How to get a cool cornrows hairstyle for your mane
The cornrows hairstyle, also known as “cornrows” or “skin braids”, involves having locks of hair intertwined and braided with each other which allows the hair to hang down at lengths in which it would not otherwise hang down. It is a hairstyle most commonly favoured by men with kinky curly hair although cornrows can be done on any hair type.
Hair length category
Medium length and long (see my hair length guide for more information on the hair-length categories for men’s hair).
Suitable hair type
All men’s hair types are suitable for cornrows. In case that you aren’t aware of what the four hair types for men are, here’s the list:
- Straight hair
- Wavy hair
- Coiled hair
- Kinky hair
You can learn more about hair types on my hair types guide that I published on this website and on my book, The Men’s Hair Book.
Prior to braiding it, the hair should be at a long length (at least 6 inches) and should have an even length all around the head. Here’s an example of a before-and-after set of pictures where a male with long kinky curly hair styled as an Afro had his curls braided into cornrows; notice the starting haircut and how it is relatively evened out.
This is the before picture:
This is the after picture:
Great change in hairstyle; from a big-volume Afro hairstyle to low-and-tight cornrows!
2 out of 5 (this is an easy haircut for any barber or even for yourself; just keep an eye on keeping the same length all across the scalp or hair to be braided).
Styling of cornrows
Because cornrows follow the contour of the head, you can create intricate designs with the braids. Other styling options include updos and tying them into tails and zig-zag patterns. Essentially, you can go wild with hairstyling designs on your cornrows as long as your barber (or whoever braids your rows) is acquainted with this particular hairstyle.
If you dig the undercut hairstyle then you can also get the sides and back of your head as an undercut haircut while sporting cornrows on the top of your head for an uncommon (albeit interesting) modern hairstyle:
The problem with cornrows is that they can place quite some long-term tension on the follicles, which means that putting the cornrows into styles that require the “rows” to be pulled tightly can lead to traction alopecia and the damaging of your hair follicles. For the record, tracion alopecia is a type of hair loss caused by pulling hair too tight via the wearing of hairstyles which require some hard pulling of one’s locks; cornrows are a type of hairstyle which indeed can pull the hair too tight and rip the hair strands off the follicles, which then leads to localized hair loss (i.e. alopecia).
To illustrate the aforementioned issue above, here’s a picture of what traction alopecia caused by cornrows looks like. Fortunately for the male in the pictures, his traction alopecia and unevenly-receded hairline is at the first stages of hair loss, hence he can recover his hairline so long as he stops wearing very-tight cornrows.
Because of the potential of cornrows to cause follicular damage, I recommend you to simply wear your cornrows loose or to have them tied with care, Furthermore, it’s imperative that you choose a good stylist/performer to braid your cornrows.
You can apply a little bit of shea butter or coconut butter to the braided cornrows a few times every week though I highly recommend that you stay minimalist with regards to the styling and product use of your cornrows. Do, however, ensure that all of the braided hair has been moisturised fully (with a conditioner, shea butter or coconuter butter) and that it has been groomed adequately prior to braiding, otherwise your cornrows won’t look very good.
Lastly, I truly cannot stress enough that men with male pattern baldness (i.e. androgenetic hair loss) stay away from cornrows or any type of hair-braiding. I’ve seen enough cases of balding men (in the early Norwood stages) who insisted in getting their hair braided into cornrows and, six months later, they had lost about an inch of their natural hairline. Traction alopecia is very real and it usually is irreversible!
2 out of 5 (nothing crazy, just keep away from getting the hair braided too tightly to avoid traction alopecia).
Rapper Snoop Dogg (also known as Snoop Lion) is a good example of how to rock braided cornrows as a kinky-curly male.
Incidentally, Snoop Dogg did eventually go on to suffer from traction alopecia and a receded hairline (as seen below) from all his years of wearing tightly-braided cornrows and the likes.
Recommended hair products for cornrows
Here are the best hair products to use for your cornrows:
- Dorag: to preserve your cornrows whenever you don’t feel like showing them off.
- Hair bands: if you’re going to have some of your cornrows loose.
- Shea butter: to be applied to your cornrows once every couple of days in order to keep them moisturized.
- Coconut butter: you can use coconut butter instead of shea butter for the same purpose of moisturizing your braided mane.
- Deep-cleansing shampoo: you want to use a deep-cleansing shampoo once per week to wash off any buildup of sebum or coconut/shea butter.
- Deep conditioner: to use the day before braiding the cornrows so as to fully moisturize the hair and keep the strands lubricated.
- Multi-vitamin product: if you want to further avoid any potential traction alopecia, then you can use a multi-vitamin to feed extra nutrients to your stressed follicles. Other nutrients that help with traction alopecia include vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids as found in fish oil or cod liver oil.
Rocking your braids!
The trick to rocking some pretty-epic braids is to look after them; that really is the trick, guys. By all means, take a look at my hair conditioner guide for advice on conditioning your hair as that is all that it takes to have your braids looking lustrous while keeping the hair strands moisturised and damage-free.
Let me know how it goes, gentlemen.
P.S. If you’re still in doubt with regards to wearing cornrows, then take a look at this photograph of George Bush with cornrows; they actually don’t look that bad on him!
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