For some time now crochet braids (not to be confused with box braids) have been a growing trend. Having been popular in the late nineties to early 00s, this practical hairstyle is back, but is looking a little different from its earlier iteration. Crochet braids today have been influenced by the natural hair movement; the textures used are more natural-looking and the styles created are styles that you’ll typically see a naturalista sporting (havana twists, braid outs, flexi rod sets; view more crochet styles here). Chances are you may mistake crochet braids for someone’s real hair, which is one of the reasons we’re big fans of the look. If you’re thinking about jumping on the crochet bandwagon, here’s everything you need to know about this trending hairstyle. (By the way, if you like this, maybe you’ll like our in-depth post on bantu knot outs on different lengths and textures or this one about Fulani Braids (AKA Alicia Keys Braids)).
August 4, 2018, Update: I’ve added a section on braidless crochets for those of y’all who don’t know how to cornrow! Jump to that section.
AT A GLANCE
- A practical, protective and affordable way to rock added hair
- The hair can cost $3-10/pack
- One may use 4 – 7 packs, depending on the type of hair
- Usually takes about 3 hours to install but varies based on the style
- Can last 4 – 8 weeks
- Maintenance is minimal if you don’t care too much about washing your hair *meep*
What Are Crochet Braids?
Although we say crochet braids as though referring to the hair itself, we’re really talking about the method with which we’re adding the hair. Crochet braiding (or rather ‘the crochet method’) is a way of adding extensions to one’s hair. As with a weave, the basis of the method is first cornrowing one’s hair then applying the extensions to the cornrows. Unlike a weave, however, the hair used is loose and not on a weft. And instead of being sewn in, crochet hair is kind of looped under the cornrows with a crochet needle (essentially a hook) and secured with a knot of sorts. (For more a more in-depth how-to, see below).
What’s Great About Them?
The real question is what’s not to love about crochets. In addition to them being a protective style, crochet braids are….
A couple downsides to crochets is that they don’t necessarily last as long as a style like box braids. And they’re not as easy to wash. (Jump to Maintenance).
Types of Crochet Braiding Hair
Already Twisted Hair
- Cuban Twist Braid by Freetress/Equal
- Havana Twist Braid or Mambo Twist by Janet Collection (Janet Collection really has a lot of options, check out their full braiding line here)
- Jamaican Twist Braid by Freetress/Equal (thinner twists)
- X-Pression Synthetic Crochet Braiding Hair by Outre (heads up this hair is a bit on the shiny side)
- Barbadian Braid by Freetress/Equal (by the way, Freetress/Equal is a brand under the Shake-N-Go holding company, people often mix up the names, so you’ll see the hair referred to as Shake-N-Go or Freetress or Equal)
What is Kanekalon Hair?
Kanekalon® is a brand of synthetic fiber (modacrylic fiber). Kanekalon is a registered trademark of the Japan-based Kaneka Corporation (which includes Kaneka Americas Holding Inc. as a subsidiary). Modacrylic fibers are used in things like, rugs and clothing, but we (black girls) know it mainly for its use in wigs. Kaneka Corporation is one of the most popular producers of modacrylic fiber. So much so that the brand name has become synonymous with the fiber itself in the hair world. (Fun fact: synthetic fibers only made up 8% of Kaneka Corporation’s 2015 fiscal year sales). Net-net: Kanekalon is a fiber brand that’s so popular that we use it to refer to a type of synthetic hair.
Crochet braids can be worn straight, curly, twisted or braided. Here’s a diverse round up of crocheted styles.
How to Install Crochet Braids
There are a number of tutorials on how to install crochet braids. We like TheChicNatural’s tutorial (embedded below). Other crochet-related tutorials worth watching include how to install crochet braids with a bobby pin and how to create an invisible part with crochets. Both of these are also embedded below.
A Quick Step-by-Step
In case you don’t have time to watch videos, here’s a quick step-by-step.
- Cornrow your hair all back (also see braiding patterns).
- Add the crochet hair bit-by-bit by using a crochet needle (or bobby pin; see below).
- Slide the needle under the cornrow (latch closed).
- Open the latch, hook the hair onto the needle and close the latch.
- Pull the needle and hair under the cornrow until a medium-sized hoop is formed.
- At this point you should have a loop on one side of the cornrow and ‘tails’ on the other side.
- Fold the tails over the cornrow and put them through the loop. Don’t tighten yet.
- Twist the loop with your fingers and put the tails through the loop again. Do this one more time for luck ;-). Then pull to tighten and secure the hair.
- Your first crochet ‘stitch’ should be secured. Repeat until you’ve covered your whole head.
A few tips for installing crochet braids:
- Make sure your hair is nice and clean before you install crochets, or any kind of braids or weave for that matter.
- Make sure your hair is adequately moisturized before installing crochets. Given that you’ll have the braids in for at least a few weeks, you want to make sure your hair isn’t too dry.
- Use your best judgement to space the hair appropriately. Once you have most of the hair installed, feel and look around and ‘edit’ where needed. Add more hair where you might want more volume or take out hair where it feels too thick.
- Be more careful once you get to the front of your hair; you may want to use thinner strips of hair at this point, so that the knots are smaller and less visible. (See more on invisible parts below).
TheChicNatural’s tutorial is one of the best. She does the tutorial with marley hair and she shows you how to curl the hair after it’s installed. You can probably skip that part if your hair is already curled or twisted, but it’s good to know the process just in case.
