hair, especially if you keep them on the shorter side, says Green. To keep your entire style truly protective, let your edges ~breathe~ and be their own natural selves—or at least make sure to switch to an oil-based edge control to help your baby hairs stay moisturized and pliable.
This braided updo for natural hair
Um, this updo deserves a spot in the Met, IMO. If you’ve seen Justine Skye’s “Twisted Fantasy” music video, you already know that it features a ton of screenshot-worthy braids, like this sculpture-esque braided updo that probably involved a zillion bobby pins. But even if you can’t get to a celeb braider for your next night out (lame), you can still take a note from Skye’s look and pair your DIY braided updo with a smokey eye for some extra ~drama~.
Triangle braids with curled ends
FYI: Beyonce’s triangle braids here are actually butt-length and curly on the ends (swipe to see), which she balanced by adding itsy-bitsy ringlets in front of her ears and keeping her edges soft. If you copy on yourself, feel free to accent those little curls with a pair of big, gold hoops like Bey.
These beaded braids and curls
Got braid commitment issues? Can’t deal with another 10-hour day in the chair? Then please meet this half-and-half style as seen on Ashley Moore—a look you can DIY yourself with a little bit of patience, some braiding gel, and a ton of hair jewelry. To get a similar beachy look, thread a combo of shells, gold cuffs, and wood beads throughout your braids, leaving the rest of your curls soft and free.
Side-swept wavy braids for natural hair
At first glance, this style doesn’t even look braided because all you see are Tessa Thompson’s long, shiny waves. But zoom in and she’s actually got a mix of micro braids that stop at varying lengths, giving her hair a cool, playful vibe. Pro tip: If your waves start clumping together and looking a bit too uniform, lightly smooth on a texturizing pomade to keep them looking piece-y.
Natural hair braided bun
If you wanna cop Chanel Iman's sleek braided bun without getting triangle braids first, try DIYing an easier, one-day-only protective style instead. Middle-part your hair and create four basic French braids (two on each side of your part, right on top of one another), tying off the ends with elastics. Twist and pin your braids into a high bun at your crown to finish.
Whether or not a braid is a protective style depends on a few factors: the style of braid, how tight the braid is to your scalp, the braiding method used, how long and thick the braiding hair is, and your own hair type and density. As a refresher, a protective style, at its core, is meant to keep your type-4 hair moisturized, tucked away (to minimize tangles and breakage), and free from manipulation (by being twisted, wrapped, or braided). So, yes, braids can be protective if they don’t lead to further damage.
And, of course, a protective style should also “be easy going in and easy to take down,” says Green, which means a million micro braids that take 15+ hours to install, or an intricate zig-zag-parted braid that breaks half your hair during the take-out process, won’t be protecting your hair as well as, say, a few short jumbo feed-in braids. If your goal with a fresh braid install is to protect and grow your hair, Green recommends styles that are “simple, easy, and don’t take too much time putting in,” like chunky box braids, jumbo cornrows, French or Dutch braids, and knotless braids, she suggests.
Still, remember: Hair needs to be healthy and moisturized before your protective style. “A protective style cannot do anything for you if your hair is damaged, if you need a haircut, or your hair is dried out,” says Green, so she recommends following a full routine to prep your hair for braids, which leads us to…
How should you prep your hair before braiding?
“If you’re not retaining moisture in your own natural hair beforehand, a protective style cannot do anything for you,” says Green. Before braiding your hair, you have to prep it with a ton of hydration, she adds, which you can get from slathering on creams, conditioners, and oils beforehand to help keep your hair from drying out as quickly inside your braids. Not sure where to start? Check out Green’s pre-braid hair routine:
1. Cleanse your scalp and hair with a sulfate-free cream-based shampoo.
2. Saturate your hair with a thick deep conditioner, leaving it in for 30 minutes to an hour before detangling and rinsing.
3. Comb a rich leave-in conditioner from roots to ends through wet hair until it’s evenly coated.
4. Blow-dry the leave-in into your hair with a comb attachment, stretching the hair as you dry (stretched, moisturized hair is less likely to shrink and break in your braids, says Green).
5. Once your hair is dry, smooth a hair oil throughout your hair from roots to ends. To keep your hair stretched and tangle-free until your appointment, two-strand twist or loosely braid it, then cover with a silk scarf or bonnet.
How long should you leave braids in?
How long you leave your braids in will depend on the style, your preferences, and how protective you want them to be, but Green says you should never leave your braids in for longer than four weeks. “After four weeks, that protective style is now a damaging style,” she says, adding that “the longer you stay away from hydrating your hair with water and conditioner,” the more likely your hair is “going to mat and be a nightmare” to detangle and smooth.
When you do take your braids down, shampoo your hair with a moisturizing shampoo. Green says you can use a cream-based cleanser or sulfate-free clarifying shampoo to help break down and dissolve the build-up and oil accumulation along your roots. Follow with a rich conditioner or hair mask, a leave-in cream, and a hair oil (like one with argan oil, grapeseed oil, and Jamaican black castor oil, each of which will both penetrate the hair and lock in moisture).
Wanna try braids? Check The Shampoo Lounge. The Shampoo Lounge has been attending to an international and Indonesian clientele since 2012 so check out our instagram, our website and our TripAdvisor reviews! We can’t wait to have you in.
➡️ BOOK NOW: https://www.shampoolounge.com/booking
article written by by beth Gillette and Valeriya Chupinina for Cosmopolitan