Let’s be honest: Hot weather = lazy hair days. When the temperatures rise and the sun is beaming down, messy buns, ponytails or even a dad hat will do. But how about switching it up every once in a while? Braids don’t only upgrade a look, they can also be a protective style for summer, especially for natural hair gals. And the best part is they're a whole look you can do yourself. We rounded up 20 braids to try this summer that get the job done while being a fun departure from your usual go-to (no Kindergarten plaits included.)

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braid hairstyles crown
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1. Crown Braid

Crown braids can feel overly youthful when worn higher up on your head. But braiding them low at the nape of your neck turns them into a casual updo perfect for wedding season.

braid hairstyles braided ponytail
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2. Braided Ponytail

OK, if ponytails are you thing, there’s a braid for that. Tie your hair back how you normally would, but then start braiding it from root to tip before securing with a hair tie. Add some accessories like beads, rings or cuffs to liven up the look.

Headband braid
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3. Headband Braid

Headbands have a tendency to look younger (we did wear them to elementary school every day), but when they're made out of your hair, it feels downright posh. French braid two sections from ear to ear, and then tie the rest back into a low bun.

braid hairstyles double braided pigtails
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4. Double Braided Pigtails

Sleek pigtail braids are fun without being childish—just take Janelle Monae here, who is the perfect example of how to make them look chic. Just part your hair in the center, create two ponytails and braid them accordingly. Accessories encouraged.

Messy ponytail braid
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5. Messy Ponytail Braid

Slick your hair back into a high pony at the crown of your head, then weave it together and tug at different pieces. A loose, messy braid like this one is a sophisticated alternative to your regular updo.

braid hairstyles cornrows
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6. Cornrows

Cornrows have been a staple in protecting natural hair for centuries. Often times, they're a base for wigs, extensions or weaves, but many wear them alone for a chic look perfect for, let's say, a rooftop party. Create several sections before braiding close to the scalp and working your way down the entire length of your hair.

half crown braid
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7. Half-Crown Braid

If you love crown braids but aren’t in the market for an updo, this half-up version is the perfect solution. It still keeps the hair out of your face, but offers a more laid-back look than the full monty.

braid hairstyles half up and half down
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8. Half-Up Half-Down

No need to choose between one look. If you’re sporting box braids, how about separating your hair and focusing on the section close to the crown? Just wrap it into a small bun and let the rest of your braids flow.

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9. Center Part Braid

Looks like your center part just got an upgrade. One singular braid at the center of your scalp where a middle part would normally be adds a little edge to an otherwise everyday hairstyle.

braid hairstyles braided topknot
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10. Braided Top Knot

Say goodbye to the traditional bun. Whether you have box, micro or goddess braids, sweep them up and wrap them into a braided top-knot. Add a few gold beads to really tip the scales.

pipe braid
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11. Pipe Braid

Part French braid and part twist, hairstylist Nicci Welsh created this technique herself and we’ve never seen anything like it.

braid hairstyles lemonade braids
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12. ‘Lemonade Braids’

Inspired by Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” look, the side cornrow style can be done with any size or hair thickness. Just keep it even and close to the scalp while living out your inner Queen Bey.

braided chignon
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13. Braided Chignon

A simple side braids woven into a low chignon is a small detail that takes your bun from average to alfresco-ready in a matter of seconds.

braid hairstyles fulani braids
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14. Fulani Braids

Inspired by the Fulani people in Africa, these braids take the elements of a traditional cornrow to create its own unique hairstyle. You can find these braids going in opposite directions towards the front of your head and sometimes secured at the ends with beads.

braid hairstyles box braids
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15. Box Braids

Box braids are by far the most versatile style you can do. Your hair is sectioned into squares before braided from the root to the tip. You can have it any length (add hair extensions for longer braids), color (the options are endless for the summer) or thickness (although fine hair should lean towards smaller box braids). The best part? You can make this protective style your own as a ponytail, half-up half-down combo or even left down for a night out.

braid hairstyles micro braids
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16. Micro Braids

Similar to box braids, these are smaller and thinner braids. If you have time (it can be quite tedious), try this look. It’s done tightly close to the head and sometimes even braided midway to leave the rest of the hair loose.

braid hairstyles twist braids
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17. Senegalese Twists

Senegalese twists (or just known as twist braids) follow the same method of box braids by sectioning hair in squares. However, you section the hair in two and begin twisting (get it?) the strands together and voilá.

braid hairstyles dutch braids
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18. Dutch Braid

Think of it as a reverse french braid. This underhand braid uses the three strand technique to create pigtails, a crown braid or a simple side look for a casual day in the sun.

braid hairstyles fishtail braids
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19. Fishtail Braid

Unleash your inner mermaid. It may look difficult, but this easy boho-chic look is far from it. Here’s a four step tutorial to get you started for any occasion.

braid hairstyles halo
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20. Halo Braid

Similar to the crown braid, this style wraps around your head, only it uses the dutch braid technique to give off angelic vibes.

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