Braid-Outs and Twist-Outs Are Similar Styles—With Some Key Differences

The actor Yara Shahidi with twisted out hair

@yarashahidi

Protective styles are an essential part of the natural hair care experience, especially as the seasons change. They keep the ends of your hair tucked away and minimize manipulation, helping to mitigate breakage and encourage growth (if they're done right).

Two simple and heatless protective styles that are great for naturals all year round are braid-outs and twist-outs. They're easy to execute and maintain, and they can help define your curls (if that's what you're seeking). If you aren’t sure which style is for you, or if you're looking to try something new, we've got you covered. We reached out to natural hair experts Yonkel Chamberlain and Joy Adesanya to find out everything you need to know about braid-outs and twist-outs, from how easy they are to create to how they impact your curl pattern. Read on for what they had to say.

Meet the Expert

What Are Twist-Outs?

Simply put, a twist-out involves unraveling twists to achieve gorgeous waves. “Single-strand or two-strand Bantu knots or flat twists are placed all throughout damp hair,” Adesanya says. Giving hair enough time to dry is important when creating this style. For those who are twisting out in the comfort of their own home, let your hair dry naturally overnight and sleep with a shower cap on.

If you’re getting your twist-out done by a pro, they'll likely have you sit under a bonnet dryer for 30 to 60 minutes to fully dry your hair and help you retain luscious curls.

The Pros and Cons of Twist-Outs

Pros 

  • Perfect style for transforming your hair’s natural pattern
  • Promotes healthy hair, allowing for more growth
  • Hair appears fuller
  • Easy style to do at home 
  • Versatile
  • Lasts longer than braid-outs 
  • Works well on natural hair
  • Works best on longer hair 

Cons

  • Can cause shrinkage depending on your hair texture
  • Curl definition can be lost overnight 
  • Can be frizzy if the style isn’t taken down correctly 
  • Ends of hair can tangle easily 
  • High maintenance
  • Might not be ideal for those with fine or less dense hair 

What Are Braid-Outs?

“The braid-out technique involves unraveling braided strands [created with] three strands of hair,” Adesanya says. “Braid-outs enhance the look of natural hair by securing the curl pattern which gives waves definition."

The Pros and Cons of Braid-Outs

Pros

  • Better curl definition 
  • Stretches the hair without using heat
  • Long-lasting (can last 3-7 days depending on products used and how hair is protected at night)
  • Enhances hair texture from roots to tips 
  • Great for transitioning to natural hair
  • Extensions can be added to braids for a longer-lasting protective style 

Cons

  • Time-consuming (longer to unravel) 
  • Can cause hair loss if done too tightly 
  • Harder to achieve than twist-outs 
  • Don’t last as long as twist-outs 
  • Longer drying time

Alternatives to Twist-Outs and Braid-Outs

  • Halo braids: A halo braid is created when a cornrow-style braid is wrapped around the head. They are one of the simplest protective styles to achieve, they suit a variety of hair textures, and they can last for up to six weeks if maintained properly. 
  • Bantu knots: To create the perfect Bantu knot, the hair needs to be sectioned off, twisted, and wrapped until it stacks upon itself to form a spiraled knot. Bantu knots are versatile, trendy, and easy to create in the comfort of your own home. When they are unraveled, the style can create curls that can be worn for another week.
  • Flat twists: Flat twists involve parting the hair into cornrowed sections and twisting it to the scalp, instead of grabbing hair as you braid. Like braid-outs and twist-outs, allowing the twists to set before unraveling is the key to achieving this style. 
  • Updos: There are a wide variety of updos that naturals can experiment with. While updos are great on the days when you aren’t quite sure what to do with your hair, they can also be worn on nights out or at any special events you might have coming up. A bonus is that they require a lot less effort than other styles and can be created in the comfort of your own home.
  • Twisted low ponytail: You can’t go wrong with a ponytail; there are so many styles to choose from. If a high ponytail isn’t your thing, a twisted low ponytail is a great alternative to braid-outs and twist-outs. Accessories can also be added to elevate the look for an effortless transition from day to night. 
  • Crochet braids: Crochet braids are achieved when hair extensions (usually synthetic) are looped through your natural hair (which is usually braided) with a crochet needle. It’s a quick and easy way to experiment with different styles, colors, and textures while protecting your natural hair. 
  • Stitch braids: Stitch braids are created using a feed-in technique where extensions are added to the hair as it is braided. They're quite tricky to achieve on your own, so you might want to seek the help of a professional with this one. To achieve the stitch effect, the wearer’s natural hair will need to be sectioned into thick or thin horizontal lines before being braided with the hair extensions.

Considerations

To achieve the perfect braid-out or twist-out, Chamberlain notes the importance of starting with a clean head of hair. “Attempting a twist-out on hair with product build-up just won’t work,” she says. Braid-outs and twist-outs should be set with a curl creme or gel.

If you’re at the salon, your stylist should ensure you sit under a hooded dryer for approximately 40 minutes. For those who are recreating the style at home, Chamberlain reiterates that twists should only be unraveled once you are certain they have set or dried. To unravel the twists, start from the ends so as not to disrupt the curl pattern which can create frizz or friction. “Before taking down the twists, add a drop of light oil into the palms of your hands and massage it in,” Chamberlain advises. 

The Final Takeaway

Protective styles are a great way to look after your hair and there are a variety of options to choose from depending on your hair type and styling preferences. Braid-outs and twist-outs are great options for naturals as they are easy to create and do a fabulous job of enhancing the hair’s curl pattern.

While both styles can be achieved on a variety of hair lengths and textures, they can make hair difficult to manage if they aren’t applied properly and unraveled with care. “It’s important to find a style that can work for your hair and help it reach its full potential. Special care should always be applied whether you’re doing a braid-out or twist-out at home or with a trusted stylist,” Adesanya says. As with all protective styles, hair health should always be a priority, so if your curls and coils aren’t responding well to braid-outs or twist-outs, try another style.

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