By Emma North
There are so many braided hairstyles for women out there that the possibilities are pretty much endless. Whether you’re in search of protective hairstyles, wedding hair ideas, or simply want to try something new, there's a braided option for you.
A braided hairstyle is the epitome of chic and works on almost any length; long hairstyles, bob hairstyles, and even short hairstyles can be worked into an intricate style. With hundreds of different braid variations out there, the level of expertise required to pull them off varies. The sky (and perhaps your braiding ability) is the limit—so we won't judge you if you take this cheat sheet to the hairdresser rather than opting for a DIY job.
But if you’re a braided hairstyle novice and can’t tell the difference between a fishtail or a Dutch plait, fear not. We’ve enlisted the help of Marlee Brunel, the manager of The Braid Bar, to divulge her best tips for creating some of the very best braided hairstyles.
Is 'second day hair' best for braided hairstyles?
According to Marlee, freshly washed hair is best for braided hairstyles. "Having freshly cleaned hair is better and more ideal as we use products to ensure the style gets the best hold for longer."
After washing and drying with a hair dryer, if you have fine hair and feel like it's too slippery, you can apply a texturizing spray to improve hold. Similarly, dry shampoo or hairspray at the roots will also give fine or flat hair some holding power.
How to secure braided hairstyles
The texture of your hair is critical when keeping a braided style in place. Silky, slippy hair won't hold, so the more texture, the better. "Hairspray is always a winner when maintaining any style," says Marlee.
She also suggests working with damp hair to avoid irritation, "We always recommend spraying the area with water before adding any extra products as it’ll break up the products we apply, reducing itchiness and flaking of products."
You may want to have a good supply of hair grips nearby too. It's easy to become frustrated with loose strands and want to start again, but a kirby grip can quickly sort out little issues.
The best braided hairstyles for women
Braided hairstyles are incredibly versatile—for all hair lengths and types. We've separated our edit of the best braided hairstyles into braided hairstyles for long hair, short hair, half-up hair, and updos, with options for special occasions and the everyday.
Best braided hairstyles for long hair
If you have longer hair, then the braiding world is your oyster. Due to their weaved patterns, braids tend to shorten the look of the hair and shorter styles can run out of hair to play with. The more length you have, the more scope there is for you (or your braider) to create intricate patterns.
Hair that's several inches long can also incorporate extensions in for extra length, volume, or an alternative color, without an obvious distinction between the extensions and your natural hair.
The box braids
There are many ways of styling box braids. Add in extra length with extensions, play with colored pieces or try different sizes and widths of the braid to create a style that suits you.
The classic cornrows or canerows
A traditional style of braiding that's kept close to the scalp, cornrows can be done in straight lines or weaved around the scalp to create more detailed designs. If you're doing them yourself, a spare pair of hands will come in useful if you struggle to keep them neat!
The French braid
A classic three-strand plait that starts from the crown, the French braid is a timeless and popular hairstyle, albeit a little tricky to get the hang of. If you run out of patience to master it yourself, you may need to enlist the help of a second pair of hands.
The Dutch braid
This classic style is very similar to the French braid but instead of folding strands over the center, cross them underneath. It works brilliantly on all lengths of hair but try doing double braids if your hair feels too short.
The fishtail braid
An impressive braid to master, the fishtail braid is actually reasonably easy to do. Split the hair into two sections and take tiny strands from each across the front to join the opposite side. It’s a little time-consuming on longer hair, but well worth it for that result.
Best braided hairstyles for short hair
The beauty of short braided hairstyles is that they're far quicker to turn around. Less hair = less time in the chair. "Any style that is based on the top of the head is better for short hair as it’ll hold better. The hair being a similar length on top of the head will ensure a stronger hold overall," Marlee explains.
Braided styles aren't just for younger generations; plaits and twists also look fabulous on silver and gray hair. Just remember to use hair grips a similar color to your own hair if you choose to DIY, so that they blend in well.
The braided bob
Braids look fabulous on just about any length of hair, from short bobs to waist-grazing styles, but there's something about a braided bob that we just love.
