How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (2024)

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Style your hair into any type of braid with this easy step-by-step guide

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methods

1Creating Box Braids

2Braiding Cornrows

3Making 2-strand Twist Braids

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Tips and Warnings

Things You'll Need

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References

Article Summary

Co-authored byNdeye Anta Niang

Last Updated: February 23, 2024Fact Checked

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Because of its natural thickness and fullness, braiding African hair can be a challenge, but it's possible with a little help. Rope braids and cornrows are beautiful, classic styles that you can do without going to a salon. Be gentle with your hair, and take your time! The results will be well worth it.

Method 1

Method 1 of 3:

Creating Box Braids

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  1. 1

    Wash and condition your hair. Start by washing your hair as per usual, and then use a deep conditioner to help soften your strands. Leave the conditioner on your hair for the amount of time recommended on the bottle, then rinse it out with cool water.[1]

    • To minimize dryness and frizz, use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo.
  2. 2

    Detangle your hair. When you’ve rinsed your conditioner out, use a wide-tooth comb to brush out all the tangles, starting from the ends and working towards the roots. For even gentler detangling, use your fingers to tease out any knots and tangles.[2]

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  3. 3

    Blow-dry your hair to relax and defrizz your curls. Use your hairdryer on “low” to blow out your curls, so that they are almost completely dry. Brush out your hair once more to make sure there are no knots, and then you’re ready to start your braids.

    • Blow-drying your hair will help stretch and relax the curls, reducing frizz and making the hair easier to manage during the braiding process.
  4. 4

    Prepare your packages of braiding hair. Box braids use ‘braid hair’ – synthetic hair strands that are very long – to fill in the space on your scalp and give you plenty of fullness in your braids. Take each chunk of hair out of the packages individually, and hold them in the center, cutting off the elastic bands holding it together. With a grip on the center and the 2 tail ends of the hair hanging down, begin pulling the strands on 1 side of the hair. This will give the ends of your hair a more natural look, otherwise the packaged hair is blunt-cut straight across and your braids will look a bit unnatural when you’re finished.[3]

    • Choose your braid hair in a color similar to your own, and get at least 2 large packages. The longer and thicker you want your braids to be, the more packages of braid hair you will need. If you want shorter braids, use fewer packages and cut the braid hair into halves or thirds.
    • When you’re pulling the hair, gently tug at small strands rather than big portions of hair.
    • Run your fingers through the hair when you’re finished evening out the ends to remove any knots that might have shown up.
  5. 5

    Get a strand of braiding-hair ready for braiding. Section off your first piece of braiding hair into a strand that is about 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6cm) wide. Then, separate off ⅓ of this section. You should be holding 2 sections with 1 that is twice as thick as the other. Wrap the smaller strand around the larger one, so that the tail ends are facing opposite directions (like ‘><’). Take the smaller strand and grab it at the center where it is intertwined with the first strand. Carefully twist the strand over and under, so that the 2 tail ends form a single piece that sticks out between the original tail strands.

    • You should be left with 3 strands of approximately equal size, which you can hold in 1 hand.
  6. 6

    Section off your hair on your scalp for braiding. Use a rat-tooth comb to carefully section a small piece of hair on your scalp, approximately 1-inch by 1-inch (2.5 cm by 2.5 cm). It will probably be easiest to start on 1 side of your head near your hairline and work your way back, but you can start wherever you are comfortable. Use a bit of hair gel or edge control product to prepare this section, making it easier to manipulate.[4]

    • If you want to do basic box braids, you can section the hair into square “boxes.” You can also get creative and make sections in other shapes, such as diamonds or triangles.
  7. 7

    Start your first braid. Hold your braiding hair in your hand so that 1 strand is between your thumb and index finger, a second strand is between your index and middle finger, and the third strand is hanging behind the first 2. Grab the section of hair closest to your scalp with your thumb and index finger, as close to the roots as possible. To start the braid:

    • Reach your empty hand around your head and grab the third strand of braiding hair hanging behind the ones gripped in your hand.
    • Simultaneously pull the 3rd strand of hair under and incorporate the hair from your scalp into the section between your thumb and index finger, and twist it over in the opposite direction.
    • Pull the third loose section of hair into the middle, between the other 2 sections. You should now have 3 separate strands of hair that are held tight to your scalp, with your natural hair incorporated into 1 of the sections.
  8. 8

