When it comes to natural haircare and styling, there are dozens of chic looks to indulge in. From striking natural styles to luxe protective styles, you’re bound to find a look that suits your mood and tastes. One of the most popular options? Goddess braids, which celebrity hairstylist and Eco Style Brand Ambassador Ursula Stephen calls “the best of both worlds."
"Goddess braids are box braids with strands of curly hair added throughout the entire length of the braid strands or solely at the ends of the braid," she explains. The result is a long, voluminous look that, according to ancient African tradition, is meant to evoke feelings of inspiration and creativity.
To learn more about goddess braids, I asked Stephen to unpack everything there is to know about the protective style, including the best products out there for maintaining this show-stopping look.
Creating Goddess Braids
When it comes to crafting the perfect goddess braids, Stephen says that there are three main items you need. The first is synthetic hair—"preferably pre-stretched kanekalon hair." The next, she says, is textured hair of any curl pattern.
"Some like a kinky texture and some like a loose wave," she explains. It's completely up to your personal preference.
Finally, she says an edge control or braid gel is essential for solidifying the style and promoting moisture. Below, her specific recommendations.
This pre-stretched kanekalon hair from The Sassy Collection is a hit among reviewers, who say it’s easy to take care of, style, and detangle. It’s made to be soft and manageable so that braiding is quicker and gentler on tired fingers, and it’s flame resistant to boot. A robust package, it comes with 48 inches of length but remains comfortable and lightweight. And at only four dolllars, it's the perfect go-to option for anyone on any budget.
Pros: lightweight; long; easy to braid; soft; doesn't tangle easily; affordable
Cons: some customers say it's difficult to set
Customer Review: "I love this braiding hair so much because it does not get tangled. Like a lot of the other braiding hair still and for only four dollars. It’s well worth it." -Sally Beauty
Stephen says she “really likes” this styler from Eco Style, explaining, “This styler contains Shea butter. It is perfect for protective styles as it penetrates and locks the moisture in.” We’ve written already about the benefits of using olive oil on hair, and this product is designed to do so without making hair greasy or resulting in excess buildup. It’s also perfect for enhancing curl definition, creating knotless braids, and laying edges. And, of course, it’s safe for both natural and synthetic hair.
Pros: expert-approved; affordable; moisturizing
Cons: small container
Caring for Goddess Braids
While you may love your goddess braids, they're intended to be a temporary style. Stephen explains, "I usually recommend wearing braids or any type of protective style for no more than six weeks. Keeping them past this time can be damaging to the hair, because the hair can become dry and brittle or lock at the root."
In the meantime, to extend your style's luxe look, she says it's important to take care of them as diligently as possible. In terms of cleansing, she says "it’s ok to shampoo your braids - lightly! Focus on the scalp." Then, when you're done, she advises to "be sure to dry the hair and scalp completely."
Caring for goddess braids also means keeping them conditioned. "Daily care is very important," says Stephen. "We cannot allow the hair to become dry and brittle."To prevent that dryness, it's important to choose nourishing products that keep strands healthy from root to tip. Here, her top picks.
“For [shampooing], I recommend the Living Proof Restore Shampoo,” says Stephen. “It will remove the sweat, oil and build up without stripping the hair.” The formula is also 100 percent clean, meaning that it’s free of aluminum salts, mercury compounds, synthetic fragrance, and other nasty, potentially harmful ingredients. It’s also free of sulfates and silicones, and is instead filled with moisturizing elements like phytantiol, which ameliorates heat damage and even helps maintain hair color.
Pros: clean; free of sulfates, SLS, SLES, and silicones; vegan; expert-approved
Cons: none found
Customer Review: "Love this shampoo so far! Paired it with the restore conditioner and after my first time using it my hair feels so soft and clean (I have an extremely oily scalp so that’s rare for me.) Plus my hair is shinier than ever! Will definitely keep using." -Sephora
For styling goddess braids and locking in indispensable moisture, Stephen recommends the Eco Style Strand Restore Gel Booster. “This conditioning blend was created to condition and repair damaged hair,” she describes. “Add a few drops in hand, emulsify, and apply to the scalp. Don’t forget to pull some product down the strands of braids as well, feeding the scalp and hair. This can be used on wet hair and reapplied to dry hair.” It’s also great for mixing in with your favorite gel for an added boost of hydration.
Pros: expert-approved; affordable; a little goes a long way; versatile; hydrating
Cons: full ingredients not divulged online
Tracee Ellis Ross’ brand Pattern Beauty features a plethora of products designed with textured hair in mind, and that includes protective hairstyles like goddess braids. This shampoo focuses on hydration so that you can cleanse your scalp without drying it or your hair out, and it works on all hair types, curls patterns, and levels of thickness. It’s also completely color safe, and contains nourishing natural ingredients like aloe leaf juice, jojoba oil, coconut oil, honey, and even biotin, which aids in promoting growth.
Pros: created with natural hair in mind; affordable; color safe; free of parabens
Cons: some users didn't find it clarifying enough
Customer Review: "I have been searching for a great shampoo and now feel that I have finally found the one. My scalp feels amazing after washing and it makes my coily hair spring back to life." -Sephora
This twist-elongating cream from Melanin Haircare was made with natural hair in mind, formulated with ultra hydrating ingredients including rosehip seed oil, aloe vera, and castor seed oil, all of which prevent breakage. It’s the perfect cream for hydrating hair in goddess braids or for providing some TLC after taking braids out. Reviewers love how soft it makes their hair feel and how it enhances shine, and several say it even helps with detangling. It’s also lightweight, so you don’t need to worry about thin hair getting weighed down.
Pros: strong hold; elongates twists; hydrating; made with natural hair in mind; also helps with undoing braids
Cons: none found
Customer Review: "I’ve been using this cream on my hair for the last four years. It is a perfect last step in my twist and braid out process. It keeps my hair moisturized for days on end, and never leaves any white flakes out residue. When it’s time to take my braids or twists down, my hair is always defined and soft. Using this cream along with the rest of the melanin line has been lovely for my hair the last few years. I always struggled to find the one hair care like that actually fully worked for my hair. This is it. If you have thick, kinky, fragile hair, these products along with proper care regimen will help your hair get healthy like it has mine." -Sephora
Meet the Expert
Ursula Stephen is a celebrity hairstylist known for crafting looks for celebrities like Rihanna, Laverne Cox, and Mary J. Blige. She has worked with legendary fashion photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Norman Jean Roy, and more for a number of fashion magazines; has collaborated with brands; and owns Ursula Stephen The Salon in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently based in New York and Los Angeles.
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Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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