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How to Do Box Braids on Yourself | Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re wondering how to do box braids on yourself, you’re in the right place. While they’re a lot of work, box braids can be part of cultural identity, protect your own natural hair, and look great, so they’re worth the effort.


How to Do Box Braids on Yourself in 6 Steps

Image titled How to Do Box Braids on Yourself featuring such a title in green and white lettering against a blue background

Once you understand the significance and intent of box braids, you’re ready to get started.

  1. Gather everything you need, including your choice of extension hair
  2. Wash and dry your hair
  3. Section it with nice clean lines
  4. Start braiding in the extension hair

Read on to learn the details and steps that you’ll need to know in greater detail below.

Step 1: Understand Box Braids

For a piece on how to do box braids, a close-up shot of a woman with blonde and black hair braided into box braids

Goegeoussab/Shutterstock

“Box braids” are mostly worn by people of African origin and in the African diaspora. They’re considered a protective hairstyle, which means that they can be safely worn for long periods. It lets natural hair grow out and protects the ends. Unlike cornrows and similar styles, box braids are not attached to the scalp, so they can be worn in many different ways.

Braids play a powerful role in the identity and culture of African people. In African communities, it was believed that hair, the most elevated part of a person’s body, could play a part in divine communication. Most people only trusted close relatives to braid their hair.

The style that we now know as box braids evolved from styles worn by women in the Nile Valley over 3,000 years ago, the Eembuvi braids worn by women in Namibia, braids worn by the Afar people in the horn of Africa, and braids worn by the Khoi-San people of South Africa.

As mentioned above, box braids are a protective hairstyle. They’re easy to maintain and ease the stress on your scalp and hair follicles, making it easier to implement a healthy scalp care routine. Box braids are actually very good for hair — especially Black hair — since they protect the existing hair and encourage healthy new growth.

Step 2: Prepare for Braiding

Black woman in a towel just getting out of the shower in preparation for getting box braids

Fizkes/Shutterstock

Although box braids are naturally a protective hairstyle, the benefits they offer are magnified with proper care and the use of high-quality products. If you want to get the most out of your braids, you should invest in:

  • Good moisturizing shampoo
  • Deep conditioner
  • Moisturizing oil

Once you do your own box braids, you won’t need to wash them often at all. Many people only wash their braids once or twice a month. Keeping this in mind, you may want to buy the best products available. After all, doing box braids yourself isn’t exactly an easy process, so you want to stretch your hard work as far as possible.

You’ll also want to have on hand a blow-dryer, leave-in heat protectant product, hair “jam” or hair gel, alligator clips, a precision comb, and a silk scarf. Wear something such as a tank top that allows you to move your arms freely, since you’ll be doing a lot of reaching and stretching.

Box braids typically include extension hair to add volume and strength to the braids. Synthetic braiding hair is the easiest for most beginners to use. You can match your natural hair or choose a contrasting color to add some flair to your style.

However, remember that you’ll be wearing this hair for a month or longer, so choose something you won’t get tired of seeing in the mirror every morning. You’ll also want to set aside plenty of time! Depending on the length, thickness, and condition of your hair, your first venture into doing your own box braids can take up to 10 to 12 hours.

As with everything else in life, though, it’ll go more quickly once you’re used to it. If you have sisters or friends interested in box braids, you can always pick a show to binge and make a day out of it!

Step 3: Wash, Dry, and Section Your Hair

Cleanse your hair with high-quality moisturizing shampoo and a deep conditioner. Use a heat protectant styling spray and gently blow-dry the hair. To make sure that your hair is thoroughly dry, you may want to dry it in sections from the bottom to the top.

If your hair is damp when you braid it, it may become unpleasantly musty. Now, divide your hair into sections. Each section will be one braid, so you can make them as slender or chunky as you please.

Use a precision comb for clean lines between the braids. It’s usually easiest to first divide your hair into four to six larger segments and then subdivide each segment. Clip off each section with an alligator clip to keep it out of your way while working on your braids.

Step 4: Add the Hair Extension

Bunch of hair extensions in various colors hanging on a door to illustrate a step on how to do box braids on yourself

Sergei Domashenko/Shutterstock

You’ll be working on one section of your hair at a time, with the others clipped off. Split the extension hair for that section into one large piece and one small one. Fold the smaller section over the larger, until you have three even pieces.

Divide the section of hair that you’re working with into three even pieces as well. Pair the three looped pieces of extension hair with the three pieces of your hair as close to the scalp as possible.

You can apply some hair “jam” or hair gel here to make your hair easier to work with. People with fine hair don’t need much, but people with coarse hair can be generous with the product.

You may also want to use moisturizer cream on your face around the hairline, which helps prevent breakage and stress, allowing new hair to grow in. Hold the loop of the extension hair in place close to the scalp with your index finger.

Braid the hair down to the bottom, ensuring that the extension hair blends in well with your own hair. Remember that tight braids can cause breakage, so while you want braids that’ll last, you also want to be conscious of your hair’s health.

Step 5: Care for Your Braids

A woman wearing box braids holds the front of her head while looking in a mirror after doing box braids on herself

KlavdiyaV/Shutterstock

With proper care, your box braids should last between four and six weeks. However, even if they still look good, you shouldn’t keep them in for more than two months. If you’re keeping your braids for the suggested length of time, you’ll most likely only need to wash them once or twice.

When you wash your box braids, focus on the scalp and not on the braids themselves. Use a high-quality, gentle shampoo or scalp cleanser and rub gently; don’t scrub. Smooth the shampoo down over the braids and rinse thoroughly.

Dry your braids thoroughly so that the moisture doesn’t set into the braids and get musty. After the box braids are completely dry, you can use a styling gel or pomade to smooth down any frizziness and give them a nice sheen.

Between washes, you can mist your braids with a moisturizing oil a few times a week. This keeps your hair healthy and helps to nourish your scalp too. At night, you can wrap the braids in a silk scarf before you go to bed to keep them from tangling or tugging at your scalp.

Things to Consider

Box braids are a practical and stylish way to protect your hair and encourage new, healthy hair growth. When you’re getting ready to do your own box braids, some of the things you need to keep in mind include:

  • Ensure that you have the right products to prepare your hair for braiding and care for your braids. The braids last a long time, and you won’t be washing your hair very often once you have them in, so you may be able to justify an investment in the best quality products.
  • Remember that your braids should last four to six weeks, so select your extension hair carefully since you’ll be wearing it for a while. If you’re thinking about a color that makes a statement, be sure that you’ll want to be making that statement every day for a month or longer.
  • Set aside plenty of time to install your box braids. It can take up to 12 hours for a novice braider to do their whole head. It does get quicker and easier with practice, but be prepared to spend the better part of a day on this project. You could always make it a party with sisters or friends!
  • Make sure to protect the braids that you worked so hard to install. Sleep with them wrapped in a silk scarf and keep them moisturized.

So, How Do You Do Box Braids on Yourself?

So there you have it — how to do box braids on yourself. You may feel intimidated after reading this long list of steps, and it’s true that it takes quite a bit of time to braid a whole head.

However, braiding is something that many of our readers have been doing since they were very young. Doing box braids on yourself is just braiding – a lot of braiding!

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