Michelle has been braiding hair for years and loves to share her experiences with others.
Your Braid, Your Style
Cornrows and braiding is a classic way to care for hair that is frequently course and very curly. Often used in African cultures, cornrows have become a widespread hair care technique for countless men and women. Many decide to have their hair braided for various reasons. Some include protecting the hair from environmental damage, to lengthen hair, or to have a versatile style. Whatever the reason for braids, the styles are truly endless when using a universal technique and adding a little imagination.
How to Cornrow Hair
I will be describing an advanced technique that is needed when adding extensions, which is similar, but somewhat different to a basic braiding technique in the video above. Before we begin, we must decide what type of hair extensions we will be using.
Types of Hair Extensions
A foundational step to adding extension includes what type of hair to use. There are many out there and though they have similarities they have some distinct differences. Some things to consider when deciding on the hair to use include overall finished look, price and feel of the braids. I will list the hair in order of price from inexpensive to expensive and discuss some differences. The amount of hair you will need depends on the density of your hair and the amount of hair in the package. A ballpark figure is anywhere from 2-10 packages of hair – if uncertain ask the hair care professional at the store you are buying the hair from.
Synthetic is the most popular amongst cornrow braids. Also it is the cheapest. But there are a couple of types to choose from. Some people are allergic or sensitive to the fibers in synthetic hair so if you have not used it before and tend to have skin sensitivities be careful. Depending on the size of bags you will probably need 4-6 bags of hair.Human hair is obviously more expensive and honestly unless you are allergic to synthetic hair or intend on some other fancy style this type of hair is unnecessary. But for whatever reason you may decide here are some choices.
Human hair is obviously more expensive and honestly unless you are allergic to synthetic hair or intend on some other fancy style this type of hair is unnecessary. But for whatever reason you may decide here are some choices.
Synthetic Hair Types
- Kanekalon is usually the cheapest and most used hair and will easily suit this type of style. The color choices are not the best so if you have a unique color of hair you may have to search for it or buy online.
- Toyokalon is another type of synthetic hair, not as cheap and may feel better on the scalp as I have found reduced itching with this type of hair.
- Polyprophelene is also great for braids and found in bulk. May not be as cheap as the others above.
- Monofibre is a heat resistant type of hair. Only use this if you want to curl the ends of the hair with a heated appliance. It is more expensive and if you are looking for basic braids there is no need to spend the extra money.
Synthetic Kanekalon Hair
Human Hair Types
- Fallen hair is the least expensive hair but may tangle a lot since the cuticles are still attached. This may not be an issue since the hair will be braided but it may complicate the attachment process for the installer.
- Virgin hair is a little more expensive since the hair has no previous chemical processing and thereby it may tangle less.
- Remi is the costliest and best hair. However, with braids again this hair may be unnecessary. But if you are deciding to use human hair this is the best.
How to Braid Cornrows With Extensions
Using the concept of the basic braiding technique I will describe a more in depth technique that is easier to use with smaller hair sections and certainly easier with extensions. Below I will describe the technique and then I will show you how to add hair. Without adding hair:
- Part hair into section that is to be braided.
- At the beginning of the section (usually toward the face) take 3 small pieces of hair. The position of your hands will look like crab pinchers. You will only be using your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers.
- Begin underhand braiding by moving the outer pieces of hair from your right hand to the middle in an underhand motion and repeat with the left hand—do not pick up hair in the first pass.
- When beginning the second pass—exchange the outer right strand to the middle and grab the strand with the left pointer finger as you pull the hair to the middle pick up a small piece of hair and carry it with that strand. Repeat with left hand. To the right is a demonstration video.
Adding the Extensions:
The braiding technique is the same and once you have attached the hair you will braid as normal. So I will describe how to attach the hair, assuming that you have sections of human hair no larger than one inch. If you have sections larger than one inch then you will have to adjust the amount of hair extensions to compensate for the increase.
I usually set up my hair on either on the back of a chair or a rack where I can keep the hair separated. Place the hair so that it is lying on the back of the chair with the middle of the strand on the chair. This way it is easier to pick it up right in the middle of the strand.
