How To Care For Your Braids
We all know that braids are a protective style, a way to aid growth, shield hair from the harsh winter or a way to give it a welcome break from heat styling and other environmental stressors but the beauty of braids is not just that they are protective but that they are also incredibly practical. I’d much rather have an extra 10 minutes in bed on a cold, grey, winter morning than have to use that time to do my hair. Braids also make gym life that little bit easier, with braids, a little oil, a little brush and you’re good to go.
Two-to-six sweet whole weeks (dependant on style) of not having to think about my hair and temporarily freed from long laborious wash days but that’s not to say that there is no maintenance to be done at all. There is a temptation to neglect your hair whilst it’s in braids and although you’ve braided it for protection, your hair and scalp still need some TLC. So, whether you’ve opted for simple cornrows, fulani braids, box braids, twists, goddess braids or some other fabulous creation here are some great tips from Florence Johnson owner of London afro hair salon Simply Gorgeous on how to care for and keep your new braids in the best possible condition.
How should you prep your hair before your appointment?
Before having your hair braided always ensure that your hair is washed and clean. If you relax, perm or colour treat your hair we highly suggest leaving at least a month before last application before getting your hair braided.
What are the best products to use to prep hair before braiding?
Clarifying shampoos to ensure all product and environmental build up has been cleansed from the hair before having your hair braided. You want the hair to be as clean as possible to allow for healthy new hair growth whilst also providing the best environment for the hair to be protected within the braids.
Are there any braided styles that certain hair types should avoid?
If you have thinning around the hair line, avoid having any braids attached here as even the lightest of braids will compromise the strength of hair that is already weak. For those that have thin hair in general also avoid jumbo braids where a larger amount of extensions are used as these will be too heavy and weaken the hair follicle causing breakage.
How long should you leave braids in for and what are the dangers of leaving them in for longer?
Ideally braids should be left in for no longer than six weeks. Although you are able to cleanse the scalp whilst you have braids, hair at this point needs to be thoroughly washed in order to encourage the best environment for healthy hair maintenance and a thorough wash cannot be done with braids in.
In addition to this, hair grows approximately half an inch per month, if you keep braids attached to new growth it can weaken the new hair causing unnecessary shedding.
Should you still wrap your hair when you go to sleep when you have braids?
It’s entirely up to the individual. However a rule of thumb is that if you want to keep your hair looking fresh for longer, you should wrap it or sleep on a silk pillowcase.
What is the best way to cleanse and condition hair whilst it’s in braids?
Avoid using a conditioner when hair is in braids. Conditioners by nature are heavy and will leave braids claggy and more prone to attracting dust and dirt. Plus, none of the nourishing elements of a conditioner will work effectively whilst hair is in braids. You can moisturise your hair whilst in braids by using a water based moisturising spray such as the Afrocenchix Moisturising Spray.
Which products would you recommend for washing hair in braids?
If you need to wash or re-fresh your braids mix equal parts water with an equal amount of shampoo into a spray bottle and apply this to the braids whilst in the shower and then rinse. Leave braids to air dry – especially if braids are synthetic.
Do you need to care for braids differently before and or after going swimming?
Other than perhaps opting for a swim cap there is no pre-swim prep that needs to be done, however post swim, regardless of whether you’ve been swimming in a pool or open water, I would suggest the aforementioned cleansing method.
What is the best way to care for your scalp whilst your hair is in braids and what are the best products to use?
Scalp care is such a muddle for a lot of us. Some believe in oiling or greasing the scalp but I suggest you leave it alone and let your hairs natural sebum provide moisturisation. However, if you’re prone to excessive dryness of the scalp applying a light oil such as Almond Oil can help.
Are there any products that you feel should be avoided?
Avoid using butters, balms or excessively heavy and oily moisturisers on your braids, they will weigh them down, cause build up within the braids and generally take the lustre of the braids away.
What products /treatments should you use after you take your braids out and why?
We have a braid-out protocol for clients which involves an intensive moisture treatment that is able to penetrate the hair shaft. I also recommend having a light dusting trim after taking your braids out to get rid of any split ends that may have occurred whilst you hair was in braids – this is particularly true for tighter curl patterns.
How long should you wait between braids?
A couple of weeks is a good time period to allow your hair to “rest” between braids, during this time implement a nourishing hair regime that is directly applied to the hair.
Do you have any other tips on caring for braided hairstyles?
When taking your braids out be gentle and don’t tug at the root to loosen them. Always undo from the bottom of the braid and work your way up.
If you’re too impatient, come to us. We offer a braid take-down service which consists of a stylist taking your braids out, a deep moisture treatment a trim and styling.
Words: Abisoye Odugbesan