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12 Box Braid Hairstyles For Summer That Aren't A Boring Ponytail

Box braids and protective styling have existed for centuries, this we know. But this new wave of box braid hairstyles, done by celebrity stylists and local pros around the country alike, pay homage to the style's heritage and add a touch of modernity to the look, too.

“Within the Black community, braiding hair is very much a right of passage," braid expert Kamilah, or @mshairandhumor, tells The Zoe Report. "The art and skill of braiding is observed, taught, and passed on generation to generation. This sharing between generations is where we are all linked, making braids an integral part of our community and form of expression.”

Aside from that connection to heritage, protective styles are super low-maintenance in upkeep, which is essential for temps that refuse to drop. Plus, box braids allow you to give your natural hair a break from heat styling and overwashing, too. "The options are endless especially when the braids don’t hurt," Kamilah adds, citing the knotless box braids that continue to dominate social media.

To create box braids, the stylist will start by shampooing, deep conditioning, detangling, and blow-drying your hair before the braiding begins. Afterwards, your braider will section off your hair into small squares — hence the name box braids — depending on how thick or thin you’d like your plaits. The actual process of braiding your natural hair with extensions can take all day (sometimes as long as eight hours), so prepare to arrive with some snacks and a good book to keep you preoccupied.

In addition to the endless creative options that the braids offer, another appeal is the longevity that the style provides. “Box braids can last through hail, sleet, snow, and rain, so it’s only right they hold us down for the summer, too,” Kristal of @braidsbykristal tells TZR. She notes that box braids hold up at the go to the beach and in water, too.

But like all good things, the style doesn't last forever. Most stylists recommend keeping them in for up to eight weeks, because your new hair growth underneath the weight of the added hair can possibly cause your natural hair to break off.

Scroll ahead for a dose of late summer inspo, and don't forget your bobby pins!

"Fascinator Hat" Updo

In June 2019, celebrity hairstyllist Nai'vasha Johnson styled Tessa Thompson's jewel-toned box braids (done by Dr. Kari Williams) into an elegant "fascinator hat." To get your own topper, try assembling your braids into a three-strand side braid, twist to the shape of your desire, and pin.

Beaded Accents

Photo by Nikki Nelms

“Get creative and use beads that have personal meaning to you,” hairstylist Nikki Nelms tells TZR of Solange's A Seat At The Table look from 2016. You can source your accents from the beauty supply store or even Amazon.

Pinned Updo With Wavy Ends

Celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway, who works with Kiki Layne, tells TZR that she dipped the ends of her braids in boiling water to make them appear more natural (since braids are created with human hair extensions, you won't feel a thing). "This makes the braids look more relaxed," she says.

Side-Swooped "Bang"

If it's too hot to style your baby hairs, this bang and bun combo by Kristal is so easy — and just as elegant. Simply take a few front-facing braids, style them in the direction of your choice, and pin them behind your ear.

Half-Up Top Knot

This style by Xia Charles of (@braided__), as seen on Elaine Welteroth in July 2019, is simple to do — just wrap the base of your ponytail around until a bun is formed, and secure the tail with a bobby pin.

Hair Hoops

It’s important to be free when styling this look," stylist Vernon François says of these "banto knot hoops" that he did for Dewanda Wise in June 2019. Just be sure to keep plenty of pins on hand for hold.

Formal French Roll

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At the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Nelms gave longtime client Zoë Kravitz a simple and beautiful twist.

Funky Fishtail

François formed Lupita Nyong'o's cornrow-and-box braid combination into an accented plait with loose, wavy tendrils for the 2019 SAG Awards.

Wrapped Half-Up

Conceal your hair elastic (like Kelly Rowland in May 2019) by wrapping it with one of your braids. Simple as that.

Threaded & Wired Big Braids

Filigree tubes and gold thread adorned Ashley Blaine Featherson's big braids in October 2017.

Crown Braid

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I mean, you're already royalty. Why not wear your hair as such? Be sure to plait close to your scalp to get your big braid as flat as possible, like Yvonne Orji's February 2019 style.

Threaded Bun

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Danai Gurira's gorgeous braids (in December 2018) got an upgrade with the help of gold thread, done by Larry Sims.