Although box braids are beloved for their versatility and look, the downside is the ills that come with a fresh install — like tight braids that make it difficult to sleep and do everyday things (like raising your eyebrows). Many of us have come to accept this adjustment period as standard fare, but we’ve all seen the photos of too-tight braids and heard the horror stories about loss of edges and traction alopecia. In an attempt to avoid this, many have turned to larger braids, in the hopes that there would be less points of tension on the scalp. But does that solve the problem at hand? When it comes to box braids, does size, in fact, matter?
According to natural hairstylist Kamilah (known on the ‘gram as @mshairandhumor), size does not matter, but proper install does. “If someone does tight small braids, chances are they will do tight large ones,” she says, emphasizing that the stylist’s technique is paramount. Not only does tightness affect proper install, but knowing when and where to add pressure does, too. The amount of hair in the braid can impact tension as well, says Kamilah, noting that there is often more added hair than the natural hair, weighing it down as it grows out. This is unhealthy for the hair of the scalp and will create tension regardless of size.
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For the least amount of tension, Kamilah recommends opting for knotless braids, a different box braid technique that lessens the amount of tension on the hair considerably (there’s no post-install pain). It’s also important to find the right stylist, she adds, stressing that it’s who does the style that matters most.