Tutorial: How to Do Box Braids in 2 Ways

Welcome to a low-maintenance, protective braided hairstyle that's well worth the process.

As you may know, braids are back with a vengeance. What was once considered a hairstyle for young kids is now making quite the sophisticated comeback. We are seeing tons of intricate variations of beautiful braided hairstyles. Box braids, a set of individual braids, can be left in hair for over a week or longer. And if you want to give long, natural-textured hair more definition and manageability, it’s definitely a look that should be on current rotation. To help you out, we are sharing two ways in how to do box braids with your own hair, including a 90s-inspired box braid!

Lots of today’s trends use box braids as a starting point, so you’ll be sure to get lots of mileage out of this look. If you also need some styling, wash and care tips, we’ve got that covered, too.

how to do box braids on natural hair
A gorgeous box braid hair in a high bun.

The beauty of this box braids tutorial is that it can be done in various sizes. You can choose between tiny braids or a set of chunky braids. The latter requires a shorter amount of time, and the smaller braids can take about seven to eight hours. Whatever you decide is totally up to your style preference and well, how long you can sit tight.

Step 1: Begin with clean hair.

Begin with clean, blow-dried and detangled hair. If you plan to wear this hairstyle for a long period of time, we suggest that you don’t skip the deep conditioning step. If you are braiding with the addition of synthetic braiding weave, don’t blow-dry your hair bone straight. Leave a bit of texture to the hair to help with grip as you braid. This will help avoid waking up with a strand of braids on your pillow since they slid off your hair while you slept.

Step 2: Freestyle your sectioning.

You can section hair off into four equal sections, focusing on one section at a time. Alternatively, you can freestyle. Part a small to medium section of hair, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you are going for a neat look, create square-, triangle- or diamond-shaped partings for each section.

Step 3: Begin to braid!

After parting your first section, begin to braid from your root to the ends. Aim to braid each section as tight as you can. Continue this method throughout the entire head. If you are working with extensions, take a strand and bend it in half. Apply the bend of the extension to the root of the section of hair you’re working with on your head and begin to braid the hair as normal with the inclusion of the extension.

Step 4: Lock in your style.

 Once you’re done, spray your hair with hairspray to finish and style it as you desire. One of our go-to’s is Bed Head by TIGI Full Of It Volume Hairspray.

How to Style Box Braid Hair

If you tried out this tutorial with hair extensions, you aren’t subjected to keep it at its length. It’s time to let loose and have some fun. You can cut long extensions into a short box braid hair bob or lob. You can also loosen the braids from ends to mid-shaft and curl with a curling iron or hair wand for a curly hairstyle. If you kept it long, or if your hair is long on its own, consider trying an updo. A bun or a pompadour hairstyle is a fun idea.

How to Maintain Box Braid Hair

One of the pros of this hairstyle is how low maintenance it is. At night, wrap hair with a silk or satin scarf or sleep on a silk pillowcase. One thing you need to keep in mind is that you still need to protect your strands. Box braids should be washed, cleansed, and conditioned every week or bi-weekly. To dry, squeeze or gently wring your hair. In between washes you can use Dove Detox & Purify Dry Shampoo. Lastly, pay close attention to your edges and hairline. Apply a moisturizer of your choice to avoid dryness, and keep your flyaways put with the help of hair gel, like TRESemmé Tres Two Mega Firm Control Gel.

How to Box Braid for a ’90s-Inspired Bun

Step 1: Wash your hair thoroughly.

We prefer using a gentle shampoo and a conditioner, like Suave Sulfate-Free Cleansing Shampoo and Moisturizing Curl Conditioner. that moisturizes so you don’t overstrip your hair (Note: Natural and curly hair types are typically drier than others). Starting with clean, well-rinsed locks is a crucial step to creating braids, especially when you plan on leaving them in for longer periods of time. 

Step 2: Apply a detangler or leave-in product.

Box braids are a smaller, tighter kind of plait. Products that provide an extra shot of moisture—not to mention tame any frizz, help make hair more manageable and offer that telltale “slip”—such as The Good Stuff Volumizing Hydration Foam, are great box braid primers as they can help prevent damage to the strand while you weave.

Step 3: Blow-dry hair until 90 percent dry.

The last thing you want to do is tug and manipulate fragile wet hair. Make sure to remove any knots as you dry by gently brushing locks out with a detangling brush or wide-toothed comb.

Step 4: Section off your strands.

Divide your head into four quadrants (top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left) and clamp up three sections, leaving one loose section to work on at a time. It’s usually easier to start braiding the lower sections first.

Step 5: Divide and conquer.

Pinch some hair from your loose section around one inch from your scalp, and further divide that pinch into three thin strips. Proceed to create a simple three-strand braid from the roots downwards. Make sure to leave some slack near the root—too-tight braids can cause breakage and unnecessary tension on your scalp. Box braids are usually tight enough to stay intact without a hair tie—some opt to “seal” them off with some hair wax or oil. We suggest gently securing the ends with a hair elastic for more longevity.

how to do box braids yourself
Crazy, sexy, cool: Some prefer their braids unsecured with a hair tie for a boho-chic look.

Step 6: Repeat!

Continue the pinch-and-braid method on all remaining mini-sections of your one quadrant, ensuring that each pinched section is even. Once the entire quadrant is braided, move on to the next quadrant, until your entire head is covered in thin ropes of braids. Ed’s note: The entire box braid process can take anywhere from four to 12 (!) hours, depending on your hair length and thickness, you/your stylist’s speed and skill level or if you’re working with extensions. Be patient!

Step 7: Use a hair oil.

After your braids are done is a good time to nourish the scalp with some hair oil. Coconut or Argan oil can help soothe any rawness from tugging and braiding. A serum or oil smoothed over your braids, such as Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil, can also help tame weave flyaways, help prevent strand breakage and hold down any halo frizzies.

Step 8: Create your half-updo.

Using your fingers or the tail of a fishtail comb, section off the braids near your crown. Create one giant gather and coil it around itself at the top of your head, securing at the base with some strategic tucking, bobby pins or a gentle fabric-covered elastic.