Summer is almost here and with many of us planning to hit the beach or start swimming, own hair box braids are a great style choice for managing hair in wet conditions. Here is my guide to getting the most from own hair braids.
1. Size matters: larger braids or mini braids?
The size of your box braids will determine how long you can keep the style and also how you can style it. Larger braids (about 1 square inch at the base) are easier to put in and take down. If your hair is atleast 6 inches long, they will last somewhere between 2-4 weeks. Mini braids on the other hand are much more time consuming to put in and take down but the advantage they have is that they can be styled quite beautifully. It is possible to do bantu knot outs, roller or rod sets, braid outs and twist outs on mini braids. Mini braids can last a little longer too, usually around 3-6 weeks. The braid size you choose should reflect your patience level both for being able to put in and take down the style as well as how patient you generally are with keeping your hair in a protective style. Here is a styling video for those wondering about mini braid versatility.
2. Start with clean stretched hair and use two mirrors.
It will always be easier to section and create parts with stretched hair. At the simplest level all you have to do is make large braids (8-10) on freshly washed and conditioned hair. Allowing hair to dry in a braid allows it to stretch out. As you advance, you may want to try banding, African threading or curlformers as heatless stretching methods or if your hair is ok with heat then a blow out will work just as well. If you like really clean parts, do use a rat tail comb (metal ones tend to create cleaner parts) and two mirrors to countercheck the straightness of your part. Here is a classic how to part and braid video.
3. Protect your edges
The front and back edges of the hairline are the two most vulnerable places for hair loss. If your hairline is naturally thinner at these points, do make an effort to make larger braids rather than smaller ones even if you are choosing to make mini braids. Some naturals also find that cornrowing these areas instead of braiding helps to reduce stress on the hairline. However, this is only the case when the cornrows are not too tight otherwise they have no protective effect.
4. Do wash your hair
If you like to deep condition your hair weekly or shampoo wash every fortnight, there is no reason to change your routine because you are in box braids. It is true that the washing will make the hair fuzzier over time and this may limit for some, the length of time that they can keep the style. However, sticking to your normal routine or adding in additional washes due to chlorine or sea water may overall be more beneficial to the condition of your hair
5. Don’t worry about the ends
If your hair naturally curls at the end, then finishing off your style with a spritz of water and a curling product or gel may be worth your while. If your hair is not in this category, then finishing off the box braids with a twist or just leaving it alone is fine. You do not need to try to get your ends to clump as this can be unnecessary extra manipulation. The hair in box braids will generally not tangle that much at the ends. If you have issues during take down, you can at that point attempt to roller set the ends with a perm rod, curlformer or hairpin a la Cipriana to stretch out the hair.
Ladies, do you plan to braid your hair this summer?