By: Kristen Bingle | Photo: Angelica
Cornrows are becoming an increasingly popular protective style amongst Black women, and in addition to being an easier and cheaper alternative to braided styles like box braids, YouTubers like Seun Okimi and AmazedByKay and even hair stylists have been religiously using and endorsing cornrows (without added hair) as a hair growth regimen. Could cornrow growth regmins be another fad in the natural hair community? Or are there any differences and added benefits when using your natural hair versus extra hair in a protective style?
How do cornrows help natural hair grow?
The key to understanding hair growth is knowing that all hair types and textures grow but the reason many of us don’t see the growth we desire is because our hair doesn’t retain it due to heat, damaged ends, chemicals and, more commonly, over-manipulation. (You might want to try our quiz: Is your hair damaged?)
Being able to retain the growth your hair experiences is what provides the real results. By tucking away your natural hair in a cornrow style for a couple of weeks, you are less likely to be changing the style or fiddling with your strands. Low manipulation ultimately results in less breakage, which leads to length retention and growth, which is the main idea behind protective styles in general; they “protect” your hair from manipulation.
Cornrows vs other protective styles
Any protective style will require some kind of love regardless of how long you’re planning to keep it in for. Cornrows however are particularly great as they require relatively less maintenance. You may find you need to wash your hair less frequently or the drying process is shorter; and leaving your hair wet won’t cause mildew or any unpleasant smells as is the case when using synthetic hair. You’ll also have more access to your own hair and scalp, making the washing process a lot easier. Another benefit of using cornrows is that there’s no added weight from synthetic hair meaning less tension on your scalp. This is great if you’re trying to combat traction alopecia or want to keep those edges looking fleeky. (Here’s more on taking care of your cornrows).
So what does a cornrow growth regimen look like?
Like any protective style, you’ll only reap the growth benefits of cornrows if they are properly put in, maintained and taken out. Having a proper growth routine in place will encourage thick, long luscious locks that retain the growth your hair naturally produces. Here’s how some of our favourite YouTubers are using cornrows to grow their tresses…
Kaylen Zahara (AmazedByKay) retained 10 inches of growth within a year by putting her hair into cornrows for at least 30 days at a time. Kaylen’s main focus is stimulating growth from the scalp and keeping the ends of her hair protected to retain the length.
- To help her hair grow whilst in cornrows Kaylen oils her scalp and edges a few times a week using a nozzled bottle of oil and massages using gentle circular motions. The oil nourishes the scalp and the light massages stimulate the blood vessels and follicles to encourage growth from beneath the scalp.
- A few times a week, she’ll wet the ends of her hair, add a moisturising product and then follow up with an oil — this allows the ends to stay hydrated and protected. You can apply the product to your ends using the LOC or LCO method — applying in the order of leave-in conditioner, oil and styling cream or leave-in conditioner, styling cream and oil — which encourages maximum moisture retention. The ends of your hair are the oldest and most brittle so always need extra attention.
- Kaylen also opts for thinner plaits so she has easy access to her scalp when she goes in with her oil.
- Tip: Do like Kaylen does and switch up your cornrow look by donning some of your favourite wigs. (But be careful not to wear wigs too often, as they can wear down your edges).
YouTuber Angelica (ANGIEBEE) swears by cornrows for consistent and noticeable hair growth. Her regimen starts before she even cornrows her hair:
- She makes sure her hair is clean, moisturised and thoroughly detangled before starting the braiding process.
- Angelica cornrows her own hair herself as this allows for more control over the tightness of each braid. She suggests doing the same or finding someone you’re comfortable with so you can let them know if the plaits are too tight. She also cornrows her hair while it’s damp to avoid heat damage. If you do decide to cornrow your hair from blow dried tresses (which is more often the case), make sure to use a heat protectant to limit any damage.
- Angelica washes her cornrows weekly to combat product build up and any itchiness. You can stretch it to 2 weeks if you think your hair can manage. She also incorporates a rice water rinse in her routine. Ricewater is a popular growth technique used by many of our favourite YouTubers to grow their hair.
- She moisturises and seals her hair with water and oil a few times a week or just applies a leave-in conditioner on damp hair. Gentle scalp massages are also part of her routine to stimulate blood flow beneath the scalp and encourage growth.
- Angelica keeps her cornrows in for 5-6 weeks at an absolute maximum (4-5 weeks is recommended) and has been cornrowing her hair consistently for the past few months.
Candace Lanae’s focus is on the takedown. This is the moment of truth. You could lose weeks of healthy and retained length by roughly pulling at your hair or tugging at any knots—remember braided hair is likely to be more tangled so work as gently as you can.
- Although she did experience significant growth (see 1:30 – 1.49 on her video), Candace kept her cornrows in for over 3 months which is not recommended. Keeping your cornrows in for longer than about 6 weeks won’t result in any additional growth. Hair will continue to become tangled and could even begin to mat if you’re not careful.
- Her takedown routine involves drenching her hair with water before unravelling each braid. She then detangles each section as she unbraids it using a moisturising detangler.
- She then follows up with a deep conditioning treatment to make sure her hair is thoroughly moisturised.
Candace also opts for bigger braids and keeps her cornrows look fresh by wearing different wig styles.
Tip: You will see shedding after removing your cornrows. This is normal as hair sheds from the scalp on a daily basis but this hair has nowhere to fall, so will be sitting inside the plaits.
Pro tip: Keep nails tidy and filed before taking your cornrows out. Snagged or chipped nails will pull out strands of hair.
A Simple Routine
So putting this all together, a simple routine might look like this:
- Wash, detangle, deep condition and moisturize your hair before putting in the cornrows.
- Leave your cornrows in for up to 30 days.
- Moisturize your scalp and hair at a frequency that suits your lifestyle and the condition of your hair and scalp.
- When moisturizing, pay extra attention to your ends, moisturizing them and sealing in that moisture with oil.
- Wash of co-wash (wash with only conditioner) your cornrows at least once within that 30 day period.
- Minimize frizz by keeping wrapping your hair at night.
- Take your hair out after 30 days for a “real” wash and deep condition.
- Take your time during the take down process, using a detangling cream or even conditioner to moisturize the hair before taking it down.
- If you added hair to your cornrows, you may want to give your own hair a few days or weeks to breath before starting the rinsing and repeating the process.
- If you get tired of cornrows, individual twists (without added hair) are also a great low-tension protective style.
- Trim any split ends every 3 months.
Cornrows are a low maintenance and cheaper alternative to many of the protective styles we’ve grown to love. They offer many of the same benefits as most braided styles — low manipulation — and definitely take less time to install and take down. The key to seeing growth when your hair is in cornrows, is to maintain a routine that works for your hair. This may include moisturising, oiling your scalp, cleaning your hair and scalp, or massages. Use the tips from these YouTubers to get started on your cornrow growth regimen.