The last time I got braids, I was 19 and in uni. It was an effortless way to grow out my natural hair. Back then, I hated doing my hair and to be honest I still do. It just seems like so much hassle, I often contemplate shaving my hair off. Back in uni I actually did. But that’s another story. I got myself some box braids for winter. Getting your hair done here in Japan can feel like a mental debate whether you want to spend ¥15,000+ on a hair style that frankly shouldn’t be that price and will almost definitely not be done as well as the hairdressers back home or within an acceptable timeframe or spend a weekend doing your hair yourself. Yea, I know that’s how long it takes me to do my hair; in between Netflix, cooking, eating and sleeping ofcourse. So fast forward after 6 hours of sitting in the salon chair, here I am with my super-cute box braids getting comments from my colleagues like “Kawaii”, “Is that your hair?” and “How did you do that to your hair?” I remembered why I used to resort to this hairstyle at uni: it is low maintenance, long lasting and you have the opportunity for A LOT of length retention, among other reasons.
However, the benefits of box braids are only worth it if you maintain the style well, especially as they aren’t cheap. Since I’ve gotten back into the swing of things, here are my seven tips for maintaining box braids.
1. Leave your edges, Sis.
You want to keep your edges right? Here’s something to keep in mind. Make sure your braider doesn't give you a facelift by trying to "catch your edges". If you’re going to a braider who is really good at what they do, you shouldn’t leave the shop feeling like you’ve just experienced a round of Botox shots topped with a triple-strength migraine. In other words, good braiders can “catch your hair” without you feeling like it’s all being pulled out. At the same time, pulling on hair is pulling on hair, so it’s important that you pamper your edges. Apply a little JBCO oil on them and, if you want to lay your edges do, make sure not to apply the product every single day.
2. Magic Mousse
When you first get your hair done. Usually your hair stylist will use a mouse to keep your braid neat and then trims your "fly-aways". You can repeat this step (apply your favourite mousse) and wrap your hair in a silk/satin scarf and your braids will be like new. I'd recommend ORS Olive Oil Wrap and Set Mousse or Creme of Nature Argan Oil Style and Shine Foaming Mousse.
3. Wash Your Hair Bi-weekly
I know some people will be thinking "What? No. If I wash my hair it'll get fussy and what not." Let me be clearer, wash your scalp. We all have been there when we go to take down our box braids and at the root of our hair is a grey clump of dirt, dust, and oil. That little clump makes your hair stick together and during the take down you can end up losing some of your hair to that little dirty thief. To prevent it from happening, take a spray bottle. add your favourite shampoo and water it down. Spritz your scalp with the mixture, rub it in and wipe your scalp with a towel. Repeat with water until your scalp feels clean. For the lazy naturals, who don't care so much about doing this carefully, just wash your hair like you would and focus on your scalp. After this process don't forget to add moisture back into your hair and use your braid spray eg. and/or some hair oil such as Africa's Best Ultimate Herbal Oil.
4. Wrap em' Up
Gwan sis, your braids look gooood. If you want to keep them to continue looking good you need to wrap your hair. At night, before bed, wrap your hair with a silk or satin scarf (silk is better js ;). It stops your hair from fuzzing from the friction of your head moving on your cotton pillowcase. If you're lazy, keep forgetting to put your head scarf on, or your head scarf keeps coming off your head use a silk pillow case. For me it's a definite life saver. Thank me later.
Your hair needs moisture, moisture, moisture! I can reiterate this one enough. Ensure that your hair is moisturised by using a braid spray such as African Royale or Africa's Best Braid Spray followed by an oil such as Africa's Best Ultimate Herbal Oil
6. Touch Ups
To stretch the style for an extra month I used to ask my hairdresser to redo the perimeter of my head. Around the 4-5 week mark I'd get a touch up and keep it in for another 4 weeks. It was great for my uni budget and even for my budget now. These hairdressers in Japan are way too overpriced in my opinion. Okay rants over, it's the last time I'll mention it. On another note, don't get too carried away with your touch ups only do ONE touch up. The most common hair sin is to leave you hair in over 8 weeks. I'm not gonna lie I've done it more than a few times. I've kept my hair in for 3 months before. Please don't do that, its really not good for your hair.
7. Be Gentle
One of the main reason box braids are so popular are the versatility. You can style box braids in so many different ways, up-do's, braided bantu knots (chine bumps), curl them, whatever. But you must remember to be gentle with your hair. Over-styling or constant up-do's can do damage to your hairline. If you are always pulling on your hairline you will eventually weaken your roots. One way to combat this is to limit styling to 1 or 2 times a week instead of daily. Trust me your hairline will thank you.
What has your experience been with box braids? How do you keep your box braids looking all kinds of cute?
We’d love to know, please don’t hesitate to comment below.