Tree Braids

African American Woman

Tree braids are a popular African American hairstyle that applies extensions to the hair with small, tight braids, allowing individuals to add length and volume to their current hairstyle. Although the style can be done with most hair types, it works best with the thick, kinky nature of African American hair.

How to Do Tree Braids

Tree braids cornrow braid your current locks in with hair extensions, in lieu of weaving or gluing the extensions to the hair. The process is as follows:

  1. Divide hair into small 1/2 inch or smaller sections along the hairline, and clip into place.
  2. Beginning at the hairline, begin a tight cornrow braid, and then add a small lock of extension hair to the braid.
  3. Braid the real hair and extension together until the extensions are securely attached to the natural hair on the head; the majority of the extension should be unbraided and free flowing.
  4. Repeat this process until all of the hair along the hairline has been braided.

Get a Professional

Tree braiding should be done by a professional hairstylist to ensure the braids are done correctly. Research salons in your area that specialize in African American hair and braiding. Before making an appointment, make sure the salon doesn't just do cornrows, but that they also have experienced professionals to do tree braiding. After finding a stylist, you will have a consultation appointment. During this time, the stylist will talk you through the process, give you a price estimate, and an estimate on how long the braiding will take. On the day of your braiding appointment, be prepared for the process to take at least five hours. This braiding process should never hurt; if you feel as though your braids are too tight, and are causing you pain or discomfort, let your stylist know; tight braids can cause damage to the hair and even hair loss.


When you get the braids, you first have to decide on the type of extensions you want. Your stylist should give you recommendations on extensions, as well as where to buy the hair. No matter what type of extension you choose, purchase at least 24 inches of hair. The hair needs to be this long because it will be halved when braided. Remember that it can also be cut shorter later. There are two types of hair used for hair braiding, synthetic and human hair.

Using Synthetic Hair

You can purchase synthetic hair for use with tree braids. This hair is cheaper than human hair and comes in a variety of textures and colors. However, there are some drawbacks with synthetic hair. Tree braids with synthetic hair will not last as long as those done with human hair and there are also many limitations that some with using synthetic hair, primarily when it comes to styling. Those with synthetic extensions should not heat style their hair with curling or straightening irons. Synthetic extensions may also come out if the hair is styled with extensive braiding or twisting.

Using Human Hair

Purchasing human hair for tree braiding can be expensive. However, there are virtually no styling limitations when using human hair extensions, and the extensions are far more durable than synthetic hair, meaning they will last longer. With human hair extensions, you can heat style the hair with flat-irons, curling irons, rollers and hair dryers as often as you like. Additionally, braiding or twisting the hair will not cause extensive damage or make the extensions fall out prematurely.

Care and Maintenance

The difficulty in caring for tree braids varies depending on the type of extensions you use. You should be able to care for your braids on your own, and make appointments with your stylist every 8-10 weeks for re-braiding sessions or to get your tree braids taken out. If your braids become loose or begin to fall out in between sessions, book a re-braiding session immediately.


Cleaning the braids is quite simple, especially if your braids are done with human hair. Shampoo and condition human hair extensions as often as you would with your own hair. If you are cleaning synthetic hair extensions, you will only need to wash them once every one to two weeks. Make a solution of diluted shampoo by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of gentle shampoo or baby shampoo with one quart of cold or room temperature water. Pour this solution over the extensions then rinse thoroughly with cold water. In between washes of synthetic hair, you can spray your hair with a detangling spray and gently comb out any knots to keep the hair looking clean and fresh.

Pay special attention to the scalp and braids when cleaning the tree braided hair. Vigorously scrubbing the braids along your scalp can cause the braids to become messy looking or undone, but they still need to be cleaned in order to protect and maintain the quality of your natural hair in the braids. After washing your extensions in the shower, simply apply a waterless shampoo to your braids, or use an astringent to clean the braids and the exposed portions of your scalp.


Any styling can be done on the braids if created with human hair extensions. Avoid heat styling with synthetic extensions, although light blow drying on a cool setting is acceptable. When styling the hair, it is important not to pull on the tree braids or accidentally comb or tease them during styling. This can cause the braids to become loose or fall out. Avoid using products such as hair gel or hairspray on the actual braids, as this can lead to unsightly residue build up. If your braids look frizzy and dry, only apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner to the braids.

Deciding to Get the Braids

Tree braids stay in the hair for several weeks and are a time-consuming and costly investment. Make sure you are completely comfortable with your decision prior to getting the braids done. If the decision is well thought-out, and you consult with a professional to perform the braiding, these braids can be a great low-maintenance hairstyle choice to fit nearly any lifestyle.

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