European Braids Vs African Braids

Each ethnicity has a distinct type of braid to cater to specific needs. The most popular braid styles belong to Europe and Africa. So how do you spot the difference between European Braids vs African Braids? 

European braids are made up of thick parts of hair weaved together whereas African braids are thin and weaved closely to the scalp. This gives the puffy African hair a more flat and neat look. 

European braids helped women to maintain modesty while they worked outdoors. And African braids carried the person’s religious, marital, tribal, and social identity. 

That’s the gist of the difference in braiding styles for European braids and African braids. Keep reading as we discuss more details in the article!

What Are European Braids?

What Are European Braids

European braids are woven with three or more parts of the hair, away from the scalp.

Below are the European braids that have been worn since ancient times – 

  • Dutch Braids
  • French Braids
  • Milk-maid braids
  • Daughter braids
  • Arden Braids 

Braids would help European women to maintain modesty as well as control their hair while working outside.

What Are African Braids? 

What Are African Braids

African braids are made by dividing a small strand of hair into three sections. After that, both left and right parts of the hair are crisscrossed over the middle part. 

Here are some of the popular types of African braids – 

  • Cornrows
  • Box braids
  • Knotless braids
  • Goddess Braids
  • Fulani Braids
  • Ghana Braids

Some African braids include extensions in each braid to protect the natural hair.

The European Braids Techniques

European Braids Techniques

Essentially all braids follow the same technique. However, European braids have a few distinct techniques. They typically work like this – 

  • 3 thick strands of hair are separated between the fingers at the temple. 
  • The right and left parts of the strand cross over the middle strand.
  • The hair strands woven in a criss-cross pattern create a braid.  
  • For French and Dutch braids, you start with a few strands of hair. Keep braiding as you add more strands of hair. 
  • Each section of braid is gently tugged to create more volume, giving the hair a fuller look. 
  • Some European braids are different in thickness and size. 

The European Braiding technique is comfortable for the hair roots.

The African braids Techniques 

African braids Techniques

African braids are more complicated than European braids. Here are the general techniques for African braids –

  • The entire head of hair is parted into many thin sections. 
  • The small sections of hair are then separated into 3 sections. 
  • This exposes a clean and thin line of scalp. 
  • After adding a layer of moisturizer on the roots of each section of hair.
  • Two strands of hair on the sides are passed over the middle strands.
  • The strands are tightly woven together to create a small, thin braid.
  • For a few braids, beads and extensions are added gradually to the braids.
  • Each braid is homogenous.

Different types of African braiding techniques symbolized the wearer’s tribal, religious and social identity.

European braids vs African braids: How To Spot The Difference In Braiding Styles

The general way to braid hair is the same for both European and African braids. Three strands of hair are woven together to create braids. 

However, there are significant differences between the two types of braids- 

1. Characteristics

European braids are often loosely plaited from the scalp. The braids are thicker and fuller looking unless the braids are very thin. 

On the other hand, African braids are tightly woven to the scalp. Their braids tame their coily, fluffy hair. As African hair takes up more space around the scalp, the braids neatly secure the hair to the scalp.

keep it away from the scalp

Hair is weaved loosely in European braids to keep it away from the scalp. This technique gives thin hair more volume and a fuller look. 

For European braids, 3 of the parts are thick. Although they are very thin for African braids.

African braids expose the scalp between each braid. For European braids, the scalp is not so exposed. 

For a European braid, you’ll need long strands of hair to weave the braid. But because African braid is weaved close to the scalp, even short-length hair can be braided. 

2. Which is Easier

European braids are comparatively easier to plait than African braids. 

complete weaving

There are only a few European braids that take 40 minutes to an hour. Whereas African braids require hours, even days to complete weaving. Cornrows and box braids take around 5-6 hours for long hair. 

3. Which Makes Better Waves

Makes Better Waves

For making waves in your natural hair, European braids will create wider waves. The waves will look natural. 

And African braids will add smaller and more waves to the hair. It will give your hair a crinkle effect. 

4. How To Do European Braids On Your Hair

How To Do European Braids

European braids are quite easier to learn. Here is a step-by-step instruction for a popular European braid style, the milk-maid braids

  • Part your hair in the middle.
  • Take each section of hair to the opposite shoulder.
  • Divide the part into three sections for braiding.
  • Turn each side over and weave each strand of hair into a braid.
  • After weaving 2 braids on the side of your head, bring the braid around the crown of your head.
  • Secure the braid with the help of bobby pins and ribbons.

5. Similarities

The general process to weave a braid is similar for both European and African braids. 

Each part of hair is divided into three strands and then weaved in a criss-cross motion to braid the hair. 

divided into three strands

Some Vikings ( The East Europeans during 800 AD) look similar to African box braids and cornrows. Both types of braids are plaited close to the scalp. And the hair is divided into multiple thin braids.

5 ways that African hair is different from caucasian hair

African hair is different from caucasian hair

Here are 5 ways African hair is different from Caucasian hair –

  • African hair is jet-black in color. Caucasian hair is much lighter, mostly blonde.
  • African hair is very curly or coiled. Causian hair is fine and straight to wavy.
  • African hair cannot retain moisture and breaks very easily. Caucasian hair can retain moisture and is more durable.
  • The cross-section of African hair is highly elliptic. It’s relatively elliptic for Caucasian hair.
  • African hair requires protective styles and moisturizing products for better hair health. Caucasian hair doesn’t require such attention. 

European Braids or African Braids: Which One to Choose?

European Braids or African Braids

Unless your hair is delicate and protecting them is a concern, you can choose either type of braid. 

Wearing African braids may subject you to criticism if you belong to another ethnicity. While European braids won’t bring you any such public scrutiny. 

African braids will help you to protect your hair and keep the moisture locked in. 

If you plan to wash your hair after a few weeks, an African braid is the way to go. 

But if you want to keep your hair braided for only a few hours, opt for European braids.

Is European braids better than African braids

There is no better braid than another. Each braid style corresponds to a particular ethnicity. 

African hairstyles served to protect the hair as well as to depict social, marital, and tribal identities. European hairstyles were more functional and modest. 

Both of the braids are gorgeous to wear.  


What are the Possible Side Effects of Microbraiding

There are a few possible side effects of microbraiding, including dry hair, rough hair, full of dandruff, and mass hair fall.

In Summary

That was everything about the difference between European braids vs African braids. 

Reading this article, you should be able to easily identify which braid originated in Europe and which ones originated from Africa. 

Wear either of the braid styles according to your hair type. And acknowledge their origin when you wear them. Good luck!

By Cindy Mahlangu

Hey there! I'm Cindy Mahlangu, a pro hairstylist with a serious passion for natural hair care. My mission? To inspire and educate others on the beauty and benefits of protective hairstyles. Through my creative writing, aim to empower individuals to embrace their unique hair texture and confidently care for their locks. So, whether you're rocking locs, braids, or twists, join me on this hair journey and let's achieve healthy, fabulous tresses together!

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