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Fulani Braids 101: Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving This Look

Fulani Braids 101: Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving This Look

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If you’re looking for an elegant, intricate & protective hairstyle steeped in cultural pride, Fulani braids might just become your new fave.       

The Fulani braid hairstyle is centuries old, dating back to pre-1500s West Africa.1 But it’s never gone out of style—you might have spotted Alicia Keys, Willow Smith or Rihanna rocking the tribal braids look over the last few years.

Fulani braids styles come in all shapes & sizes: from intricate, beaded braids to simple, classic patterns. No matter which vibes you’re going for, this guide will help you create a stunning Fulani braids style.

What Are Fulani Braids? Exploring the History & Cultural Significance

What are Fulani braids? They’re a protective style with deep West African roots—& they’re still turning heads (often on runways & red carpets).

While no two Fulani braid hairstyles are the same, each one typically features three key elements:

  1. Stitch feed in cornrow braids on the top & sides of the head
  2. Knotless box braids on the back of the head
  3. Two forward braids, one on each side of the head above the ear

These intricate braids are also commonly accessorized with beads or charms. This, too, is an homage to the Fula peoples, who often adorned the ends of their braids with stones, beads or coins.2

Getting Started: Preparing Your Curly Hair for Fulani Braids

For best results, you’ll want to make a few key preparations in the days leading up to your braiding appointment or DIY braiding session:

  • A few days before, you should wash your hair as normal. If you’re using shampoo & conditioner for curly hair, for instance, keep doing what you’re doing. In addition, make sure you have all the supplies you need: pre-stretched braiding hair, your curly hair styling products of choice, clips, edge tools & any beads or accessories.   
  • The day before you start braiding, consider using a hair mask for curly hair, such as PATTERN’s Treatment Mask, to help you lock in moisture & prevent an itchy scalp after your look is complete.
  • On braiding day, make sure your hair is clean, dry, moisturized & ready to braid!

  • Step-By-Step Guide: How to Create Fulani Braids on Curly Hair

    If you’re creating Fulani braids with curls, you can use the following steps to craft the perfect look.

    Most importantly, don’t forget to section your hair with clips before you start: Building Fulani braids with curly hair is much easier with help from your favorite hair clips.

    Step 1: Back Braids

    Technically, you can start with either the knotless box braids in the back or the stitch feed in cornrows in the front.

    If you choose to start with the back:

    • Part & clip your hair into sections, using edge control techniques to create sharp lines.
    • Start your knotless box braids by creating approximately ½” sections.
    • Separate the section into three strands & braid a few times.
    • Once you’ve created about a ½” braid, add three pieces of braiding hair one at a time.
    • Complete your braid & add beads as desired.

    Step 2: Braiding Forward

    Add forward braids after you finish your first major section (the front cornrows or the back box braids). While some stylists see forward braids as a key part of the Fulani braid hairstyle, they’re optional—you can skip this step if you’d like.

    To create a forward braid:

    • Gather a ½” section of hair slightly above & behind your ear.
    • Start braiding & begin adding braiding hair using the stitch feed-in method.
    • Instead of moving toward the back of the head, move forward toward the face.
    • Complete the braid & add beads if desired.

    Your end result will be a braid that hangs in front of your ear—a gorgeous, small detail in this sleek look. But, if you’re looking to style your baby hairs along with your Fulani braids, you might want to skip it.

    Step 3: Top & Side Braids

    Whether you do your top & side braids first or last, follow these steps for a classic Fulani style:

    • Part hair in the middle (or any way you like!) with PATTERN’s Edge Tool & section with clips.
    • Start your cornrows at the top of your head or the side.
    • Create about a ½” braid, then start adding braiding hair one piece at a time.
    • Complete the braid (with beads, if you’re feelin’ it).

    While straight-back cornrows parted in the middle are the most traditional Fulani braid look, they’re certainly not required: cornrows are an excellent place to flex your creativity.

    Create the Perfect Fulani Braids with PATTERN

    Fulani braids are a classic, sleek & eye-catching choice if you’re looking for a protective style with room for personal flair. Whether you try out a new part or add beads to your braids, there are countless ways to make Fulani braids your own.

    When you’re crafting cornrows, Bohemian braids or any other protective style, PATTERN has your back with everything you need to nourish & style your natural hair. We’re a one-stop-shop for hair products for braids, hair tools for curly hair & everything in between.

    Explore our collection of products for braiding natural hair to create your next stunning look.


    1. "History of Braids: More Than Just a Hairstyle." Genesis Career College.  https://www.genesiscareer.edu/history-of-braids-more-than-just-a-hairstyle
    2. Hummy P. "The History and Meaning Behind Fulani Braids (Explained)."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWDDe8IkZSY

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    Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

    With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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