After you’ve picked out your braided style and secured that highly-coveted Saturday AM appointment, there’s still one last thing you have to take care of: choosing your braiding hair. With all the beauty brands out there, it can be kinda overwhelming to nail down what specific hair you’ll need to complete your protective style (heyo, knotless braids, s-stitch braids, braided ponytails, and two-tone braids). Sound like a job? Yes?! Because it is! But we’re going to make your life easier and focus on a specific type of braiding hair (hi, kanekalon), and sift through the masses because we <3 you and want to make sure your next braided style is *chef’s kiss*.
So, in honor of good hair days and gorge braids everywhere, we’ve done the research and consulted a pro—braiding expert Shanna Alexander of Tropix Braids—for all the ins and outs of braiding hair. Interest piqued? Here’s a sneak peek…
Our top picks for the best braiding hair in 2022:
Now for the fun stuff: The brands, the reviews, and the facts. And trust me when I say, these ones are good.
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Best Budget Braiding Hair Brand
X-pression Premium Original Ultra Braid
- Some first-time testers had a bit of trouble with blending
X-Pression braiding hair is one of the most popular brands out there—and for good reason. For under $30 for a pack of six (I mean, what a deal), you get pre-stretched braiding hair that’s pretty soft, doesn’t shed all over the place, and won’t irritate your scalp.
THE REVIEW: “I love this braiding hair—it doesn’t tangle much and works great. I have long thick hair and this was more than enough hair for me!” writes one customer.
Best Braiding Hair Brand for Passion Twists
Dansama Passion Twist Hair
- Hair may tangle a bit when separating the hair for the twist
With passion twist styles, you need to find silky braiding hair that’s curly—not too tight, not too loose—to achieve the boho-inspired look. Not only does the lightweight texture of this braiding hair make it super easy to twist, but it also means that it won’t weigh down your edges (aka there’s less potential for breakage).
THE REVIEW: “I attempted to do passion twists for the first time and this hair made it easy for me!” writes one reviewer, adding, “I used two pieces of hair for each twist, my hair blended in perfectly, and the hair was really light.“
Best Braiding Hair Brand for Faux Locs
Bob Boho Queen Locs in Naturel
- mimics natural hair super well
- The feathered ends make them prone to tangles
Because the Boho Locs’ braiding hair is textured at the roots and wavy towards the ends, they mimic the look of actual locs. Translation: When you go with this brand, no one will be able to tell that your hair technically isn’t real.
THE REVIEW: “I love the style and carefree look of the Queen Locs—they are very lightweight so there is minimal tension at the root,” reads one tester’s review.
Best Braiding Hair for Human Hair Box Braids
Hair By Susy Velvet Supreme Human Body Wave
- Will add up due to the hair being real
Say hello to the only real hair option on the list. You know those bohemian box braids that Zoe Kravitz rocks? Yeah, you’re not getting that hairstyle with just any regular ol’ braiding hair. This option is made from human hair, not synthetic, which means the final result is lighter weight, super sleek, and gives off a more natural-looking vibe.
THE REVIEWS: “I love Hair By Susy! It’s pricey for sure, but WELL worth the money,” writes one reviewer. “During installation, the braids felt secure, but not the slightest bit uncomfortable or tight—two weeks later, the braids are still secure, and I have not felt any pain or pulling on my scalp,” writes another.
Best Colored Braiding Hair Brand
Latched and Hook Pre-Stretched Braiding Hair
- New braiders find the hair easy to use
- Will have to purchase multiple packs due to them not being as full as traditional non-stretched styles
Not only does Latched and Hooked’s bold braiding hair have a soft and smooth texture—meaning they’re easier to braid—but they’re also custom dyed and hand-blended, giving you the prettiest color options.
THE REVIEW: “I LOVED this pre-stretched braiding hair—I did rubber band braids on my daughter’s hair for the first time, and the hair made it soooo much easier for me!” writes one reviewer.
Best Tangle-Free Braiding Hair
Rosdina Pre-Stretched Braiding Hair
- Tangle-free throughout whole braiding process
- Some reviewers say it starts to get “fuzzy” after awhile
Anyone who has had to separate braiding hair knows how easy it is to end up with a tangled mess. Thankfully, you won’t have that problem with this braiding hair brand—it’s smooth and lightweight, so you can braid without constantly detangling.
THE REVIEW: “The hair was tangle-free during the entire braiding process, the length was accurate, and the braids turned out perfect! We only used six bundles for the full head,” reads one customer’s review.
Best Ombré Braiding Hair Brand
Befunny Ombré Braiding Hair
- Sometimes the coloring can look *slightly* off in person
If you prefer a more subtle contrast for your ombré versus a stark transition, this braiding hair brand was basically made for you. The hair goes from dark to light so seamlessly, giving your braided style a more natural look.
THE REVIEW: “Some pre-stretched hair gets thinner at the bottom, but that’s not the case here—the hair is the same consistency and is very soft,” writes one tester.
What is the best hair to use for braiding?
Most braiding hair brands use synthetic hair, which means the hair is made up of artificial fibers instead of real human hair. You can use human hair to braid—and certain looks, like human-hair box braids, require it—but it’s high-key expensive and not necessary for most styles. When it comes to synthetic hair, though, you want to look specifically for kanekalon hair.
What is kanekalon braiding hair?
Kanekalon braiding hair is a type of high-quality synthetic hair that’s smoother, softer, and less irritating than other synthetic hair types.”Kanekalon is typically the go-to choice for braiding because it’s widely available in a variety of lengths and colors,” says Alexander, adding that it creates a great result for most braided styles. Kanekalon mimics natural hair due to its coarser feel but ability to maintain that human hair-like softness, she explains. Oh, andddd it costs quite a bit less. Win-win.
Not only that, but “kanekalon is also more flame-resistant compared to most synthetic braiding hair, and therefore resistant to dripping or melting,” says Alexander. FYI, this is key because you can dip and seal the braids in hot water to create a seamless look. She explains that other types of synthetic hair may require rubber bands, which can diminish the overall look of the braids.
How to choose the best braiding hair:
The quality of the hair
If you use the wrong braiding hair, there is a possibility that the result may not mimic what you’re going for: “For example, the flow of the hair, smoothness of the braid, or how it lays can come out totally different,” says Alexander. This is why kanekalon is such a great choice—it’s made with a higher-quality fiber than other synthetic hair that may feel plastic-like to the touch.
The feel and texture
“Most braid styles require a particular braiding hair—whether it is synthetic or human—and every stylist has a brand that they prefer because each one has a different feel or texture,” says Alexander. Not only that, “the texture of the braid may work differently with other products used in braiding such as the styling gels or mousse.”
- Shanna Alexander is a bicoastal, traveling braider in New York City and Los Angeles. Alexander has been in the industry for over 15 years and began teaching herself to braid in her home country of Grenada. Shanna runs her own braiding company, Tropix Braids, as well as a YouTube channel.
Siena Gagliano is a contributing beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, and has three years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news. She’s an expert at researching and writing hair stories, like the best mousses for curly hair and the best shampoos for curly hair. She regularly tests and analyzes braiding hair, while working with the industry’s top hairstylists to assess new products and brands.
Ama Kwarteng was the associate beauty editor at Cosmopolitan for nearly three years, and has eight years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and entertainment across print and digital, including the best protein treatments for natural hair and the best braids for Black women. Her braiding hair picks were based on product reviews, ratings, and personal testing.
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