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- Separate the extension hair in one-inch sections smaller or larger depending on the desired size of braids and position it on your chair.
- Part the natural hair in the section to be braided.
- Begin as you did above with three sections of hair and braid your first pass–this is where it becomes different.
- Grab extension hair in the middle of the strand, split it in two, holding one piece of the extension with your right hand pinchers place the hair right behind the three strands as if you are wanting to wrap it around, grab the other side of the strand with the left pinky just to keep it secure. Now exchange the natural hair and extension to the middle while grabbing some hair from the middle of the section (second pass.)
- Grab the other piece of the divided hair and do the same thing from the left holding the extension secure with the right pinky. Now the hair should be attached
- Since no hair was added to the center section of the natural hair during your next pass slip in a little of extension hair from both of the sections that were added making sure that there is equal extension hair on all three strands.
- Braid all the way down and go on to the next one
Synthetic Toyokalon Hair
Finishing the Ends of the Extensions
After all the braiding in complete there are several ways to finish the ends of the braids. If you have ever had your hair braided initially the ends look like a mess until that final step. Below I will describe how to finish the hair depending on the choice of hair.
Finishing the Ends With Synthetic Hair
Synthetic hair is commonly either burned or dipped in hot water. I recommend dipping. Also the hair benefits from dipping the entire braid in the hot water so that they become more pliable and reduce itching by rinsing off any chemicals on the hair. This step requires great CAUTION as it contains hot water and steam. Boil a large pot of water and remove from stove. Wrap the person with a thick towel and grab a towel to dab the braids. Take a few braids at a time. Dip them in the water as far as possible without burning the person. Have your towel ready; let the hair sit in the water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the braids grabbing them immediately with your towel to keep any steam away from the scalp. If you want a crinkled look then bunch up the hair and hold it until they cool. If not then just keep the hair wrapped flat in the towel until they cool enough to not burn the person on their back, neck or scalp. Be careful of the steam that may rise as that can also burn. Cute tricks can be added to put more style in the ends like wrapping a perm rod around the ends then dipping them so that when the hair dries you have curled look – be creative.
Finishing the Ends With Human Hair
With human hair make sure the hair is braided as far as you would like then take a small piece of the hair and wrap it around the rest of the hair on that braid, loop it through itself and then loop it through again to make a knot. Once you have made a knot the end of the hair may stick out and you may choose to trim that off, just make sure it is secure before trimming. Once all the knots have been made pull all the hair to the back and make sure that it is even, if not you may want to trim just stringy pieces. Try not to cut in a straight line so that it looks more natural.
How to Care For Your Braids
Braids are also a carefree type hairdo but also needs some essential maintenance. Don’t think that once your hair is braided you are good for a month or so. Not true. Maintaining the health of the hair and scalp are necessary and can actually promote hair growth. So keeping the scalp moisturized and clean is part of that.
Braids are fun to do and wear. The styles are endless and when done properly can actually preserve the health of the natural hair. Happy Braiding!!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Michelle Scoggins (author) from Fresno, CA on January 13, 2015:
Thank you Shadin for the comment. Yes time does fly as my girls no longer allow me to touch their hair.
Shadin on January 13, 2015:
What a beautiful monmet with your daughter. I also have a twelve your old daughter. And after having married off my oldest daughter just a few weeks ago, I realize all to well how fast time flies. Treasure every monmet! Have a beautiful week my friend.
Michelle Scoggins (author) from Fresno, CA on January 12, 2015:
Thank you Maisyn for the comment.
Maisyn on January 11, 2015:
Slam dunkin like Shaquille O'Neal, if he wrote inmfaortive articles.
Michelle Scoggins (author) from Fresno, CA on July 24, 2014:
Thanks Billybuc :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 24, 2014:
I'm just tossing some support your way...I really don't see myself with cornrows. LOL
Michelle Scoggins (author) from Fresno, CA on July 13, 2014:
Thank you cecileportilla for the comment :)
Cecile Portilla from West Orange, New Jersey on July 13, 2014:
Great tips on hair braiding. Thanks for specifying those precautions. There are so many who actually lose their hair by braids that are improperly done. Voted useful!