Of all the protective looks on offer braided hairstyles have to be up there as my favourites. When I first transitioned back to my natural hair eight years ago, I used braids to hit the duelling textures of my coils and the straight, chemically relaxed hair rather than chopping it all off. They were so easy to wear, lasted for ages and went with every outfit. But that’s not to say that braided styles aren’t any drawbacks. “While there are some quicker styles to do, a traditional box braid look can take 6-or-so hours,” warns celebrity hairdresser Lorraine Dublin. The time a braid install takes is very dependent on the style and length of the hair, however, the fact they can last up to two months makes all the time in the chair more than worth it, not having to worry about fully washing and styling your hair for weeks at a time. It’s good to note that twists and faux locks (which I bracket into braided styles too) tend to be quicker to do if you haven’t got the best part of a day to spare at the salon, but they normally start to fray quicker than three-strand braided hairstyles.
Of course, braided looks are great all year round, but in winter as our hair goes through more environmental aggressors with the cold, rain and dry central heating, they are ideal for minimal manipulation, so here are some of the best styles to save for your next salon trip.
Adding gold rings is a quick and easy way to update a braided look that is a few weeks old. Place them sporadically around the hairline for a bejewelled look.
Simple cornrows are an undefeated style to give your hair a break from heat and over-manipulation. Just make sure you are hydrating your scalp as it is more exposed.
Colouring Afro-textured hair can require a lot of TLC so having fun with colour in your braids is a great way to experiment.
These cornrow braids are an ultimate showstopper style. Plus, because of the cornrows, the braids feel less heavy.
Teaming you’re cornrows with a low-slung bun screams laid back luxe.
Rocking these midi box braids bring a peak ’90s hair trends into the ’20s, especially when you add beads into the mix.
Marley twists are one of the lightest-feeling braided styles to wear. If box braids leave you with neck pain, this should be the next style you try.
Red hair + Fulani braids = A pairing to try immediately.
Buns and braids are a duo that go together seamlessly. If you lack length, adding in a little braiding hair to two face-framing plaits works well.
Going XXL on the beads is an unexpected way to amp up a braided style.
The regrowth stage of braided styles can be cumbersome to deal with but the good thing is that braids become more malleable at the root so high ponytails are easier to wear.
While a half-and-half style doesn’t have the longevity of when you braid to the ends of your hair, an Afro puff is undeniably a good idea.
These chunky braids are easy to wear, quick to install and while they won’t last as long as box braids they’ll give you a couple of weeks of mornings free-from styling.
Neither high or low on the head, this look is a classic failsafe look.
Franny proves that braids look equally chic at a jaw-skimming bob length.
Braiding hair has come a long way since having to burn the ends to seal it. For these loose waves, use perm rods at the end, dip in boiling water and then allow to dry.
Pink hair is always a fun idea. Braids (or wigs) are the healthiest way to experiment with this colour as there doesn’t have to be any bleach in sight.
Beyond elegant, this neat high ponytail is set off perfectly with styled baby hairs.
It’s the colour of the moment so of course braids in a rich red hue would be the perfect winter protective style.
Knee-skimming braids are a commitment, but when they look as good as this, it’s worth it.
Threads of shimmer through your braids is a stunning addition to a cornrowed look.
A neat braided bun is a way to take your look to new heights… literally. When doing this look, ensure it sits on the crown of your head, if it’s too low down it can become heavy.
Rope twists are a braided style that is light to wear and easy to style down or in updos too.
Big box braids are a streamlined way of wearing braids that are quick to install. If you have thicker hair, sparsely apply light butter to the lengths to keep neat and lock in moisture.
Loc’ing your hair is a big commitment so faux locs are an excellent way to try out the style without changing your own hair texture. Next up, the easiest hairstyles for long hair.