Tree Braids Are the Latest '90s Hairstyle to Make a Comeback

As POPSUGAR editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. If you buy a product we have recommended, we may receive affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.

Though protective styles reign supreme in the summer, they make for easy, low-maintenance options year-round. Not only do you have a myriad of tried-and-true alternatives to choose from like box braids, faux locs, or sew-ins, but every once in a while a throwback style from the early aughts rejoins the cultural zeitgeist to keep things interesting. This is precisely what is happening with tree braids.

Tree braids are often considered a healthier alternative to other popular styles. For example, "micro braids are individual braids that are the smallest size you can get and they go around the whole head," hairstylist Kee Taylor tells POPSUGAR. On the other hand, "tree braids can be created on smaller cornrows, which some people like better than micro braids because there isn't much movement or styling and therefore less potential to irritate the scalp."

There are a myriad of ways that you can wear tree braids, so ahead, Taylor breaks down everything you need to know about the look from how to achieve them, the type of hair to use, and how much tree braids cost.

What Are Tree Braids?

Tree braids are particularly fun because the style almost feels like the shapeshifter of the hair world. "With regular feed-in cornrows, you feed in the full extension to the braid, but with tree braids, you add a portion of the extension so that pieces are hanging out," Taylor says. "A couple of inches are braided in and the other side is left unbraided and can be styled as you desire."

This means that tree braids can be started with a very small cornrow and have the majority of the extensions left out, which gives the look of a sew-in, or they can be more cornrow and less loose hair, which gives the illusion of a cornrow sew-in. It's an incredibly flexible style, so it makes sense why people are starting to return to the look today. Tree braids are also a trend that go hand in hand with the rise of the french curl braid, which typically sees individual braids of any size have a very loose and curled end, a characteristic that the former style doesn't necessarily have to possess but can achieve.

How to Get Tree Braids

To get this look, it's important to do your due diligence. Find a stylist who you know specializes in tree braids. Depending on how long you want the style to be in, Taylor recommends using human-hair extensions.

"Choose your cornrow size and keep in mind this will affect how many extensions you'll need (the larger the cornrow, the more hair is needed)," Taylor says. "[It's] optional, but you can start by leaving your edges out to keep them healthy and avoid breakage. As you start the cornrow, braid it three to four rows back and then add in your hair extension and fold the hair closer to the end. Leave out two to three inches of hair and add the rest to the cornrow, the other half you want to leave free-cut, and style the hair that's left out of the braids as you please."

Because getting the style can be tedious, installation can cost anywhere between $300 and $500. Additionally, there are some best practices you want to keep in mind, particularly when it comes to skin and scalp care.

"If you go the synthetic route, be cognizant of the type of hair you use," Taylor says. "Try to use antibacterial synthetic hair that won't make you itchy and break out especially if you have sensitive skin types. It's also best to use some type of oil to keep your scalp nourished underneath," she says. Her personal favorite? The First Class to Jamaica Black Castor Oil ($21) from her brand Deeper Than Hair.

Tree Braids Inspiration

If you are now ready to try the style, find some of the best tree braid hairstyles ahead.

Tree Braids Bob

Want to join in on the bob trend but also want to try your hand at tree braids? Lucky for you, you don't have to choose between the two styles, as proven with this look.

Curly Tree Braids

If you prefer more volume with your hairstyles, leave the ends of the tree braids out to mimic the look of a curly sew-in.

Tree Braids With Curled Ends

If you don't want the ends of your tree braids to be entirely out, try styling them in ringlets.

Tree Braid Lob

If you prefer more of a lob length, just leave out more of the extensions versus the braid when doing your tree braids.

Wavy Tree Braids

Use wet and wavy extensions to achieve this wavy tree braid hairstyle.