The Difference Between Cornrows, Dutch Braids, & More

"Boxer braids." "Bobby-pin headbands." "Inside-out plaits." Those are just a few of the phrases people have used to describe what are really cornrows, Doobie wraps, and Dutch braids. No big deal? Well, actually that mislabeling is exactly where cultural appropriation happens. It's not just about taking from other cultures, but taking without giving credit.

While there are many people who blatantly rip off Black hairstyles, I recognize that others are simply uneducated about them. And with more braided hairstyles flooding our feeds than ever, confusion is something that's bound to happen. "Braiding and twisting requires the same manipulation," Devri Velázquez, an editor at Naturally Curly, tells Refinery29. "We are intertwining and weaving hair. They're closely-knit together as far as definitions go, but with the proper amount of education and research beforehand, it eliminates the potential for the stylist and client [to misidentify them]."


So, to help clear things up, Velázquez and I are breaking down the exact differences between cornrows, French braids, and other commonly confused plaits, ahead.

Three-Strand Braid

Let's start with the basics, shall we? A three-strand braid is quite possibly the easiest plait on the planet. Divide your hair into three sections, and cross the left and right pieces over the middle one until you get to the ends.
French Braid

Once you master the three-strand braid, you can move on to the French braid, which includes picking up pieces from either side of your head and adding it to the braid as you work.
Upside-Down French Braid

To incorporate a French braid into a high and tight topknot, take your French braid and invert it, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
Fishtail Braid

A fishtail braid looks complicated, but it's actually quite easy. Just divide the hair into two sections and grab a small piece of hair from the outside of the right section and cross it over to the middle of the left section. Repeat the same process on the opposite side. Still lost? Check out this tutorial.

Whether you have one leading into a ponytail or eight going back to the nape of your neck, they're cornrows all the same. You can spot them as a series of tight, three-strand braids weaved close to the scalp. The main difference between cornrows and French braids is that you cross sections under, not over, to make them pop off the head.
Boxer Braids

"Boxer braids" are also cornrows. Glad we cleared that up.
Cornrows Bangs

Fringe is trending in a major way, and these rad cornrow bangs prove that the look works on every texture.
Dutch Braids

The main difference between Dutch braids and cornrows is in the weaving. With Dutch braids, you cross your strands under while holding the hair up at an angle, to create a bit of height, and you often pull apart the braid at the end for added volume. With cornrows, you braid going down for a tighter, flatter effect against the scalp.
Ghana Braids

According to Poetic Justice Braids, the major difference between Ghana braids and cornrows is that your extensions are intertwined with your natural hair as the braids go back; this makes them larger than traditional cornrows.
Goddess Braids

Goddess braids, which are often braided in a spiral-like pattern, are commonly confused with Ghana braids, with reason. "The only difference, in my opinion, is that the size of braids vary with Goddess braids," Velázquez says. "You can have them big, or more micro. But they're both braided as close to the scalp as possible. They're versatile in the sense that they can be worn up or down."
Tree Braids

With tree braids, your stylist does cornrows but leaves the bulk of your extensions loose, according to Neno Natural. The braids are knotted to keep them from unraveling.
Crochet Braids

With crochet braids, your extensions are attached onto your cornrows using a crochet hook. Many prefer this style over tree braids because it's easier to reuse the hair. (But I, personally, have some feelings.)
Havana Twists

A favorite among the natural hair community, these large twists are often done with soft extensions and use the invisible root method to look more natural. Because the extensions are higher quality, you can leave them in for longer without unraveling. (That's also up to the expertise of your stylist.)
Marley Twists

The biggest difference between Marley Twists and Havana Twists is that the hair is more affordable. Natural Hair Rules also explains that the parted sections are more generous.
Senegalese Twists

These twists are slimmer than Havanas, and often use a silkier hair, like Kanekalon.
Box Braids

Box braids, also known as Poetic Justice braids, are single three-strand plaits made from small, sectioned-off parts, or boxes. Check out our video with YouTuber Jasmine Brown, who explores the history of the style (while getting a dope set of her own braids).
Milkmaid Braid

After pinning two (or sometimes three) braids together in a circular shape around the head, many stylists rough up the hair for a wispy, etherial effect. "This braid typically looks better on straighter, finer hair, or those with a slight wave," notes Velázquez. "Some people care about snatched edges. Some don't. I personally don't use edge tamers or pomades. I think this style works for those who do, though."
Halo Braid

Naturals love halo braids, also typically made up of two pinned three-strand braids or fishtails braids. This style usually rests along the hairline. Some even braid a few cornrows within the empty space between the circle.
Micro Braids

If you blink, you'll miss these teeny tiny plaits. These take hours to do (and usually more than one set of hands), but they last for months and can be styled in a multitude of ways.
Kinky Twists

Just as the name suggests, kinky twists are made with a kinkier grade of synthetic hair. The twists are usually chunky and curly at the ends.
Bantu Knots
Bantu knots are another protective style great for natural hair — which is good enough on its own — but just wait until you release them. (Spoiler alert: The style results in rad curls.)

Take a small section of your hair and wrap it around itself until your "knot" is formed. It's also a style that looks cool with twists and braids, too.
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