    Braid your section of hair. With your braiding hair as close to your scalp as possible, begin braiding tightly in the traditional pattern. Alternate placing the left-most strand over the middle section, and then the right-most strand over the middle section. When you reach the end of your braid, the strands should taper out into a smaller and smaller braid. You don’t need to use an elastic band to hold it in place, as it should hold on its own.[5]

  9. 9

    Braid additional sections of hair. Repeat the same steps as aforementioned to braid the rest of your head:

    • Section a 1-inch by 1-inch (2.5 cm by 2.5 cm) piece of hair from your scalp, and apply gel or edge control.
    • Prepare your braiding hair and part it into 3 strands.
    • Use the twisting method to combine your natural hair into your braiding hair.
    • Complete the braid using a regular 3-strand method until you reach the ends.[6]
  10. 10

    Perfect each braid. As you braid, it is important to take the time to make sure they are all smooth, flexible, and even. If you notice any bulging strands or lumps in your braid, you’ll need to take it out and start over from the beginning. If your natural hair is sticking out from the strands of your braiding hair, you’ll need to remove your braiding hair and add gel or edge control to moisturize it and reduce frizz.

    • You may have to re-braid the same strand multiple times in order to get it just right.
    • If your braid is uneven, you may have started with sections of differing thickness. You’ll have to take out your braiding hair and re-split it into 3 even sections.[7]
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Method 2

Method 2 of 3:

Braiding Cornrows

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  1. 1

    Wash and condition your hair. Because you’ll likely be leaving your hair in cornrows for several weeks straight, you want to make sure that you start with clean, well-conditioned hair.[8] Wash your hair with your regular shampoo, and then use a deep conditioner to soften it. You’ll also want to use a hair gel of some sort while you braid, to keep your hair smooth, frizz-free, and easy to control and manipulate.

  2. 2

    Decide where your part will be. Cornrows can be braided in any direction, so it is important that you decide where your part will be before you start braiding. The 2 most common part styles are either in rows from your hairline straight back to the nape of your neck, or braided in a circular motion around your head from a center part. You’ll need to use a rat-tooth comb to part your hair in the desired pattern, and to split your hair into sections for braiding.

  3. 3

    Section your hair. Fill a spray bottle with water and a little bit of olive oil and shake it well. Then, spray down the section of hair you are working with. Use your comb to separate off this section of hair in a row down your head. The smaller the part, the smaller the braid; the larger the part, the larger the braid. Use butterfly clips to hold your remaining hair in place out of your face.[9]

  4. 4

    Begin your first cornrow. Take the sectioned part of hair in 1 hand and pull a small piece from the very top (near your hairline) away from the rest of the bunch. Separate this small piece of hair into 3 sections of equal size. Start braiding these 3 pieces in the traditional braiding pattern: cross the right-most section over the middle section, then cross the left-most section over the middle section, back and forth.

  5. 5

    Add in more hair to your cornrow. The cornrows are created by braiding your sectioned hair in a French braid really close to your head. As you work down your parted section of hair, continue your braid the same way you started it. However, as you braid, grab small portions of hair from the un-braided part and incorporate them into each strand you cross over the middle section. You are essentially creating a very tiny french braid.

    • As you add in hair, pull the braid tight and keep your fingers close to your head.
    • Don’t braid your hair away from your head, as this will make your cornrows loose and appear funny.
  6. 6

    Finish your cornrow. When you get to the nape of your neck, you may or may not run out of hair. If your hair is short, you will finish your cornrow by twisting the ends of the braid together to secure them and prevent unravelling. If your hair is a bit longer, you will continue your cornrow past the nape of your neck in a regular braid. Twist the ends to secure the braid when you’re finished.[10]

    • You can choose to use small, clear elastic bands to hold your cornrows in place if you’re worried about the braids coming loose.
    • Some people choose to put beads on the ends of each braid as a decorative detail.
  7. 7

    Cornrow the rest of your hair. Work across your scalp, sectioning out even pieces of hair and braiding them into cornrows. The process can be quite time-consuming, so don’t be alarmed if it takes several hours to complete. Make sure that each cornrow is the same size and follows the same pattern, so that it appears even and intentional across your head.

