All you need to know before getting Box Braids
Box braids are one of the most popular types of hairstyles for people with afro hair, but believe it or not, this style really came into its prime throughout the 90s. From Janet Jackson to Stacey Dash in the iconic film Clueless, braids were seen everywhere before the early 2000’s when natural hairstyles were swapped for blow dries and straightening.
All you need to know before getting Box Braids
Luckily for us, however, the natural hair movement has paved the way for people to start rocking braids again. Some of the biggest names in showbiz such as Beyonce and Rihanna have inspired people to switch things up and revisit the look and embrace this natural style. The great thing about braids is that they are so versatile and fairly low maintenance, but they are also a great protective style for those wanting to give their hair a break.
If you’re thinking about getting box braids then you’ll need to get clued up on all the important facts before you go ahead. As the experts in natural hair styling, we’ve put together this helpful guide about everything you need to know before getting box braids.
What are Box Braids?
As the name suggests, box braids are a type of hair braiding that looks ‘boxy’ in appearance compared to standard plaits. They are created using three-strand braids that are divided into square-shaped sections and this can be done using just your natural hair, however, for extra length and thickness stylists will usually incorporate synthetic hairpieces.
Since box braids are not attached flat to the scalp like cornrows, this type of braiding can be styled in so many different ways to create updos and different partings. Braids are often worn by people looking for heat-free alternative styles that can protect their hair or easy hairstyles that can be worn on holidays and trips away. The installation process can be lengthy, but with proper maintenance and care, box braids can last for as long as 8 weeks.
The history of Box Braids
Although we may recognise box braids as an iconic hairstyle from the 90s, braiding, in general, is a hairstyle that can be dated as far back as 3500 B.C in Africa. The oldest depiction of ancient braiding is along with River Nile by a burial site known as Saqqaraand etched into the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Over time, braiding was used among different African tribes to mark attributes such as social status, wealth, age and marital status. The Eembuvi braids of Namibia look very similar to the box braids we know and love today, but the African braids are part of the process of Mbalantu girls experience as they are initiated into womanhood – throughout this, their hair undergoes many different changes.
When we take a look at significant periods in time, such as the slave trade, hair styling and braiding in particularly, has a much bigger significance among the black community. Enslaved Africans brought back braiding not only as a way to stay connected to their heritage and keep their hair tidy while working on plantations, but this type of styling was also utilised to hide dry foods within the braid and women would cleverly weave maps into the style by carving out paths with each plait.
As more slaves began to regain their freedom and slavery was eventually abolished, black women in American then needed a way to feel more accepted in society. Hair was a major distinction between African women and white women, so straightening was a way for black women to fit in and have ‘good’ hair. However, throughout the 20th century braiding came in and out of fashion, until the major revival in the 90s with popular styles such as box braids.
Finding a Box Braids stylist
Having an experienced stylist will make the stylist a lot more enjoyable and ensure that the finished results look and feel great. Here at Afrocks, our mobile hairdressing services mean you can arrange an appointment at a time or place that suits you. Our team of professional stylists in and around London offer a range of styling options including amazing box braids, so you can rest assured that you’ll be in safe hands.
Despite box braids being a great protective style, if they are installed in the wrong way they can damage your hair. An experienced stylist will install the braids according to your hair condition and scalp. Braids that are too heavy can pull at the scalp especially around the front where your hair is more delicate. Although it is normal to experience some tightness when the braids are first done, this should ease up in the first couples of days. A professional stylist will provide the best experience and tell you exactly how to care for your hair when you’re home.
Deciding on your Box Braids style
How do you want your braids to look? It’s a good idea to get some inspiration from Instagram or YouTube so you can show it to your stylist who can provide a quote. Box braids generally come in three standard sizes:
– Normal size, which is around the width of a pencil.
– Jumbo size which is thick and chunky
– Thin micro braids
If you’re new to braiding, opting for normal sized box braids is a good place to start before moving onto something heavier like jumbo braids.
Next, you need to decide on length as this will determine how many hairpieces you need if you do decide to choose that. Long box braids are perfect for people who want a more dramatic look and want to be able to tie them up but these will require more hairpieces.
On Afrocks, we have categorised length into Above Shoulders, Past Shoulders, Mid Back and Waist. Generally, the longer the braids the more expensive it is.
There is also the option of classic box braids or knotless box braids, the main difference is that the classic style is made by wrapping hair around the base of the box whereas with knotless braids the hair is fed in.
How much do Box Braids cost?
