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 • Hair  • Haircare Guides  • Master Box Braids Like a Pro: Step-By-Step Guide
box braids

Master Box Braids Like a Pro: Step-By-Step Guide

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Main Image – Luisvelasco/Stocksy

If you feel like changing up your style but need a bit of inspiration, we’re here to tell you that box braids are having a moment. Fancy giving it a go?

If you’ve never heard of box braids, that’s ok! “They are a protective hairstyle where natural hair is divided into small, square-shaped sections and synthetic or human hair extensions are added to each section, creating a box-like pattern,” explains Robin Emtage. Clever huh?

Be warned though, this style isn’t one you can just do off-the-cuff. According to Becca Raziuddin, depending on your hair type and length, it can take anywhere between 4-8 hours.

If you’ve got the time though, anything’s possible, including box braids. So here, Raziuddin, Emtage, hair and beauty specialist Kate Ross and CEO of Studio She Academy in Columbia Christina Bonner talk us through how to achieve them and how to keep box braids looking box-fresh.

 


Your box braid tool kit

“These braids are not only stylish but also help in protecting the natural hair from damage and promoting its growth,” Emtage explains. So, you’ll need the correct tools to get it just right. Here is her list of essentials:

  • Hair extensions (synthetic or human hair). [Try brands like Cliphair, Easilocks or Hair Rehab]
  • Rat tail comb for parting.
  • Hair clips to section off hair.
  • Moisturising hair product, including a lightweight hair oil for added shine and hydration. [Try Mizani 25 Miracle Nourishing Hair Oil £19.99 on the Hairglo UK website/$25 on the Mizani UK website]
  • Hair ties or rubber bands.
  • Hair gel or edge control for a sleek finish. [Try Cantu Protective Styles Braiding & Twisting Gel, £7.99 on the Superdrug UK website
  • Scissors for trimming.

 

box braids

Image – Mizani

 


Should you do box braids on wet or dry hair?

Emtage recommends doing it when it’s dry. “Wet hair can stretch more and when it dries, the braids may become too loose,” she says. “Also, wet hair is more susceptible to breakage.”

Step 1: Prep your natural hair

Emtage says “Make sure your hair is clean, well-conditioned, moisturised and thoroughly dry before starting the box braiding process, for best results.” Bonner adds, “[use a] clarifying shampoo twice to remove all oil and build up.”

As I Am Naturally Curl Clarity Shampoo (£9.99 on the Superdrug UK website/$8.99 on the As I Am US website) is a good one for cleansing the hair and scalp whilst also keeping them moisturised.

 

Step 2: Choose your braid size

“This will determine the size of the box,” Bonner says. “The bigger the box, the bigger the braid, the smaller the box the smaller the braid.”

 

Step 3: Create sections

You can do this by using the end of your rat tail comb to create a box-shaped section and then loosely tying a few with a band to keep them neat and out of the way, while you work on the others. It might be easier to start sectioning at the bottom of your hair/head and working your way up.

 

Step 4: Start braiding

“Consider applying a small amount of hair oil to the sections before braiding to keep hair moisturised and protect the scalp,” Emtage says. “This not only adds shine but also helps minimize frizz, creating a sleek and polished finish to your box braids.” Ross continues, “Begin with a small section of hair and divide it into three smaller, equal strands. This is where you start the braid.”

 

Step 5. Incorporate your extensions

“Fold them over the root of your natural hair section,” Ross says. “Hold the fold against the scalp with one hand, and with the other, start braiding as normal. The extension should blend seamlessly with the natural hair.”

[PRO TIP] The key is tension and consistency. “Braid tightly enough to keep the braid together but not so tight that it causes discomfort,” Ross explains. “Keep the tension consistent throughout the length of the braid.”

 

Alternate the last two steps

You will then need to section off the next portion of hair again (so perhaps one level up from the bottom of your head where you started) before you start braiding it again. And so on.

 

Step 6: Set your hair

Now you’ll need to seal the ends. [PRO TIP] “Once you’ve completed the braids, boil some water and let it cool slightly – you want it to be hot, not scalding,” Ross says.

“Dip the ends of the braids into the hot water for a few seconds. This helps to seal them and prevent unravelling.” Be very careful though and take it slowly.

 

box braids

Image – Luisvelasco/Stocksy

 


Maintaining your box braids

“Box braids, when done correctly, can last up to 3 months,” says Bonner.  Here is her list of recommendations for keeping them in tip-top condition:

1. “Try a sleep bonnet.” [A silk one like Jasmine Silk Pure Silk Sleep Cap Bonnet will help keep your braids frizz-free.] 

2. “Whatever you do, don’t go to bed with wet hair.”

3. “If you need to oil your scalp, use a Q-tip and apply to the desired area.”

4. “Don’t wear your hair up. The weight of the extensions can cause tension and also loosen the point of contact, therefore disabling the braid.”

 


The takeaway

Ok, so this isn’t a ‘quickly-style-your-hair-and-go’ kinda trend. Practice makes perfect and it’s one to invest your time in creating and then reap the benefits of for the next 3 months.

Remember that creating box braids is recommended on dry hair, not wet, and don’t forget to always go to bed with dry hair while you have them in to minimise any chance of frizz.

Gather up the correct tool kit and take the braiding process slowly as it’ll take time to nail the technique of braiding the extensions into your natural hair.

 

Meet the experts

Becca Raziuddin is a hairstylist and the director of artist education at bloheartsyou.

 

Robin Emtage is a makeup artist, photographer, and the founder of Silktage.

 

Christina Bonner is the CEO of Studio She Academy in Columbia.

 

Kate Ross is a hair and beauty specialist at Irresistible Me, a renowned brand known for its premium human hair extensions and wigs.

 

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University
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