I love a good set of box braids or Senegalese twists, especially long ones pulled to the side into a mega swoop, or a gigantic Solange bun. But almost every time Pinterest or Insta has me daydreaming about Poetic Justice braids, I’m snapped out of the fantasy by the idea of having to spend seven hours or more getting my hair done. Even with getting the braids done by a stylist at home, the process is still daunting. And no matter how lightly the stylist might braid, you’ll still have some amount of tension on your scalp due to the sheer number of braids or twists, which is something I always have to mentally prepare for. But I recently came across a new-ish way of getting box braids that solves both the time and tension issues: the no-cornrow (or single braid) crochet method. (Read here for a primer on crochet braids).
- Braidless, Rubber Band and Individuals
- How To Do No Cornrow Crochet Braids
- The Cornrows & Single Braid Combo
- Taking Down Individual Crochet Braids
- Maintaining Crochet Braids
- What’s So Great About All This
- What Hair to Buy and How Much
[Oh by the way 👋🏾, if you’re thinking about getting a protective style, our short film, Pretty Shouldn’t Hurt, is a must-watch. Also learn all about safe protective styling here.]
Crocheting pre-braided or pre-twisted hair has been around for a while (here’s everything you need to know about crochets, btw). But because the braids or twists are crocheted into cornrows, using this approach can result in a hairline that doesn’t look natural. One solve for this is simply just doing real box braids around the hairline (or any where you might want a part), which is a great option if you know how to braid with added hair. But if you’re DIYing and don’t know how to neatly add hair to individual braids, you’ll need another way. Luckily, about two years ago, videos on no cornrow methods of crochets starting popping up on YouTube (check out our Youtube channel btw; we’ve got great videos).
Braidless, Rubber Band and Individuals
There are a few different takes on no cornrow crochets, like sleeking your hair back into a tight bun and then crocheting the added hair into your slicked down hair; or using rubber bands, which is great if you have really short hair (but be careful with rubber bands as they can cause breakage). The method that I find works best for braids or twists is the method where you crochet added hair into an individual braid. More on this below.
Braidless Crochet Braids
Rubberband Crochet Method
The individual braid method (I prefer saying Single Braid method because it’s quicker to say 😉) appears to have first shown up on YouTube via a video by BeautyWithTy where she demonstrates adding pre-twisted mambo twists to her hair. Since BeautyWithTy’s video was released more came after it, each using generally the same approach, with some having slight variations. Crochet queen Sadora Paris, has one of the most popular videos, where she demonstrates how to put in box braids.
No Cornrow Crochet Twists
No Cornrow Crochet Braids
How To Do No Cornrow Crochet Braids
The general premise of single braid crochets is instead of braiding cornrows you braid an individual plait for each extension you want to add.
- Braid as many individual braids as you’d like.
- Then attach the added hair by pulling it under the base of the braid (loop first) using a latch hook.
- From there put the bottom end of the braided extension through its top loop. Your own braided hair will remain visible once this first step is complete. You then have to tuck your own hair away into the braid. Here’s where the method varies from vlogger to vlogger.
Most vloggers hide their own hair by crocheting it through the pre-braided extension, like Sadora Paris above. In BeautyWithTy’s video she simply wraps her own hair around each twist. (Note: she also doesn’t braid her hair all the way down.) Ty’s method works well for twists and it also works well for faux locs.
Some vloggers wrap their own hair around the base of the extension, as shown in the rubber band example above. This works well with short hair, although some say it can create a bulky look or be uncomfortable when sleeping.
I really love the way vlogger Freedom Styles hides hair braids. It’s something you have to really watch to get. But she essentially uses the crochet needle to tuck the braid into each grove of the extension, pulling the hair through at a diagonal with each tuck. Watch below.
Oh, and vlogger Jazz Nicole, one of the first vloggers to demonstrate this method on Youtube, has a faster way of hiding your own hair. She basically threads the crochet needle through the extension, hooks the tip of her own hair onto the crochet then pulls her hair through the extension. She recommends doing this on the front braids where you can see what you’re doing and not the back braids unless you really master the technique.
