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What Are Knotless Braids?

The protective style you can sport on natural hair or with extensions.
26 Oct 2022

What’s the difference between knotless braids and box braids?
Do knotless braids damage your hair?
How to do knotless braids
How long do knotless braids last?
How do you care for knotless braids?

There are so many new and innovative spins on protective styles in the world of natural hair, including braids for hair. Each serves as an example of the ingenuity of Black culture, further pushing the bounds of creativity and giving those talented enough another skill to learn. One of those most recently popular protective styles is knotless braids also known as knotless box braids. A sleek and versatile style that’s practically taking the place of traditional box braids. But it’s not just the aesthetic appeal that makes the style so sought-after. It’s also the fact that they’re actually gentler on the hair and the scalp.

So if your social media feeds are flooded with cute knotless braid inspiration, and you’re considering making it your next style, check out everything you need to know before taking the plunge into knotless braids.

What’s the difference between knotless braids and box braids?

It’s important to note that knotless braids are simply another variation of box braids. That’s why the look is similar. However, as the name implies, a knotless braids style is, well, knotless. The style does not have that pronounced knot created at the root, a result of kanekalon hair being placed at the scalp to add the necessary length and volume to the natural hair. Instead, that one larger piece of kanekalon is divided into smaller pieces and woven into the braids further down the shaft rather than at the root, which makes for a sleeker look.

That sleeker look is what makes knotless braids more versatile than other styles. Because the braids are less bulky, they lie flatter when creating other styles such as ponytails, buns, and updos.

Do knotless braids damage your hair?

Like any protective braid style, if not properly installed and cared for, there are risks of damage to the hair. However, for knotless braids, those risks are far less. That’s due to the preparation of the braid, which begins with your own hair rather than added hair. When utilizing kanekalon for traditional braid styles, the braid is often pulled tight to ensure the natural hair and synthetic braiding hair are properly held together. Ever seen someone with box braids, and you can literally tell that it’s wreaking havoc on the scalp? Pulling too hard and ultimately ruining their edges? Well, the chances are good that probably won’t happen with knotless braids.

But that’s not all. For anyone who’s ever experienced a reaction to synthetic braiding hair, knotless braids can certainly provide a bit of relief. Because the kanekalon doesn’t have direct contact with the scalp, there’s little to no risk of irritation, itching, or redness often caused due to the materials having close contact with the root of the hair.

How to do knotless braids

The good news is, there are so many options when it comes to knotless box braids. There are small knotless braids, medium knotless braids and jumbo knotless braids. And the length of the braids is totally up to you. Here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to do knotless box braids.

Step 1 for Knotless Box Braids: Cleanse the hair

Before installing any braided style, it’s important to start with clean hair. To get rid of product buildup, dirt and debris on the hair without stripping it dry of natural oils, try a sulfate-free cleanser like the Coco Creme Sulfate-Free Shampoo.

Step 2 for Knotless Box Braids: Prep the hair

Once the hair is properly cleansed and conditioned, detangle the hair to get rid of knots and tangles and allow it to air dry or blow-dry it until it is completely dry. Blowing the hair dry will make for an easier installation and keep the hair from tangling around itself during the braiding process.

Step 3 for Knotless Box Braids: Section the hair

The key to neat knotless braids starts with creating flawless parts. To do this, it’s best to section the hair into four or six sections. At this point, you should decide what size knotless braid you will be creating. Be sure to keep the sections consistent throughout. It’s best to use a rat tail comb for all parting. With the rat tail comb, create a square section (as small or large as you want) and then section all other hair away.

Step 4 for Knotless Box Braids: Smooth edges

To keep your braids neater for longer, you want to add pomade or gel at the roots of each parted section. Our go-to is the Black Vanilla Edge Control Smoother. It keeps hair smooth and shiny without causing flakes or dryness. Repeat this step for each section.

Step 5 for Knotless Box Braids: Create the braids

Once the product is applied, it’s time to start braiding. Start a three-strand braid, just as you normally would. If you plan to create the knotless braids with your natural hair, continue braiding until the end of the strand and secure with a clear elastic. If you are adding hair, braid your natural hair one to three times at the root and then begin feeding in the added hair. It’s best to feed the hair in with small sections to avoid awkward bulges or knots throughout the braid.

Step 6 for Knotless Box Braids: Apply product as needed

If you find that your hair is feeling dry and needs more product, continue to add the Edge Control Smoother throughout. You can even add a small amount to the end of each braid to keep the hair in place.

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How long do knotless braids last?

Knotless braids for natural hair can last up to three months, but how long your knotless braids will last depends on a few things: your hair texture and hair porosity, how you take care of them, and how large the braids are.

For coarser textures with tighter curls, knotless braids have the potential to last longer, potentially staying intact for two to three months. For silkier and finer textures with looser curl patterns, however, they may not last as long. (Bonus: You can check your curl type here.) The risks of the hair separating from the synthetic braiding hair is higher, and in some cases, the look may only hold up for about four to six weeks.

Size also matters here. Large knotless braids will inevitably last a shorter time than small knotless braids. As for medium knotless braids, the longevity will more than likely find itself somewhere in the middle. So if you’re looking for something to last you a while, the smaller, the better. If you’re looking for a look for a special event or vacation look, search for some larger inspo.

How do you care for knotless braids?

While protective styles are meant to make your life easier in the hair department, it doesn’t mean that you can completely neglect haircare altogether. So yes, cleaning of the braids is still required.

Scalp care is of the utmost importance. That’s why in the midst of ensuring that your braids remain dry, you incorporate clarifying and hydrating products to keep your roots healthy. The occasional spritz of dry shampoo is fine. However, don’t overdo it as you can both further dry out the scalp and increase buildup at the root. Whenever you’re experiencing itching or dryness, hair treatments or a hair serum such as the Monoi Oil Sacred Strengthening Serum are perfect for relieving irritation.

Protective styles don’t mean you can completely skip wash day. You should continue to wash your hair at least once a week to maintain proper scalp and hair health. Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo is perfect for cleansing your hair with knotless braids. The tapered nozzle allows you to apply the product directly to your scalp, as not to disturb your style too much. Focus lathering at the scalp and allow the remaining lather to gently coat the length of your hair. After rinsing out the shampoo, apply a conditioner to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair to keep your ends hydrated.

Maintaining a wash schedule is important, but ensuring your hair is completely dry after you lather, rinse, repeat is equally as important. When wearing protective styles, damp hair runs the risk of becoming moldy—yuck. So take the time to sit under a hooded dryer or use a blow dryer to ensure your braids are completely dry. And since we’re talking knotless braids for curly hair here, be ready for some frizz. However, it shouldn’t be anything a little styling gel and edge control can’t quickly fix.

At night, to keep your braids out of your face and keep your edges intact, wrap a scarf around your hairline and place the length of your hair into a jumbo bonnet — or try a loose pineapple to keep braids out of the way.

So there you have it. Not only are knotless braids a more modern spin on a long-beloved look, but you’ll also drastically cut the risk of scalp and hair damage. That’s what we call, a win, win.

Can’t get enough braids? Check out these Dutch Braids and 25 Stunning Braided Hairstyles For Natural Hair. And if you’re looking for a braid alternative, try the twist out.

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