As we come upon this winter season, we are inevitably going to encounter some cooler weather. For us naturalistas out there, rocking our usual wash and go may not be the best option. I love the fact that braids have made a popular and stylish comeback. And although they may have gotten a bad rep over the years (losing edges, dry scalp, matted hair, etc) all these things do NOT have to be the case and certainly have not been for me. I LOVE wearing braids and I take great care of them and my hair while wearing them so that I can wear them for a decent amount of time and my “protected” hair is still thriving! Read along for some tips and tricks to have beautiful and healthy braids and hair.
1. Make sure to treat YOUR hair prior to putting in braided extensions. Deep condition your hair the day or two before. Get a protein treatment a week before followed by a deep conditioning treatment and get any split ends trimmed. Once the braids are installed, be sure to use a good braid spray and seal it with a light oil.
2. Protect those edges! Do not get your hair braided so tightly that you can barely blink when it’s over. Those small bumps you might get are a sign that the hair was braided too tight. THIS is how women lose their edges. Leave those hairs out or at the very least, have your stylist braid them much looser. Use an edge tamer for those loose edges for a beautiful polished look.
3. Now most people DON’T do this but…don’t use the hair right out of the pack. I know. Sounds crazy to some of you but most braiding hair is made in factories and sits there until it’s time to ship it. To make sure it doesn’t attract insects or mold – the hair contains an alkaline base over the fibers that can cause excessive dryness and mild irritation in many people. You can easily remove it by soaking your extensions in water with a cup of regular white vinegar for 15 minutes (don’t you just LOVE the multiple uses of vinegar?!) Make sure you dry the hair thoroughly before using it. This tip is especially important if you’re prone to allergies.
4. Keep your hair and scalp clean while in braids. You’re probably thinking, it’s protective styling. My hair is PROTECTED underneath these braids so why do I need to do ANYTHING?? While that IS true to some degree, your hair is still your hair. It’s protected from daily styling but it still needs to be cared for and most importantly, moisturized. Protective styling is not an excuse to neglect our hair.
5. Deep condition your hair! Yes, even while it’s in the braids. Use a relaxer brush or your fingers to “paint” deep conditioner onto the roots of your hair. Then warm up an oil of your choice and apply that to the length of the braid (or at least to where you think your natural hair ends). After that wear a plastic bag (a shower cap won’t cover everything and a plastic grocery bag can stretch. Just remember to tie it up so no oils stain your clothing). Leave that on for 30 mins to an hour. Rinse it out thoroughly then seal the moisture into your hair using a light oil.
6. Wear a satin scarf or bonnet. Just as you should be doing with your own hair, wearing braids is no excuse to get lazy at night. Cotton strips ALL hair of moisture. You want to keep those braids looking neat also, right? My FAVORITE item to sleep in (and even go out with) are these SLAPs (satin lined caps). They stylishly protect your hair and come in multiple colors.
7. Massage your scalp. Use your favorite oil and just use the pad of your fingers to massage your scalp for a few minutes. The increased blood flow encourages hair growth and, let’s face it, feels great!
8. Finally, don’t keep your braids in too long! Yeah it may still look fresh if you get your edges redone every few weeks (cause it’s ALL about those edges, right?!) but please don’t keep your extensions in for more than 2 months. On the other hand, don’t switch hairstyles too quickly either. Long term protective styling gives your hair a break and time to grow. Leave it alone and it will grow, BUT don’t leave it in for so long that your hair gets severely tangled with the extensions and begins to break or loc. The accumulation of shed hair and new growth needs to be touched-up every 4 to 8 weeks if you decide you’re doing to keep your braids longer than 2 months.
I get a ton of compliments when I wear braids and I know it’s partly due to how well I take care of my hair and the braids. Leave a comment below on what you do to make sure your hair and braids stay looking great.