    • If your hair is sticking out from your braids, it is likely not moisturized enough and your braids aren’t tight enough. Add more styling product, such as gel, edge control, pomade, or mousse, to remedy this.
    • You might need help from someone to make sure that all your rows are even and parallel, especially on the back of your head.
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Method 3

Method 3 of 3:

Making 2-strand Twist Braids

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  1. 1

    Wash and condition your hair. Just like with other braiding styles, your hair needs to be well-moisturized and de-tangled prior to starting your 2-strand twists. Wash your hair as per usual, and then use a deep conditioning cream to moisturize it.[11]

    • Your 2 strand twists will be easier to style if they are wet or at least slightly damp, so do not blow dry or air-dry your hair completely before styling.
    • Use a comb to remove any tangles or knots that might be present.[12]
  2. 2

    Decide on the size of your twists. There are many options when it comes to braiding your 2-strand twists. The most obvious decision you’ll need to make is how large you want your braids to be. You can do ‘micro twists,’ which use dozens of teeny-tiny braids, or you can do jumbo twists that use 1-inch (2.5 cm) sections or larger of hair.

    • Small twists will last much longer than large twists, but the process is obviously more time-consuming. Decide what size you want based on your personal style and the amount of time you have to work on your hair.
  3. 3

    Prepare your first section. Use a rat-tail comb to part a section of hair to your desired size. The section of hair should be a square in shape. Rub a bit of style gel or cream through your hair and mist it with a little water and olive oil to reduce frizz and make it easier to manipulate. Use your comb to brush through this section several times, to make sure that the hair is completely smooth and tangle-free.

  4. 4

    Start twisting your first section. Split your section of hair into 2 equal strands. Begin winding them tightly away from your head in a rope-like pattern. You’ll simply wrap the strands simultaneously around each other to create a twist. To keep it tight, you’ll want to pull the twist tight to your scalp as you work.

  5. 5

    Finish your first twist. When you near the end of your strand and begin running out of hair to twist, you will need to switch to doing a 1-strand twist to secure the ends. To do this, take the 2 strands and combine them together (there shouldn’t be much hair left to do this with). Then, wrap this section around your finger many times, in the same direction you were twisting the 2 strands of hair. This will curl the ends of the hair in the same direction, securing them in place.

    • This method works best if your hair is naturally curly rather than chemically relaxed or permed.
  6. 6

    Repeat the twisting process on the rest of your hair. Continue working your way across your scalp, creating your 2-strand twists. The process is the exact same for each twist, just make sure that you section off equal amounts of hair so that all your twists are the same size.

    • Section a small piece of hair, comb it, and apply your gel or cream.
    • Split your section into 2 equal strands.
    • Wrap the strands around each other to form a rope-braid.
    • Twist the ends of the 2-strand braid together to secure them and prevent the braid from unravelling.[13]
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Expert Q&A

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  • Question

    What are some common mistakes people make when braiding hair?

    Ndeye Anta Niang
    Hair Stylist & Master Braider

    Ndeye Anta Niang is a Hair Stylist, Master Braider, and Founder of AntaBraids, a traveling braiding service based in New York City. Ndeye has over 20 years of experience in African hair including braiding box braids, Senegalese twists, crochet braids, faux dread locs, goddess locs, kinky twists, and lakhass braids. Ndeye was the first female of her tribe in Africa to move to America and is now sharing her knowledge of African braids passed on from generation to generation.

    Ndeye Anta Niang

    Hair Stylist & Master Braider

    Expert Answer

    A lot of people tend to think they need to pull the braids extremely tight to keep them from unraveling, but that's simply not true. You can braid your hair and get it to stay by pulling the braids gently together.

    Thanks! We're glad this was helpful.
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  • Question

    I'm 14 yrs old and I don't know how to braid my natural hair. Usually my older sister does it, but she's going to college and won't have time for me. How can I do the braids on the side of my head with my natural hair and no synthetic hair added?

    Ashley Adams
    Professional Hair Stylist

    Ashley Adams is a Licensed Cosmetologist and Hair Stylist in Illinois. She completed her Cosmetology education at John Amico School of Hair Design in 2016.

