There are protective styles, and then there’s the protective style: box braids. The two are basically synonymous at this point, as box braids are not only protective but also incredibly convenient and can save time when styling your hair in the mornings.
The look has become so popular that it was officially granted space in the dictionary and is defined as: “a triple-stranded braid using the hair from a sectioned-off square on the scalp.” Yes, there are in fact levels to being that iconic. “Box braids are braids that are created with human or synthetic hair extensions,” the founder of Iman Yvonne Beauty, Alicia Bailey, tells POPSUGAR. “The name refers to the square-shaped partings that are used to attach the extensions in order to create the braids.”
From medium box braids to short box braids with curly ends, the variations of box-braid hairstyles are seemingly endless. As much fun as the style is, however, it can cause some damage if you’re not careful. “To ensure that box braids are not damaging to the hair, be sure not to have them installed too tightly,” Bailey says. “If this happens, it could cause follicular damage and hair loss. This could result in traction alopecia, and depending on the severity of the situation, the hair may not grow back.”
That being said, box-braid maintenance is another way to ensure the health of your hair while simultaneously prolonging the style. “Box braids should be maintained by applying scalp oil as needed,” Bailey says. Additionally, wearing a satin bonnet to sleep at night will also prevent too much tugging on your hair as you sleep, and applying mousse to the style can help to prevent frizz.
If you’re ready for your own box braids, we don’t blame you. Get inspiration for everything from long box-braid hairstyles to short box-braid hairstyles ahead.