Do cornrows create curls? Unraveling the Myth Behind Braiding and Hair Texture

Hairstyles are often more than just about appearance; they have cultural and historical importance. Cornrows, a traditional African hair braiding technique, are one such example. These elaborate braids are weaved close to the scalp in various patterns and styles. Aside from their beauty and cultural significance, cornrows have inspired an intriguing question: Will cornrows make your hair curly? This article explores the relationship between cornrows and hair texture, distinguishing stylistic effects from actual texture alteration. 

The Nature of Hair Texture

The texture of hair is as diverse as the human population. Straight, wavy, curly, and coily are the main categories, each determined by genetics and the shape of the hair follicle. 
Straight Hair: Characterized by its uniform smoothness and lack of curls, straight hair falls flat from root to tip and varies from delicate to coarse. It has the oiliest texture due to its easy sebum movement.
Wavy Hair: Wavy hair naturally forms a loose 'S' shape, providing a middle ground between straight and curly textures. Versatile in styling, its waves can vary in size and definition.
Curly Hair: Renowned for tight, spiral curls, curly hair is voluminous with strands that may be fine or thick. Its shape can hinder sebum travel, making it prone to frizz and dryness.
Coily Hair: Coily hair boasts very tight curls and a dense texture, appearing shorter due to shrinkage. This high-volume, spongy hair is often dry and requires regular moisture to maintain its health.
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The Art of Cornrowing

Cornrows are made by braiding the hair near the scalp with an underhand, upward motion to form a continuous, raised row. They are not merely a hairstyle but a form of art and expression. However, the technique temporarily manipulates the hair, designed to last only until the next wash or redo. How, then, could such a temporary style lead to a permanent change in hair texture?

Texture Change

Cornrows and Perceived Hair Texture Change

When hair is removed from cornrows, it often has a wavy or crimped pattern, giving the impression of a different texture. This is due to the hair taking on the shape of the braided wig, resulting in a temporarily changed texture that differs from its normal state. These waves represent a visual shift, demonstrating the braiding technique's capacity to modify hair momentarily.

Temporary Styling Effects Versus Actual Texture Change

The distinction between actual texture changes and transitory styling effects is essential. Permanent hair texture changes necessitate altering the hair's intrinsic disulfide connections, typically accomplished through chemical treatments. Cornrows, on the other hand, provide only a transient styling impact. When the hair is washed or exposed to enough moisture, it will naturally return to its former pattern, proving the temporary nature of the change caused by cornrowing.

Short-term Effects of Cornrows

Immediate Post-cornrow Hair Effects

The initial result of removing cornrows is called "braid waves," which might resemble a curly appearance. The waves are formed by holding the hair in a bowed posture for an extended period of time. However, this is similar to the effects of heat styling or rollers—once the hair is washed or exposed to moisture, it returns to its natural texture.

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Braiding-Induced Crimping & Waving

Crimping: Due to braiding, refers to the transient indentations and bends that hair develops after being removed from tight braids. This result resembles a crimped hairdo made with a crimping iron but without the heat.

Waving: Waving happens when the hair bends in a sequence of directions that follow the shape of the cornrows, creating a wavy texture. This method provides a natural-looking wave pattern along the length of the hair without using curling appliances.
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Long-term Impact on Hair Texture

Potential for Permanent Texture Alteration

Long-term wearing of cornrows does not inherently lead to a permanent alteration of hair texture. The hair's natural texture is determined genetically by the shape of the follicle and cannot be permanently altered by styling alone.

Hair Structure and Resilience

The hair's structure, composed of the cuticle, cortex, and medulla, is resilient to temporary changes like cornrowing. Permanent alteration of hair texture requires altering the chemical bonds within the cortex, which cornrowing does not accomplish.

Impact of Tension from Cornrows

While cornrows do not change the natural texture, prolonged and frequent tension from tight braiding can cause traction alopecia, potentially leading to permanent hair loss. However, this is damage to the hair follicle, not a change in hair texture.

Limits of Physical Styling

Physical styling methods like cornrows can only temporarily manipulate hair shape. Scientifically, the hair's ability to change texture through physical manipulation is limited to temporary styles that will revert once the hair is washed or relaxed.

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Time and Texture Reversion

The time frame for hair to revert to its natural texture can vary widely and is influenced by several factors.
Moisture: Moisture is crucial for hair reversion; it disrupts the temporary hydrogen bonds set during styling. Exposure to water from washing or humidity typically leads hair to rapidly return to its original state due to this bond disruption.
Hair Health: The condition of the hair affects its ability to revert. Damaged or chemically altered hair fibers may not readily return to their natural state, as their structural integrity is compromised, requiring additional treatments or time for reversion.
Hair Porosity: Hair porosity directly impacts how quickly hair reverts post-styling. Highly porous hair absorbs moisture faster, leading to quicker reversion, while low-porosity hair resists moisture, maintaining its styled shape for longer.
Type of Styling: The methods used for styling—heat-based or chemical treatments—can prolong or shorten a hairstyle's duration. These methods can affect hair's natural texture reversion, with some styles resisting reversion longer due to stronger bonds formed.
Product Use: Styling products are designed to keep hair in place, often by creating a barrier against moisture or reinforcing the hair's styled bonds. These products can significantly delay the reversion process until they are washed out. 
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Cornrows, which have deep roots in African culture, are a prominent hairstyle that can affect the appearance of hair but not the texture. The wavy pattern left after removing cornrows resembles the transitory curls from a curling iron that disappear after washing. Braiding does not affect hair texture, which is genetically defined and influenced by follicle structure. Embracing this idea encourages people to see cornrows as a protective and creative expression rather than a way to change the texture of their hair, honoring its inherent beauty and integrity.

As part of the JALIZA Wig Store, uBraids is a testament to innovation and quality in hair fashion. Our range of braided wigs, including the popular Boho Braids, is carefully curated to cater to the diverse preferences of our clientele. We offer various styles, lengths, and colors, allowing personal expression and celebrating individual beauty. The Boho Braids, along with our other wig options, are constructed with high-quality materials that emulate natural hair, providing a seamless and realistic look that complements the unique texture of each wearer's hair. Whether you are drawn to the intricate patterns of traditional cornrows or the laid-back allure of Boho braids, our collection is designed to elevate your style with ease and sophistication.

By choosing uBraids, you are choosing a brand that respects the legacy of cornrow styling and adapts it for the modern individual. We strive to meet the needs of our consumers by offering protective styling options that maintain the hair's natural texture and integrity. Our goal is to provide you with a product that enhances your style and pays homage to the rich cultural heritage that cornrows represent. Discover the perfect blend of tradition and convenience with uBraids at the JALIZA Wig Store.

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