    Ashley Adams

    Professional Hair Stylist

    Expert Answer

    After shampooing, conditioning, and drying your hair, you need to part your hair in horizontal partings since you want the braids going to the side. Make the parts as thin or as thick as you want the braids to be. Comb the hair to detangle it, take 3 small sections of hair and begin braiding. Add small pieces of hair as you continue to braid. You may need to ask for assistance with parting your hair in areas that you can’t see, and braiding in areas that you’re unable to reach.

    Thanks! We're glad this was helpful.
    Thank you for your feedback.
    If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even $1 helps us in our mission.Support wikiHow

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    Not Helpful 10Helpful 20

  • Question

    Does my hair have to be a certain thickness to have crow rows?

    Ashley Adams
    Professional Hair Stylist

    Ashley Adams is a Licensed Cosmetologist and Hair Stylist in Illinois. She completed her Cosmetology education at John Amico School of Hair Design in 2016.

    Ashley Adams

    Professional Hair Stylist

    Expert Answer

    No, even if your hair is thin you can still achieve cornrows. Optionally, you can add synthetic braiding hair to your cornrows if you desire fullness.

    Thanks! We're glad this was helpful.
    Thank you for your feedback.
    If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even $1 helps us in our mission.Support wikiHow

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      Video

      Tips

      • You can add beads to the hair while braiding.

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      • You can make your braids shinier by putting hair grease or hair oils in your hair. Wait to do this until after you have finished braiding, since adding oil to your hair beforehand will make the hair too slippery to work with.

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      • If you're unsure about how to braid the hair without damage, or if you're displeased with the overall look, visit a local salon or hairstyling business that specializes in Black hairstyles.

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      Show More Tips

      Tips from our Readers How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (35)

      The advice in this section is based on the lived experiences of wikiHow readers like you. If you have a helpful tip you’d like to share on wikiHow, please submit it in the field below.

      • Detangle your hair with a wide-tooth comb. Start from the ends of your hair to your roots to prevent breakage.
      • Go to a local African braiding shop and ask the hairdressers there for advice.
      • Sleep in a silk or satin bonnet to protect your hair from breakage at night.

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      How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (36)

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      Warnings

      • Don't attempt to wear tight braids for an extended period of time if your hair is already very weak, brittle or damaged. Braids, when worn for long periods of time, can be damaging to the hair.

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      Things You'll Need

      • Shampoo
      • Conditioner
      • Comb (fine-toothed or medium-toothed)
      • Hair ties or rubber bands
      • Hair clips
      • A styling product, such as hair gel or edge control

      You Might Also Like

      How toCare for Damaged African HairHow toDo Different Braids
      How toMake a Dutch BraidHow to Make a Fishtail Braid: A Step-By-Step TutorialA Complete Guide to French Braiding Hair10 Easy Ways to Braid Your HairHow toTie a Braid to a MonoHow to Braid Your Own CornrowsLearn How to Create, Style, and Care for Your Own Box BraidsHow to Braid Your Hair: The Easiest Braids for BeginnersHow toDo a Basic Hair BraidHow toDo Double French BraidsHow toBraid Short Hair for MenHow toDo Viking Braids

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      References

      1. Ndeye Anta Niang. Hair Stylist & Master Braider. Expert Interview. 5 March 2020.
      2. Ndeye Anta Niang. Hair Stylist & Master Braider. Expert Interview. 5 March 2020.
      3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmnYZ7Ks21A
      4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yg5X26NybM&t=8s
      5. Ndeye Anta Niang. Hair Stylist & Master Braider. Expert Interview. 5 March 2020.
      6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNjZ6-fndnk
      7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrDyeYEfNs4
      8. Ndeye Anta Niang. Hair Stylist & Master Braider. Expert Interview. 5 March 2020.
      9. Ndeye Anta Niang. Hair Stylist & Master Braider. Expert Interview. 5 March 2020.

      More References (5)

      About This Article

      How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (41)

      Co-authored by:

      Ndeye Anta Niang

      Hair Stylist & Master Braider

      This article was co-authored by Ndeye Anta Niang. Ndeye Anta Niang is a Hair Stylist, Master Braider, and Founder of AntaBraids, a traveling braiding service based in New York City. Ndeye has over 20 years of experience in African hair including braiding box braids, Senegalese twists, crochet braids, faux dread locs, goddess locs, kinky twists, and lakhass braids. Ndeye was the first female of her tribe in Africa to move to America and is now sharing her knowledge of African braids passed on from generation to generation. This article has been viewed 606,023 times.

