Let's go back in time. The year is 3500 BC and weaving three strands of hair together is all the rage amongst the Himba people of Namibia. The array of styles and patterns was a way to rep yo' set aka your tribe and aligns with African women using their hair as a form of expression. Not only is it a form of art but it's also a rite of passage in our culture. Some of the most memorable moments of my childhood were of me plopping down in between my mama's legs to get my hair braided.
Whether it was plaits, cornrows or French braids, there was something wildy spiritual about that moment. Looking back, I think sitting there while my mom designed my crown was a way of connecting with my ancestors. To this day, getting braided hairstyles serves many purposes for me, from self-care to amplifying my Blackness.
Over the years, braids became an inventive way to wear our hair in lieu of straightening it or using relaxer. And somewhere along the way, a brilliant being decided to create braid extensions, opening the door to a universe of innovation. One integral part of the process: braiding hair. Black women know this to be Kanekalon hair which provides a kinky texture similar to our natural tresses. There are thousands of brands out there but we gathered some of the best to give you a quick rundown.
FreeTress is a hair braiding brand under the Shake-N-Go trademark. Since 1991, Shake-N-Go has been giving us the best human and synthetic hair to meet our protective style needs. I use FreeTress for various braiding styles from box braids to faux locs. As "the world's largest manufacturer of hair extensions, wigs, hairpieces, and accessories", this brand's versatility is what makes it top tier.
Rast A Fri is where all beauty is celebrated. It's the texture for us, because it doesn't irritate the scalp and keeps the stylists' hands intact. Under the Golden State Imports umbrella, Rast A Fri prides itself on quality, nourishing haircare products. Braiders across the globe love this brand because it has a variety of colors, smooth texture, and affordable price points for everyone. You aren't missing a thing when you opt for Rast A Fri, leaving all the room to be as creative as you want to be.
Hailing from Kenya, this braiding hair is here to change the game by offering more hair per pack and doing so without the itch. Atlanta Braider and Owner of Top Tier Styles & More, Latier says, "I like using Darling hair because of the quality and texture of the hair. The hair is strong and does not shed. The texture blends beautifully with our hair all while providing a sleek braided look. I love this hair and I look forward to using it many more times in the future."
If you were born in the 90s, there's an 80 percent chance your first braid style featured Sensationnel X-Pression braiding hair. The brand takes the name seriously boasting that they are truly definition of their name, "very good indeed; very impressive or attractive." With innovation at the forefront, Sensationnel has been dedicated to elevating hair products for decades. The proof is in the hair.
"I recommend the E Z Braid Spectra brand because the hair is Clean and Easy to glide your fingers through when crossing over the strands," says Tia Waller, Owner of Textures by Tia Salon based in Memphis, TN. "This brand also tangles way less than any other brand I've used. It also detangles very easy if you even have a tangle."
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