Micro Braids 101: What to Know, How-To and a Hack

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Photo: @RobinBaylie

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It’s the late ’90s, you just got home from middle school, you crack open a kool-aid burst and sit down in front of the TV to watch Moesha. As the theme song plays you see R&B icon Brandy on the screen and see her very trendy hairstyle. Small micro box braids that almost give the appearance and movement of straight hair. That style began to define natural hair in the ’90s and for some, their journey all started with the hit TV show. And just like with low rise jeans (oh no!) and Mary Jane shoes, they’re quickly trending again with a modern twist.

Jump ahead:

So what are micro braids?

They’re exactly what they sound like: “micro” box braids at any length that almost have a strand-like appearance. They aren’t bulky and can be worn pretty much any way you’d style a blowout or lace front, but they’re braids.

How do you install them?

Whether you’re getting them done or doing them yourself, micro braids will take up a lot of time. In fact, depending on how small and long you go, you may need to do a full head over the course of a weekend, but the payoff is worth it.

Pro-tip: Start with the perimeter of your hair so you can put your hair up in a bun if you don’t have the time or patience to sit through a full day of braiding.

What You’ll Need:

  • Braiding hair in any color you choose. For this you can choose straight braiding hair or if you want to leave most of the hair unbraided you can choose a water wave type of braiding hair.
  • Rat tail comb
  • Hair moisturizer
  • Shine ‘n Jam or a similar oil-based gel/pomade
  • Patience 🧘🏿‍♀️

Depending on how small you go, you can eyeball your parts or do the traditional box braids style parting. What’s important to remember is that the braids, sections, and amount of braiding hair you use need to be small. Realistically you’ll only be doing a few strands (no more than 10) of braiding hair for each of the three “legs” of the braid. As you braid your hair keep in mind how you want the micro braids to look. You can braid the full length of the extension or if you want the hair to be more free flowing you could braid down a few inches and leave the rest of the hair out.

Here’s a great example of micro braids on 4c hair with loose ends:

If you want micro braids but don’t want to do your entire head, the below video shows an effective way to braid the perimeter of your hair and leave the center of your hair in cornrows. 🤚🏾Heads up: with this approach, be prepared to keep your hair in a ponytail of some sort.

Want to go for a super trendy microbraid bob? There’s a tutorial for that:

The wonderful thing about micros is that you can be as creative with them as you want. Want long beach blonde micro braids à la Zoe Kravitz? Done. Want to reach back into the ’90s and go full on Moesha? Easy. Want to go boho and leave the ends wavy? Say less. Micro braids can give you the versatility of straight hair, with the ease and protection of box braids.

How long do they last?

So you put countless hours into your micro braids; how long will they stay looking fresh? That depends on how you care for them. If you continue to moisturize your hair, tie it up at night with a silk or satin scarf and protect your edges, your micro braids could last you well over a month. However, here at Un-ruly we spoke to the experts and recommend that protective styles should ideally only be worn for 4 weeks (but definitely no longer than 8!) Learn how to keep your edges intact with micro braids by reading The New Rules for Protective Styling.

How do you wash your micro braids?

You’d want to wash your braids, as with any protective style, as often as you would your own hair.

  • First, detangle and braid your micros into sections. This is especially important if you have loose ends.
  • Once braided, gently saturate the scalp and use a moisturizing shampoo to gently remove debris and dirt from the scalp. You’ll want to be very gentle with the braids since they are so tiny, especially around your edges.
  • After rinsing the shampoo thoroughly, apply your deep conditioner.
  • Once you’ve rinsed your hair, use a towel to pat the scalp to soak up excess moisture, then apply a moisturizer and tie down your hair with a scarf to keep the edges and scalp looking neat.
  • Allow the braids to dry overnight or blow dry with low heat to make sure they’re completely dry. The last thing you need is mildew growing on your scalp from wet braids.

In between washes, make sure you’re properly moisturizing your scalp with a penetrating oil like coconut oil. You should be moisturizing your hair at least once every 2-3 days, depending on the state of your scalp.

The Great Micro Braid Hack

With the popularity of micro braids growing, many people want the look but don’t want to spend hours/days in the chair. Enter: micro braid wigs. Yes, now you can order a microbraid wig, pop it on and rock the trendy style in less than 10 minutes. The best part about these wigs is that they look natural! Seriously, check out this review on the Anne Elise microbraid wig:

Taking them Down

Oof, so you spent days putting them in and possibly months 😅 rocking them, now it’s time to take them down. Here’s the most important thing to know: TAKE YOUR TIME! The takedown is where a lot of protective styles go wrong. We have patience when getting them done, but all that patience goes out the window when it comes to taking out the style. But the takedown process is when breakage is most likely to happen. Your hair hasn’t been moisturized as much as it could’ve been so it’s more brittle and when you run into trouble spots that need careful detangling, you get frustrated and… pop… you loose bits of hair that add up over time. Let’s try and do better. Carve out a day or two if needed. Oil your fingers and/or use a detangling cream and gently go at it.

Okay so there was the below video circulating Instagram. I’d say… try it at your own risk. Remember you want to be gentle with your hair.

Micro Braid Inspiration

Still on the fence about testing the microbraid waters? Here’s some style inspo to get your creative juices flowing.

Have you rocked micro braids before? Tag us in your photos on instagram.

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Morgan Gilliam
Morgan Gilliam
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