The cost of box braids will vary between each stylist and salon, as well as the type of box braids you go for. Box braids are not quick to do, so remember, the price you’re paying is for hours of styling work. If you’re on a budget, we recommend that you look into alternative styles such as Cornrows or Crochet Braids.
Please note that hair extensions are not usually included in the stylists costs so you will need to purchase these separately from a hair store – you can choose between human hair or synthetic hair. If you’re unsure about which option is best for you, chat with your braider beforehand to get a better understanding.
What are the best hair extensions for Box Braids?
Before your appointment, if you are going for a chunkier, longer set of box braids then you’ll need to purchase hair extensions. Again, if you’re unsure about which type to many and in what quantity, your stylist should be able to offer some advice.
You can purchase good quality extensions from your local hair shop or natural stores online where there should be plenty of synthetic hair and human hair options. Human hair will give a more natural look to your braids but it is more expensive to buy compared to synthetic hair. On the other hand, there are usually more synthetic hair options such as coloured pieces if you’re feeling more adventurous.
We usually recommend X-pression pre-stretched braiding hair for most of the Box Braids looks you may want to achieve. The main difference between X-pression and other brands on the market is its length, the amount of hair in the pack, and its softer texture.
For waist length Box Braids, you should be looking at buying 15 single packs of X-pression hair, with each pack costing £2.99.
Preparing your hair for your Box Braids appointment
Every stylist will work differently, some may require you to wash and condition your hair the day before while others will do this for you. Making the right preparations before your braids are installed will protect your scalp and improve the finished results.
Once your braids are in it’s going to be harder to wash your hair so you mustn’t miss this step out. Whether you or the stylist is doing it, your scalp needs to be thoroughly cleansed to remove any product build-up and minimise maintenance of your box braids. This should be followed up with conditioner and perhaps even a hair mask or deep conditioner for a little more TLC. After this, your hair needs to be detangled, if you’re doing this yourself, plaiting your hair until the next day will give it a chance to dry. If you are getting it done at the salon, the stylist will probably give it a quick blow-dry.
What to expect on the day
On the day of your appointment, you’ve got to be prepared to sit for a long time. Box braids take hours to install (Waist-length Braids could take up to 8 hours) so get yourself some entertainment like a book or tablet. The starting point will depend on the size and style of braids you’re having. Often, stylists will start at the back of your neck creating small square sections for each braid.
The process takes a lot of time and effort, at least a few hours in fact, but the finished results are definitely worth it. Once all the braids are in, the oil may be applied to the scalp to keep it moisturised and if synthetic hair has been used the ends can be sealed in place using hot water.
Although you may be eager to get home after hours of sitting, listen carefully to the aftercare tips as following the advice given will help your braids last a lot longer.
Box Braid aftercare
One of the biggest myths about box braids is that they require no maintenance at all – that is not true! Although they are very low maintenance, you do need to keep your scalp well moisturised, and you can do this by applying oil directly to the scalp.
When it comes to washing your braids, consult your braider about this first. Don’t wash your braids for the sake of it only if you experience build up. Shampooing should be focused on the scalp and if you are going to do this, make sure you’re using the right kind of shampoo – dry shampoo should be avoided at all costs as it leaves residue behind that you can’t brush out. Before you go to sleep, don’t forget to wrap your braids in a satin scarf or bonnet to keep them looking fresh and prevent your bedding from drying them out.
Box Braids Braid removal
How well you look after your braids will determine how long you can keep them in. This protective style is great for people who don’t want to be fussing with their hair every morning, however, this doesn’t mean that you can forget about your braids. At around 8 weeks your braids are probably ready to come out and you can go back to your stylist for your removal if you’re a first-timer, that way you can learn how to do it properly.
Braids need to be removed carefully one by one to prevent any tugging and separate your natural hair from the synthetic. When they have all been removed, your hair may feel a little dry so you’ll need to give it some moisture. Go ahead with your washday routine by shampooing and conditioning your hair as well as applying a deep conditioner. For the next few days, it’s a good idea to style your hair in loose styles so you’re not tugging at your scalp again.
Box braids for men
Box braids are a style most commonly worn by women, however, musicians such as Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and Travis Scott have made the look popular for men too. There are no gender rules about box braids, the only thing you need is hair that’s long enough to braid which could mean growing it out for a while. If you’re looking for a professional stylist to install your box braids, Afrocks can help. Our directory of hair stylists around London are available for home visits or appointments at your salon or workplace – so you can enjoy amazing service at a time and place that suits you. Get in touch today for more information.