Trying to find the right box braid style can be a challenge. No one wants to spend time in the stylist’s chair, only to realize you don’t like the size. Box braids are a low-maintenance and classic hairstyle that’s a great option for protecting your hair, especially as we head into the winter and prepare for its moisture-zapping dry air.
But there can be some confusion about the different sizes. For instance, just how big are jumbo braids? And what’s the difference between small and micro braids?
Learn how to find the right size braids, twists, and locs for you to enjoy as a great style to show off your personality.
Box Braid Parts
When you’re trying to decide on the right size box braid, remember that the size of the parts will affect how you can style your hair and the amount of tension on your scalp. The larger the part, the less tension on your hairline, but you won’t have as much versatility with hairstyles. Conversely, thinner styles will have smaller parts, giving you more flexibility with styles like updos, but they will put more stress on your hairline and scalp.
The general rule to remember is if a part is smaller than the braid, your natural hair is carrying more hair. If you aren’t sure what size you’d like, ask your stylist to create one or two braids in the front so you can decide if you like them.
Micro Box Braids
Micro box braids, also called thin braids, are the skinny delicate braids that became popular in the 90s. They resemble hair strands because they are so small, making them adaptable for more hairstyles. Thin braids can last the longest of the box braid styles, which can be helpful if you want to space out your salon appointments. Why do they last so long? The smaller parting sections allow you to reach more of your scalp for washing and moisturizing better than some of the other braid styles.
Thin Braid Downsides
Even though you can space out salon appointments when you have thin braids, they can take hours to create. Depending on how many braiders are available, you can expect to be in the salon chair for up to 12 hours. Plus, you’ll have to pay attention to signs of traction alopecia because micro braids are a tight style that can strain and pull on the hairline. And when it is time for unbraiding, you’ll spend a few more hours back at the salon. Even though the price of micro box braids runs into the hundreds, it’s reasonable based on the amount of time needed.
Small Box Braids
Small box braids are the next size up. They’re slightly larger than micro braids, with the difference between the two being about half the width of a pencil. Since they’re a bit bigger in diameter, small braids put less tension on the hair but are still a great choice for updos like buns or high ponytails. If you’re a regular gym-goer, this could be the ideal hairstyle for you.
Even though they create less tension than micro braids, small braids can still strain your hairline. You shouldn’t feel consistent pain with any box braid style; that’s a sign that they’re too tight and need to come out before they cause damage to your scalp and hairline.
Like micro braids, small braids also take many hours to install, but the style can last for over two months.
Medium Box Braids
There’s some confusion on the width of medium box braids, but they’re usually the width of a pencil. Like micro and small braids, they look great at any length, from chin-length to your waist. If you don’t quite have the patience for the thinner styles, don’t worry—medium braids are faster to complete. You’ll still have a few parted sections to give you the ability to try out different hairstyles, but this style is a better option if you don’t want too much tension on your hairline.
Medium box braids also last for over two months, but the braiding itself takes half the time of micro or small braids.
Large Box Braids
If you want a DIY braiding option, large box braids are a great choice. They’re one of the thickest styles, with the width closest to a marker. And since they can be done at home, you have the ability to switch up your hair more often. Whether you create them at home or in a salon, large braids only take a few hours to style, as opposed to the many hours needed for thinner styles.
Conversely, since you’ll have less of your scalp exposed for moisturizing and washing, they only last between six and eight weeks.
Jumbo Box Braids
If you want an easier protective style that’s also bold, you’ll want to choose jumbo box braids. They’re twice the size of large braids and have the shortest braiding session—it averages about 45 minutes. Since they’re a larger style, they’re a great choice also for a DIY braid, giving you the ability to change your hairstyle often. Plus, they’re easier to maintain because there are fewer braids to style and take care of.
They have the same lifespan as large box braids because they limit access to your scalp.
Maintaining Box Braids
Braids, twists, and locs take time and money to create, so you want to make sure you maintain them to keep your hair healthy and extend the time between resets.
When you wear braids, you still need to keep your strands moisturized to keep them healthy. On wash days, you can massage a hot oil treatment into your scalp. During off days, you can use a braid spray or leave-in conditioner to help add shine and moisture to your hair.
At the three-week mark, you’ll need to wash your braids to remove any product build-up. Be sure to massage shampoo into the braids rather than vigorously rubbing to avoid any frizz.
Before bedtime, wrap your braids in a head covering such as an Ankara bonnet to reduce friction as you sleep. If you aren’t a fan of head coverings, you can also opt for a satin pillowcase for similar results.
Are your braids looking frizzier than you’d like after a few weeks? Contact your stylist to renew your braids rather than go through a total reset.
Box Braid Wigs
Deciding on the right size braids, twists, and locs for you is a commitment. Before spending the time and money on a box braid style, try experimenting with different box braid wigs.
The high-quality wigs at Instant Arewa Hair can be a simpler and less expensive way to help you decide which box braid hairstyle you enjoy most. They’re also an option if you need to recover from the strain that tighter styles put on your scalp.