The plight of having to do my own hair during quarantine pales in comparison to what's actually going on in the world. I'm in good health, surrounded by family, and just the act of being able to social distance in itself is a serious privilege. However, dealing with my own hair has become a serious responsibility, to the point that I'd actually never felt so compelled to completely buzz it all off. My hair appointments have come to a halt, and my natural hair, usually protected underneath weaves and wigs, is now my burden to bear. So I took matters into my own hands, and discovered that figuring out how to box braid your own hair isn't as difficult as you'd expect.
Let me preface this by saying that I have a knack for picking up on beauty routines pretty quickly. I'm pretty good at recreating a makeup look I find on Instagram and can imitate just about any celebrity hairstyle I come across. As long as I have a visual, I can do it. However, braids were different. It's the one style that I've never worn, but one that I knew for a fact required very little maintenance. I chose knotless braids as they're trendy (I can't scroll my feed without seeing at least one look at any given moment) — and functional, too.
In case you're not familiar, the key to longevity with braids is all in the process. That first "grip" — the tight hold that you should administer while sectioning and plaiting — sets the tone for all of your braids. Box braids already take a lot of time when done by a stylist (who usually has an assistant to tackle the back half of your head), but with no assistance, I projected that my style time would double. But I was up for the challenge, because hey, where else am I going?
I went on the hunt for for pre-stretched kanekalon hair — synthetic, kinky braiding hair that has a straighter finish and tapered ends. Thankfully, Amazon had what I needed since most beauty supply stores are closed. I also bought plenty of hair gel, pomade, and clips to section off my natural hair once it was time to begin.
Powered by hours of YouTube tutorials, I began by splitting my hair into large sections (the smaller the sections, the longer it'll take — so I went big). For each section, I divided the hair into three pieces. Knotless braids are convenient because there isn't grip required. Unlike traditional box braids, where you secure the weave on your real hair with a knot at the root, you feed the hair into your sections. This makes the braid look natural and feel lighter. Pomade is necessary to keep your sections slick and neat, as flyaways make it harder to feed the weave in.
Once all of my braids were done, I "sealed" the ends of the hair with boiling water. Because braiding is synthetic, it has a tendency to fray and get frizzy. Hot water fuses the ends together, making the style last longer overall. Additionally, I was sure to not make my braids too tight — a common problem with protective styling that leads to breakage and itchy scalp. Since there's not excess tension on my scalp, I'm confident that my natural hair is thriving underneath.
Of all the tutorials I watched, the estimated time it took for completion teetered between four to six hours. However, I knew that it would surely take me longer. I began at 4 P.M. and was dipping the hair in boiling water by 2:30 A.M. Pro tip: have a few Divorce Court episodes on repeat to pass the time, and give yourself 30-second stretch breaks every hour. And have snacks handy.
The braids not perfect, but they save me time... especially on days when the Zoom calls and happy hours refuse to stop. All I do is toss them into an easy bun, and when I feel like I want to be fancy, I simply let them down to hang. As far as DIY-ing my braids after quarantine? I think I'll leave it to the professionals. However, it's good to know that in desperate times, I can get it done.
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If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.