How to Style and Care for Box Braids for Black Hair

Box braids are low-maintenance but still require proper care.
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Box Braids Definition

Box braids are a braid style often achieved with synthetic hair additions. The name is derived in part from the "box" or square-shaped partings for each braid, although parting variations aren't uncommon. Diamond- and triangle-shaped parts also work for this look. While extensions are often used for this style, they're not required. In most cases, extra hair is added for an overall uniform look in length and thickness.

When synthetic hair is added, the ends are often briefly burned to seal them.

Also Known As: Individual braids, Poetic Justice braids

How Can I Style Box Braids?

This braid style lends itself to many different looks depending on the length and thickness. Very long braids can be styled much like long, loose hair. You can fashion box braids into:

  • Updos
  • Ponytails
  • Buns
  • Twists or braids

Women with shorter hair can have braids styled into a shoulder-length bob as well. Box braids range in thickness from straw-thin to marker-fat. The skinnier the braids, the longer the installation will take, and these braids can take anywhere from two to twelve (or more) hours to put in.

How Do I Care for My Box Braids?

While you won't be able to comb through your hair while wearing these braids, you should still cleanse and condition your scalp and the braids while they're installed. You'll place more focus on your scalp because it's easy to get to.

Daily maintenance is very easy and won't take a lot of time. But it's important not to skip this step. A braid spray is helpful and you can spritz daily along the length of your braids to keep your hair moisturized. You don't have to do anything to your scalp (besides regular cleansing), but some women find that box braids tend to make their scalps itchier than usual.

Using a natural oil, braid spray (buy on Amazon) and/or an astringent like Sea Breeze helps to alleviate the itchiness. At night, you can wrap a silky or satin scarf around your hairline to keep it neat or sleep on a pillowcase made of those materials.

What Type of Hair Additions Do I Need for These Braids?

Kanekalon (buy on Amazon) remains a popular synthetic hair choice because it's inexpensive, comes in a variety of colors and is usually durable. You can also use human hair extensions for added styling versatility; you can use thermal tools on human hair, unlike synthetic. However, human hair additions may not last as long as synthetic ones, and human hair can be quite a bit more costly than their synthetic counterparts.

Box Braid Cautions

Although care and maintenance is simple, there are still some cautions related to these braids.

  • Be sure braiding is not excessively tight, especially along your hairline. Along with pain or headaches, other signs that your braids are too tight include small bumps along your edges.
  • Avoid using too much hair. The excess weight can place too much tension on your scalp.
  • Don't leave braid extensions in longer than 12 weeks, although an 8-10 week time frame is better for the health of your hair and scalp. Once you remove one set of extensions, take a break of at least one week before moving into the next set.
  • Take care of your hair while wearing box braids; just because your hair is up and out of sight doesn't mean you can neglect it. This includes a regular cleansing schedule.
  • If you style your braids into a bun, ponytail or updo during the day, be sure to take it down before bed. Leaving your braids tightly pulled overnight places too much tension on your hairline and can lead to hair loss.