Box Braids: Are they Really a Protective Style?

If you haven’t been living under a rock, I’m sure that you’ve heard of Box Braids. They are the long, flowing braids that just about everyone is living for right now.

A Little About Box Braids

Traditional Box Braids are created by attaching extension hair (kanekalon, toyokalon, yaki) to your natural hair and braiding it down to the ends. The ends of the extensions are then dipped in boiling water, or clipped and burned to keep them from unraveling.

Box Braids cost anywhere from $50.00 to over $100.00 depending on the length you want your braids to be, and the size braids you want. If you plan on doing your own box braids, you only need to pay for supplies (extension hair, your favorite oil, a comb, and hair cutting shears).

Elements of a Truly Protective Style

There are styles that are called “protective” just because they tuck your ends away for a prolonged time. On the other hand, there are TRULY protective styles that not only tuck your ends away, but they do so without damaging your hair. Let’s examine some aspects of a truly protective hairstyle.

Painless Installation

Protective style installation should not put your hair through the ringer. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t need to pop 2 Tylenol pills before getting your hair done. With a truly protective style, there won’t be any snapping strands or hard pulling involved.

After You Get Your Hair Done

In the days after your get your hair done, there are some things that you can evaluate to gauge whether your style is actually protecting your hair vs. damaging it.

  1. Your scalp should be clear of irritation. If you find that you have tiny bumps (especially around your hairline) or redness on your scalp, your protective style is not protecting your hair. It’s damaging it.
  2. No neck pain. Neck pain days after getting your hair done is a signal that you’ve got too much extension hair on your head. All of this extra weight on your scalp could cause hair loss.
  3. No headaches. Earlier, I mentioned that getting your hair done shouldn’t be painful. You shouldn’t be in pain after your hairstyle is complete either. If you have a persistent headache after getting your hair done, your hair is too tight.

Sleeping With Your Protective Style

Your scalp might be a bit sore after getting your hair done, and sleeping on your hair for the first night might be a little uncomfortable. However, by no means should there be any tears or a modified sleeping arrangement (ie. balancing your head in your palm or sleeping with your head hanging off of the bed) due to pain.

Problem With Traditional Box Braids

Traditional knotted box braids require you (or your stylist) to create a knot with your natural hair and the extension hair. This requires your hair to be pulled tight enough to make a knot that doesn’t unravel during the time you wear the style. Bye bye edges!

In addition, since all of the extension hair is added at the scalp, the weight of each braid takes a toll on the scalp and could cause breakage and traction alopecia. Not good.

As you’ve probably gathered by this point, Box Braids done the traditional way are NOT a protective style.

The Alternative: Knotless Box Braids

One alternative that solves all of the problems that people experience with traditional Box Braids is Knotless Box Braids.

Knotless box braids don’t have a prominent knot at the beginning of each braid. Instead, the natural hair is braided and extension hair is added in tiny increments while braiding to the ends.

Having no knot at the base of each braid helps to lessen the amount of tension created at the hairline and all over the scalp (unlike traditional box braids).

In addition, knotless box braids turn out to be lighter at the root than traditional Box braids, since the hair is added in tiny increments as the braider braids down (rather than adding all of the extension hair at the root). This means that the style will feel lighter and there will be less pulling at the scalp, leading to a lessened chance of breakage and traction alopecia.

Knotless box braids also have the added benefit of looking effortless and carefree.

If you are looking for a protective style that is actually protective, give knotless box braids a try.

Hope this helps!

Happy Journey!

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