Box Braids vs. Cornrows: Which Is Better? What’s the Difference?

Lady with box braids and synthetic hair compared to a lady with regular cornrows - both with a protective style.

If you’re looking for new braided styles to try, it won’t be long before you come across box braids and cornrows. These curly hair staples have been some of the most popular go-to protective styles for millions of women.

If you’re stuck trying to decide which hairstyle is right for you, we’ve got you covered! This article will break down the differences between box braids and cornrows and walk you through how to choose between the two hairstyles.

Box Braids vs. Cornrows: The Differences

Box braids and cornrows are two of the most popular hairstyles for women with kinky and curly strands. Although they are both braided styles, the similarities end there. We’ll take a look at the differences between the two below.

Cornrows Are Attached to the Scalp

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While box braids are braided straight down and hang freely, cornrows are braided horizontally across the scalp in neat rows. And cornrows are a surprisingly customizable style!

While cornrows are traditionally braided from front to back, you can get them braided in all different patterns, sizes, and directions. You can also get hair added or just stick with your natural hair.

Box Braids Are Usually Installed With Extensions

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Although you can get either style with or without extensions, box braids are almost always created with added hair. On the other hand, cornrows are equally worn with or without braiding hair. 

Cornrows Are Less Versatile

Because cornrows don’t move, your styling options are much more limited than they are with box braids. Conversely, you can style box braids like you do your regular hair.

You can wear them loose or throw them into any number of styles, including buns, ponytails, and updos. 

A black female wearing one of our favorite combo braid styles with human extension hair to make the hairdo longer.

Box Braids Take Longer to Install and Remove

When you get box braids, your hair is parted to create a grid pattern. This process is incredibly time intensive. So, while cornrows take an average of one to three hours to finish, box braids can take up to eight hours.

This hairstyle is so time-consuming that many women break up one hairstyle into two or three separate braiding sessions. 

Box Braids Are More Expensive

Another big difference between box braids and cornrows is the price it takes to get them. While cornrows typically cost between $40 to $200, box braids are significantly more expensive.

On average, box braids cost between $80 to $400. Though the actual price will vary, depending on the stylist and specific style, box braids almost always cost more. 

Learn More About Box Braids:

A mixed-race female preparing to work wearing unique micro braids where the individual braids resemble box braids.

Which Lasts Longer: Box Braids or Cornrows?

One reason why people get braided hairstyles is that they have great staying power. They give you a break from daily styling and eliminate the need for manipulation. So naturally, most people want to know how long their braided hairdo will last.

You can wear both box braids and cornrows for weeks before you have to remove them. Cornrows usually last for two to four weeks with regular care. 

If you’re extra careful with your hair, cornrows can last up to 8 weeks.

Similarly, box braids last about eight weeks, although you can get an extra two or three weeks out of them if you redo the braids around your hairline when they start to get fuzzy.

So, if you’re looking for the hairstyle that will last you the longest, choose box braids.

Remember, how you maintain your hairstyle is the deciding factor in how long it lasts. So regardless of which braided style you choose, ensure you’re handling your strands gently and giving them plenty of TLC. 

A light-skin female that normally wears braids of different types, like the popular dutch braid, is wearing box style.

Should You Get Box Braids or Cornrows?

It’s so hard to choose between box braids and cornrows, but it’s not impossible. While both styles can be absolutely gorgeous, there are a few factors you need to consider.

Cornrows are much better for anyone looking for a lower maintenance style. They’re also faster to install and take down, which is great if you’re always short on time. 

Choose box braids if you like playing around with different hairstyles and switching up your look. You’ll appreciate their flexibility and the variety of stunning hairstyles you can create.

Another thing to consider is how much you want to spend on your hair. Box braids can cost two to three times as much as cornrows, so pick the latter if you’re trying to save money. 

African American young woman with dark brown type 4 hair is wearing a long cornrow style with added hair.

Are Box Braids or Cornrows Better for Your Hair?

When it comes to protective styling, both cornrows and box braids are excellent options. They’re significantly lower maintenance than loose hair, protect your strands from the stress of daily styling, and give your hair a much-needed break.

So the good news is that you can’t really go wrong with either. However, opt for cornrows if you’re looking to give your hair a total break. 

Cornrows are anchored to your scalp, so once they’re in place, they don’t move.

Box braids, on the other hand, are similar to loose hair. As you pull and twist your hair into different styles, you can cause breakage.

Additionally, hair extensions are heavy. The excess weight can put too much tension on your strands, equating to a higher hair loss risk. 

A young woman at the beach in Florida will keep her hair braided till vacation is over and she returns to work.

Which Braids Are Best for Hair Growth?

One reason people get braids is that they’ve heard braids can make their hair grow faster. However, this is a common misconception, as braids won’t increase your hair growth.

They will, however, make it easier to retain your length.

When your hair is in braids, you aren’t combing, brushing, or styling it on a daily basis. Both cornrows and box braids can help you grow your hair out. Generally speaking, the looser a braid is, the better it’ll be for retaining length. 

A beautiful young woman preparing for bedtime is about to wrap her hair in a silk scarf to retain moisture.

Tight braids put too much tension on your strands and increase your chances of having breakage. So, if your main goal is to grow your hair out, try getting jumbo box braids and cornrows.

Make sure you’re caring for your natural strands, and try incorporating hair growth-boosting treatments and techniques into your routine. Not sure what to try?

Here are some quick tips for increasing hair growth. 

Which Braids Have Less Tension?

If you’re wondering which type of braids creates the least amount of tension, you may be surprised to find out that the answer isn’t box braids or cornrows.

Knotless braids are like a low-tension form of box braids. They look similar to regular box braids, but knotless braids are created with a different technique.

When you get box braids, your stylist will use the extensions to create a knot. Although the knot secures the braid to your natural hair and ensures it doesn’t slip out, it can be painful and put a lot of tension on your strands. 

An attractive black girl that's preparing to work out on a bright, sunny day, pulling back a freshly braided hairstyle.

Knotless braids, on the other hand, start with your natural hair. As the stylist moves down the braid, they’ll slowly incorporate the added hair. So, with knotless braids, the tension is spread out over a larger area rather than a single point of contact. 

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Box braids and cornrows are both excellent hairstyle choices, so you can’t really go wrong with either. But whether you choose to rock your hair in braids or cornrows, make sure you don’t neglect your natural hair.

Handle it gently and make sure it stays clean and moisturized. We hope that this article has answered all of your questions and helped illustrate the differences between cornrows and box braids! 

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