Protective Styling: Box Braids
If hair is a woman’s crowning glory, black women have mastered the expression of this glory by the many ways in which we style our hair. My grandmother was a hair stylist, and the time I spent in her shop as a child gave me such great appreciation and understanding of hair as a process. At the end of an appointment, hair is something that’s done for now, not forever. I’ve never been afraid to try something new with my hair from cuts to colors to extensions to wigs, but my favorite adornment is braided protective styling. Braided protective styling can take many forms from faux locs to box braids to twists to crochet braids, and there are so many things to love about a braided style. Right now, I have box braids, which keep me from having to put stress on my hair by over-combing or using any sort of heat.
In African culture, braiding styles differentiated people of different tribes, regions, ages, wealth, marital status and more. The art of braiding was a significant social activity for young girls and older women alike, and it was said to be a form of communication. I see braiding as one of the many ways to represent and maintain our heritage and culture in our modern world.
I love to wear wigs, which is another protective style. It saves me so much time to be able to braid the hair underneath and slide a wig on. Braids are similar in that way. It may take seven or eight hours to install them, but once they’re in, they’ll stay for four to six weeks. I don’t typically keep them any longer than that for the health of my hair.
Once I have my braids, it then becomes a matter of how flashy I want to be on any day. I may put them all into a high ponytail/bun, or braid the top into a crown, or do something as simple as wear them all loose and hanging down my back. In any case, you don’t have to spend the time with these that you might have to styling your natural hair.
Depending on the style of braids you get, they can promote hair growth. Just having the braids may not give you that result, but proper care while you have them will. I always make sure that my braider doesn’t braid them too tight but just tight enough that they won’t slide out. I also wash and deep condition my hair before every install and make sure that I keep my scalp moisturized while I have them.
As far as products, my usual deep conditioner is the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Mask, and I talk about my newfound shampoo here. At least a few times a week I use the Jamaican Mango & Lime Island Oil to nourish my scalp, and I use the Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey Calming Tension Spray when my scalp feels itchy or slightly irritated.