Installing Crochets Using a Bobby Pin
Crochet needles aren’t expensive at all, but if you’ve lost yours or don’t have time to run to the store and get one, you can still use the crochet method but with a bobby pin. Vlogger AfricanCreature shows us how. Note: in this video she’s installing a combination of a sew-in and crochets. We’ve started the video after the sew-in bit. Another note: she secures her crochets by using a standard knot versus looping them twice or thrice.
Invisible Part/Knotless Crochet Braids
Many people are concerned with how you conceal the knots when sporting crochet braids. This is typically a non-issue if your rocking big kinky curls; the hairline and knots aren’t very noticeable. With other styles, the hair line is a concern. Some people hide their knots with some leave out, while others install the top (or most visible) part of the hair using the invisible part (or knotless) method.
Crochet Braiding Patterns
Lots of people have questions about which type of crochet braiding pattern to use. There are a number of different patterns out there, but the one you should really care about is the all back one. Simply braiding your hair all back is the best way to go. However, you might find that it helps to have double the amount of cornrows in the front than in the back. So for example, having 10 cornrows in the front half of your head that merge into five cornrows in the back half, or 12 that merge into six. Below, TheChicNatural has six thin braids in the center front half of her head that merge into three in the back half. And she has three more cornrows on either side of her head.
Tip: create thinner braids wherever you plan on having a part, and try to keep those braids somewhat close together so the part doesn’t look too wide.
Tip: adding braid hair to your cornrows is optional. It’s good to do if your hair is weak or if you have thin edges as it helps reinforce the hair.
What to do About the Ends
Some people form one cornrow with the ends of all the cornrows then sew the final end to one of the cornrows (as can be seen in the picture above). That way works, but you can actually tuck away the final end without sewing it. Instead place the end against one of the cornrows. Then secure it by crocheting a bit of hair onto that cornrow and the loose end. You can see this done here on a beehive pattern.
A Note About Other Patterns
The beehive pattern is a pattern some use when they want a look with a bang. You can also simply braid one or two cornrows across the front part of your head, while the rest go back. But bangs can also be created (if you’re using curly or kinky hair) using the all back method. You may want to vary your pattern if you’re leaving out some of your hair, in which case you’ll braid around the leave-out. The most important thing to consider when choosing a braiding pattern is what your edges can handle. If you have thinning edges, avoid patterns that will put a lot strain on your hairline.
Braidless Crochet Braids
If you’re thinking, all of the above is great, but I can’t cornrow to save my life. Well, crochet queen Sadora Paris has you covered. In the video below she shows how you can achieve a natural looking straight haired crochet look with no leave out.
Steps she takes:
- She puts her hair into three ponytails, braids them to gather and pins them into place. So that her hair looks flat.
- She then crochets about 5-6 packs of hair, using the method discussed above, but she double-knots the hair as she crochets it in to keep it secure. (She also notes that you have to be careful when with double knots as they’re harder to take down).
- Around her hair line she uses the invisible knot or knotless method of crocheting.
- Then she adds mousse to get the hair flat and thins the hair out a little.
Taking Care of Crochet Braids
Crochet braids can last anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks depending on how well you care for them. But four weeks is generally the recommended duration. If you plan on wearing crochet braids for an extended period of time, getting a tightly curled texture is your best bet as it’ll take more time for the curls to loosen and/or frizz.
Youtuber Kiitanaxo has a relatively simple maintenance routine for her crochets, although she doesn’t discuss washing them.
How to Wash Crochet Braids
Washing crochet braids is one of the only contentious parts of this style. If you wash them as you usually would wash your own hair or even a weave, you run the risk of loosening the knots. Some people, don’t wash their hair while they wear crochets. You can probably get away with this if you don’t leave them in for two long and clarify your hair before installing them. There are some pretty involved tutorials on how to wash crochet braids, but the simplest approach is to…
- Use a spray bottle of watered down shampoo and spray your scalp with the mixture.
- You can lightly massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers.
- Optional: Cowash the added hair very gently.
- Then gently rinse out the mixture you used to clean your scalp (and the cowash in the added hair).
- Optional: Condition the added hair as you would condition your normal hair. Then rinse out the conditioner.
- Condition your own cornrowed hair by spraying it with a light mixture of leave-in conditioner.
- Finish by lightly adding a moisturizer to your hair and the added hair and sealing with an oil.
The key to the above approach is focusing your attention on your scalp as opposed to the added hair. You can wash and condition the added hair, but it really depends on the type of hair as well as your own personal preference. Be sure your hair dries thoroughly, so you don’t run into the rare issue mildew forming in your hair. Some people moisturize the crochet hair as well, some don’t.
For the sake of not loosening your hair, err on the side of washing your crochet braids once every two weeks as opposed to once a week or more frequently.
Treat your crochet braids as you would your own hair. Keep the added hair and your own hair moisturized by spritizing it with a moisturizing mixture of something like aloe vera water and a leave-in conditioner. Try not to over moisturize or use too much product; given that you don’t have full access to all your tresses, product can build up in the deep nooks and crannies of your cornrows.
Sleeping With Them
Some people pineapple their crochet braids, while others simply just cover them with a satin bonnet. You may also braid the hair up into large loose braids then cover them with a bonnet or scarf.
Taking Out Crochet Braids
Crochet braids are relatively easy to take out.
- Simply cut the added hair as close to the knots as you can.
- Be careful not to cut your own hair.
- Then unravel your cornrows. The crochet knots should fall out as you unravel your braids.
Here’s a quick tutorial on the process.
If you’ve made it through this entire guide, congratulations little grasshopper, you’re one step closer to having crochet braids on fleek. Now all you need to do is go out and get them.