Braids are great protective styles and come in dozens of options. There are box braids, Marley twists, Senegalese twists, micro braids, etc. Braids are one of my favorite protective styles. They are versatile and can be styled in multiple ways.
Braids may seem like a low-maintenance style but to keep them looking neat and last longer, there are a few things you need to do. Plus, you shouldn’t forget your natural hair because it’s in a protective style.
Before braiding natural hair
Caring for your natural hair in braids starts before you actually go to your hairstylist. You should ensure that you wash and deep condition your hair the day before to ensure that it’s strong enough to withstand tension, minimize breakage, and other forms of damage.
Make sure you handle any pre-existing issues. You want your hair to be in the best possible shape when you braid. If you have dandruff, get a shampoo that fights flakes. If your hair feels weak strengthen it with a protein treatment.
Moreover, detangle your hair as much as possible. Avoid the pain and possible breakage to your hair by detangling yourself rather than letting your stylist do so for you. A hair that is well detangled prior to the braids installation will be easier to detangle during the takedown.
After you finish your treatment, put your hair into a style that would keep it stretched till you are ready to braid it. This will decrease the chances of stray hair strands and tangling.
How to care for your natural hair in braids
Moisturize your braids at least 2-3 times a week. You do this using a moisturizer (leave-in conditioner or water) as though it were your hair.
Be sure to moisturize your scalp and hydrate your braids. Dry scalp and hair leads to breakage and thinning hairline. You sure don’t want that to happen to your hair once you take down the braids.
Oil your scalp
Make sure to oil your scalp with coconut oil, or any oil mix you have. If you have an itchy scalp, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil to your moisturizer or oil mix and use it on your scalp. This helps relieve you from constant itching.
You can also do scalp massages daily to increase blood flow to your scalp to promote hair growth.
Be gentle on your edges
Keep in mind that your edges are so fragile and you need to tell your braider not to pull too much on your edges. You sure don’t want to leave the salon with a migraine and bald edges.
Moreover, it is important to pamper your edges. Ensure your edges are always moisturized. You can apply a little coconut oil on them and if you want to lay your edges do but make sure the product you use is alcohol-free and that you don’t apply the product every single day.
A dirty scalp breeds flakes cause itching and hair breakage. It is important to have your scalp shampooed even when wearing braids. You want to shampoo your scalp as often as possible- at least twice a month.
Here’s how to shampoo your hair in braids;
- Dilute the shampoo in one applicator bottle. This ensures the product can be easily rinsed out.
- Apply the diluted shampoo on your scalp and massage gently.
- Rinse the product out thoroughly by allowing water to run down from your scalp down to the braids.
- Blot dry with a microfiber towel.
Here is a very descriptive video by Shanique Buntyn on how to wash box braids.
Style with care
As much as you want to try a variety of styling techniques with your braid, be careful not to pull them in different directions. If you are rough with them that can create flyaways and sometimes pull your hair out. So if you do have extensions, it is important to style them with extreme care. It is best to always use your fingers to style your braids because styling tools will just pull the braids apart strand by strand.
Wrap it up at night
Whether it’s with a silk scarf or bonnet or even satin pillowcase, it is important to protect your hair and braids from losing while you sleep by covering it. This will preserve the style longer and prevent specks of dirt from getting to your scalp. Also, it helps reduce friction between your beddings and the braids which causes your braids to fray more.
Alternatively, you can clean your scalp with ACV (diluted in water of course) and some drops of tea tree oil, if you don’t want to shampoo often.
Be sure to allow your hair air dry properly. Always try your best to stay away from heat. After washing your braids, dry your hair with a microfiber towel. Dry your braids by squeezing the water out and not by pulling them.
Be careful where your braids start. If you have a fine hairline, don’t plait on it, your hair will break and you will likely lose your hairline.
Taking down the braids
This is just as important as prepping your hair for a braid and the maintenance after installation. How you take out the braids can either make or break your hair.
Get the right tools
The way you take out your braids is dependent on the type and size of braids. The most common tool to use is the rat tail comb. If you don’t have a comb, you can use your fingers. Cut the ends of the added extension to help speed up the process. Be careful not to accidentally cut off your hair.
Moisturize and detangle
It is recommended that you moisturize your hair prior to taking down the braids to keep tangles and damage at a minimum. You will experience some shedding when taking out your protective style and it’s normal. Be extremely careful when taking down braids and twist at the hairline. Your edges are very delicate and they can break off easily.
For detangling, use your fingers as much as possible. Hair is in its weakest state when wet. If you must use a tool make sure to use a detangling brush or wide tooth comb to minimize breakage.
Cleanse and condition
Once your braids are out, you want to treat your hair like a newborn baby. Give it lots of TLC. Shampoo and clarify your scalp thoroughly. Deep condition with heat for 30minutes to an hour.
Once you’ve followed all this process, allow your hair to breathe. You want to let your hair be in its natural state for a week or two before tucking it away again.
The bottom line on caring for your natural hair in braids or any protective style at all is that with proper preparation, installation, and maintenance, braids can last up to eight weeks before they need to be removed. And your natural hair would be in good shape once they are removed because you didn’t neglect it.