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14 Epic Ways to Style Box Braids

Photo by Amy Sussman / Staff/Getty Images

When it comes to protective hairstyles, box braids may be one of the most versatile options out there. Unlike cornrows, which involve braiding hair against the scalp, box braids are when the natural hair is sectioned off into square sections (i.e. boxes) and braided away from the scalp. Typically, hair extensions are attached to the sectioned off hair at the root and secured via a knot and braided into a three-strand plait (unless you're opting for knotless box braids, a.k.a. feed-in braids). Crochet braids and faux locs are also popular braiding styles for this look. The result: freestanding braids that can easily be fastened into a ton of different updos and hairstyles.

While it can be tempting to try a new hairstyle daily with your box braids, it may be wise to only style them occasionally if you're looking to make them last for as long as possible. Styling can cause additional wear and tear, which can loosen the braids faster or lead to frizz, breakage, and potential hair loss from pulling. If you are twisting and styling your braids on occasion, you'll also want to make sure you keep them highly moisturized by spritzing them with your go-to hair oil a few times a week.

All that being said, occasionally styling box braids into easy (or more complicated) hairstyles is part of the fun. Looking for a bit of inspiration for your next box braids hairstyle? Here are 14 looks we're loving.

1. Halo Braid

Smiling Jessica Williams rocking a yellow dress and halo braids hairstyle on the red carpet
Photo by Frederick M. Brown / Stringer/Getty Images

Looking for an unexpected updo? Fasten your box braids into an ethereal halo braid. To create this look, you'll essentially create a halo braid as you usually would, treating your braided stands as natural hair. As you French braid around the crown of the head, be sure to use hair pins to keep the braided braids secured in place. Not sure how to French braid? Here's a full tutorial.

2. Half Up

Zendaya rocking a white dress and box braids half up hairstyle
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

In this look, Zendaya keeps her faux locs hairstyle super simple by sweeping the top half of it out of her face and securing it in the back by twisting two front pieces together. If you're also sporting locs or jumbo box braids, a simple hairstyle like this can be an easy way to switch it up without causing too much tension or having to use a million pins.

3. Braided Bun

Tessa Thompson rocking a braided bun hairstyle, black dress, and silver choker
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

Tessa Thompson looks cool as ever rocking this statement-making updo. DIY your own box braid fascinator by piling the hair high up on side of the head and then twisting the ends into a braid. With that braided pony secured, twist and pin it into a bun, and voila.

4. High Bun + Undercut

Jada Pinkett Smith rocking a braided bun and undercut hairstyle on the red carpet
Photo by Amy Sussman / Staff/Getty Images

Here's the thing about box braids: depending on the thickness, they can be quite heavy. Want to lessen that weight? Pair the look with an edgy undercut. This way you'll only have to braid the top section of hair. Plus, when you style it in an updo, your undercut can make a statement.

5. Spiral Bun

Yvonne Orji rocking a yellow and white dress and braided spiral bun hairstyle
Photo by Liliane Lathan / Stringer/Getty Images

Here's another option that's similar to Tessa Thompson’s look with a distinct difference: instead of braiding the ends, comedian and actress Yvonne Orji has created an eye-catching spiraled twist. A hefty supply of hair pins will be key for keeping this look nice and secure.

6. Embellished Buns

Letitia Wright rocking a braided hairstyle embellished with crystals and sheer nude dress with crystals
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer / Staff/Getty Images

In this braids updo, Letitia Wright gives her half-up top knot the royal treatment by also adding bejeweled hair pins to the look. This is a quick easy way to make a simple hairstyle feel both original and super fancy without actually having to do all that much.

7. Loose Ends

Zoë Kravitz rocking braided hairstyle and black dress on the red carpet
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

Most often, box braids feature sealed ends, but that doesn't always have to be the case. For example, take a look at Zoë Kravitz's small box braids that transition back into her natural hair about half way down the hair shaft. If you have naturally long curly hair and you're not planning on using extensions to create your box braids, this could be a great way to show off your hair's natural length.

8. Braided Bob

Marsai Martin rocking a braided bob hairstyle
Photo by Leon Bennett / Stringer/Getty Images

Looking for another way to keep the weight of the hair to a minimum while also keeping styling to a minimum? Copy Marsai Martin's look and opt for a chic box braided bob. While you may not be able to create endless updos due to the lack of length, the low-maintenance style will likely last longer than super long, frequently styled braids and will cut the time it takes to complete your hair routine in half.

9. High Ponytail

Kelly Rowland rocking a braided high ponytail hairstyle
Photo by Cindy Ord / Staff/Getty Images

Who says all box braid styles need to be super complicated? Sometimes a low-maintenance high ponytail is all that's needed to complete your beauty look. If those baby hairs along the hairline start to distract from your flirty updo, try reaching for a great edge control gel like BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Curl Charisma™ Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel.

10. Splash of Color 

Amandla Stenberg rocking blue colored braided hairstyle
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

If you're planning on playing with colorful braids for your protective hairstyle, you'll definitely also want to find fun ways to put these playful plaits on full display. Here, Amandla Stenberg does just that by piling her hair into high pony. Because she's opted for chunky, short box braids, the lack of length creates a pom-pom-like effect and a concentrated explosion of hair color.

11. Face Framing Strands

Marsai Martin rocking braided face framing strands hairstyle
Photo by Amy Sussman / Staff/Getty Images

Want to add a little bit more interest to a simple half up-half down hairstyle? Pull out two front strands and allow them to frame the face. With this simple twist, you can help draw the eye to masterfully crafted makeup looks (like the one Marsai Martin is rocking here) while also giving the hair a subtle bohemian vibe.

12. Fishtail Braids

Smiling Yara Shahidi rocking fishtail braids hairstyle
Photo by Jason Merritt/TERM / Staff/Getty Images

If you loved the meta effect of the braided bun and halo braid, here's another way to sport braids on braids. In this braided look, Yara Shahidi first secures her braids up into a high ponytail. Then she takes her loose long box braids and fastens them into a giant fishtail braid.

13. Playful Accessories 

Eva Marcille rocking very long braided hairstyle
Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff/Getty Images

Sometimes, the best hairstyles don't require any pins or hair ties. They might, however, still benefit from some fun charms and hair wraps. In this nostalgic look, Eva Marcille takes us straight back to the early '00s with her colorfully wrapped braids and accent charms. While it may take a while to create these colorfully wrapped strands, this is a look that could last an entire weekend.

14. Braided Headband 

Storm Reid rocking a braided headband hairstyle
Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Staff/Getty Images

If you're not feeling the classic half up half down hairstyle but you would still love to keep your braids out of your face, Storm Reid's box braid hairstyle offers the perfect solution: a headband made from your own box braids. To recreate this look, you'll simply want to grab a few strands from down by the nape of your neck (or below the ear if you have short hair). Then wrap those strands around the head, placing them just behind the hairline. Secure them with hair pins behind the ear on the other side and you've got your own braided headband.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated November 28, 2022 12:00 AM