Box Braids 101: Everything You Need To Know

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Think you know everything about box braids? Think again. It’s a staple in every black girl’s arsenal, but whether you’re a pro or a box braid newbie there’s always something to learn about this timeless style. Here’s your ultimate guide to box braids.

Jump Ahead

What Are Box Braids?

Jumbo, micro, knotless, goddess, waist length, or bob – box braids come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes but the root of box braids are steeped in African culture. Box braids date back to 3,500 B.C. when tribes in South Africa used braids to signify marital status, wealth, and a woman’s place in society.

Fast forward to the 1990s and we all remember the iconic image of Janet Jackson rocking chunky braid extensions in Poetic Justice. Those images reignited a love for box braids that hasn’t wavered since.

In its most simple definition, box braids are individual plaits all over the head, with parts for each braid made in the shape of a box, but that’s where “simple” ends and the creativity begins.

What Types of Braids Are There?

Every season there seems to be a new twist on this classic style, so we’ve rounded up the top categories for a quick explanation.

Classic Box Braids: Braids that are parted in small squares. When braiding hair is used, the hair extensions are sealed with hot water. We’ve created a one-step guide to pricing and sizing of the classic box braid.

Knotless Box Braids: These braids are the hot new trend that’s been around longer than you think. They’ve been called feed-in braids or no-knot braids but the process is all the same. These braids start with your hair and extensions are gradually fed in. The result: lighter braids that cause less friction on the scalp. We’ve done a complete breakdown of knotless braids and how to achieve the look.

Goddess Box Braids: This style is for the boho-chic look, think Zoe Kravitz. Goddess box braids (similar to Goddess Locs but different from Goddess Braids 😅) are perfect for those that want a protective style with a little flare. They are finished with wavy or curly braiding hair, giving the style a bohemian eclectic feel.

How To Install Box Braids

Installing your box braids can make or break how long you can wear them. It’s important that your hair is freshly washed, deep conditioned and stretched before going to a stylist. If you’re doing them yourself, make sure you have the proper products to get the job done.

You’ll Need:

*Make sure you have enough hair for the style you want to do. You can order braiding hair online. Here’s a handy guide on which brands and how much to buy.

Another important part about installing your braids yourself is paying attention to the parting. Make the parts even, neat and make sure they’re roughly all the same size. Here’s some creative parting if you’re up for the challenge.

The amount of time it takes you to do the braids is dependent on how large your braids are, but the biggest advice we can give is TAKE YOUR TIME. You’ll be much happier with the final product if you take your time and pay attention to each braid.

For smaller braids, some people take multiple days to install them, so start with the perimeter of your hair so you can put your hair in a bun until you’re done with the process.

There are a million videos on YouTube about installing box braids, here are some to get you started:

The Classic DIY Method

The rubber Band Method

Knotless Box Braids

Goddess Box Braids

Make sure you or your stylist aren’t braiding too tightly. It’s important to make sure your scalp and edges don’t have too much tension on them. Box braids that are too tight can damage your scalp, cause headaches and in severe cases cause permanent hair loss.

How to Sleep with Box Braids

Ok, now your braids are installed and you look great, but it’s time for bed. What do you do?

There are a few ways you can do this but we suggest having two staple products; a satin scarf and a bonnet. Or this long Satin bonnet we tried from Amazon.

You’ll want to tie the scarf around your edges to protect the front of your hair. It will cut down on frizziness and protect your edges, the bonnet is to keep the individual braids out of your way while sleeping and protect them from getting frizzy.

Here are a few videos with different sleeping methods:

How to sleep with box braids the first night if they are too tight. Note: it’s normal to feel tension right after braiding because your hair has been manipulated, but you shouldn’t feel pain. And if you do feel tension, it shouldn’t last for more than 24 hours. If it does, take your braids out.

How to Care for Box Braids

During the first few days of having your braids in you shouldn’t need to do much upkeep, but as time progresses you’ll still need to care for your scalp. Using a light oil to keep your scalp moisturized will do wonders to prevent flakiness and promote hair growth. If keeping your edges tame is important to you, use a light hold edge control to keep them in place. Using lighter styling products is helpful to prevent too much buildup on the hair. (Heads up: using edge control too frequently can result in hair loss because the alcohol in the product can dry the hair and make it more brittle and prone to breakage).

Experts say you should wash your braids ideally every week to keep your scalp healthy and keep your hair moisturized. But if that’s not possible, a one to three week cadence can work, depending on texture and condition of your scalp. For more on washing your braids, we’ve got you covered with a guide on how and when to wash your box braids.

✮ Pro Tip ✮

If you plan on keeping your hair in braids longer than a month, experts recommend re-braiding the front portion of your hair to keep them looking fresh and ease any tension on your edges that results from the added hair weighing on your own hair as it grows out.

🌼🌼[Quiz: Is it Time to Take Down Your Braids?]🌼🌼


How to Take Down Box Braids

Taking out your braids is just as important as the install. You want to make sure you’re not doing damage to your hair when taking out the extension. Shedding will be normal because each strand of hair has a lifecycle and some of those hairs will reach theirs while still in braids, but you can reduce breakage and extreme shedding by following a few important rules.

Go Slow – Don’t rush to take the braids out, make sure you slowly unravel and pull apart the braid. Some recommend using water or conditioner at the root to allow the extension to slip out as you work your way up the braid

Don’t pull – If you hit a snag in the braid, try your best to comb it out. Pulling at the snag or tangle can cause breakage

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize – make sure you moisturize your hair as you go. You’ll likely be washing your hair after taking out the braids so use the time to pre-poo with an oil or hair mask while taking down your hair

Here is a great video about the importance of taking out the hair and what to do after:

Box braids are almost like a rite of passage for black women and they can be a beautiful, fuss free experience with a little TLC. Ready to give them a try? Here are 83 box braid pictures to get you inspired. Not sure you want to do box braids? Here are 100 Natural Hairstyles to try next.

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Morgan Gilliam
Morgan Gilliam
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