Fulani braids made a long-awaited comeback a few years ago and have stuck around ever since. Also known as tribal braids, the iconic protective style previously peaked in popularity when celebs like Alicia Keys rocked the style on the cover of her 2001 album Songs in A Minor, or when Rihanna donned Fulani braids on the red carpet for the British Fashion Awards in 2019. Even without the celebrity endorsement, Fulani braids (AKA tribal braids) still remain a popular choice for Black women, thanks to the intricate style, unique look and relatively low maintenance. The name is derived from the nomadic Fulani ethnic group who live across East and West Africa. The style incorporates the traditional braiding patterns used by Fulani women.
What makes the Fulani style distinct from other braided looks is the cornrow that goes down the middle of your head. The style also usually has one cornrow braided on either side of your face, starting from the back and ending at front, creating loose hanging braids at your temples, as well as a braid wrapped around the hairline. Beads and embellishments bring this look to life, while Kanekalon hair adds length to really make it stand out. The beauty of this style is that you can really make it your own by adding accessories, a pop of color or your own variation of the braid pattern.
Most women will opt to go to a salon for tribal braids, as it can be quite tricky and time consuming to do yourself. If you’re brave enough to attempt Fulani braids yourself check out our style 101 post for everything you need to know. Our protective style guide will also come in handy with advice for maintenance and take down.
Need some style inspiration? Check out our gallery below of some of the hottest Fulani braid styles Black women are rocking.
Long and luscious tribal braids
You can create tribal braids using your natural hair but adding length with Kanekalon hair enhances the look. Kanekelon hair is the ideal choice for most braided styles—the texture resembles a blown out kinky hair. It’s less wiry, is a better quality than most other types of synthetic hair and moves like natural hair. Longer length is definitely the most classic Fulani style and it’s easy to see why women opt for this variation time and time again. Add beads and embellishments to the mid sections or ends of the braids for a personal touch.
Middle part with or without a cornrow
The Fulani style is defined by the cornrow going down the middle part. For a modern twist, many women choose to simply have a middle part with no cornrow—you can still have some of the cornrows coming towards your face or have them going straight back. Ombre or one solid colour can also work really well for this variation.
Shoulder Length Fulani Braids
Check out how these women are rocking shorter tribal braids topped off with braids on the ends. The shorter length helps to frame your face and is also a great way to show off the beads as they’re closer to your face. Another great switch up is to have a longer bob length on one side and then a shorter length on the other.
Mid-length braids with beads
Mid-length is the perfect variation if you’re stuck between going long or short. Adding beads to your mid-length braids makes it feel like an accessory as it’s sitting at your neckline and can compliment a pair of earrings
Whether you’re going blonde, red, ombre or pastel, color can be a great way to add some personality to your tribal braids.
Back view and side view of Fulani Braids
Check out how amazing these Fulani braids look from the back and from the side — it’s all in the detail.
You can switch up your Fulani style by opting for chunkier braids—the larger the braid, the less tension on your scalp, which is more beneficial.
Adding beads and embellishments takes tribal braids to the next level. Wooden beads tend to be heavier and will cause more tension on your scalp so be careful when installing them. The plastic beads are lighter and you can layer different colours and patterns for a unique take on the Fulani style.
Ponytails and buns
Tying up your tribal braids into a high bun or ponytail completely transforms the look, showing how versatile these braids can really be.
Goddess Fulani braids
Adding a touch of ‘goddess’ simply means leaving a few strands of the braiding hair (usually wavy) loose. Goddess styles are most commonly used in box or knotless braids but add them to the Fulani style and you’ve got a completely unique look.
Quick tips for Fulani/tribal braids
- Pre-separated Kanekalon hair is the most convenient choice when installing Fulani braids yourself. As the installation is quite time consuming, you can save yourself the hassle and stress by opting for this type of hair.
- When getting your tribal braids done by a professional make sure you come prepared with lots of images of what you want the final style to look like — front, back and side.
- Clean, moisturized hair is crucial to any protective style and this is certainly the case for Fulani braids.
- As your hair is in cornrows for this style, you’ll have an easier time accessing your scalp to keep it clean and fresh. It’s also a great way to apply nourishing oils to your scalp which can encourage growth and health. Be careful not to over oil your scalp as this can lead to product build-up and itchiness.
We hope this guide has provided some inspiration for your next protective style! Share your Fulani braid look with us on Instagram using the hashtag #hairunruled.