As anyone with coily, kinky and afro textured hair will know, keeping your hair healthy and hydrated is paramount. If you feel you’ve contended with enough breakage and detangling to last a lifetime, you’re far from alone, and caring for your hair shouldn’t have to mean compromising on style. If you’ve been guilty of a little too much heat styling or over-processing of late, opting for a protective style like braids could offer your hair some much needed time to recover as well as a beautiful new look.
We asked Celebrity hairstylist and braid specialist Molecia Geo all about the timeless appeal of braids, the celebrity icons to follow for inspiration, and why these low maintenance, high impact styles should be on your radar.
‘Braids have been around for decades, from Janet Jackson’s Poetic Justice, to Brandy’s micro braids,’ says Molecia, ‘but I believe that they are still so popular today because they’re great protective styles when done correctly and can be dressed up or down for any occasion’. ‘They’re also convenient and practical enough for our busy lifestyles’, she adds.
‘The most popular hairstyles I’m asked to do at the moment are Boho braids,’ says Molecia, ‘these can be achieved with either a hybrid blend of synthetic and human hair, or purely human hair, and super long knotless braids.’
‘During the pandemic women were stripped of the luxury of getting their hair done,’ says Molecia, ‘and now they’re allowed to do so again, there’s this feeling that life is too short for boring hair, it’s time to go all out!’
And theres no shortage of celebrity braid inspiration. Look no further than beauty icon Zoë Kravitz. who considers braids a go-to style she’s not opting for a close-cropped pixie cut. In fact, her influence is so prolific that you can even find boho or ‘goddess’ braids nicknamed ‘the Zoe braids’ for their loose, wavy ends inspired by one of her signature looks.
Equally as iconic is Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ video, which launched a widespread obsession with Fulani braids.’
READ MORE: 21 Short Afro Hairstyles To Inspire Your Next Trip To The Salon
‘Zendaya’s braids are always on point whenever she does them too’, adds Molecia. ‘She always slays knotless braids. And Leigh Anne Pinnock from Little Mix can rock any braids in any colour, she’s so adventurous with her hair’. But the ultimate source of braid inspiration for Molecia? ‘Rihanna,’ she says without hesitation, ‘she makes imperfect braids trendy. Even those big braids you do before you go to bed to prep your hair, she makes them fashionable . I love her carefree spirit when it comes to braids’.
Molecia’s Top Tips: How To Prep and Care for Braids
Prep hair before the braiding begins: ‘Make sure your hair is washed and treated , like literally giving your hair a good deep conditioning or a good treatment that’s going to help retain moisture when your braids are in and help to stop too much breakage when you take your hair out’
Look after your scalp : ‘Moisturise your hair by using a hair butter, extensions can be drying. Oil your scalp with olive, coconut, Argan, or soothing lavender oil’
READ MORE: 30 Of The Best Curly Hair Products, Whatever Your Curl Type
From box braids to cornrows, Bantu Knots and everything in between, no matter your hair length or texture, we’ve rounded up the styles you’ll want to try next. Browse them all below:
10 Braided Hairstyles To Try Now
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Want to try a new colour but scared of the commitment? Coloured extensions are a great way to switch up your style at a moments notice.
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When Charlotte Mensah created this top knot for her Grazia shoot, we were instantly obsessed. Swapping out box braids for rope twists was the unexpected detail that made this braided updo extra special.
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Braid large sections of hair before wrapping to create elaborate bantu knots. Theres even room for micro braids along the hairline to double up on plait power.
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Elevate your look with clips, cuffs and rings. After all, who said accessorising should be left to fashion?
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Traditional Fulani braids popularised by the tribe of the same name feature a cornrow down the middle parting, and braids in the back. Adding beads for summer might just be our favourite way to customise the style.
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Slick, easy and effortless, classic cornrow braids can last for weeks, and will save you time getting ready in the morning. In need of more inspiration? Take notes from Tracee Ellis Ross on how to make cornrows red carpet ready.
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Upgrade classic cornrows by finishing with a braided ponytail. From mid-back to tailbone grazing, the possibilities are endless.
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The easiest way to tie back braids, the half-up-half-down style is a tried and tested one, and works particularly well with knotless braids that have more flexibility at the roots than box braids.
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When Zendaya approves a trend, we listen. And these ultra long box braids are worth the hours of bum numbing installation in-salon.
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If you are low on time, opt for jumbo box braids, dividing the hair into 5 or 6 sections and incorporating extensions for longer, chunky, plaits. A side parting adds asymmetric edge to the style favourited by Teyana Taylor, Janelle Monet and Rihanna.