Out of all the protective hairstyles out there, box braids — named after the square shape in which your hair is sectioned off — are one of the most popular. Not only do they shield curls from environmental stressors and cut down on maintenance time, but they are incredibly versatile.
Worn up, down, in a top knot, and in a plethora of different colors and lengths, box braids continue to be a go-to. Your stylist will often claim the protective style can last as long as six weeks, but generally speaking, it depends on how you take care of them. Although they’re typically installed with extensions, your root hair is still exposed — meaning it will need to be moisturized with an oil to keep it from drying out. Shamicka Williams, a professional hair braider, recommends “sleeping with a good fitted scarf or bonnet to protect braids from friction while you sleep.”
If you’re thinking of getting box braids yourself, look no further than the below 16 styles for inspiration, according to three braiding experts. Between the side swoop, classic ponytail, and accessorized with beads, there are options that appeal to everyone.
Boho Box Braids
Box braids might be known for the neat parting but they can take any form past the scalp. Live carefree with some unraveled braids sprinkled in throughout for a more playful style. Be sure to still wrap your hair at night to keep frizz away and unraveled braids intact.
If you’ve been thinking of color but are worried about the growing out phase, vibrant box braids are the route for you. Not only will you enjoy your favorite color, but you won’t have to worry about commitment as you aren’t actually dyeing your hair. For day-to-day styling, feel free to spritz in a shine spray to refresh them.
Golden Hour Box Braids
Golden brown braiding hair has a way of perfectly complimenting olive toned skin. Regardless of length, this one is sure to turn heads in all seasons.
Space Buns Box Braids
Space buns are not going anywhere, and they are one of the coolest ways to style box braids. To protect the braids at night, Janelle Fulton, box braids educator recommends “wrapping the top portion of the braids with a silk scarf leaving the ends of the braids exposed. Then tucking the ends by putting it in a loose low bun and putting on a bonnet to keep it from getting frizzy.”
Ponytail Box Braids
“Tie box braids all up into a high ponytail or bun and you are ready for everyday activities like working out with no fear of sweating out your hairstyle,” says master braider Ka’mesha Cathcart. When styling this one, don’t forget to give your baby hairs some TLC with a styler like Pattern Edge Control and an edge brush.
Side-Swoop Box Braids
If you want the sexiness of a side swoop, Fulton suggests dividing the front portion of your hair and placing the remaining hair in a ponytail or leaving loose. For added security, you can bobby pin the swoop to the nape of the neck.
Box Braids With Undercut
Undercuts are a great way to release the scalp of too much heat and weight. Now with an undercut and box braids you can enjoy the versatility and function of both styles in one.
Bob Box Braids
If you’re craving the sleekness of a bob but want the low-maintenance styling of braids, why not combine the two? Choose to wear the bob at an angle or sharp across the collarbone. “The bob is a great alternative for a low maintenance hairstyle without the hassle of dealing with extra long hair,” says Cathcart.
Side Part Box Braids
These medium box braids, the width of a penny to nickel-sized, can last up to eight weeks with the right scalp care. Fulton recommends AmPro Moose for everyday use. “Depending on how you like your braids to look, washing isn’t necessary,” says Williams. However, if you do want to wash every now and then, you can use a dry shampoo or conditioning shampoo and conditioner like Amika’s Moisture Magnet set.
Colored Box Braids
Colored box braids allow the color to speak for itself. To maintain: “Apply an all natural oil such as coconut oil, peppermint oil, or castor oil at least twice a week to help moisturize and protect you from a dry and itchy scalp,” says Cathcart. The expert enjoys Mizani Nourishing Oil.
2-In-1 Box Braid
With the union of enlarged bantu knots and box braids, you will no longer have to settle on just one style. And although box braids typically last up to eight weeks, the experts recommend a touch up around the perimeter of the hairline half way through to help preserve the style.
Half-Up, Half-Down Box Braids
According to Cathcart, splitting the hair in two buns with the rest hanging is a great day-time look that transitions perfectly into the night.
Middle Part Box Braids
For all braids and especially middle parts, Fulton recommends paying attention to your scalp health. “Keep scalp moisturized with a leave-in spray [her top pick: Jamaican Mango & Lime] and add essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, or lemon for added hydration.”
Top Knot Box Braids
Box braids are great but sometimes you just want hair out of your face, or enjoy switching up your hairstyle. To style in a top knot, simply gather hair into a chic top bun and secure it with a ponytail holder and bobby pins to keep in place.
Beaded Box Braids
With box braids there’s no need to pick one thing to accentuate the style. Opt for beads plus color, bangs, and a bob, proving the more the merrier is the way to go.
This article was originally published on