The partial French braid
You'd be forgiven for thinking that French or Dutch braids only work on super long hair or with extensions. But partial French braids can look seriously chic on a bob, a lob, or mid-length hair, too—you'll just need a smaller hair tie to secure your braid in place.
The braided crown
Not only do partially or fully braided crowns look seriously chic and work for just about any occasion, but they also have the added benefit of disguising slightly oily roots (for the less special events). There's something ethereal about this elegant hairstyle, making it perfect for romantic occasions.
Half-up half-down braided hairstyles
Half-up hairstyles are seriously easy to pull off and, even better, they also work with every face shape. They can be worn for just about any occasion, but are chic enough that they look as though you've made a big effort for special occasions or outings. Whether you go for a classic half-bun with braids or a partial French plait, there's a half-up half-down braided hairstyle to suit just about every hair type.
The half-up box braids
Long box braids can be wound into various updos, including lots of half-up styles like the half-bun. This particular look is finished with beautifully styled edges for an elegant style.
The half-up twisted braid
If your hair is long enough, take a few twists to the back of your head and secure it with a grip or hair tie. It's such an elegant style and it's fairly easily done by yourself.
The snake braid
If you can master a French plait, then you can easily perfect a snake braid. It looks tricky, but the secret is to do a regular plait, keep hold of the third strand, and pull the other two towards the root. The plait will snake around and is easily secured with a hair tie.
The waterfall braid
A simple but beautiful style that’s great for mid-length to long hair, the waterfall braid leaves one side of the plait loose to cascade down like, you guessed it, a waterfall. It looks gorgeous with loose waves or curls.
Updo braided hairstyles
There are so many gorgeous braided updos out there that it would be almost impossible for us to list every possible variation—so we've hand-picked a curated edit of our favorite updos with braids for you to give a whirl. (Or, you know, take to your favorite salon for an expert creation instead...)
Braided updos work beautifully for long hair; wind box braids into a bun, keep things simple and flowy with a waterfall braid or take inspiration from the Game of Thrones Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen, and layer twists and plaits for a more elaborate look.
The braided updo
This style screams classic bridal look, and is one that many brides opt for on their wedding day. It’s perfect for keeping long hair away from the shoulders and elongates the neck beautifully. You can even incorporate flowers, textured twists, plaits, and curls—with a lot of hair grips and hairspray to keep it in place.
The braided topknot
One benefit of braided hairstyles on long hair is that they can easily be swept in to chic updos, like a topknot or bun. This particular style is embellished with gold hair cuffs for an extra twist.
The halo braid
The halo braid, sometimes also called the crown braid because of how it sits on the head, is great for keeping hair away from the face. It may be a little tricky to do yourself without dexterous fingers, but hey, practice makes perfect.
The knot braid
A braid that looks incredibly difficult but is in fact surprisingly easy. Simply tie sections of hair and work your way down the length of your hair. Add in some flower clips or jewels for something really special.
The pipe braid
Ah, pipe braids—the edgier version of French braids. Try throwing in added texture to the ponytail and back-combing the crown for volume. These are perfect for longer hair, but you will need someone to help you as the knotting action can be a bit tricky.
woman&home thanks Marlee Brunel of The Braid Bar for her time and expertise.
Emma North is the Beauty Writer at Future Publishing working across print and digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow.
Before pursuing a career in beauty journalism, Emma worked as international cabin crew for over 4 years. Travelling around the globe and working night flights across several time zones at once, she is the perfect person to judge whether makeup and skincare claims actually hold up. If you want to know which foundations last 18+ hours or how to keep your lipstick looking flawless in 40º weather, she’s your go-to girl.
Emma’s flying career came to an end when she realised that beauty journalism was her true passion and she undertook internships across publications including Vogue, Elle, The Telegraph and Glamour. She was then taken under the wing of Funmi Fetto, Contributing Beauty Editor at Vogue where Emma assisted with Funmi’s debut beauty book, Palette.
Her big passion is finding truly beneficial skincare but, when she’s not testing out the latest products, you’ll find her trying to muscle her way into London’s best restaurants or relaxing at home in Devon with her dogs.
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