These Are Different Types of Braids—and How to Create Them

braids
@aysha.sow | Design by Michela Buttignol.

Braids are one of the most traditional of all hairstyles—if not the most traditional. They've been around for ages, they're just as functional as they are pretty, and depending on which type of braid you choose, they can run the gamut between elegant and sophisticated and youthful and playful. Choosing the kind of braid you want to wear, though, is much easier said than done. With so many different types of braids and techniques to create them, and so many different celebs wearing them, it's easy to throw your hands up in the air and default to a basic ponytail.

We don't want you to do that. After all, summer is coming up, and braids were basically built for the warmer months. Whether you're going to a music festival, the beach, or a Sunday brunch, braids are a must. That's why, for your convenience, we've gathered together the 11 most popular braided hairstyles and supplemented them with celeb photos so you can see what each style looks like, IRL. We were also sure to add a couple of tips, tricks, and tutorials along the way (because whoever said braiding was easy was definitely lying). 

Meet the Expert

  • Lacy Redway is a Unilever Global Stylist, TRESemmé Future Stylists Fund Selection Committee Member, and celebrity hairstylist who has worked with Ruth Negga, Lucy Boynton, Laura Harrier, and more.
  • Kendall Dorsey is a celebrity hairstylist who works with clients like Kelly Rowland, Saweetie, Alicia Keys, and more.

Box Braids

Keke Palmer wearing burgundy box braids in a bun

Getty Images

"Box braids are best done to help as a protective style on textured hair," Lacy Redway, Unilever Global Stylist, TRESemmé Future Stylists Fund Selection Committee Member, and celebrity hairstylist, says. "It allows you to have your hair protected for a period of time while still being able to style it in various hairstyles using the box braids as the foundation of the hairstyles."

"Personally, I think any person can have any type of braid," Kendall Dorsey a celebrity hairstylist says. "But I think if you have super fine hair this would damage your strands."

Actress Keke Palmer wears her hair in crimson box braids, which are then looped up to rest in a high-bun hairstyle. Since it's looped in a bun, it's easy to see the uniformity and smoothness of Palmer's box braids, which is a trademark of the three-strand style. Box braids were especially popular in the '90s, which gives them a cool-girl vibe when worn today. Click here to see how experts suggest keeping box braids and twists in perfect condition.

Micro Braids

Zoe Kravitz wearing bleach blonde braids in a low bun

Getty Images

Micro braids are just like box braids in that they can be created using the same technique. They're just—you guessed it—smaller. The modern-day poster child for micro braids (in our humble opinion) is Zoë Kravitz. She has walked many a red carpet donning the very same chic style, albeit with a couple of hair color switch-ups along the way. How cool do her micro braids look when dyed platinum blonde? We're completely obsessed. 

"They are designed to be versatile, which is the beauty of them," Redway says. "You can style as you please."

Cornrow Braids

Yara Shahidi wearing cornrow braids in a bun
 Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

As you can see from Yara Shahidi, actress and activist extraordinaire, cornrows are braids that form narrow parallel strips down the head. They're normally positioned from front to back, but she put a unique twist on a classic look by wearing hers pulled back with a wired braid construction artfully crafted around it.

To help maintain your style, Dorsey recommends spritzing on the Dark and Lovely Hair Refresher For Protective Styles ($15).

Crown Braid

Vanessa Hudgens wearing a blonde crown braid

Getty Images

Next we have the crown braid, which looks complex and time-consuming but happens to be exactly the opposite. Our favorite way create a crown braid is to start with a traditional side braid before wrapping it up and over the top of the forehead, securing it with bobby pins along the way. We always make sure to leave out a couple face-framing pieces à la Vanessa Hudgens. Be sure to add a spritz of a stronghold hair spray to keep it intact all day long. We suggest Moroccanoil Luminous Strong Finish Hairspray ($24). 

Fishtail Braid

Ciara wearing a blonde messy fishtail braid

Getty Images

A Fishtail braid is one of our all-time favorite styles as it's playful and unexpected. It's easy to distinguish from other braids since it looks like a mirror reflection of itself. Ciara shows us how it's done by styling her fishtail braid off to one side, perfecting it with messy, lived-in loose pieces that frame her face. It has an effortless "I accidentally slept in my braid last night" kind of vibe.

French Braid

Emily Blunt wearing a french braid around her head

Getty Images

A French braid, as demonstrated by Emily Blunt, is a traditional three-piece braid. As you plait the hair together, add a section from either side on each rotation. It's one of the most versatile and chic of braids, which is why we see it so often at Red Carpet events. Style it in the traditional way, as a single-braided strand running down the nape of the neck, or do as Blunt does and position it to the side for an elegant updo.