      24 votes - 91%

      Co-authors: 39

      Updated: February 23, 2024

      Views:606,023

      Categories: Braids | Styling Afro Textured Hair

      Article SummaryX

      To braid African American hair, wash your hair as you normally would and apply a deep conditioner. Detangle your hair gently with a wide tooth comb, then let it air dry or blow dry it until it's lightly damp. You can then experiment with popular protective braids like cornrows, or if you want to incorporate synthetic hair into your look, consider box braids. For a less time-consuming option, give two-strand twist braids a try! For tips on sectioning your hair and perfecting your braids, read on!

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      Reader Success Stories

      • How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (42)

        Zina Thomas

        Nov 25, 2017

        "At first I wasn't sure about how to keep my natural hair moisturized, but looks like I was on the right path..." more

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      How to Braid African Hair: Black Braided Hairstyles (2024)

      FAQs

      Is it better to braid black hair wet or dry? ›

      If you do not dry your hair appropriately, a mildew scent arises from wet braids. Just like damp clothes, wet braids have a lingering smell. It can be concluded that braiding is advisable when the hair is already dry, as compared to wet hair, as it is strongest in a dry state and weakest in a wet state.

      How long does it take to braid African American hair? ›

      If you choose thicker braids with less parts, it might take as little as three to four hours. If you want longer braids, tack on an extra hour or two. If you're looking for thin braids, the process can take as long as eight to 12 hours.

      Which braid gives the best curls? ›

      If your hair is naturally wavy, a loose side braid will give you relaxed curls. If you have straight hair, try tight braids for more uniform waves. You can then maintain your curled hair so it looks polished and pretty.

      Should you oil your hair before braids? ›

      Niani says to skip applying oil to your hair when preparing braids. Not only do you want your scalp to be free of product buildup, but she explains that some hair oils won't play well with braiding products and can impact the hold or appearance of your final style, leaving behind a white, flaky residue.

      What to put in your hair before braiding? ›

      To deep condition your hair before braiding, apply a generous amount of conditioner to clean, wet hair (from root to tip). Cover your hair with a plastic conditioning bag and sit under a hooded hair dryer for 15-20 minutes. Then rinse hair with lukewarm water for 2-3 minutes.

      Can you put leave-in conditioner before braids? ›

      Firstly, leave-in conditioner for curly braided hair provides moisture and prevents overdrying during braiding. This added hydration by curl cream contributes to a smoother braiding experience. Furthermore, it reduces friction and minimises potential damage.

      How long should you let your hair breathe between braids? ›

      Stylists often recommend that you let your natural hair and scalp relax and breathe before putting another protective style in. If you can allow at least one week between styles, then you'll have time to see the state of your hair. You can tell if you need a trim or a protein treatment and how to best take care of it.

      Is 2 inches of hair enough to braid? ›

      Box Braids: For box braids, your hair should be at least 2 inches (5 cm) long to provide enough hair to grip during the process. Cornrows: Cornrows can be done with short hair with a minimum length of about 1.5 to 2 inches (4-5 cm) to secure the braiding.

      Should you straighten hair before braiding? ›

      The decision to perm your hair before getting braids is a personal one and depends on your individual preferences and hair type. Just know that Perming, or chemically straightening, your hair can alter its natural texture and may make the braiding process easier since the hair is straightened.

      Should you do a braid out on wet or dry hair? ›

      On wet hair, begin to section and detangle your hair. If you desire a tighter longer-lasting pattern, create smaller sections and for a looser pattern, create medium to larger sections. Do note that the bigger the braid, the longer it will take to dry.

      Do you dry hair before braiding? ›

      A clean head that's blow dried or stretched is important to achieve a neat quality set of braids. Once it's blow dried be sure to section your hair off in multiple sections and twist or plait the hair to keep it as straight as possible.

      Should cornrows be done on wet or dry hair? ›

      You can cornrow both dry and damp hair.

      Are braids better on dirty hair? ›

      "Dirty hair calls for messy buns, slicked-back snatched buns, braids, and knots," says celebrity hairstylist, Bridget Bager. "This is because dirty hair adds more texture, grit, and grip to your hairstyles, allowing hair to stay in its place.

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