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Layered Braids Are the Latest Protective Style That’s Giving Us Straight Up ‘Moesha’ Vibes

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From voluminous blowouts to baby braids, ‘90s and Y2K hair looks have made a major comeback. Of course, protective hairstyles—like layered braids— are joining the fun, too. We always knew braids were versatile, but this popular style gives us volume, depth and length rolled into one. It’s no wonder it’s become the latest look to sweep our TikTok feeds. So, we had a braid expert explain the craze and give us pointers on how to achieve the look ourselves.

What Are Layered Braids?

“Layered braids mimic a myriad of layered cuts on loose, individualized hairstyles,” says Cataanda James, hairstylist and Mane Choice brand educator. “[This protective style has] ​​long layers that usually fall below the shoulders and are cut so they’re face-framing.”

The real selling point is the volume and movement the look creates when the ends are flipped out using a flat iron, curling rods or rollers. This technique gives it the illusion of other layered looks we’ve seen from ‘the Farrah Fawcett’ to the the fluffy hair trend or the ‘60s ponytail flip, but in braided form.

Why Is It So Popular?

Let’s face it: Anything ‘90s or Y2K hair-related will always be a thing on social media. A quick scroll through the #layeredbraids hashtag on TikTok and you’ll see over 26 million views on videos of creators trying to recreate the signature ‘do. “Layered braids have become so popular because it’s a trend that has resurfaced from the 2000s. It gives a modern-day twist to classic haircuts. Essentially, you’re getting a 2022 reboot on styles that some of the biggest celebrities from the late 90s and 2000s made popular,” expresses James.

Handout/Steve Granitz/Rick Maiman/Getty Images

But really, the layered look’s popularity is all thanks to Brandy, who rocked it religiously in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s on and off her hit show Moesha. It’s safe to crown her the OG of protective hairstyles during that time (and James agrees). Which is why we’ve made her one of our go-to sources for hair inspiration and the layered look is a prime example.

How Is It Achieved?

If you’re an experienced braider, first off, we’re jealous. But if not, find one and share a reference picture with them to achieve the exact look you want. Just keep in mind that patience is key here. When getting braids, especially micro box braids that are divided into sections, the process takes time. Depending on length of your hair, your hair type and the braider, you can expect to sit in the chair for up to six to eight hours. However, it’ll be totally worth it in the end.

How To Maintain The Style

Once you get your layered braids (which BTW, look great on you!), start adding braid care products to your routine. James recommends three important steps: cleansing, moisturizing and protecting. Here are other things to consider:

  1. Cleanse your scalp and hair prior to getting your hair braided. She suggests a shampoo to gently cleanse, improve shine and boost hydration. Follow with a deep conditioner that helps to detangle, reduce breakage and improve elasticity. “When wearing braids and other protective styles, the key is to ensure that the strands underneath are well-hydrated for maximum length retention,” adds James.
  2. …and afterwards as well. “To help maintain your braids throughout the duration of wearing the style, it’s imperative that you continue to keep your scalp clean and free of any buildup, dirt, and debris,” says James. She notes a scalp toner can remove excess oil and buildup, while keeping it refreshed and clean. (P.S. We also have step-by-step guides to keeping your style looking fresh and healthy in case you need more guidance.)
  3. Don’t forget to show your baby hairs some love to further elevate the style.

As is the case with most protective hairstyles, the best part is that you can make this look entirely your own. Want colored braids? Check. How about accessories? Here you go. There are also many ways to rock your layered braids in a ponytail or a bun—or just wear them loose. Regardless of the style choice, we hope we're making Brandy proud (and living our best Moesha self).