Box braids, along with other variants of braided hairstyles, actually go back to 3,500 BC – Worn by the earliest ancestors of Africans. In plenty of historical artifacts and records from this era, one will be able to see the many types of braids worn by people who lived in that era. For instance, women belonging to Namibia’s Mblanatu tribe have sported different variants of the Eembuvi braid. These types of braids look the same as the box braids that are commonly worn by ladies today.
- The ritual that goes with installing box braids was pretty much the same as the ones done by women back in the day.
Throughout the decades, African-American women have sported all sorts of amazing and beautiful hairstyles, ranging from big afros, to cornrows, to box braids and bantu knots. Plenty of these have come and gone, however, box braids have recently resurged in popularity when singer Beyonce Knowles, along with her younger sister Solange Knowles, began wearing them in public events. And although box braids are commonly associated with the ‘Formation’ singer nowadays, it was actually Janet Jackson who began the box braids trend when she wore them in her 1993 film, Poetic Justice.
Even though box braids aren’t the trendiest hairstyle out there, it’s definitely getting plenty of attention over the past couple of years. The natural fibers of black hair have the best quality to create box braids from. Beyonce’s own braids with her lighter-shaded hair is a great reminder that weaves, or other forms of synthetic hair, provide plenty of color choices – And all of them are free from the harmful effects of chemicals used in certain shampoos, conditioners, and hair dyes. 90s R&B icon and Grammy award-winner Brandy also made box braids her signature look, and often wore them in her album covers, on her TV and film appearances, and even on the red carpet.
What are Box Braids and Why do Women Love it so Much?
A box braid is a type of hairstyle commonly associated with African-American and African hair. When it comes to African-American women, twists (where you twist the hair instead of naturally braiding it) and braids are also known as ‘protective hairstyles’, since they have the tendency to protect a woman’s natural hair from the harsh elements – And not only that, they don’t even require plenty of maintenance.
If you want to style your hair in box braids, you have to part your hair into boxes. You have to braid every segment starting from the box, going all the way down to the scalp. Sometimes, people end up mistaking box braids for cornrows due to their similarity. There’s actually a slight difference between the two hairstyles – Braiding cornrows beginning from the scalp, while box braids begin from the boxes on hair, located on the scalp.
Box braids are highly popular during the summer season – Not only do they look great, but will give you a break from styling your natural hair, which can take plenty of effort sometimes. Even though you like styling your hair in box braids together with the ease of not having to continuously detangle, twist, and braid your hair each week, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have to take care of your natural locks. That’s because beneath those box braids and weaves, your hair is still growing – So you should always take care of it and make sure that it grows healthy even when you remove the braids or twists.
- Box braids come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, including the growth of healthy natural hair, as well as the fact that it doesn’t require too much maintenance. If damaged, you can actually restore them back to its natural beauty by keeping them in box braids. The braids themselves are easy to remove, and you only have to wash them every four weeks.
- The reason why plenty of women love box braids so much is because of its impressive appearance, together with its versatility. This makes box braids suitable for just about any occasion. You can wear box braids to work or school, to a night out with friends, or even to glamorous events such as weddings or cocktail parties. Rest assured that box braids will look gorgeous for any occasion.
- Box braids also serve as a wonderful option for those women who have hectic daily schedules, because they don’t have enough time to wash and clean their hair every day.
Beautiful Ways to Style your Box Braids
- A good way to style those box braids of yours is to keep them together by using a giant elastic headband. Since the headband has garter in it, you can easily hide them by the style.
- You can also wrap them on the side of your hair as some sort of gigantic French braid. If you want this look, all you have to do is to gather up a section of your braids into a half-down and half-up ponytail, and tie them together using a hairband. Braid them in a fishtail or French braid and gradually wrap them all up on the right or left side of your forehead. This whole process is not just simple and easy, it’s also a different take of the usual box braid style.
- High ponytails also go well with box braids. If you follow the instructions closely, a high ponytail with box braids can look fabulous. And it’s also easy – Pretty much anyone can do it. It also suits any hair length, from short to long braids. If you want to draw attention to your ponytail, add a bunch of gold hair cuffs at the end of your braids.
- There’s also the half-up box braids hairstyle, which is both sexy and simple at the same time. This is a hairstyle that changes the simple box braid into something extraordinary. These braids have all tied up and rolled into a half bun found on top of your head, resulting in a sporty yet stunning look.
- Another glamorous box braid hairstyle is the majestic beaded box. Adding beads at the end of your braids is not just the main highlight of this look – Keep in mind that these braids begin as cornrows, before installing extensions and weaves in them to achieve that braided look that you want.
