As a teenager, I coined Fulani braids "Alicia Keys braids" without any reference to where the beautiful style was created in West Africa by the Fula. In my teens, I had no idea what the term cultural appropriation meant, but I now recognize how important it is to know and respect where beauty rituals come from even as someone of African descent. Fulani braids are now one of the most popular styles of braiding. You can see them worn on red carpets and magazine covers, which I take such great pride in. Mainly because little Black girls growing up during this time of inclusion see themselves represented everywhere.
What are Fulani braids?
Fulani braids, made popular by the Fulani people of Africa, is a style that usually incorporates the following elements: a cornrow braided down the center of the head; one or a few cornrows braided in the opposite direction toward your face just near the temples; a braid wrapped around the hairline; and often times, accessories, such as beads.
Award-winning actress Cicely Tyson was one of the first Black women to wear Fulani braids on red carpets and even on the cover of JET Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s. Alicia Keys later made the style popular as she donned them on the cover of her debut album, Songs in A Minor.
Since there are so many looks to choose from, we thought we'd round up 20 of our favorites. Our selections range from a shoulder-length bob to a braided ponytail. Keep scrolling to get a small dose of hair inspiration before you head off to see your braider when the temperatures soar.
Frame Your Features
Fulani braids can be worn as short or as long as you desire. Here, these honey blonde braids show off her stunning features and compliment her brown skin tone.
Update a Traditional Style
Depending on the length of your hair, you'll need to add extensions to bring this style to life. Once you're done braiding and pinning your hair up, be sure to add beads and jewels to make it your own.
Try on a Different Size
Like any braided look, you get to decide how small or large you like them. But, be prepared for an extended salon visit. Though these aren't quite micro, they are small and will add tension to the scalp, so be sure to care for your edges and scalp post-appointment with an aloe or castor oil-based product.
Say Yes to Length
Gabrielle Union's cascading braids are the quintessential summer protective style. Washing braids can be a bit of challenge, especially when you want to keep the frizz at bay, but Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar Root Rinse makes it easy to cleanse the scalp without disrupting your style.
Learn from the Best
Teyonah Parris is the protective style queen, and her back-length Fulani braids are a style out her playbook we should all give a try.
Channel Your Inner Mermaid
Mirian Njoh is giving us mermaid vibes, and we are here for it. Adding sea tone colors give these blonde braids a pop of color that screams "Hello, summer!"
If you're heading to a special event this summer and want to do something different, opt for a half-up, half-down 'do. To recreate the textured look of the hair, add a little mousse and braid the hair into a few big braids overnight.
Take Inspiration from the '99s and the 2000s
All I can envision is Destiny's Child's Say My Name video when I look at Alissa Ashley's braids. The straight back style is a part of pop culture and will forever be iconic.
Try Two Ponytails
This is my first time seeing Fulani braids styled into two ponytails, and I love this look. It's stylish, trendy, and will keep your hair off of your neck when the summer heat hits.
Rock a Deep Face-Framing Side-Part
Side-parted braids offer a beauty opportunity to protect your coils and frame your face.
Put Your Braiding Skills to Use
Braids don't always need additional extensions, and Jeanette's simple style is one that could be done in the comfort of your own home if you're a seasoned braider.
Opt For a Braided Bob
We love a good bob, and Ijeoma gives us just that with a shoulder-length cut and a mix for black, gold, and wooden beads for depth.
Yara Shahidi gives us a curly puff with a beaded-Fulani accent.
Shorten Your Salon Visit
We've already seen Teyonah once before on this list, but I couldn't leave this style off. The chunky braids here are ideal for someone who wants the Fulani braided look with a minimal salon time commitment.
Braid Up That Bun
Taraji P. Henson's Fulani updo is perfect for the summer heat. But if you suffer from dry scalp or plan to wear this style for an extended period, you may want to talk to your stylist about how to care for your scalp (specifically the crown of the head where the bun sits).
Think Up a Cohesive Beauty Look
When Rihanna hit the red carpet, I immediately jotted this down on my list of top five beauty looks of all time. The winged liner and no-makeup makeup brought this look together seamlessly.
Lime Green Length
Justine Skye's lime-green embellished braids are perfect for a tropical vacation, but be sure you pack clothes and eyeliner that match!
Fulani braids are incredibly versatile, and this braided pony confirms that. What makes this look special is the placement of the beads. The black and brown accents make Tynece's melanin pop.