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The Joy I Get From Braiding My Hair In Cornrows

Writer Gerrie Summers embracing shorter hairstyles

There are various beauty rituals I rely on to center myself when life moves a bit too fast. Crafting cornrow braids is one of them.  Cornrows are a protective style I use to shield my natural curls from the frigid winter cold, which was especially important growing up in Minnesota. 

Even though the bulk of the styling takes place at the back of my head, my brain somehow registers my hand motions and the rhythm in which I part my hair because it always turns out the same: Flawless straight fronts with an evenly crooked curved back that perfectly ties at the end of my neckline. As with all successful endeavors, the more I did it, the better they got. Cornrow braids make me feel classy and chic, effortlessly beautiful. It’s a special skill to have, and I’m proud of it.

  Writer Ezinne Mgbeahuruike shares how she uses hair braiding as self care

 Photo Credit: Erik Tanner

How I Learned To Braid Cornrows

The ritual started around 13 or 14-years-old when I used to play with beauty products. At first, I hated the process, standing in front of the mirror for three hours learning how to braid cornrows. I used two mirrors to see where to part my hair, one for the front and the other for the back of my head. I quickly learned that despite appearing intimidating, incorporating extensions made the process that much smoother. Weaving in extensions also made the braids stay longer while giving them length. In the beginning, I had a hard time actually gripping the braids onto my scalp, but I quickly realized the wetter the hair, the easier it is to attach extensions to it. 

Back then, there weren’t as many YouTube tutorials, so it was truly trial and error without much guidance. But I was relentless in perfecting my craft. Otherwise, the lack of effort would show. The truth was, I really liked how cornrow braids looked on my peers, and since I couldn’t afford to get it done at the salon, it was my duty to teach myself.

I taught myself different cornrow hairstyles, braiding as if my hands were climbing staircases, contorting my arms backward.  I knew I had wizardly skills, but I didn’t think I had eyes at the back of my head. That’s how my imagination started to grow. Straight cornrow braids became my staple. It was the fastest to do and stayed the longest.  

If you are learning how to do cornrow braids, I would say patience is a virtue. Your braids will not always come out as intended, but practice makes perfect.  Over time, you will braid without even relying on mirrors because you can feel it in your scalp when something is off.

 Writer Ezinne Mgbeahuruike shares how she uses hair braiding as self care

 Photo Credit: Erik Tanner

Why Braiding Cornrows Is An Act Of Self-Care

Braiding my hair in cornrows evolved from a chore to self-care within the past two years. I’ve come to embrace them not as a hassle but rather as a moment of peace and silence with myself. Now when I go to the mirror, I approach with intention and care, putting in the work to make myself beautiful.  

I can easily go to the salon and have the pros do it, but there’s something rewarding in knowing that I can take care of myself. This is empowering. It’s a moment for me to decompress while challenging myself to braid straighter, tighter, cleaner. Navigating each braid is also a thought released, a problem solved. There’s something ritualistic about being intimately entangled with my roots. I can see what’s happening in my scalp, where it needs watering or oils (I use jojoba oil and black castor oil if it does.) Oils just keep my scalp moisturized and easy to maintain during the winter season. 

As I braid, I also pay attention to where my current state of mind is. Where are my thoughts going or coming from? What do I need to release by the end of this moment in time with myself that will make me feel better when I’m done? Braiding my hair keeps me grounded. It makes me feel human, independent. Aware that I can spend money but comfortably not. Taking care of myself, feeding myself the love I need to fuel my beauty. The energy from within that needs to shine outwardly. It’s an act of self-care every woman should try.

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