Braids have always been a hairstyle staple that bring some flair and creativity to any beauty look. From the zipper braid to the fishtail braid to waterfall braids, braids are never having a moment — they create the moment. It’s part of the reason why we love them.
Box braids in particular have remained popular because of their versatility, long wear and customizable nature. Not to mention they’re relatively easy to do, even at home without the help of a professional. Whether you have long hair, short hair, or anything in-between you can rock box braids anywhere.
Black women and other women of color have been indulging in box braids for centuries, but as of the last five years the style has had a renaissance of sorts amongst all circles. They’ve become the go-to for best vacation hairstyles (when a protective style is a must), they’re a true summertime must-have and celebrities are even wearing them on the red carpet.
Whether you’ve been wearing box braids for years and want to brush up on your technique or you’ve finally decided you want to try the style at home, today, we’re going to walk you through how to do box braids on your own.
What Products Do You Need for Box Braids?
Hair clips or Hair ties
Is It Better to Box Braid Your Hair Wet or Dry?
Before we get this tutorial going, we want to address a popular question with a not-so-obvious answer. You may be sitting in front of your vanity with a head full of damp hair wondering if you can start your box braids now, but we warn against braiding wet hair.
Not only will creating box braids on wet hair make them unnecessarily heavy (and the longer your braids, the heavier they’ll already be), but braiding wet hair can lead to tangles. Braiding tangled hair is the easiest way to experience breakage when you take your braids down at the end of their run.
Additionally, braiding wet hair can create too much tension on your scalp and again, cause breakage. The bottom line is when you remove your box braids you want full, healthy hair on your head, not hands full of broken strands. So create your box braids on dry hair.
How to do Box Braids Step-by-Step
Doing your own box braids is as simple as following these steps below. Be patient, as skinnier braids can take hours, especially if you want them long. But the process isn’t complex for a gorgeous braided hairstyle.
Step 1. Cleanse and Condition
Start by washing your hair — and don’t skimp on the conditioner. Since your box braids will be in longer than most hairstyles, you’ll want to keep your hair as hydrated as possible. Give your hair a wash with the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Push Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Seal Conditioner. If time is a concern for you, wash your hair the day before you begin braiding your hair.
Step 2. Detangle
Detangle your wet hair using a wide-tooth comb. If you have a hair texture that doesn’t normally tangle, you can let your strands air dry. If you want to speed up the drying process feel free to blow dry your hair, just remember to use a heat protectant like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer first to shield your hair from damage.
Step 3. Separate Your Hair into Sections
Next, divide your hair into four sections using your comb — breaking the process down this way will make braiding more manageable and less daunting.
Step 4. Minimize Frizz
Apply a bit of leave-in hair cream or the L'Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In to the lengths of your hair. A little bit of product can go a long way in keeping your strands protected, hydrated, and frizz-free. Using a hair clip or hair tie, pin back three of the four sections you created earlier to keep them out of the way when you begin to braid.
Editor’s tip: Start at the back of your head as it takes less arm strength to tackle. Plus, if you need to take a break and run an errand or leave your home, you can put the front section up in a bun and your hair will still look stylish.
Step 5. Create Your Single Braids
Create a part about one-inch by one-inch and separate it into three pieces for braiding — this is the time when you need to decide if you’re going to do traditional box parts or another dynamic shape, such as triangles or something with a zigzag. Grab some braiding hair about an inch thick and separate it into two pieces with a loop at the top. Then loop that piece of hair around the inch of your hair and start braiding, blending your two parts of braiding hair into your natural hair as you go.
For bigger braids, use a two-inch piece instead. When braiding, keep things tight but not too tight — you don’t want to damage the hair in any way. If you need help keeping your part straight and sleek, add some L'Oréal Paris Studio Line Invisi Gel before you start braiding. Continue the process all over your entire head until you’ve covered every section.
Step 6. Lock Your Look in Place
If you were confused about where a lighter played a role in this style, you’re about to find out. First, add an egg size amount of your L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle CURVE IT Elastic Curl Mousse to your complete braids.
Once the hair is dry, you can take the lighter and gently wave it up and down the ends of each individual braid. Burning the synthetic braiding hair will allow you to seal in the braids, preventing them from unraveling as you sport your box braids over the next several weeks.
Editor’s tip: Of course this part is completely optional, and depending on the type of braiding hair you used, you may not even need to do this. We also advise against trying it if you’re not sure what to do — the last thing you want is to spend hours perfecting this look only to get your hair caught on fire.
How to Maintain and Care for Your Box Braids
Because box braids can be kept in for up to two months, they require their own hair care plan. Below, find our top tips for keeping your box braids clean and looking fresh and gorgeous.
1. Wash Your Braids and Scalp
If someone once told you that you didn’t need to wash your hair while it’s in a protective style, delete that myth from your mind right now. Any style that’s in for weeks at a time will need to be cleaned from time to time. Sure, box braids are especially time-consuming to wash, they weigh extra-heavy on your head when they’re wet and they don’t dry quickly, but cleansing is necessary.
Make it easy on yourself by reaching for a shampoo that has a pointed nozzle that lets the product get directly to the scalp. Our recommendation? The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls No Build-Up Curls Micellar Shampoo, which is formulated with castor oil and hyaluronic acid for soft hair that doesn’t feel weighed down.
2. Sleep in a Silk Scarf
Before you go to bed each night, wrap your head full of beautiful braids in a silk scarf. This will help keep your braids smooth and can also help your hair retain moisture.
3. Take Your Braids Down at the Right Time
Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye (for now) to your braids is essential for not only caring for your box braids, but it’s crucial for the health of your actual hair. Leaving your box braids in for too long can lead to matting, tangling and hair breakage. So once you hit the six or eight week mark, it’s time to remove your box braids.
Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photography: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Katy Andrascik, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hairstylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Melina Kemp, Wardrobe Assistant: Kayla Martinez, Model: Juli Deng
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