Attaining the long hair we’ve always dreamed of is a marathon, not a sprint. Yet, many of us have turned to quick-fix options such as trying new products and popping hair gummy supplements. While the jury is still out on whether or not these methods actually work, there is one way to encourage fast hair growth, and it’s something many of us haven't considered. The best part is that it requires little maintenance, is a stylish look, and oh yeah, did we mention that it’s totally free?
We’re talking about braids, also referred to as a plait. This traditional and iconic hairstyle is a mainstay in the natural hair community, originating from Africa and dating back to 3500 B.C. All in all, braids are a great protective hairstyle that will facilitate hair growth by reducing damage to the hair. Here’s the best braids you can try plus some hair care tips to ensure maximum growth.
The best braids for hair growth
To ensure hair growth, faux braids just won't do. You’ll have to actually create the braids or plaits—and there are a lot of them. If you’re unsure how to create these looks, be sure to look up tutorials.
- Box braids: These iconic and traditional African braids first rose to popularity in the '90s with celebrities such as Janet Jackson, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Brandi rocking them like it was nobody’s business. Now, in 2019, this style is still popular and works as a way to manage natural curly hair and facilitate hair growth. According to Terryn Kelly, a licensed cosmetologist, “Box braids are individual plaits that are usually divided by small squared off parts or boxes.”
They are essentially giving your hair a break from both chemical and heat damage, thus reducing breakage.
- Two-strand twists: This style is one of the most popular protective styles that both men and women use to protect their hair from damage. According to Natural Hair Queen, "A two-strand twist is a hairstyle created by taking a section of hair, splitting it in two, and then wrapping each section around the other, until the entire section is rope-like in appearance."
It varies in size with both mini and chunky twists being popular hairstyle options.
How to care for hair before and while wearing braids
We wish it was as easy as just "braid your hair and go," but you'll have to actually put in some work for pre- and post-treatment care.
- Before braiding: "Make sure your hair is clean, deep-conditioned, and moisturized prior to install, to make sure your hair can actually go the distance without damage," says YouTuber Whitney White. Additionally, make sure that your braids aren't too tight since this can lead to breakage (think of what happens when you wear a very tight ponytail).
- After braiding: Continue to give your hair moisture by spritzing it with water one to two times a day. You may also want to keep washing, deep conditioning, and moisturizing it just like you would without braids. You can do this every seven to 10 days, according to NenoNatural. Also, consider taking your braids out every six to eight weeks (no more than two months) and sleep with a silk or satin scarf on your head or invest in those types of pillowcases.
Don't get in a twist over your hair growing slowly. Instead, actually twist it into a braid for fast, healthy, and natural hair growth.
- Cosmopolitan: Do Hair Growth Supplements Really Work? I Got an Official Answer
- Ebony: The History of Box Braids
- Bellatory: Are Box Braids Good for Hair Growth?
- SELF: 10 Things Natural Hair Bloggers Want You to Know About Protective Styling
- NenoNatural.com: Hair Growth Tip 16 - Braids That Increase Natural Hair Growth
Sarah is a multi-platform writer and editor. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Vital Proteins, Healthline, Diply, and more. When she's not writing, she's trying to keep up with her border collie, Emmy.