Before I returned to my natural hair I thought it was strange that so many girls would choose to go natural and then cover their hair with wigs, weaves, braids and the like. It seemed so pointless—why chop off all your hair when you were just going to cover it up anyway? Then I went natural, and it all made sense.
Protective styles are extremely helpful for naturalistas. They give you and your hair a break from styling, they hide your ends, allowing you to retain more length, and they give you versatility without harming your natural hair. To top it all off, they’re just plain fun!
About a month after I big chopped (following ten months of transitioning), I decided to try out crochet braids, which I had stumbled upon on Pinterest a few months before. After watching YouTube tutorials and reading countless blogs I decided to try it for myself and I LOVED it. Crochet braids are a simple style that involves tying synthetic hair around your cornrowed hair.
I purchased three packs of FreeTress Bohemian curl. Two packs were in the color 2, which is a really natural brown and the third color black with really light brown highlights. The retailer I used didn’t have 3 #2 packs so I chose this because it was black with a pop of color.
I paid my friend to cornrow my hair since I can’t cornrow my own for anything and she did a lovely job. I will advise that you stretch or blowout your hair and completely detangle to make the cornrowing much easier. Also moisturize and condition it beforehand so you’re not at risk for drying out your hair.
I installed the hair using a wide bobby pin. Sometimes it helps to bend the bobby pin just a bit so it’s easier to grab. I spritzed the hair with a bit of Just For Me detangler, which smells amazing and helped loosen the hair so it didn’t have such a packaged feel, and ran my hands over it several times. I was able to use the pre-sectioned strands, but in some cases I split them in two if it felt too thick. If you do separate your hair, make sure you spritz it first, and try trimming off the bottom edges of the hair—it makes it SO much easier to separate without tangling!
At this point, I slid the bobby pin under my braids, took the hair section (folded in half) and slid it through the bobby pin about 2 inches, then used the bobby pin to slide it back under my braid. Then, I just tied a little knot and kept going! You’ll get into a flow pretty quickly, and find the best way for you, some people twist then knot, some knot multiple times, it’s up to you. You may even have to do one a couple times over when you first start, but you’ll have it down in no time. The back was hardest, but I went by feel and just installed until it was full. There’s no set spacing for adding the hair, I just move over about a finger-width and see how the hair falls to determine if I need more or less.
This took me about 3.5 hours for my first time and breaking every so often to get on Instagram LOL. I was genuinely pleased with the results and loved it! I rocked this style for about 4 weeks and it was still in great shape when I took them out (I was ready to see my own hair and didn’t want to push it since my hair’s not used to being braided).
I left the hair at its full length initially (22″) to see what it was like, knowing I would cut it later. It felt like a huge bird’s nest on my shoulder in the top left picture, so I cut it to about shoulder length (picture on the right) where it stayed the rest of the time.
To keep it up, I spritzed it with detangler and/or diluted leave-in conditioner. Occasionally I would run a leave-in through it to give it some luster every few days and make it smell good. When I slept, I put it in a high bun and used my silk scarf. To keep my scalp clean, I used cotton balls to apply hydrogen peroxide and spritzed a little oil on it to keep it from drying out.
Crochet braids are an easy style to do yourself and the learning curve isn’t steep at all. I’ve installed them on cornrows and flat twists and love the way it looks every time. I would recommend FreeTress for their wide range of textures and colors, which make it easy to install hair that’s literally fluff, spritz and go. If you’d like to style your hair like natural hair (as an afro or with perm rods, etc) I would recommend Marley hair. Happy crocheting!