With practice, it's an easy style to create. If you need a little refresher, head to YouTube for pointers (no judgment—braiding takes a lot of time and patience). We like this one from Lauren Conrad and The Beauty Department that offers step-by-step instructions. 

Dutch Braid

Rita Ora wearing blonde Dutch braids

Getty Images

A Dutch braid, on the other hand, is created in the same exact way as you would a French braid—except inverted. Instead of winding the hair over itself as you plait, you wind it underneath the other strands. This small change makes a big difference. You see, instead of the braid flowing inward, it flows outward, which makes the braid pop out slightly. Take Rita Ora's hair, for example. Here, she wears it in Dutch-braided pigtails. Just compare her braids to Emily Blunt's French-braided style, and you'll see that Ora's braids are much more defined and visible. (A molding paste, like Living Proof's Molding Clay, will accentuate the braid even more while providing hold.)

In essence, think of a Dutch braid like a bolder version of a French braid. All it requires is that you reverse the French braid technique. 

A Dutch braid may sound easy in theory, but it can be extremely difficult for a braid novice, which is why we've created a step-by-step tutorial with celebrity hairstylist Anh Co Tran to make it easy for you to replicate Ora's exact style.

Milkmaid Braid

Sarah Hyland wearing a milkmaid braid

Getty Images

The milkmaid braid is almost identical to the aforementioned crown braid, but instead of being situated on the top of the forehead (where an actual crown would sit), it's pushed back a couple of inches to rest more toward the middle of the head. It's also more likely to begin with a center part, as opposed to a side part, for a more traditional look. To create, "Divide your hair by the nape of your neck in two sections, says Redway. "Braid each section into two braids before crisscrossing them onto themselves and securing them with hair and bobby pins." We think it's best demonstrated by Sarah Hyland at the Fox Golden Globes party. (By the way, if you've already mastered this style, try a reverse milkmaid braid for a new take.)

Waterfall Braid

Nina Dobrev wearing Waterfall Braids at People's Choice Awards

Getty Images

Waterfall braids look intricate, but luckily, they aren't as complicated as they seem. Think of them like a French braid, but one side of the braid is woven and the opposite part cascades down into the hair. To create a waterfall braid, pretend you are beginning a French braid. Section the hair into three pieces, cross the top section over the middle, and, instead of grabbing more hair, let this section hang down. Cross the remaining pieces over one another, then grab a new piece from the top and incorporate it into the braid. Repeat the steps.

3 Strand Braid

Shay Mitchel Wearing a 3 Strand Braid

Getty Images

This braiding technique is the foundation for the rest of the looks on this list. Without it, the rest of these braids are not possible. To try for yourself, section hair into three strands. Take the left piece and cross it over the middle, making it the new middle. Then, take the right-most piece and cross it over the middle, making it the new middle. Repeat this process over and over until you reach the end of your strands.

Shay Mitchell demonstrates one of the many ways you can wear this style. Appropriate for any hair type, the three-strand braid can be tightly kept or intentionally loosened to show volume and body.

Rope Braids

Anya Taylor Joy wearing a rope braid at movie premiere

getty Images

"The trick with this hairstyle is that it doubles as a second hairstyle," Redway says. "When the hairstyle starts to frizz up, release them and wear your hair down because you will now have beautiful water waves." Unlike many of the other styles on this list, the rope braid only requires two sections of hair. Take one of the sections and twist the hair until the entire section is spiraled. Secure with a clear elastic. Repeat on the other side. Take each section and twist them around one another. Secure at the bottom.

While rope braids work on most hair types (preferably ones with lots of length), it can be harder for straight hair to hold the style. To help the braid stick, Redway recommends working in a few pumps of the TRESemmé Extra Hold Volumizing Mousse.

Now that you know what 11 of the most popular braided hairstyles look like IRL, demonstrated by some of our favorite celebs, we suggest reading up on the long and varied history of braids. It's nothing short of fascinating. 

FAQ
  • What type of braid is the easiest?

    The classic three-strand braid is the foundation for all braided styles. Without knowing that technique, you cannot master more complicated styles.

  • What is the most popular type of braid?

    The most popular braid largely depends on what you are exposed to. For Dorsey, his most popular request for clients is a knotless box braid. "I have been feeding in human hair to the braid to create for length and body," Dorsey says. "Sort of like a Lisa Bonet vibe."

  • What type of braids last longer?

    "All braids have some type of longevity," Dorsey says. "Knotless braids, knot braids, cornrows, box braids, and senegalese twists are long-lasting protective styles and are meant to last in the hair."

  • What is the hardest type of braid?

    The hardest type of braid is dependent on the person. One person may struggle with a fishtail braid while another may be unable to master a waterfall braid. Regardless, the more complicated or intricate a braid pattern gets, the more difficult it will be to execute.

Related Stories