If You've Never Heard of Knotless Braids, It's Time to Catch Up

We promise you've seen this style everywhere.

Everything You Need to Know About Knotless Braids
Photo: Unsplash/InStyle

When it comes to braiding my hair, I always ask the stylist to add extensions. For years, I've worn unique braided hairstyles that were created by knotting colorful, long braiding extensions to my natural hair. And while I love braids, there's a downside: the knots created to secure the extension can be tricky to remove. That's why my stylist recently suggested I try knotless braids, and let's just say, I won't be going back to regular box braids anytime soon. Knotless braids have become a trending braiding technique, and I'm still wondering why I didn't catch on earlier.

Anyways, by now you're probably wondering, "When to comes to knotless braids vs box braids, what's the main difference?" Well, firstly, they're knotless — okay, you probably guessed that. So, we'll let Susan Oludele, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Hair by Susy, explain further.

"Knotless braids look natural and effortless," says Oludele. "With regular box braids, you can tell extension has been used because of the knot at the beginning."

She adds that the major difference is knotless braids are created using the feed-in method, which involves adding braiding hair to the natural hair as you go along, as opposed to the regular braiding technique where the hair extension is knotted to the hair at the beginning. Aside from that, knotless braids are pretty seamless. I personally love the style because I don't have bulges of hair stemming from the scalp, instead, I have flat smooth roots.

Why Are Knotless Braids a Good Protective Style?

Fall is the time of year to start thinking about protective styles as the cold weather can be particularly harsh on natural hair. "Knotless braids are a great protective style as they help to improve hair growth by protecting the hair strands," says Oludele. "It's also very easy to moisturize your scalp and keep the hair hydrated while wearing the braids."

If your last experience of braiding your hair left you with memories of being up all night from the excruciating pain caused by the tension of the braids on your scalp, you'll be pleased to know that knotless braids have a lot less tension on the scalp, which means a lot less pain. "Installing knotless braids involves minimal pulling at the root which means less breakage and more comfort," adds Sabrina Rowe, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Ntrl by Sabs.

How Long Does It Take to Install Knotless Braids?

Although knotless braids are a painless protective style, you might find the amount of time it takes to install them a bit of a pain. According to Rowe, installing a full head of braids takes an average of five hours. However, it all depends on the stylist and both the size and length of your braids.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare Your Hair Before Installing Knotless Braids?

Deep cleaning your hair is paramount to remove any buildup before your braid service. Failure to wash your hair before braiding can cause an unbearably itchy scalp and decrease the life span of the braids. "An apple cider vinegar rinse is a wonderful treatment to get the hair and scalp ready for your appointment," says Rowe.

Both stylists agree that it's also important to blow dry your hair before braiding so it's stretched and detangled — this helps to speed up the process so the stylist can get right into braiding the hair, says Rowe.

What's the Best Way to Maintain Knotless Braids?

After sitting still for five hours to have your hair braided, you'll definitely want the style to last. It's important to make sure your hair is getting enough moisture to avoid breakage. There's no point rocking a protective style and neglecting your natural hair — moisture is crucial, especially during the fall. Oludele recommends greasing the scalp with Ouee Hair Oil, a product she created to revitalize hair follicles, stimulate the scalp and promote hair growth.

Another way to prolong the life of your braids is to cover your head at night. "Keeping your hair in a silk or satin scarf or bonnet while you sleep helps to prevent frizz and pulling," says Rowe.

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How Do You Wash Knotless Braids?

When it comes to washing knotless braids, you're going to want to take your time and work through sections of the hair gently. Hurriedly washing the braids and rubbing them together will cause them to frizz up and possibly unravel. To make sure your knotless braids don't turn into a frizz ball as you wash them, Oludele recommends lathering shampoo and conditioner through the hair in a downward motion to keep the braids smooth.

The products you use to wash your knotless braids are also important. Avoid using shampoos with strong fragrances as the scent will linger on the braids after the shampoo has been washed out.

"I love using my NTRL by Sabs Shampoo and Conditioner Bars to wash knotless braids," says Rowe. "The bars are long-lasting and can be applied directly on the scalp and hair without building up in the braids. Liquid shampoos can be messy and hard to completely rinse out of braids."

How Often Should You Wash Knotless Braids?

On average, most stylists recommend washing your knotless braids once or twice a month. However, if you work out often and have an oily or dandruff-prone scalp, Rowe suggests washing your hair more frequently. "It's important to mention that the more often you wash, the more prone your roots and braids will be to frizz," says the stylist. "As long as you know what you're getting into, you can wash at your own discretion."

How Long Do Knotless Braids Last?

With proper care, knotless braids can last up to two months — Rowe says it's not advised to keep them longer. Knotless braids tend to get frizzier a lot faster than regular braids as they expose more natural hair at the root. So, if you're looking for a protective style that can last longer than two months, regular box braids are a better option.

How do you know when the braids are coming to the end of their style-span? "When your roots are exposed and they require a lot of touching up for them to look neat you're coming to the end of the road," says Rowe. "If the braids begin to feel heavy on your new hair growth, that's also a sign to take them out."

How Do You Remove Knotless Braids?

As great as knotless braids look, be assured that it's going to take you a couple of hours to remove them. Both Oludele and Rowe say using a tail comb to remove knotless braids makes the process a lot easier and quicker.

"I start at the bottom of the braids and use my comb to loosen them, working my way up the hair to remove them safely," says Rowe. Oludele adds that using a tail comb helps to quickly unravel the braids.

How Much Do Knotless Braids Cost to Install?

On average, the cost of knotless braids starts at $250. However, this depends entirely on your stylist's level of experience, the type of hair you are installing, and your location.

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