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Actress Taylor Russell graced the cover of our digital issue wearing bohemian-inspired knotless box braids, draped effortlessly over her shoulder. California-based Noelle Ward-Wallace is the master braider behind Russell’s look. The hairstylist’s affinity for hair, particularly braids, began at an early age. For Ward-Wallace, braids have always been more than just a style. “I’ve loved getting my hair braided since childhood,” she says. “Braids have always been a statement of beautiful art to me. They give me a sense of pride and connect me to their historical roots.”
The haircare pro began doing hair at 11 years-old, braiding and styling her friends and family’s hair to develop her skills. After graduating from college and landing a job she was unhappy with, it became clear to Ward-Wallace that it was time to pursue hairstyling full-time. Since then, she’s hustled to make a name for herself in the industry, working with stars like Thandie Newton and Taylor Russell along the way.
Ward-Wallace’s career has afforded her a front-row seat to the natural hair movement, helping countless clients embrace the beauty of their natural texture and educating them on protective styles. “As more women have embraced and accepted their natural state—relinquishing the idea that permed, textured hairstyles, hair extensions, and straight hair are the only option to showcase beauty; braids, twists and other natural styles have taken the forefront,” she says. “Many of my clients who have consistently pushed for hair extensions and perming have opted out and chosen styles like cornrows and braids. I love adorning my clients with curls and braids and designed rows.”
Ward-Wallace typically sees an uptick in requests for protective styles in the fall. “During the fall, natural elements like rain can cause frizz or make natural hair more time-consuming to style, so waking up with braided or twisted hair frees up so much space in your daily routine,” she says. And as a longtime braid connoisseur, Ward-Wallace naturally keeps a pulse on braided looks. That’s why we also asked her to give us the scoop on the three protective styles she expects to see everywhere this fall. According to her, intricate braids and twists are in the forecast. Keep scrolling for her protective style predictions.
Boho Knotless Box Braids
Knotless box braids have grown increasingly popular over the last few years—largely because they’re a lighter, more natural-looking alternative to traditional box braids. For our digital issue, Taylor Russell wore the sought-after style with a boho twist. “I wanted her hair to resemble ribbons blowing in the wind, very elegant and pristine,” Ward-Wallace tells us.
The style was a collaborative effort between Ward-Wallace and Russell. “Working with Taylor is always a blast, she is so sweet and trusts me throughout the entire process,” she says. “Taylor knows what look she wants, explains it to me, and I create the vision.”
Cornrows with Goddess Ends
Cornrows will forever be a classic braided style. This season, Ward-Wallace sees them being worn with a twist. Straight-back braids paired with goddess (aka coily) ends are what she anticipates clients requesting over the next few months.
When she has to create styles as neat as cornrows, Ward-Wallace always reaches for five essential items: Angelique Hair Conditioning and Detangling Spray, edge control, pointed comb, holding spray, and elastic bands.
Twisted hairstyles are incredibly beautiful and versatile. From Passion twists to Havana twists, there are so many different ways to wear them. But, Senegalese twists are one of the most popular versions of the look and Ward-Wallace expects this to continue. The style involves wrapping two strands of hair around each other to create the twist effect. Typically, Kanekalon or Marley braiding hair is added in to ensure that the twists last.
For stylists learning how to braid, twist, and style hair, Ward-Wallace offers this bit of advice: “Stay consistent and perfect your craft. Compare yourself to no one. Everything that is for you will always be for you.”