How to: From 3 Strand Braids to Cornrows (No Extensions)

Are you tired of only being able to put your hair into a select few styles, not knowing how to style or treat your naturally kinky and curly hair, or simply have no idea when it comes to braiding? Well, you are not alone! It might even surprise you to hear that some of us aren’t born with a comb or brush in our hands ready to whip up some hair show worthy masterpiece. I wanted to carve out some time to share with you how to do box braids and cornrows for absolute beginners. We all had to start somewhere so why not here.

Preparation is Everything 

When styling your hair, whether you are braiding, twisting, or whatever style that will lead you out the door the quickest, you will need to have the proper preparation. You will need:

  1. Comb, or fingers for those who prefer not to use a comb for detangling
  2. Detangler of some sort if you need some reinforcements
  3. Hair jam or gel for sleeker look, this is optional
  4. Rubber bands or hair tie if your hair will unravel after braiding

Before starting any braids, it is best to have washed and conditioned hair. In addition make sure to get all of the tangles out before braiding. You do not want to create knots in your hair, it would be a hassle in a half to get out.

Step by Step, Day by Day

If you were born in the 80s like me, you may recognize where my inspiration for this segment came from, but moving on… let’s get ready for process of how to do box braids. I will cover this in two ways with: written instructions, and a video tutorial. We will leave no stone unturned, no combs left behind.

Spelling it out in Words

When it comes to braiding a box braid, part out the section of your hair that you would like to braid then:

  1. Tie, pin off, or separate the hair that you are not braiding as to not get it mixed in
  2. Take the hair that you will be braiding and split it in to three sections.

When you are holding your sections, from left to right, the left and middle sections will be secured by your thumb, index finger and middle finger, your thumb should be facing away from you, and the index and middle fingers should be facing you. The right section will then be held by the thumb, index, and middle fingers as wel. You will now take the right section and cross it over the middle where the section that was in the middle is now on the right, and the section that was on the right is in the middle next to the left section. Now, you will take the left section and cross it over the middle section, so the left is now the middle and the previous middle section is now the right.

Let’s simplify this even further, I created the below box braid formulas to make the text a little easier to digest. Write a comment to let me know if you have a more comprehensive way of showing this.

Box Braid Pattern 

L – M – R

L –  R – M

R – L – M

R – M – L

M – R – L

M – L – R

L – M – R

If I lost you, checkout origamibonsaiforum’s video. This visual demonstration will clear any questions up.

Video Tutorial and Go

Maybe all this writing isn’t doing it for you. In the next section you will be have the opportunity to see how to three strand braid in the beginning of beautycanbraid’s cornrow video. She has a great illustration and makes it super clear to follow, so if you’re looking for a fast tract way to learn how to braid, skip below to the how to French braid section for the video. I found this video to be very helpful because they are able to show you just how to achieve this braid in clear and easy to follow way.

Once you have gotten the whole process down with coordination when doing your box braids, you should be able to move onto cornrows.  Often times you hear the term French braid, cornrows, or Dutch braids when referring to this style; so before I get into how to achieve the cornrow, I first need to spell out what the differences are if any.

French Braids

This braid style consists of starting at your crown with three sections. With this braid pattern your outer sections will cross over the middle as you braid along.

Cornrows 

French braids are identical to the cornrow style, they use the same technique but have different names depending on where you are and who you are speaking to.

Dutch Braid

Don’t let this name trick you up. The Dutch braid is similar to the French braid the only difference is that the Dutch braid goes under the middle section when braiding.

Time for French Braids

Now that we have the definitions down, let’s get into how to knock these braids out like a pro.

When doing a cornrow, you will need to apply the skills learned from the box braid tutorials. To start of your braid you will have three sections, rather than continuing the braiding pattern with the same three pieces of hair, you will add hair in as you go. Below I have included a video from beautycanbraid, who simplifies the process and explains just how to get that perfect french braid. Ok, so it may not be perfect when you’re first starting off, but soon you’ll be on your way.

There is more that You’ll Need to Know

Ok…. I SEE YOU… so you might have these box braids and cornrows down now or may have it after a few tries, but now that you have them under your belt, there are a bazillion style you can try out. Your hairstyling portfolio has now gone from modest to I’m feelin’ myself. You will now be able to rock out at least 10 box braid and cornrow hairstyles with the skills you have learned. Keep growing and developing your skills because when you learn, you save, and when you save, those pockets are happy! 

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