The Cornrows & Single Braid Combo
You can do a full head of single braid crochets or a combination of cornrows and singles (if you know how to cornrow). Doing the combo is how you really save time (and tension 😅) with crocheting box braids or twists because there’s less base braiding. A full head of singles can take three to six hours, depending on how many braids your doing. It took Jazz Nicole six hours to do the 50 braids shown above. Whereas, the cornrow-singles combo can take as little as 2.5 hours (some say less, but let’s not get crazy).
The Braid Pattern
The braid pattern for the cornrow-singles combo is the same as the typical crochet pattern; you just leave your hairline out or a track of hair wherever you want a part. In the video below, TheChicNatural does the typical all back pattern with twice as many in the front than in the back, so the front can be a bit more versatile and natural looking. Note, however, she braided her front hairline horizontally because that’s the hair she’ll later do individual braids with. In her video she does the individual braids the traditional way, but they can also be done in the ways shown above if that’s the method you prefer.
Taking Down Individual Crochet Braids
You can cut the braided extension, unravel it until the base is visible then un-loop it from your own braided hair. If you want to reuse the braids, you can simply pull your tucked away braid out of the extension, starting at the base, then un-loop (or un-knot) the extension. See video below. If you’re hair is long, you may want to find the point of the extension where your hair ends then work your way up from the tip of your hair to the base, gently pulling out your braided hair from the extension.
Maintaining Crochet Braids
Nigerian Youtuber Kiitanaxo (follow her on Insta) has a great breakdown of how she takes care of her crochets. (Note: she’s rocking full cornrow crochets in the video, but maintenance would be the same). She shares that her crochets lasted about a month. Every day she tries to put in a leave-in conditioner into the cornrows, sealing with coconut and tea tree oil. And she sleeps with a silk scarf at night. You can wash your crochets, but she recommends focusing on the scalp to avoid the hair getting too frizzy. When you’re not washing your hair in the shower, she suggests wrapping it up in a high bun with a scarf (I do this too).
What’s So Great About All This
Well, there are a few things that I love about this method of wearing box braids or twists:
- It takes way less time to do, especially if you do a cornrow-singles combo. A stylist doing this, can usually get it done in about two-three hours, compared to the six or more hours it might take to do medium sized box braids the traditional way. TheChicNatural’s video is the perfect example of this. The time savings is particularly evident when doing really thin or really long box braids, which can take a full day or multiple days if only one person is doing them.
- You can use this method to wear a color of braids or twists that’s different from your own hair color if you want a uniform color vs having your hair color mixed in (which looks good too, but may not be the look you want).
- As someone who doesn’t blow out her hair very well, I feel like you get less frizz with this technique.
- You can also use this technique to rock a box braid bob if you have long hair and have no plans on cutting it anytime soon.
- For stylists and braiders, it’s less strain on their hands. Frequent braiding for long periods of time can take a toll.
- And what I really love best about this method is that it’s less tension on your hair, especially if you do the cornrow-singles combo. Hair has weight. The more hair you use, the heavier, the more potential tension on your scalp. Adding hair to cornrows distributes the weight of the hair across your scalp instead of concentrating into one small section, like the section of a single braid. You can really feel the effect of this if wearing long jumbo braids or twists.
- Always moisturize your hair before putting it in a protective style.
- Use edge control at the base of your braids for a sleek look that’s not actually tight.
- Try and keep your own individual braids the same size as the braids you’re adding.
What Hair to Buy and How Much
Ok, so if you’re as hype as I am about trying this method, you’ll need to get some hair. Honestly, any brand of hair at the beauty shop will work. Shopping in person is always great since you can see length, color, texture and sheen in person. But if, like me, you like having stuff delivered, below are a few brands tried and tested by vloggers and one that I use. Also, if you’re planning on DIYing, I’ve included a link to a crochet needle. Five to seven packs of hair should do but I always get more than needed. (For more on how much hair to buy for different types of styles, check out our definitive guide).
- FreeTress Medium Box Braids (you can pick the color and amount)
- FreeTress Small Box Braids (they’re not that small)
- Havana Mambo Twists
- Crochet Needle
Just to reiterate, the advantages of this method, is it’s easier to DIY than the traditional approach, it’s in certain cases faster to do, and it’s less tension on your hair. And if DIYing isn’t your thing at all, stylists are doing this method too. We offer this service via our at-home hairstyling service in NYC (#shamelessplug 😎). If you’ve tried this method yourself, tell us if you love it or hate it and post pics in the comments!