If you want your wig to lay naturally and blend seamlessly, you’ll need to make sure that your natural hair is as flat as possible before installing the unit. The most common way to flatten your natural hair is to braid it down in cornrows.
In this article, we’ll first explain how to cornrow, and then we’ll fill you in on two different ways to cornrow your hair super flat and create the perfect canvas for your wig installation process. Let’s get right into it!
Prepare Your Hair for Cornrows
Begin with freshly washed and conditioned hair. Since your hair will be tucked away under a wig for a while, you’ll want to ensure that it’s free of excess dirt and oils. Braiding dirty hair is never recommended. While you have the conditioner in your hair, use a wide-toothed comb or your fingers to detangle your hair. The conditioner will make your hair slippery and easier to detangle.
Apply your favorite moisturizer all over your hair. Your hair will need substantial moisture to stay hydrated under your wig. Apply the moisturizer and then spread it through your hair with a wide-tooth comb or your fingers. Don’t overapply the product, though. You don’t want your hair to be caked in buildup.
Dry and stretch your hair. Many skip the drying and stretching process, which isn’t the best idea. Properly drying your hair helps minimize the risk of mold growing under your wig, and stretching it makes it easier to braid your hair flat. If you have super curly hair and braid it without stretching it, you’ll notice that your braids still have a bit of height.
Oil your hair with your favorite hair and scalp oil. The way you oil your hair will depend on your personal preference. You can oil the entire length of your hair or just the roots. We recommend oiling both the scalp and hair. For light protection and frizz prevention, rub some oil between your palms and then rub the oil onto your hair. For heavy-duty protection and long wig wear, apply the oil in sections, and don’t forget to oil your scalp.
How to Cornrow
Now that your hair is prepped, you’re ready for the braiding process. Here’s how to cornrow hair step by step:
- Part out a vertical strip of hair.
- Apply edge control to the borders of the strip - the top, bottom, and sides.
- At the start of the strip, separate a ½ inch horizontal section of hair.
- Separate that small horizontal section of hair into three equal strands. Hold the left and middle strands in your left hand and the right strand in your right hand.
- Start braiding the hair by passing the strand in your right hand to the left hand and then passing the strand in your left hand to the right hand. Each time you pass a strand to the other side, it should go under the strand in the middle.
- After two or three passes, begin grabbing some of the hair below before passing a strand from one hand to the other. Continue braiding and grabbing hairs from below, and soon, you’ll notice that a cornrow is forming.
- Once you’ve run out of hair below, continue braiding until you get to the ends.
You may need to see a visual cornrow tutorial and practice for an extended time to become comfortable with cornrowing. Here is the video gudie:
Two Different Cornrows for Wigs
Now that you understand how to cornrow, the cornrowing techniques below will come easy to you. We’ll cover a couple of ways to cornrow your hair for a wig, including straight-backs and side braids.
Straight Backs Cornrows (Best for Beginners)
Straight-back cornrows are the easiest and most common way to cornrow your hair for a wig. The method is self-explanatory; all you’ll do is part your hair in vertical strips from front to back and then cornrow each section in that pattern. Straight-back cornrows are best suited for wigs with no leave out. If you plan on wearing a wig with a curved part or a leave-out, you’ll need to choose a different braiding technique.
For a video demonstration of the straight-back cornrowing process, watch this video.
Though straight backs are very easy to do, there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind throughout the braiding process:
If you usually wear your wigs with a middle part, you’ll need to make sure that you part your hair down the middle first and then part the other sections accordingly. And for a side-part, the same rule applies; first, part your natural hair on the side, where you plan on parting your wig. Then part the rest of the sections afterward.
Since straight backs have the potential to pull at your hairline, take care not to pull hard on your hair as you start each braid.
Apply some gel around the edges of your braids to set your hairline. That way, the braids won’t get frizzy, and will last longer.
Pros and Cons of Straight Backs Cornrows for Wigs
It may seem like straight backs have no faults, but they do. Here are the pros and cons of straight backs for wigs:
- Straight-backs don’t require any advanced knowledge about parting or any complicated processes. Anyone can do them from the comfort of their home. We recommend this braiding technique if you’re new to wearing wigs or braiding your own hair.
- If you plan on getting a professional wig install, you won’t have to pay much for straight backs. Since the braid pattern is super easy, stylists don’t charge much for it. Expect to pay around $50 or less for professional straight-backs.
- Straight backs tend to pull at your hairline. You could experience some discomfort after braiding your hair in some cases. The chances of pain are higher if you aren’t careful about how tightly you are braiding your hair.
- To some, straight backs are not very feminine. For this reason, when this braid pattern is used, people avoid wearing their natural hair out.
- Your wig styling options are a bit limited with straight backs.
- Even when you do your straight backs neatly, you may still notice bumps here and there. This is most likely to happen if your hair is thick or you make the braids large.
Side Cornrows (For Single Part Wigs)
If you have thick hair, or if you primarily wear a middle part, side part, or deep side part wig and want your part to lay especially flat, side cornrows are your best bet. For this braid pattern, you’ll part your natural hair wherever your wig’s part is and cornrow the hair in the direction opposite the part. For instance, if you’ve got a deep side part wig, you’ll need to part your natural hair near your temple.
Here’s how to do side braids step by step:
- Look at your wig and see where the part lies (middle, side, or deep side). Note which side the part is on - if you don’t, your hair won’t end up flat enough near the part.
- Part your natural hair where the wig’s part will lay after installing the unit. Ensure that you make the part straight and neat.
- Use a scrunchie to secure one half of your hair. Leave the other side loose.
- Working with the loose side of your hair, part out one strip of hair that goes from the part you made in step 2 all the way to your ear. Start at the front of your head. Make the section around 1 inch or smaller in thickness to ensure that it’s flat.
- Cornrow the hair in the direction of the part. Braid the hair to the ends.
- Repeat the previous two steps until you run out of hair to braid on the first side. Then do it all again on the other side.
- Sew the loose ends of the braids or pin them up using bobby pins.
This video demonstration can help you learn how to do side part cornrows.
Note:Leave some of your natural hair out in the middle if you have a U-part wig. The section should be rectangular. You’ll braid the rest of the hair from the edges of the “rectangle” towards your ears.
Pros and Cons of Side Braids
Like straight backs, side braids come with their own unique pros and cons. We’ll dive into the good and bad associated with this braid pattern below.
- Sideways braids done well make your wig’s part lay completely flat. This gives your wig a 100% natural look.
- Even when you make your sideways cornrows a bit on the larger side, you won’t have to worry about the wig’s part area not lying flat.
- Braiding sideways can take some getting used to, and many people will not be able to do it on their own. Those who cannot master the sideways cornrowing technique will need to solicit help from a friend or stylist.
- When sideways cornrows are done too large, they can make your lace wig more likely to lift up unnaturally on the sides.
Time to Practice
To perfect your cornrows, you'll need patience and loads of practice. After all, cornrows are one of the most difficult braid types to master. So, feel free to use the instructions and video demonstrations we've shared in this article to make the process painless. Over time, you'll realize that doing cornrows isn't as difficult as you initially thought and you'll be able to easily prep your natural hair for a sleek, beautiful wig install every time!