First, YAS BEY, come through!
Second (and what you’re actually here for), there is no use in getting a protective style and having your hair in worse shape when you take it out.
Here are some common mistakes made when rocking our favorite protective styles: braids.
p.s. when I say “braids”, I am referring to and twists, box braids, faux locs, etc. achieved by using synthetic weaving hair.
1 | Simply neglecting them: Many naturals take the term “protective style” very literally when it comes to braids. While braids are definitely a great way to allow the hair to grow with no manipulation, they are still in need of much care. I, too, have in the past, gotten braids with weave, and forgot that I had hair of my own. This is not an uncommon thing to do. We must continue to treat our braids as if we recognize that our own hair is still underneath, making sure to maximize the benefits we receive from this amazing style.
2| No moisturizer: “I can’t see my hair, so I can’t treat it”. This is a common misconception. If water or a water-based product (where its first ingredient is water) is used, you will be able to penetrate the braid, and send moisture to your strands. Take a spray bottle with water, or water mixed with a product, and spray the braids every other day (or every day depending on your hair’s porosity) to make sure that your hair is nice and moisturized and soft when you take the braids out. Dry and brittle hair after removing a protective style is an indication of inadequate moisture.
3| No oil: If you are familiar with “moisturize and seal”, you know why this step had to come next. When moisturizing your hair with water or a water-based product, you must follow up with an oil to seal it in the hair strands and maximize the retention of the hydration. I would recommend only extra virgin cold pressed oils (i.e. extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, etc.). These are oils that have been created in a way that ensure that the majority of their beneficial properties remain intact. Many greases and oils will claim to include olive oil and coconut oil, but may actually only have a small amount in them. Make sure to moisturize, THEN seal. It is very important that it is completed in that order. Applying the oil before the moisturizer will prevent the moisture from being absorbed by the hair fibers, and mixing them together will not yield the same result.
4| Too much styling: Braids are very versatile when it comes to styling them. However, there has to be a limit on the amount of styling you do. Buns, pin-ups, and ponytails are beautiful with braids, but too much of it will begin to put unnecessary stress on the perimeter (edges and nape) braids. I’m sure you stand with me in saying I would love to keep my edges. Pulling the braids back, may cause, thinning, breakage, and even bald spots (from first-hand experience). Try to only style a few times a week, and even less if you feel tension on your perimeter.
5| Tying down at night: Just as you should only use a satin scarf tie your hair when it’s out, you should only use a satin scarf with your braids as well. However, tying a scarf on too tight will create the same effect as too much styling. It may be very tempting to do when trying to lay the baby hairs down. If this is necessary, tie the scarf tight only for about 15 minutes, when you are getting ready in the morning. The constant rubbing, and tension that would happen for 8 hours while sleeping will cause too much friction and possibly breakage.
Not using a scarf at all will cause your hair to not last as long as it could. There will be frizz and flyaways from the friction caused from you moving your head on the pillow. If you tend to forget to tie a scarf on your head, or if you find that it comes off more times than not, it would be a great idea to invest in a satin pillowcase. The friction that happens with a cotton pillowcase will be eliminated and your braids will last longer. I even use both, to play it safe.
6| Keeping them in for too long: I used to push myself to see how long I could keep my braids in. That is not the case anymore. I realize that after a certain point, the braids have done their good deed. It is recommended that you keep braids in for about a month, and no longer than 6 weeks. This is because as your hair grows, there is now weight on the new growth. I noticed this first with my edges. The scalp would hurt because of a small piece of hair weighed down by a heavy braid. When I began to limit my styles and also take them out sooner, I noticed a change in how my hair felt when I took my hair out.
7| Not washing them: 4+ weeks without washing your hair?!?! You wouldn’t dare do that, right? It is also not uncommon for people to not think about washing their hair until it is time to take the braids out. As often as you would wash your hair, you should wash your braids, paying most attention to your scalp. If not every week, at least every two weeks. You will notice itching, flaking, and product build-up if you do not stick to the schedule that your hair is used to. Also, it just stinks. Between your sweat, oil, and moisturizer, braids can get to be very funky if not washed.
Washing your braids does not have to be a difficult task. Just follow these steps:
1. Mix water and a small amount of shampoo in a spray bottle (there should be enough shampoo that the mixture foams when shaken).
2. Spray the mixture onto your scalp and rub into all of the parts with the tips of your fingers (not your nails).
3. Then spray the braids as far down as your hair goes.
4. Squeeze the braids to allow the mixture the penetrate the braids.
5. Rinse with water, follow with moisturizer and sealant of your choice, and air dry! You are good to go!
Braids are a great way to give your hair a break from your hands and vice versa, but they require your effort to help them grow your hair. Help the braids, help you!