Cornrows are a popular type of African American braid in which the hair lies closely against the scalp. Many times these braids are done by braiding professionals in intricate designs and are considered a form of hair art.
Cornrow braids don't have to appear in straight braids. Once the top portion of the head has been braided, the remaining portion of the hair can be braided or left down.
When styling a hairstyle like this, it is important to add a product such as an SPF leave-in conditioner to the braids and scalp. This will keep the braided hair healthy, prevent frizzing and protect exposed scalp from harmful rays from the sun.
Loose cornrows that are raised above the scalp can be added to the hair in a similar fashion to traditional cornrows. As with any style of cornrow, beads or other adornments can be added to the end of the braid to bring some color into the hair. Caring for these types of cornrows requires extra care, as they are not as resilient as traditional cornrows.
Cornrow Braids With Messy Strands
To add some sassy chic style to your cornrows, leave the ends of the hair strands unbraided and hanging free. If you choose to style the ends, try curling them on a small barrel iron or microbraids. This is a casual look, but could easily be pulled into a more professional look by creating a loose bun with the free-hanging strands.
Braid styles can be used together to create intricate design styles that are quite literally hair art. To replicate this style, braid the crown in cornrows in a specified pattern. The hair below the earlobes could be braided into microbraids or a twisted braid style.
Braided Ponytail With Cornrows
Add versatility and style options to your cornrows by braiding two or three large cornrows from ear to ear as a headband. Leave the back to be braided in a single ponytail braid or it can be left loose.
African American men often wear braided hairstyles. Tight cornrows that scale the entire head are a popular option. This style needs to be washed and conditioned regularly to keep the hair healthy, but requires very little daily maintenance.
Traditional Goddess Braids
For a special look, some women choose to have their hair braided in an updo style that wraps around the head. This style is called a goddess braid, and there are many different ways to complete the styling. The hair can be fully braided and tucked under or around, or extensions or hairpieces can be added for extra volume and interest.
Goddess Braid Variation
To create a goddess braid variation, gather hair onto the crown and secure with an elastic band. Part the hair into two sections; braid one section of hair in traditional three strand plaits style and secure ends. Braid the other half of the hair in similar fashion and secure ends. Wrap the braids around the crown, secure with hairpins, and spritz with a spray moisturizer and oil to preserve the style.
Goddess Braids with Cornrows
Start with tiny cornrow braids on the crown that transition into chunky goddess braids wrapped around the crown for an updated take on the classic Greek goddess look. To protect the style, cover the hair at night with a sleep cap or scarf, and keep the hair well moisturized.
Small and Large Combination
Combining small traditional African American braids, such as box braids, with larger, loose braids is a unique way to create an eye-catching style. Creating a style like this will probably require braiding extensions into cornrows or microbraids, then having the loose, free-flowing hair braided into large, traditional braids.
Two-Strand Twist Braids
Like the name suggests, two strand twists use two strands of hair to create a twisted braid rather than using three strands of hair like many other braid styles. The size of twists varies greatly; smaller twists are perfect for using in other styles, like this partial updo, while large twists can be simpler to do and are less time consuming. Many women wear larger twists for one or two weeks; smaller twists may last longer with proper care.
Short Two-Strand Beaded Twists
Beads are a popular add-on enhancement for twisted braids (and three-strand braids). To get this look, simply twist or braid the hair. Moisturize with water and a moisturizing gel to seal the hair shaft while braiding.
Once all the hair is braided, add beads to selected individual braids or all of them. Use small, ouchless rubber bands to secure the beads. These styles typically last about two to three weeks.
Two-Strand Twists in a Ponytail
Those who have long hair can gather their twisted braids into a ponytail. To get this look, the twists are swept away from the face and secured back for a sleek, feminine look.
Hair Weaves and Braids
Hair weave techniques are often combined with braids to create lush hairstyles or add highlights. Stylists use synthetic or human hair extensions and incorporate the hair strands into a particular braid style such as cornrows or micro braids. For a fuller, more natural look, the hair ends can be left long and loose.
Microbraiding is a popular method of styling African American hair. Microbraids are typically used to add extensions to the hair. This is a popular way to add permanent extensions, as it doesn't damage the hair as much as other methods.
Styles like this have extensions braided into the top of the hair while the rest of the natural hair and the extensions hang loose in a free flowing manner. Many times the braids are so small that they are barely noticeable. Women planning on getting microbraids should expect to be at the salon for several hours and for multiple sessions, as this process tends to take a long time.
Box braids are small braids done to the entire head of hair. The braids are small, but large enough to be noticed. Most importantly, these braids are easy to maintain, and easy to style. Box braids can be left hanging straight or styled into an updo or ponytail, just like unbraided hair. It is important to keep the braided hair well conditioned and hydrated to ensure it doesn't become damaged.
The braiding technique for microbraids and box braids is similar; hair is sectioned off or "boxed" and then braided. The stylist teases out a few strands of hair for microbraids, but uses larger sections of hair for box braids. Expect to invest about 7 to 12 hours to get box braids, and 10 to 14 hours for microbraids.
Box Braids with Extensions
For fuller, longer looking box braids, synthetic or real hair extensions can be seamlessly braided in with actual hair. This will create long, full looking braids that are resistant to the normal wear and tear typical extensions fall victim to.
Thick Chunky Braids
Hair extensions are an easy way to get those thick, chunky braids that look so fashionable. Stylists weave hair extensions into the client's natural hair to create thick braids that can be left hanging down or swept up in a variety of styles.
For a romantic look, braid or twist ribbons into a two or three strand hair plait. Start a braid and plait a few strands. Use a bobby pin to attach the ribbon to the top of the braid, and incorporate the ribbon as the braided or twisted strands are fashioned. Secure at ends by knotting the ribbon ends and securing the braids with a tiny elastic band.
Short Messy Braids
Tiny plaits covering the head are an eye-catching way to rock short hair. The tight braids add texture and interest to the head and create an easy-to-care-for messy look.
Intricate twists are trendy and quickly transform hair from humdrum to sensational. This style is the perfect way to disguise uneven hair lengths as layered hair grows back in, and the varying braid lengths add dimension and sassy style for a unique spin on traditional braids.
Swept Up Braids
Add interest to any hairstyle by combining braids with a super sleek bob. To replicate this look, the sides and crown are braided in cornrow braid and secured with a hair barrette at the back of the crown. The ends are combed into a bob. Because there is no part in the hair, this style adds maximum volume.
Trendy Pixie Braids
Braids don't have to be tight against the scalp. Individual braids that hang down and frame the face are perfect for wearing in pixie styles like this look.
Fishtail Braid Style
A fishtail braid is a casual style that needs very little to make it elegant. It works as well on a lazy day at home as it does for a night on the town. To wear it on the side, loosely gather straightened hair behind the ear and braid over either shoulder.
Sisterlocks are micro dreadlocks that do not require the use of gel, grease or other styling product. They are formed using a special tool and are very versatile like micro braids.
Yarn braids are braids or twists that have yarn worked in with the natural hair. This can be done with most braid or twist styles. The yarn can blend with the hair color or be vibrant and colorful.
A Multitude of Braid Options
Braids are a part of the rich heritage of black hairstyles, and today's fashion-forward woman has many more options from which to choose than just the traditional three-strand plaits or cornrows. Goddess braids, microbraids, box braids and two strand twists are just a few of the many choices. Regardless of the length of one's hair or face shape, there is an ideal braid style just waiting to be discovered.