Box Braids Prep Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know

Preparing hair for braids

Box braids are a popular protective hairstyle that is perfect for anyone looking for a low-maintenance and stylish look. 

They can last for weeks, which is perfect for those with busy schedules, and they also protect your natural hair from damage caused by daily styling. However, to achieve the perfect box braids, it is essential to properly prepare your hair beforehand. In this article, we will discuss the necessary steps to prepare your hair for box braids.

How to Prepare Hair for Box Braids

It is crucial to prepare your hair prior to getting box braids in order to maintain a healthy scalp and eliminate any residue or buildup from previous styling products. This is essential because braids can place strain on the scalp, and an unhealthy scalp can result in irritation, inflammation, or hair loss.

Additionally, preparing your hair can prevent tangling and matting, while also ensuring that it remains moisturized and free from excessive dryness or brittleness while it’s in the braids.

Step 1: Detangle Your Hair

The first step in preparing your hair for box braids is to ensure that it is detangled. This is especially important if you have thick or curly hair as it can be prone to knots and tangles. 

Detangling your hair not only makes it easier to braid but also helps to prevent breakage and damage during the braiding process. Start by washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup of product or dirt.

 Neutrogena clarifying shampoo is a type of shampoo that is designed to remove build-up from hair. Build-up can be caused by a variety of things, such as styling products, hard water, chlorine from swimming pools, and environmental pollutants. Over time, the build-up can make hair dull, lifeless, and difficult to manage.

Clarifying shampoos typically have a stronger formulation than regular shampoos and contain ingredients such as sulfates or citric acid to help break down and remove build-up. They are often used once a week or every few weeks, rather than every day.

It’s important to note that because clarifying shampoos can be quite strong, they may strip the hair of its natural oils and cause dryness or damage. After washing, apply a deep conditioner and allow it to sit on your hair for at least 30 minutes. This will help to soften your hair and make it easier to detangle.

Once you have rinsed out the deep conditioner, apply a leave-in conditioner or detangler to your hair. Use a wide-tooth comb to gently comb through your hair, starting from the ends and working your way up to the roots. Be sure to remove any knots or tangles as you go.

Step 2: Stretch Your Hair

The next step is to stretch your hair to make it easier to braid. This is especially important if you have natural hair as it can be prone to shrinkage, which can make it difficult to achieve the desired length and thickness for your box braids.

There are several methods you can use to stretch your hair, including blow-drying, braiding, and banding. However, for box braids, the most effective method is to use a technique known as “banding.”

Banding method of stretching natural hair
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To band your hair, start by sectioning it into four or six parts. Then, take a small elastic band and wrap it around the base of each section, about an inch or two from your scalp. Continue adding bands every inch or two until you reach the ends of your hair. Leave the bands in place for several hours or overnight to allow your hair to stretch.

Blow drying is another efficient way of stretching natural hair, however care should be exercised because when hair is wet, it is in its most fragile state and can easily break or become damaged. To minimize the effect of exposure to heat, spritz on a heat protectant to sections of hair making sure the strands are thoroughly coated.

Using a blow dryer with a concentrator attachment, start at the roots and work your way down to the ends of each section of hair. Keep the blow dryer moving and do not concentrate the heat on any one area for too long.

Once you have dried each section of hair, you can use a wide-tooth comb or your fingers to further stretch out the hair if desired.

Braiding is a popular and effective means of stretching natural hair. This method involves braiding the hair in sections and leaving it braided for a period of time, which allows the hair to stretch out and create a smoother, more elongated look. Here are the steps to follow for braiding natural hair:

Divide the hair into sections using hair clips or elastics. Starting with one section of hair, apply a styling cream or gel to the hair to help hold the braid in place and prevent frizz.

Begin braiding the hair, starting as close to the scalp as possible and continuing down to the ends. You can use a three-strand braid or a more complex braid, depending on your skill level and desired result. Once the braid is complete, secure the end with a small elastic band or hair clip.

Step 3: Moisturize Your Hair

Moisturizing natural hair
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Moisturizing your hair is crucial when preparing it for box braids. This will help to keep your hair healthy and prevent it from becoming dry and brittle during the braiding process. Dry hair is more prone to breakage, which can lead to damaged hair and uneven braids.

To moisturize your hair, apply a leave-in conditioner or hair oil to your hair before braiding. This will help to keep your hair soft and supple, which will make it easier to braid. Be sure to pay special attention to the ends of your hair, which are more prone to becoming dry and damaged.

Moisturizing products should be chosen based on the porosity of one’s hair, which is its ability to absorb and retain moisture. Hair with higher porosity easily absorbs and loses moisture, while hair with lower porosity absorbs moisture slowly but retains it well. As such, lightweight moisturizing products are recommended for low-porosity hair, while heavier moisturizing products like butter are more suitable for high-porosity hair.

Step 4: Trim Your Ends

Trimming the ends of your natural hair
Instagram / @actually_ashy

Trimming your ends is an essential step in preparing your hair for box braids. This will help to prevent split ends and breakage, which can make your braids look uneven and unkempt.

To trim your ends, start by dividing your hair into small sections. Then, gently comb through each section, and use a pair of sharp scissors to trim off any split or damaged ends. Be sure to only trim off a small amount of hair, about 1/4 inch or less, to avoid cutting off too much length. If you aren’t confident in your ability to trim your hair yourself, you should enlist the help of a stylist for a much more efficient result.

Step 5: Protect Your Hairline

Protecting your hairline is another essential step when preparing your hair for box braids. This will help to prevent damage to your hairline and keep your braids looking neat and tidy. 

Before braiding, it’s recommended to apply a protective oil or cream to your hairline to create a barrier that shields your hairline from friction, ultimately reducing the risk of breakage. Tight braids that tug at your hairline should be avoided, as they can cause damage and breakage. In case of any discomfort or tension, it’s advisable to request your stylist to adjust the tension.

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