One reason box braids are such a popular style is that they are low-maintenance and protect your natural hair. What’s even better is that these braids can last up to 10 to 12 weeks, depending on their size and how you care for them.
Of course, part of the maintenance routine for your braids is washing them properly. Not only is this important for the longevity of your braids, but it is critical for the health of your natural hair and scalp. After spending so much time and money on your braids, though, it can be a little nerve-wracking to wash them. After all, you wouldn’t want to ruin them by causing frizz or unraveling. So, we’re breaking down how to wash box braids properly for the longest flawless wear possible. Ready to try box braids? Book a hair appointment online with StyleSeat!
What are Box Braids?
Box braids are a protective hairstyle that’s typically used in curly or kinky hair to promote hair growth. It is installed by using synthetic hair interwoven with existing human hair, which helps to add thickness and protects the human hair with the hair extensions. The reason they’re called “box” braids is due to the square-shaped hair divisions on the scalp. Since the braids are not attached to the scalp like cornrows, they allow for more styling options as well as easier maintenance.
Washing Box Braids for Longevity
How long do box braids last? Protective hairstyles like box braids are especially popular during warmer months, and it’s clear to see why. However, after a few weeks, you’ll have worked out, sweat from the summer heat, and put various products in your hair to style. All of this builds up on your scalp and leads to the biggest downside of braids: itch. Thankfully, proper washing can provide an instant remedy to this dreaded problem. In fact, maintaining this popular style is less about washing your braids and more about caring for your scalp. Let’s jump in!
How Do You Wash Box Braids Without Ruining Them?
Washing your braids might seem intuitive, but there are a few extra steps that are essential if you want to avoid ruining them with frizz, unraveling, or lingering smells. Here is our step-by-step recommendation for washing box braids without ruining them.
- Spray Your Roots: Grab a small spray bottle and fill it with about one to two inches of water, then add a squirt of your favorite shampoo and swirl it around to mix. Once combined, carefully spray the shampoo mixture on the parts between your braids, directly onto your scalp. As you go, gently rub the shampoo into your scalp using the pads of your fingers (not your nails!). Pay attention to any areas with a lot of build-up, and don’t forget your edges.
- Rinse It Out: Next, hop in the shower to rinse out the shampoo! Carefully move your braids out of the way to direct most of the water onto your scalp. After a few minutes, lean your head back under the water and let it run throughout your braids, but don’t rub! Rubbing your scalp or braids while wet will make them frizz when they dry. Make sure to get all the product out, as lingering shampoo could cause dandruff or scalp irritation.
Can you wash box braids in the shower? Definitely! Just be sure to follow these instructions carefully to avoid frizz.
- Condition: After you’ve rinsed the shampoo, apply your conditioner of choice to your scalp gently and carefully to avoid rubbing. Try moving in one direction rather than a back and forth motion. You’ll also want to apply the conditioner throughout your braids and especially at the ends, but again, move in a downward motion, so you don’t create frizz. Let the conditioner sit for about 20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly using the same method as before.
- Wring the Braids: Your braids will hold a lot of water, and making sure they are completely dry is critical to avoiding any smells from developing. So, when you’re done washing, be sure to wring out any excess water. Then wrap them up into a bun and secure them with a microfiber towel to help draw even more water out. Let that sit for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Add Products: Once you take your braids out of the towel, now is the time to use any nourishing products or treatments. Again, be sure to apply them to your roots and scalp carefully.
- Blow Dry: Finally, you will want to spend some time blow drying your braids to get rid of any moisture. Moisture left in the hair could lead to unpleasant smells and mildew growth. Like we mentioned before, thoroughly drying your braids is the best way to ensure no unpleasant smells develop. However, despite what you may think, do not blow dry your braids with heat! This can damage any synthetic hair used to create the braids and may cause frizz. Instead, use the cool setting on your dryer and take your time. If you have long or thick braids, you may have to let them finish air-drying – otherwise, you could spend hours on this step!
Is there a quick on-the go solution? We got you! Though we definitely suggest giving your box braids a thorough wash at least every 2-3 weeks, if you want a quick fix to slight odor or an itchy scalp, here are our suggestions:
- When your braids need a quick pick-me-up from buildup and dirt, applying an astringent like Sea Breeze or Witch Hazel are quick and easy ways to break down dirt and hair oil.
- If you develop an itchy scalp, you can try an apple cider vinegar rinse. It is great for removing product build-up and soothing irritated scalp.
And there you have it. These step-by-step instructions will keep your braids looking fresh, your scalp itch-free, and your natural hair healthy.
How Often Should You Wash Box Braids?
Now that you know how to wash box braids, the next question is when to wash them! Most stylists recommend washing your braids every two to three weeks to keep your hair healthy and braids fresh. This frequency helps avoid too much build-up of products or dry skin, which leads to flaking and itching. But when in doubt, if you’re starting to itch, it’s probably time for a wash. The frequency that you wash your hair depends on which style. For example, knotless braids vs box braids have different lengths of durability due to their installation.
Box Braid Care Tips
People want box braids because they have many benefits such as aiding hair growth and providing versatility to your hair routine. In addition to regularly washing your braids, there are a few other do’s and don’ts of braid maintenance that you should be aware of to care for them properly.
- Don’t Style Wet Braids: If you cannot fully dry your braids with a blow dryer, be sure that you let them finish air-drying completely before you style them. If you put your braids into a ponytail, bun, or another updo, they won’t have enough air circulating around them to finish drying. This could result in mildew and unpleasant smells.
- Don’t Use Dry Shampoo: Dry shampoo products may seem like a great way to keep things fresh in between washes, but it will actually just create more build-up. As a result, you may need to wash more frequently to reduce itching if you use these products.
- Do Focus on Your Scalp: As we said before, caring for your scalp is at the core of proper box braid maintenance. Be sure you are always giving it a little extra love and attention if you want your braids to last as long as possible without any undesirable side effects, like itching.
- Do Talk to Your Stylist: Your best resource for proper braid care is the stylist installing them! Before you walk out of the salon, make sure you discuss the details and her recommendations for care, including any product suggestions. She will be familiar with all the unique elements of your braids and be able to provide fully customized care instructions.
- Do listen to your hair/scalp: If your scalp is uncomfortably itchy or your hair feels heavier than what’s tolerable, it might mean that there’s too much hair that’s been shed is still trapped in your braided hair. If this occurs, even if your braids still look fantastic, it’s time for them to go.
There is a good reason box braids are such a popular protective style! While your natural hair is wrapped inside the braid, it is protected from the elements, and you’re not combing through it in ways that could lead to breakage. However, if you want to take full advantage of this protection to increase the health and growth of your natural hair, proper care and maintenance are essential. So, don’t skip wash day!