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What are Pixie Braids?

By C. K. Lanz
Updated May 21, 2024
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Pixie braids are a versatile hairstyle that features a multitude of individual small, tight braids that can vary in length and thickness and cover most of the head. Unlike other braids that hang straight, pixie braids are burnt at the ends and given a shape that curls or bends slightly towards the face. Young African-American women and children commonly wear pixie braids, but this hairstyle has become popular across generations, genders, and ethnic groups.

The braiding is typically done in a salon by an experienced hairstylist who will first trim and deep condition the client's hair. The hair is then divided into small sections, braided, and the ends are burned and shaped. The braiding process can take several hours, depending on the hair's length. Both natural and synthetic hair can be used for pixie braids, but natural hair should not be dry or brittle. Shoulder-length to mid-length hair is preferred since pixie braiding long hair can add enough weight to result in hair breakage.

Scalp and hair care are important while wearing pixie braids. The braids leave the scalp partially exposed and can lead to itching, dryness, and even sunburn. The pixie braids are often braided into approximately six larger braids and each end is secured with a hair band prior to washing. Dandruff or moisturizing shampoo should be rubbed onto the scalp between braids and gently but thoroughly rinsed once a week or every two weeks. Shea butter or coconut oil can be applied to the scalp as needed to prevent dryness and flaking.

Conditioning pixie braids helps avoid dry, brittle, and frizzy hair. Liquid deep conditioner can be applied to the braids and, without rubbing, rinsed thoroughly with warm water after approximately an hour. A rinse made with one part apple cider to four parts water can be an effective way to prevent product buildup and residue in the braids and condition the scalp. Wet braids should be blotted dry with a towel or air dried. Leave-in conditioner or braid spray is also often applied to the braids to help retain moisture.

The braids should be removed by a professional hairstylist. If synthetic hair was used, the braid is cut where the natural hair ends. The stylist will usually use a braid removal cream or spray to soften the client's hair and loosen the braids. The braids are then slowly undone and the hair is combed through prior to shampooing. The client's hair will become matted if not untangled prior to washing.

This style can be worn for up to two and a half months in a variety of ways including in a bun, ponytail, or as larger braids. Thread, beads, or strands of synthetic hair can be woven into the braids to add color and elegance. Decorative beads can also be secured to the ends of the braids. It's a good idea to consult a professional hairstylist when considering pixie braids.

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