Thought I would write a long post about everything I know and everything I have learnt about braids! I don’t braid my own hair very often but I have been braiding my daughter’s hair for two months at a time consistently for almost three years now. Her hair has thrived and her hairline is intact. I will share my experiences from having to take care of her hair and making sure that she benefits from braids and that they do not ruin her hair. I hope you find this post useful.
Before getting braids
- Try and get your hair in good condition before braiding it. Do not use braids as a way to cover up and ignore your hair. Rather use them as a protective style – meaning you will keep taking care of your hair, even if it is plaited. Getting braids will not resolve any hair issues you may have. These are bound to continue even if your hair is hidden away.
- Choose a braid fibre that is light so your hair is not weighed down. I think nowadays almost all fibre falls into this category.
- If you can braid your own hair, rather do that. No one can be more gentle with your hair than you. If you can’t (like me), choose a braider that comes recommended. You want someone who is neat as well as someone who understands that braids should not be too tight.
- Wash, deep condition and moisturise your hair before it is braided. If you need to, blow dry it lightly. This helps in that the braider doesn’t have to deal with any detangling while they are doing your hair. They are likely to just rip through any tangles as they work!
- Super thin / micro braids look stunning but they can wreak havoc on your hair. The problem is that because they are so thin, if they get caught on anything they will rip out, taking your hair with them. The thinner parts in your hair also mean exponentially more knots when you take the braids out which really difficult to detangle. Rather opt for medium sized to large braids. More hair per braid means the hair holds up better to any tension.
- Many braiders will choose to take less hair around the hairline because the hair is shorter. This enables the hairline to look neater and also enables the braider to catch every little hair! This is not necessary and rather ask your braider not to do that. Smaller parts on the hairline often result in the braids falling and taking your hair with them. This is one of the causes of thinning hairline. There is no need to braid every single hair. You can always find a gel to neaten your hairline if you need to.
- Once your braids are done, do not style them or tie them tightly back for a few days. This allows your hair to grow out a bit and for the braids to loosen. If you need to get the braids off your face, rather use a hair band or tie them back very loosely. You will know when you can begin styling and tying them back because they will move freely and you will not feel any tightness or tension.
- Treat your hair (braids) and scalp as two different things that each need to be taken care of. Take care of your hair as well as the scalp.
- Wash your braids weekly. I often get asked if this won’t make them look untidy and cause them to unravel. Trust me it won’t. Take a look at these pics where I have had the braids for eight weeks with weekly washing. Though my hair had grown the braids still look neat. When washing, concentrate on the scalp, massage it gently. Frequent washing helps to minimise product build up especially at the base of the braid. Product build up, dirt, dust and shed hair make up the knots we see when we take the braids out. You cannot really control the hair you shed but you can keep the braids clean!
- Dilute conditioner in water and spray onto the braids. Wear a shower cap for an hour or so before rinsing out the conditioner. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the braids to prevent any product buildup. Diluting the conditioner in water is so that it is easy to rinse out.
- Use a braid spray to moisturise the length of your hair every day. This is important. Hair still needs to be moisturised while it is in braids. If you don’t moisturise your hair, it will be super dry when you eventually take the braids out. This will cause it to be weak and to break as you take the braids out. You can buy a braid spray (I use African Pride braid spray) or you can make it yourself by mixing a combination of water, glycerine, any natural oils (like jojoba, coconut, castor, olive, grapeseed etc). You can even add aloe vera juice, a bit of conditioner as well as essential oils (eg tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary etc) it all depends on your preference. When moisturising, concentrate on the parts of the braid with your hair. The braid fibre does not need any moisture.
- Decant your braid spray into a spray bottle. I find a spray bottle enables me to moisturise much faster. I am also able to get more coverage. Moisturise your hair generously, until the braids feel damp.
- Apply a bit of natural oil to your scalp every week after the braids have dried (when washed). This ensures that you apply it to a clean scalp. You can choose any natural oil or even combine two (or more) if you want to. You can also add a few drops of essential oils especially if your scalp itches or you get dandruff. You can apply the oil more than once a week if you feel you need to.
- Wear your braids for around 8 weeks max. The longer you keep your braids, the worse the knots get at the base of your braid.
- Cover your hair with a scarf at night while you sleep. It keep the braids neater, for longer.
- When you remove the braids, leave a couple of weeks between taking them out and getting new braids or relaxing your hair. In this time, make sure to give your hair some tlc to prepare it for the next round of braiding or for a relaxer.
Removing the braids
- Remove the braids yourself. Do not go to a salon for this.
- Once you are ready to remove the braids, give them a final wash to get rid of dirt, dust and product that you can.
- Smother the hair in a detangler. I use Organic Root Stimulator Softening Lotion. Be generous. This will enable the detangling to be easier and will also result in less hair breakage. Make sure there is detangler on each braid all the way up to where your hair ends.
- Begin undoing the braids from the back of your head. Do this so that you can undo them over several days if you have to, you will be able to tie the braids back and hide the fact that you have begun undoing them.
- Undo one braid, apply a bit more detangler at the base and gently comb out the shed hair. Make sure the hair is completely detangled before moving on to the next braid. This will ensure that you tackle knots and shed hair as you go. You will not be left with a head full of knots (which happens at salons!) After undoing and detangling a small section, twist up all the hair to prevent is tangling while you work.
- Once you are done undoing your whole head you should be left with a head full of twists.
- Undo the twists, do a final detangle and then wash, deep condition and moisturise.
- Make sure to detangle your hair thoroughly. You should not wash your hair before all the knots and tangled are out otherwise the tangles become worse.
- See this post that shows pictures of the detangling process and what I am describing above.
Follow this and you should not have any problems with braids