- You can also use shorter box braids to create a bob – A hairstyle that’s so highly popular today. Attach a bunch of old beads to give your braids, and accompany it with a makeup-free look if you want to (ala-Alicia Keys).
- With the right shade of hair color, you can give your caramel-colored box braids a sunkissed look that’s absolutely perfect for the summer season. Just place your braids in one section and pair it up with dramatic eye makeup.
- ‘Box braids’ don’t necessarily mean that they have to remain in a box pattern when you separate your hair into sections. You can also create a unique pattern with these braids, including diamond-shaped ones to give your hair a funkier look. And what’s better is that you can pile your braids high on top of your hair and show off that pattern to the rest of the world.
- More alternatives for the usual three-stranded box braid include faux locs, as well as two-stranded twists. Both hairstyles are gaining popularity these past couple of years.
- You can also style your box braids into sock buns – Minus the socks. Just twist your braids into a gorgeous bun, and it can already pass for a formal look.
- Give your box braids a disco-themed look by putting quirky hair accessories such as shells, beads, and other ornaments.
- You can bleach your braids, give them an ombre or two-toned shade, half-down and half-up style, or two separate front knots – The possibilities are endless. A lot of celebrities, such as popular German singer Rola is proof that a box braid still look amazing despite rocking various styles.
- Another cute hairstyle is by putting your braids on top in the form of a half-up bun. A goddess-style top knot also works nicely.
- Don’t just stick to regular old box braids – You can decorate them with gold or silver rings, or other brilliant embellishments like fake crystals.
- You can also style box braids through a huge bun accented by slight side-swept bangs. Tuck your braids beneath the bun for a cleaner look.
- French-style box braids are a combination of a pompadour-type of hairstyle – However, the lower half should be pulled up to create a fancier look.
How do You Install Box Braids?
Box braids may look nice, but how exactly do you install them? It might seem like a chore trying to create even just one braid, but if you end up following this easy tutorial, your hair will surely look fantastic.
- First, wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner like you would normally do. Conditioning is actually much more important here as compared to shampooing – Since box braids are a more permanent hairstyle, thus your hair requires plenty of moisture. But the great thing about this is that once you have completed or installed your braids, you can still wash them – Although you now have to do it thoroughly.
- After your locks are finally dry, you can now split it into four sections. This part gets a bit tricky – For every section, you have to make sure that your hair is in four straight and even-sized squares. If you already divided your hair into quarters, then this trick is so much easier to do. After sectioning your hair, find at least four clips to hold every section of hair.
- Separate the first section of your hair into smaller parts, and make sure they all have the same thickness.
- Keep braiding the whole section beginning from the top right down to the bottom, or go from the root down to the tip. Keep your hair in place with a tiny rubber band, so that the braids won’t end up falling out. But if you can’t use a rubber band to keep your hair in, then even better – Since rubber bands can potentially break your hair strands if you’re not being careful.
- So now it’s time to take another small portion right from the same section of the hair. You must also braid this section – Just make sure that all of your braids are even-sized and straightened, and very similar to each other.
- You must now begin plaiting or braiding your hair beginning from the first section. After pinching your hair, you must now take three portions of the hair from the same braid, and cross the left side from beneath the middle area. When this part is done, place the right beneath the middle section, and this can create a braid.
- Move on to the next section once you’ve finished the entire braid. Your hair should by covered in plenty of tiny box braids afterwards – At least 100 braids or more. Every tiny part of your hair ends up in box braids, and if you want to keep those braids smaller, then lessen the amount of hair you use as you resume your braiding. Remember that this whole process can take long hours, so if you happen to have a friend who’s good in braiding, then you can finish this look immediately, and without the help of a professional.
Here are some tips to remember when you’re using box braids for your tresses:
Do not tie the braids too tightly, since this can increase the possibility of hair loss. You can style your hair firmly, but not too much.
Another helpful tip is to cover up your locks with a silk scarf, so you can keep it as neat and tidy while braiding. This hairstyle of yours won’t mess up after your look is done. You can clearly enjoy a wonderful hairstyle without the aid of placing rubber bands at the end of the braids – Although if you prefer to have them placed in your hair, then go right ahead.
And finally, have fun completing your box braids and post a picture if you truly love this style and can’t wait to show it off!
