I Did My Own Box Braids for the First Time During the Pandemic

Here’s why, what I learned, and how you can do yours.

Protective style: Box braids with ombre braiding hair

Like many others, I have somewhat relaxed my grooming practices during the coronavirus lockdown. I’ve been wearing mainly sweats (Get dressed for who/what?), have mostly gone make-up free (Again…makeup for who/what?), and have worn my hair natural, covering it from time to time with headwraps. But, to be honest, I miss “getting ready.” I miss getting a little glammed up. I miss making an effort on myself. I miss getting my hair done. So I bit the bullet, and decided to be my own braider. Apart from missing getting my hurr did, here are a few more reasons why I decided to braid my hair myself:

I’m not ready to go to the salon. Although hair salons are back in business as part of the reopening plans, I am still not yet comfortable with being out, period, and in such close proximity with others. Mask or not, it just doesn’t seem wise to me. I also have an underlying condition–asthma–that makes me more vulnerable to catching Covid-19. So…close quarters with strangers breathing over me is a no. #hardpass

I have “hand in hair disease.” I just can’t seem to stop playing with my hair, which is great for me (soooo relaxing), but not so great for my delicate strands. I have 4c hair, which means it is tightly coiled, and very prone to breakage. Protective styles like braids do just that: protect my hair from being damaged.

I love changing my hairstyle. I require novelty. From braids to a relaxer to an afro, I have worn almost every style there is. I have also tried out hair color, including an unfortunate experiment with bleached bangs. But that is for another post. Switching up my hair is a part of who I am—and it was time for a change. 

I wanted to save some money. Like so many of us, I lost my job, and finances are simply not what they once were. After 6 months of unemployment, the disposable income was not quite as disposable as before. Braiding my own hair would be a great way to save money.

Here’s what I learned from braiding my own hair:

Study it: The university of YouTube is your friend.

As an absolute beginner, I watched as many YouTube videos as I could before getting started. I watched influencers and braiders demonstrate different attachment methods and parting tips. This helped prepare me for doing my own. If you can, practice a little beforehand. Try sectioning your hair, parting it, and attaching a braid or two. This will make things go more quickly on braiding day.

Order your hair well in advance

A lot of beauty supply stores are still closed, or working reduced hours, so you can’t rely on a last-minute emergency run to to store. (I’ve been that girl skulking in the beauty store in sunglasses and a cap buying 2 more packs of 1B, and hoping my hat doesn’t fall off.)  Amazon and other online retailers have also had their delivery times adversely impacted by Covid. Order your hair 3 to 4 weeks in advance of when you will need it to give it enough time to get to you.

Buy enough hair

Depending on the kind of braids you decide to do, the amount of braiding hair you need will vary. To be on the safe side, get 6 to 10 packs of hair. You don’t want to be half-done and run out of hair. I ordered a Braid Box from Latched and Hooked, which included 10 packs of hair. It arrived in good time—I think it took a week to 10 days—and the remaining hair is neatly packaged and stored in the box it arrived in. Sidenote: The L&H hair is a LOT softer than the braiding hair that I have used in the past. It feels luxurious. The softness made the process easy on my hands and fingers, given that I was doing this for the first time. #honestopinion #notsponsored

Gather all your other supplies

Especially since I had committed to see this project through, and I had no intention of leaving home before it was done, I made sure I had everything I needed. So make sure you have your rat-tail comb, wide-tooth comb, hand mirror, standing mirror, rubber bands (if you’re using those in your style), leave-in conditioner, and edge control. And snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.

When you’re ready to install your own box braids, remember to:

Prep Your Hair

Now…I have to admit I fell down on this a little. When I used to get my braids done back in the day, it was enough to have freshly washed and conditioned hair. Nowadays it is recommended that you blow out your hair as well, especially if like me you have a tighter texture. I did not blow mine out, and I regretted it. Blow drying your hair makes it easier to part, and also helps the ends blend more easily with the braiding hair. My parts were…well…they looked a little like if a toddler had been let loose with a comb and edge control. Lol. Not good. Properly prepping your hair also saves your scalp. No more pulling and yanking to comb through the ends, and making your scalp sore in the process. Beauty does not have to be painful.

Give yourself time. LOTS of time.

Box braids are known to be time-consuming hair style. I remember the days of leaving home at what felt like dawn, to ensure that I would be first in line and get my style started early. Loading up with snacks, books, water, and all my supplies for a full day–and probably night–in my braider’s chair. So you get the idea: Set aside several uninterrupted hours, and cue up a few shows on Netflix or Apple+. I did my braid install at a leisurely pace over the course of 2 days. I started at 7:00p.m. on one night and finished by 6:00p.m. the following night. But I took breaks and had a nice sleep in between.

Hold the hair taut

This is partly why it can seem like your braider is trying to divest you of your follicles. In order to get a neat, straight, even braid, the hair must be held as taut as possible. If you hold the hair too loosely, the braid will end up uneven and twisted. Ask me how I know. That said, however, you don’t need to pull your hair so tight that it feels like it’s in danger of leaving your scalp. That defeats the entire purpose of braids being a protective style. Be gentle. 

Be kind to your hairline

Speaking of being gentle: Don’t snatch your own edges. It’s ok if your grip game is not on 100. Gathering every strand will give you that “post-braid facelift,” but it will also set you up for traction alopecia. So it’s ok to leave a few flyaways out and slick them down with edge control afterwards. Or just leave them as-is and let your texture do what it does. Unlaid edges are also ok. Might be time to #DecolonizeOurHairlines. Just sayin’…

So that, folks, is my hair braiding chronicle! I feel quite accomplished, and it’s good to know that if I ever have to or want to again–like, say, before a vacation–I can braid my own hair. That said, I will absolutely go back to a braider when I need that professional level slay. 

Have you ever braided your own hair? Would you? Let me know in the comments.

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Text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix


  1. Kathleen Hurley says:

    You did a great job! They look fantastic!

  2. Katherine Jones says:

    Awesome! A skill I want to acquire soon

    1. Thank you!! It’s not easy, but it’s definitely doable.

  3. Elizabeth L St. Hill says:

    I think they look GREAT!! I am in awe that you tried… WOW!! The writing is also very engaging and the explanations interesting. They make it sound ‘doable’. ‘Hats off’ to you!! (Pun intended)

    1. Awww, thanks, Elizabeth!! Appreciate you reading. Glad you like the writing!

  4. Devi says:

    I love this post! I have been studying!! Aka youtube too!

    1. Thanks, Devi!! The University of YouTube is the BEST!! Can’t wait to see when you do yours.

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