'My first time doing my own box braids was riddled with regret from the first braid'
Akona Ndungane shares her three-day-long experience doing her own hair
It all started on a Monday afternoon, scrolling through Instagram, and up pops a story where a friend is cleaning fibre she bought online. Of course, the logical thing to do was ask for a GPS to locate the source of this surprise.
In the haze of bright idea euphoria, I ordered four packets of jet-black extensions and within twenty-four hours they were at my doorstep. I quickly posted the picture to social media and captioned my excitement of the unknown as “weekend plans”.
I did not know that attempting to braid my hair myself for the first time would end up taking up my entire weekend.
For a novice such as myself (who chose not to source information from the endless advice available on the internet from people all over the world) it took me an average of 15 minutes per braid starting on Friday evening until Sunday evening — a full three days, including stopping to do a shop run, cook, clean and sleep.
I hit incredible learning curves, from figuring out the best way to part my hair, to painstakingly measuring my hair to make straight rows where the hair extension would be planted. I had no idea how to cut the hair fibre and fumbled through the brushing and layering of the synthetic the way I had seen hairdressers do it.
If anything, this was a labour of love that was riddled with regret from the very first braid. What was I thinking? What was I doing? Should I have called my hairdresser for advice? Would I be willing to pay for the advice — and it is her job? Plus picking her brain should come at a cost to show that I value her expertise, yes?
I set up my mini salon with old newspapers on the floor to catch any stray hairs, positioned a mirror in front of me and another mirror behind me to try to see my whole head. I quietly thanked myself for the two weeks of yoga I’d attempted because my arms were a whole lot more flexible. I watched series and movies to pass the time and to distract myself from giving up.
I only succeeded in making the thickness and length of each braid equal when I planted the last six braids. Even with all the missteps and imperfections, I love the way my hair looks; in the end I added some decorative pieces and moisturised my scalp with coconut oil. I’m grateful that I do not have to run a comb through my hair for a few weeks and glad I’ve got a protective style as we go into winter.
I have so much more respect for professional hairdressers, specifically Princess the hair whisperer, who usually washes, dries and braids me in three to four hours maximum. I have renewed and profound respect for her excellence.
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