Box braids are my “go to” style when I want to take a break from combing my hair or seeing my hair in the bathroom sink or floor. Box braids reinforce the fact that my hair is growing every day; They serve as a visual aid for me when I want to visually see my growth over time. You know for sure that your hair is growing when a braid that was super tight becomes looser and looser every day. I have been wearing box braids since I was a child and more recently as an adult. My first box braids since returning to wearing my natural hair were no longer than 3 inches and possibly shorter than that and now they’re over 20 inches long, so I have learned some great tips and tricks over the years that will guarantee me the best results when I am planning on braiding my hair. Take notes, compare and share notes, so that we all get the best from our braided styles.
1.Use a clarifying shampoo such as Kinky Curly Come Clean or Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three to lift any residue that your ordinary shampoo won’t lift. It is important to prepare your hair prior to it being intertwined for long periods of time. If your hair is encumbered with waxes, thick oils, chlorine and other impurities then it can feel hardened and straw-like. Even worse, it will be less likely to accept your conditioning treatments. Once your braids are removed, your hair will be more prone to breakage and difficulty finger detangling. If you a.) don’t swim alot, b.) need to use heavy products on your hair or c.) are afraid to risk dry hair at the hands of a clarifying shampoo, feel free to stick to what is familiar until your hair shows symptoms of coated hair like product buildup.
2. Apply a detangler. Kinky Curly Knot Today has become my staple when I REALLY need to make sure that my hair is detangled while it’s wet without over stretching my strands or breaking them off. It turns my strands into a virtual ice skating rink (lol) by smoothing the outermost layer of hair, enabling my comb to glide through my heavily textured hair. On top of detangling, Knot Today is a leave in conditioner, an added bonus because when I’m preparing to spend 9 hours braiding my hair, I like the prep work to be easy breezy. People have been creative about diluting their Knot Today so that they reduce the pH and stretch the product. Some great diluters to use are distilled water, aloe vera juice, apple cider vinegar, almond oil and castor oil. Any watery/water-based substance should be mixed at a 1:1 ratio with the Kinky Curly while oily substances should be mixed at a ratio of 1:3 (1 of the oil, 3 of the KK). For those using smaller amounts, a teaspoon is 5ml and a tablespoon is 15ml.
3. Gently and thoroughly detangle your hair from tip to root. If your hair isn’t thoroughly detangled prior to your braided style, expect your hair to become increasingly tangled when the time arrives to remove them. If your hair is severely tangled, then you most likely will not be able to wear a braid-out at the end of your braided style and you may face the daunting issue of hair matting.
4. Be attentive to the fact that you must braid with exactly 3 sections of hair. You may think that no one’s paying attention to the fact that you’re borrowing from “Peter” to pay “Paul” or taking hair from another section to compensate for the lack of hair in another section, but if you plan on removing your braids easily or wearing a braid out, then it’s important to distribute the hair so that each section has some hair of the same length in each section. Besides, I like to think of braiding my hair as walking up stairs and removing them as walking down stairs. It’s time consuming and tiring to braid your hair, but you should be able to easily remove the box braids just as you would untie a shoe string or remove the “butterfly” stitch.
6. Once the braids are in, keep your scalp clean and your ends dry. When I wash my hair in braids, I only wash my scalp with a regular shampoo, meaning I leave behind moisturizing shampoos, heat protectants or any other ingredient that will want to attach to my scalp. I rely on my scalp to produce any sebum or secretions it may need to thrive, so I don’t encourage buildup by choosing a product that promises to leave anything behind, such as “moisture” or oils. I try not to wet the ends of my hair so that I prevent drying of the little curls at the ends of my braids which could lead to knotting, tangling and frizz. Also, preventing your ends from getting wet aids in distinguishing each of the 3 sections when it’s time to remove your braids. It will be worth it for the best braid out of your life!! Yes, I’m being dramatic, but it’s definitely worth it!
7. Don’t keep box braids in for too long. The longer your hair, the less amount of time it should spend in parts without being combed out. I don’t leave any parts in my hair for longer than 2 months, even if I am washing my scalp. We cannot forget that our hair sheds daily and when those strands have nowhere to go, they are like crabs in a barrel! No one likes those. The loosened hair wraps around and socializes with healthy, attached strands. We can’t have that, so indeed we must detangle our hair, whether we detangle and braid it back up or detangle in preparation for the next hot style.
8. Finally, the takedown! Remove the braids in the 3 sections that you braided them in. I don’t recommend using the teeth of a fine tooth comb on the ends of the hair because more often than not, it causes knots and those ends are susceptible to being ripped off. If the ends are ripped off, this means that you will need a trim even sooner because ripped hair likes to morph into split ends and also means thinner jagged ends.
Enjoy your best box braid out ever!