How to Do Box Braids: A Beginner’s Tutorial

Box braids are a popular and stylish protective hairstyle that has been around for decades. They are versatile, low-maintenance, and can last for weeks with proper care. If you’re looking to try out box braids for the first time or simply want to improve your technique, this article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to do box braids.

Choosing the Right Hair Extensions

The first step in creating box braids is selecting the right type of hair extensions. You can choose between synthetic or human hair extensions, depending on your budget and preference. Here are some factors to consider when choosing:

  • Texture: Look for hair extensions that match your hair’s texture as closely as possible.
  • Length: Choose extensions that are at least three inches longer than your natural hair to allow for braiding.
  • Color: Pick a color that complements your skin tone and personal style.

You should buy 6-8 packs of synthetic hair if you’re aiming for long, thick braids. For shorter and thinner box braids, you might require fewer packs. Seek out smooth and soft synthetic hair, which is less prone to frizz, either at your local beauty supply store or through online retailers. The commonly used synthetic hair types for box braids are the soft-pressed Kanekalon Expression hair and pre-stretched Kanekalon hair. Alternatively, you can opt for human hair extensions or yarn hair. When uncertain about the quantity, it’s wise to purchase more hair than you think you’ll need. Any leftover hair can be saved for future styles or returned if the retailer permits.

Preparing Your Natural Hair

  • Wash and Condition: Start by washing your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo and a nourishing conditioner. Ensure that you rinse thoroughly to remove any product residue. Follow up with a deep conditioning treatment to hydrate and strengthen your hair. Leave the conditioner on for the recommended time to allow your hair to absorb all the moisture and nutrients it needs.
  • Detangle: Gently detangle your hair using a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush. Start from the tips and work your way up to the roots to minimize breakage and pain. If your hair tends to tangle easily, feel free to use a rat-tail comb for those stubborn knots.
  • Stretch: If you have very curly or coily hair, you may choose to stretch it before braiding to make the process more manageable. You can do this by blow-drying your hair on a low-heat setting or using stretching techniques like banding or braiding.

How to Do Box Braids on yourself

Now that you have your hair extensions and natural hair prepped, it’s time to start braiding. Follow these steps:

Materials You’ll Need

  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Rat-tail comb (optional)
  • Hair clips or hair ties
  • Hair extensions (kanekalon or synthetic braiding hair)
  • Hair mousse or styling gel
  • Hair oil or moisturizer (optional)
  • Scissors (for trimming)

Step 1: Section Your Hair

Begin by using a wide-tooth comb to create four distinct box-shaped sections in your hair. Start by parting your hair down the middle, from your forehead to the nape of your neck, and then create another part from ear to ear. Leave the first section you plan to braid undone. Ensure that these sections are evenly partitioned, resulting in a neatly defined box shape with a straight line at the roots. Employ three large hair clips to secure the other three sections, keeping them conveniently out of your way. This initial division into four sections helps streamline the braiding process and prevents unworked hair from getting in your way as you braid. It might be helpful to use a mirror to ensure precision while creating these sections.

Step 2: Prepare the Braiding Hair

Take a portion of your sectioned hair, roughly measuring 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm), and divide it further into thirds. Next, select a section of synthetic hair that’s slightly thicker than your natural hair section. Within the synthetic hair section, remove approximately one-third of it, leaving you with two strands—one thicker and one thinner. Alternatively, you can split the entire synthetic extension into three equally sized strands and then combine two of them to create the thicker and thinner sections.

Cross the 2 sections of hair at their centers, and fold the thinner strand backward upon itself. This action results in three hair strands of approximately equal thicknesses since the thin strand has been folded to create a single, thicker strand. To maintain a secure grip on the extension, use your thumb and forefinger to hold it firmly at the base of the loop.

Step 3: Start Braiding

Place the synthetic hair atop your natural hair, right at the roots. While keeping the three distinct synthetic hair strands, select one strand to act as your central or anchor strand, which you’ll merge with your natural hair. Align the loop of your partitioned hair directly over your natural hair’s roots, gently pinching your anchor strand together with your natural hair.

Step 4: Add More Braiding Hair

With the anchor strand of synthetic hair and your natural hair strand held together, initiate the braiding process with the synthetic hair. Guide the right-hand strand beneath the anchor strand, shifting the right-hand strand to the middle position. Subsequently, pull the left-hand strand under the center strand (which was previously the right-hand strand), positioning it now in the center. To keep things looking seamless, make sure to blend the braiding hair with your natural locks.

Step 5: Braid to the End

Continue braiding until you’ve reached your desired braid length. You can choose to leave a small portion of your natural hair unbraided at the ends for a more natural look or braid all the way to the ends.

Step 6: Secure the End

Continue this sequence throughout the entire length of your hair, and once you’ve reached the end, secure it in place using a hair elastic. If the braid holds its shape without an elastic, you can skip this step. Maintain consistent tension to achieve a tight, orderly braid, making sure it’s secure but not uncomfortably tight. Applying even, gentle pressure as you braid ensures a uniform and smooth appearance for your braid.

Step 7: Repeat

Braid your hair section by section, allowing yourself breaks whenever necessary. Begin with one section and progress from the lower part of your scalp towards the crown for easier management. As doing an entire head of box braids can be a time-consuming task, taking breaks between sections or when needed is essential. Ensure you braid each section swiftly and consistently to prevent frizziness. Maintain uniform pressure throughout the braiding process to achieve braids of the same thickness and shape.

Step 8: Trim and Style (Optional)

If desired, you can trim any uneven ends and style your box braids. Common styles include leaving them loose, pulling them into a ponytail, or creating updos and buns

Care and Maintenance

Once you’ve completed your box braids, it’s essential to take care of them properly to ensure they last for as long as possible. Here are some tips:

  • Keep Your Scalp Clean: Use a diluted sulfate-free shampoo to clean your scalp. Dilute the shampoo with water to prevent residue buildup between braids. Gently massage your scalp with your fingertips and rinse thoroughly. Focus on cleansing your scalp every 2-4 weeks or as needed.
  • Moisturize Your Braids: Use a water-based moisturizer or leave-in conditioner to hydrate your braids and natural hair. Apply it directly to your scalp and braids, concentrating on the ends. Be cautious not to oversaturate, as excessive moisture can lead to frizz.
  • Protect Your Braids at Night: Invest in a satin or silk bonnet or scarf to protect your braids while you sleep. Cotton pillowcases can create friction, which may cause frizz and damage.
  • Avoid Overstyling: Constantly pulling your braids into different styles or over-manipulating them can weaken your natural hair and cause breakage. Stick to simple styles to minimize stress on your hair.


  1. What type of hair extensions are best for box braids? Human hair extensions are best for a natural look and feel, but they can be expensive. Synthetic hair extensions are more affordable and come in a wide range of colors and textures.
  2. How often should I wash my box braids? You should wash your box braids every two weeks to keep them clean and fresh.
  3. Can I swim with box braids? Yes, you can swim with box braids, but it’s essential to wear a swim cap and rinse your hair thoroughly afterward.
  4. How long do box braids last? Box braids can last four to eight weeks, depending on how well you care for them.
  5. Can I do box braids on short hair? Yes, you can do box braids on short hair, but the length of the extensions you choose will depend on how short your natural hair is.

Final Takeaway

Box braids are a beautiful and protective hairstyle that can be done at home with the right tools and techniques. By following this guide, you can create perfect box braids that will last for weeks and keep your hair healthy and protected. Remember to take care of your braids by moisturizing, cleansing, and protecting them from tight hairstyles. Happy braiding!