What you Need to Know Before Deciding if Box Braids are your kind of Hairstyle
Box braids aren’t exactly a brand new type of hairstyle, but they have been gaining lots of popularity over the past couple of months or so. A bunch of celebrities, including Beyonce, Zoe Kravitz and Tia Mowry have all appeared on the red carpet wearing box braids, which they paired with gowns and cocktail dresses. Those who regularly place their hair into box braids have continuously praised its simplicity, as well as the fact that braiding them doesn’t occupy too much time. You can leave your box braids untouched for a couple of days, so you don’t have to allot time to wash your hair, giving you plenty more time to do things in the early hours of the morning.
However, much like plenty of beauty looks out there that require plenty of commitment and responsibility, it’s still advisable to do a little bit of reading before you can get that hairstyle done. Box braids require plenty of patience (since finishing even just one braid takes over an hour or more, depending on the length thickness of your hair), and plenty of knowledge on how to keep those locks alive.
If you’ve got a head filled with hair, you can immediately get those braids finished by only using your natural hair and without the aid of a weave. But if your hair still needs time to grow, feel free to use as many weaves as you like. If you get box braids done at a salon, then the length of hair and number of box braids you want to put in will affect the final price.
But it’s not just about the hair itself – It also varies depending on your current location. Think of getting box braids as similar to getting a tattoo. Bring drinks, a book, your MP3 player or an iPad with you, since the entire process can take hours. Here are a couple of things you should remember when getting box braids for the first time.
- Make sure to do a bit of research on the type of box braid you want. Go look up on the important advantages and disadvantages of your preferred braid style, to see if suits your preferred hairstyle and activities. This lets you know more about the style that you want, so you can feel confident that you have made the right choice.
- Even though it’s important to still give your hair the proper care while tied up in braids, you have to make sure that your natural hair is well-maintained before you head on over to the salon for an appointment. Tell your hairstylist if your hair’s porosity and elasticity is non-existent. Here is a regimen that can you can do a month before you install your braids:
- Deep condition and rinse your hair at least once a week.
- Clarify it during the very first wash of each month.
- Add a medium to strong treatment to your hair at least one week before your salon appointment.
- Your hair should be free of tangles and well-stretched a day before the appointment as well. Unless you have encountered a salon that treats sensitive hair, or if you plan on installing your braids by yourself, you just have to check if your hair is free of tangles and well-stretched out, either through banding or blow-drying, before placing the braids in. Why is this important? That’s because plenty of hairstylists will first run a fine-toothed comb through your hair before they can begin braiding. This can actually cause damage to your hair, especially if it’s brittle – So plenty of protection must happen. If you can, ask your stylist if they can use a wide-toothed comb.
- Yes, there is such a thing as braids that are too small – When your hair sports braids to a point when even someone with perfect vision cannot see the strands, it means that it’s way too small. Even though braids can give off the appearance of larger hair strands, they can strain your hair’s roots and create plenty of untold damage to it. This can result in premature balding. Box braids and micro braids might look nice, but they’re still tough to remove. Be patient when you’re trying to remove them, since taking out a braid too fast might rip the entire thing off.
- On the other hand, don’t use braids that are too big either – You can risk damaging your edges thanks to the weight of the braids, which can cause plenty of tension on your follicles and result in breaking of strands.
Which Types of Hair Look Best with a Box Braid Style?
Make sure to know the thickness and current state of your natural hair before you decide if you want to style them in box braids, or not. If you have thin hair, don’t pick a box braid style that’s too thick or complicated – That’s because you won’t be able to achieve the effect that you want. And what’s worse is that you could potentially damage your hair in the long run, if you pick a heavier braided hairstyle. On the other hand, if you have thick natural hair, don’t pick a box braid style that results in smaller braids. This can create a billion tiny braids, which are impossible to style easily and will be too heavy on the head. It’s important to pick the correct hairstyle that’s right for your hair’s length and current condition.
Celebrities That Have Worn Box Braids
Janet Jackson – Jackson’s box braids became a signature look for the singer when she wore them in her debut film, Poetic Justice, released in 1993. She even ended up wearing these braids on other red carpet events, giving the singer a bit of an added cool edge that she already possesses. In fact, for a short period of time the box braids even acquired the nickname Poetic Justice braids all thanks to the movie. But no matter what we choose to adorn these braids with, Jackson surely rocked this hairstyle the right way.
Brandy – Apart from Jackson, Brandy was also responsible for showing off those box braids when she starred in the 1996 TV show Moesha, and during the release of her 1998 album Never Say Never. These braids also became her signature look – But what set her apart from Jackson’s own look was that she wore her box braids with shorter hair. This gave her a more youthful, fun look. Apart from box braids, Brandy also sported bantu knots and placed her braids in an updo in one event. She was very creative when it came to this hairstyle, since she didn’t just wear them in one manner alone.