In search of your next protective style? Haaaave you tried Ghana braids yet? Similar to cornrows, but with extra braiding hair added throughout the process, Ghana braids are a great go-to for those looking for a quick, versatile hairstyle that can be worn so many different ways (we’ve gathered 15 ideas below, but we honestly could’ve kept going). Not only are Ghana braids one of the easier braided hairstyles to have put in and taken out (which means you don’t have to go to your appointment prepared with a long list of things to do while getting your hair braided), but they ‘ re also super customizable based on your vibes / goals. Below, Jasmine “Jazzee” Santiago, a haircare and texture expert, and La’Khouri Francis, a DC-based Yeluchi hairstylist, break down everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Ghana braids.
What are Ghana braids?
“There’s such a great, rich, beautiful cultural history of braiding that has been so diluted,” Santiago says, explaining how Western culture has developed its own simplified take on Ghana braids. “By the time we get to where we are today to talk about Ghana braids, it’s pretty basic,” she says. In the simplest terms, Santiago defines Ghana braids as a braiding technique that takes a basic cornrow hairstyle and adds hair to it. If that sounds a lot like feed-in braids, that’s because it is.
Although both feed-in braids and Ghana braids are very similar in technique, Francis says that Ghana braids should end up looking thicker and fuller than feed-in braids. “What makes Ghana braids different is the substantial amount of hair added through the braid for volume, “Francis explains.” Feed-in braids have hair added through the braid as well, but a stylist is able to manipulate it in a way to where the braid stays the same size. “Another difference?” Hair is usually added for length with feed-in braids as opposed to volume with Ghana braids, “she says.
How long do Ghana braids last?
Although Ghana braids can last up to a month if properly maintained with products and hair coverings while you sleep, both experts recommend wearing Ghana braids for two weeks only (three weeks max, says Francis) so that the hair doesn’t dry out and take your style from protective to damaging.
Do Ghana braids break your hair?
Ghana braids, like any protective style, can damage your hair or scalp if done too tightly—But you can avoid it. Francis explains that although tension is needed for most cornrow styles, too much tension can do the opposite of a protective style, which is why it’s important to see a knowledgeable stylist and try to speak up if you feel pain during your braiding (easier said than done, right?).
Got all that? Good. Now, for even more advice from the stylists — plus 15 ridiculously gorgeous Ghana braid ideas to copy — pls keep scrolling (and screenshotting).
Ahem, hey — want even more hairstyle inspo? Then you should def join Cosmo Unlocked today.
1 These Alternating Ghana and Cornrow Braids
Francis notes that one common way to differentiate Ghana braids from other styles is the change in size: “The braid starts off small, then gradually grows into a larger braid due to the strategic amount of hair being added throughout the braid. “
2 This Ghana-Braided Low Bun
Santiago points out two other key traits of Ghana braids: They’re always attached to your head (unlike an individual braid or box braid), and they always incorporate braiding hair. From there, you can wear Ghana braids in a ton of different ways, like this gorgeous bun hairstyle with ruler-precise lines (I mean, wow).
3 These Ghana Braids and Double Buns
Don’t know which part we love the most about this braided updo: the double braided buns, the beaded and cuffed Fulani-style braids, or how all the elements work so perfectly together at once.
4 These Side Ghana Braids
If you like the side-swept look of “Lemonade” braids (who doesn’t ?!), try this version of Ghana braids that follows a sideways, side-swept direction.
5 These Half-Up Ghana Braids
Instead of braiding the hair all the way down, stop at your crown and tie your braids back in a half-up, half-down, half-braided waterfall style.
6 This Ghana Braided Ponytail With Curls
Or ask your braider for Ghana braids around your whole head to create a braided ponytail like this. Instead of stopping at the crown, ask your braider to leave out the ends for a few inches of soft curls.
7 These Straight-Back Braids
This straight-back braided hairstyle combines two classic favorites, Ghana braids and itty-bitty cornrows, for a look that’s perfect for any occasion.
8 These Jumbo Ghana Braids With Cornrows
For a more intricate look, ask your braider for mini braids that follow a criss-cross pattern along with your jumbo braids and straight cornrows. To really make the design pop, incorporate blonde hair or another bright shade of braiding hair (It is the year of blue ombré, no?).
9 These Two-Tone Ghana Braids
If platinum-blonde hair is just not for you, try using braiding hair in a warm honey blonde to add dimension to your Ghana braids while still feeling natural and wearable.
10 These Ghana Braids With Zig-Zag Part
Important tip from Francis to help maintain moisture while wearing Ghana braids (or really any braids): Keep your scalp moisturized every morning with hydrating leave-in sprays and oils (with a nozzle top) to keep skin soothed and hydrated.
11 This Ghana-Braided Bob
When you want to switch it up, try a shorter bob length or play around with your hair part. Instead of following the hairline, these braids start at one point on the side and stem outward with one cool accent braid down the middle.
12 These Long Ghana Braids
To keep your hair healthy for braided styles like this, both experts suggest applying hydrating hair products to the hair prior to braiding. How? Francis deep conditioning before and after getting your style, while Santiago stresses the importance of stretching your hair before getting your braids to help keep the hair protected. That way, when you do take the braids out, you’re not left with dried hair and a lot of shedding.
13 These Small Ghana Braids
Santiago points out that most people here in the states associate Ghana braids with a chunkier cornrow style but argues that the size can also vary. “Ghana braids are just a very basic technique of adding hair to a section of a braid and then adding hair as you go along,” says Santiago, “with the intention of making that braid longer, thicker, or both.”
14 These Fulani Ghana Braids
Can’t decide between two styles? Incorporate the Ghana braid technique into another braided hairstyle you love, like Fulani braids, for a cool combo like this.
15 This Ghana Braids in a Spiral Pattern
Ghana braids and goddess braids (a similar chunky cornrow style) are the perfect go-tos for those who love a versatile hairstyle and don’t want to spend forever getting them done.
Brooke Shunatona Brooke Shunatona is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com.
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