Although braids can be worn for long while protecting the hair, many people forget to give their hair the love and attention that it needs when wearing braids and this may lead to hair damage.
Braids are an excellent protective style that can shield your hair from environmental damage and excessive breakage resulting from heat styling or over-manipulation.
In this article we will explore the best tips on how to take care of your natural hair in braids so that your hair remains healthy, moisturized and the braids last longer.
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1. Prepare your hair before braiding
Am sure you know that a protective style is not considered protective unless the hair is well taken care of before installing the protective style. This principle applies to braiding.
Before you install your braids, ensure your hair is well- taken care of. Ensure the hair and scalp is clean, deep conditioned and moisture locked in.
2. Be gentle during installation
A braid installation session should not leave you with a crazy migraine. A good hairstylist should ensure that they are not messing up with edges that are not grown enough to be braided.
Again, you don’t want your hair to be pulled out so much that you want to scream. Show love to your edges by moisturizing well and letting them be.
Don’t force the tiny hair into the braids as you try to achieve a super neat finished look. You can leave them out and then during styling, use a gentle styling gel to lay them down.
You could try the Honey & Ginger Edge Gel from Mielle Organics.
3. Moisturize and hydrate regularly
A dry scalp can lead to a thinning hairline and hair loss from breakage. To keep the hair moisturized and hydrated, pamper and nourish your scalp with natural oils such as Coconut Oil, Olive Oil or Almond Oil. The oils used should be soothing and able to penetrate scalp and the hair shaft. A natural leave-in conditioner can also be used to give a non-greasy feeling.
The synthetic nature of the braids may lead to an itchy scalp. Ensure that you use a braid spray for relief and to give the braid a lustrous look.
4. Be gentle when styling
To ensure that you preserve your braided style for longer while ensuring your hair is healthy is by being extremely careful with the braids when styling them. Whether you want to push them all back or hold them in a ponytail, styling your braids with care will ensure that you experience no wear or tear on the strands of hair attached to your braids.
Avoid the use of styling tools that may tear your hair strands apart. Use your bare fingers to style and pick hair holders that have a protective coating on them to protect your hair..
5. Clean your braided hair
Just because you are wearing braids does not mean that you shouldn’t wash your hair. With sweating and activities such as swimming, you’re going to need to wash your hair.
I prefer to clean my scalp mid and end week by dabbing with a damp cloth or using a dry shampoo. I then do a full wash using a gentle shampoo once or twice a month.
When washing the braided hair use a clarifying shampoo so as to get rid of dirt and build up on the scalp.
Wash the hair from scalp to the ends with the movements going in a vertical angle – this prevents frizz at the roots and braids.
Find what works best for your braided hair and stick to it.
A hot oil treatment can be used to re-hydrate the scalp after cleansing.
6. Dry properly
Drying the braided hair after a wash is very important to prevent it from getting damp and attracting bacteria.
There several methods you can use to dry your hair. You can use the squeezing method where you squeeze water out of the braids. Be careful not to pull the braids as this may cause tension to the scalp.
Dry your braids by squeezing water using an old t-shirt or a soft towel. After squeezing the water out, let the braids air dry before styling.
The other method is to use a blow dryer on low heat. When using this method, don’t have the blow dryer too close to the scalp. Work in sections for a much faster and effective drying session.
7. Mind your scalp
The first step in minding your scalp is to ensure that the braids are not too tight as this may cause tension to the scalp and the hair follicles. Tension on the hair follicles can lead to traction alopecia. (2)
When cleaning the braids, ensure that you mind your scalp. Avoid over rubbing your scalp during washing as this may lead to hair breakage or a condition such as scalp folliculitis. (3)
Use a diluted shampoo during a wash and focus it on your scalp but be gentle. Gently massaging your scalp during a wash promotes blood flow om the scalp.
8. Redo the edges
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, on average hair grows by half an inch per month.(4) This means that after four weeks of wearing your braids you may begin to see an overgrowth and especially around your edges, making your hair look unkempt.
If you plan to keep your braids on for longer, you may want to redo the edges after 3 weeks. Properly detangle and condition the hair before reinstalling the braids.
Redoing your edges will help in maintaining your braided hair for a bit longer.
9. Protect the braids when sleeping
Leaving your hair open causes friction with your bedding which could lead to frayed hair especially on the edges and even cause breakage.
Wrap up your braids with a silk or satin head wrap. It also helps to have a silk pillowcase. This ensures that the oils in your hair do not leak out leaving your hair dry and brittle.
10. Mind the duration
How long should you leave your braids on? If you take good care of your braided hair by ensuring the hair and scalp is clean and moisturized, you can leave the braid on for up-to 8 weeks.
The duration can vary depending on several factors and therefore there is no right or wrong answer on how long to leave your braids on. Just ensure you do not have them on for too long.
There is always that temptation to keep your hair in braids for a long. While the temptation is sweet, there will be consequences.
Leaving braids for too long could result in weakening of the hair shaft and build-up resulting from inadequate scalp cleaning.
Once you undo your braids, remember to let your hair breathe before moving on to the next protective style.