Box braids have been around for ages, and their popularity is continually on the rise. But, with the emergence of knotless box braids, many find it difficult to decide between the two.
Should you go knotless or not? By the end of this article, you’ll know essential details about traditional box braids and knotless braids, as well as the pros and cons of each.
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Which Is Better Box Braids or Knotless Braids?
Traditional box braids are sections of natural hair braided in with extension hair. They are usually long but can be cut to any length and into any shape. There is a visible knot at the base of each braid, and the larger the braid is, the larger the knot will be.
The bulky braid knot comes from the extension hair that’s added at the roots. Most people don’t mind the knots, but they do give away the fact that the braids are not natural.
Knotless braids are like box braids in that they are sections of natural hair braided in with extension hair. However, the main difference is that knotless braids don’t have a visible knot at the base.
Instead of adding all of the extension hair at once, tiny amounts of extension hair are slowly added after braiding your natural hair about ½ to 1 inch. This way, there’s no knot at the root. The result is a flatter, more natural-looking braid.
Pros and Cons of Box Braids
Box braids have several pros and cons that you should be aware of, and we’ll jump into them in the section below. Knowing these pros and cons will enable you to decide whether box braids are the right style for you:
- They are long-lasting. Box braids last anywhere from one to two months with proper maintenance. Though, the longevity of your braids will depend on how well you take care of them. Covering them up at night and keeping your hands out of your head will help them last longer.
- Your hair is protected. Almost all of your real hair is encased within the extension hair. This protection (often called protective hairstyles) can translate to increased length retention since you won’t be heat-styling or manipulating your natural hair in any way. The less manipulation your hair is put through, the less breakage you’ll experience.
- Easy to find a stylist to install them. Box braids have been around for so long that it’s not hard to find someone who can install them for you.
- They are DIY-friendly. Though you can save some time and effort and get someone else to do your box braids for you, it’s not necessary. You can watch a few YouTube videos and quickly learn how to do them yourself.
- They can be painful and lead to a sensitive scalp. To get the extension hair installed and secure at the roots, it’s necessary to hold the natural hair taut. It’s for this reason that box braids are often associated with scalp sensitivity and pain. Some people end up in so much pain that they have to take Tylenol or Ibuprofen for a couple of days after installation.
- You could experience breakage around your edges. Neatness and traditional box braids go hand in hand, which drives many to braid them too tightly. And whenever your own hair is pulled too tightly, there’s a chance your hair could get pulled out. Signs of impending breakage include redness and bumps on your scalp.
- Knots. The knots at the base of each section may be an eyesore for people who aren’t into that type of aesthetic.
Pros and Cons of Knotless Braids
Knotless braids may be the better choice for you. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of this style.
- They give you natural results. Since knotless box braids involve braiding your natural hair first, there’s no knot at the root. So, you can expect your knotless box braids to look like your own hair unlike box braids. Who doesn’t want their hair to look more natural?
- They are pain-free. The extension hair is not added close to your roots, so there’s very little (if any) scalp tension associated with knotless box braids. That means you won’t need pain relievers after you get your braids done. You can also pull your braids up into a ponytail right away if you’d like.
- They usually weigh less. Since the extension hair is added in small increments down the length of the braid, instead of all at the root, it won’t feel as heavy as other braided protective styles. This lowers your chances of developing neck pain or traction alopecia post-installation.
- They don’t last very long. On average, you can expect your knotless box braids to last up to 6 weeks, which is two weeks less than traditional box braids. They don’t last as long because there’s not much extension hair at the roots of the braids, so that hair frizzes quickly. The exact amount of time your knotless box braids will last depends on your hair texture, the amount of tension used while braiding, whether you cover your hair up at night with a silk scarf, and more.
- They can be expensive. Since knotless box braids involve adding hair down the length of the braid, they take more time than traditional box braids. And this time is usually factored into the price you’ll pay for installation. Plan to spend anywhere from $200 to more than $600 for your braids. The cost will vary based on how long you want your braids, how large your head is, stylist demand, and your desired braid size. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of the extension hair.
- Not easy to DIY. You can DIY most protective styles, but this one is a bit harder to master. Having to add multiple pieces of long extension hair to your braids can be extremely frustrating if you’re not a braider. This is not to say that you won’t get the technique down with practice, but it will likely take a ton of practice and effort.
- Finding someone to do your knotless box braids may take some effort. Since knotless braids are relatively new, there aren’t a ton of stylists that do them. You’ll have a much easier time finding someone to do traditional box braids. This is not to say that you won’t find someone, but it could be challenging to do so.
These pros and cons should make it a bit easier to decide whether you should go traditional or knotless.
Should You Get Knotless Braids or Traditional Box Braids?
If you’re still on the fence and don’t know which variation of box braids to choose, here’s a lifeline to help you decide. Check out the tips below:
- Choose knotless braids if you have experienced breakage or pain with traditional box braids.
- Pick traditional box braids if style longevity is your number one priority. They last a few weeks longer than knotless box braids in most cases.
- Try knotless braids if, above all else, you want your braids to look like they were done with your natural hair.
- Consider traditional box braids if you are new to doing your own hair and want a style that’s easy to DIY.
Note: If your hair is prone to breakage or has broken off recently, you should nurse your hair back to health and avoid all extension braid styles. That means avoiding both knotless braids and box braids.
- What Is Protective Styling for Natural Hair?
- How Do You Start Box Braids
- How to Style Goddess Braids
- How To Do Box Braids With Yarn
Choosing between traditional and knotless box braids can be a daunting task. But we hope that this article has made it easier for you to understand the difference between knotless braids vs. box braids to decide what’s best for your needs. Good luck!