African American braiding styles are popular because they are easy to maintain, last a long time, and are cost effective. A professional may be asked to do a variety of styles or you can start on your own. Prior to starting, the hair should be cleansed thoroughly and detangled. A leave-in conditioner can also be applied to maintain moisture and health. There are many styles to choose from: individual box, cornrow, Senegalese twists, and microbraids are just a few of the styles available today.
- Individual Box - This is one of the most common styles that women request. These look great when styled in a bob or worn flowing down the back. To achieve this look, a small section of hair is sectioned off in a square shape and three strands are crisscrossed around each other. This style can normally last three months with gentle care.
- Cornrow - This style has crossed ethnic and gender boundaries. Bo Derek helped popularize the look in the 1979 hit movie, "10." They can be thick or skinny, short or long. To do this, the hair is parted from the forehead to the nape of the neck. Three strands are then braided to the scalp from the forehead to the neck. Parting the hair in a zigzag direction can vary this style. This way can take a while, but is only limited by the imagination of the stylist and client.
- Senegalese Twists - If you are looking for a more modern flair you may opt for this style. Senegalese twists are individual braids used with two strands of hair instead of three, like individual box braids. A woman can enhance any style by purchasing synthetic hair in a complementary color from a beauty supply store; however, Senegalese Twists are especially attractive when combined with colored hair.
- Microbraids - All styles could potentially pull and break the hair if it is pulled too tightly. However, microbraids leave the hair more vulnerable than other styles because they are very tiny, also known as invisible, and place stress on the hair. Microbraids are similar to individual box style except they can be worn with the ends loosened and curled for a more professional look.
A professional can do any of these styles in two to eight hours. The amount of time it takes to do these styles saves the client many hours of daily hairstyling.